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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SANTA ANITA’S OPENING WEEKEND FEATURES FIVE GRADE I STAKES
• CHAMPION BLIND LUCK READY FOR LADY’S SECRET
• EARLY DERBY FAVORITE DRILL SET TO RUN IN NORFOLK
• BIG ’CAP WINNER GAME ON DUDE SET FOR GOODWOOD
• STRONG FIELD LOOMS FOR GRADE I YELLOW RIBBON STAKES
OPTIMISM PREVAILS AS SANTA ANITA BEGINS AUTUMN MEET FRIDAY
Santa Anita Park stands at the ready to add to its storied history as the countdown dwindles for its inaugural Autumn meet that begins Friday and runs 24 racing days through Nov. 6.
Five Grade I stakes races with important Breeders’ Cup implications highlight the first weekend: on Saturday, the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles; the $250,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes presented by Emirates Airline for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 ¼ miles on turf; and the $250,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 1/16 miles.
Each of those events is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race. The nominated winner will be entitled to automatic entry into the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and 5.
The Grade I, $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday is also a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race. The Grade II, $150,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles complements the Oak Leaf on Sunday.
With the exception of a three-day opening week and a five-day week comprising Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 10, the Autumn meet features a four-day race week Thursday through Sunday.
“The first weekend is loaded with Breeders’ Cup prep races and our opening Friday marks the return of top quality racing to the Los Angeles area,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “We look forward to welcoming back our fans and horsemen and getting off to a strong start.
“Our horse inventory will be monitored very closely and we believe this schedule will ensure full fields, competitive racing and consistent wagering value.”
Friday’s opening day feature is the $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes. The Grade III event goes as the third race on a nine-race program that starts at 1 p.m.
HOLLENDORFER LOOKS FORWARD WITH BLIND LUCK, ASK THE MOON SHIPS IN
This year has been one to remember for Jerry Hollendorfer, but he’s not one to rest on his laurels. The 65-year-old trainer was elected to the Hall of Fame and became one of only four trainers to saddle 6,000 winners during 2011, but as always, he’s focused on the future, more specifically Saturday, when 2010 three-year-old filly champion Blind Luck runs in the Lady’s Secret Stakes, a stepping stone to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
“We’re grateful for all of the accolades, and very pleased to make those milestones, but in racing, you have to look to what you can do today and in the future, so that’s all behind us now and we’re looking forward to more accomplishments in the future,” Hollendorfer said.
Blind Luck has been training at Hollywood Park for her race at Santa Anita, where she won the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes in 2009 and the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes in 2010.
“I’m not really worried about that (Santa Anita’s new main track), because she’s handled every surface that we’ve ever put her on,” Hollendorfer said. “She’s not going to work at Santa Anita. She’s going to blow out at Hollywood and then go over and spend a few days at Santa Anita before the race.
“But she’s handled every track that she’s ever run on, including Oaklawn, Saratoga, Philadelphia Park, Delaware and Churchill Downs, so I’m not worrying about her handling the race track.”
Blind Luck, a 4-year-old daughter of Pollard’s Vision, will be ridden by Garrett Gomez for the fifth consecutive race. He finished second in his first ride, but has won three straight since on the stretch-running chestnut.
“The first time Garrett rode her, he didn’t know her as well, but right after that, I think he got to where he knows her very well,” Hollendorfer allowed. “He knows when to move her and Garrett’s a guy who watches the pace very well and he can finish on one, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
With 12 wins, seven seconds, two thirds and earnings of $3,279,520, Blind Luck has established herself as one of the best Hollendorfer has ever trained.
“I don’t know if she’s the best one I’ve had so far," Hollendorfer said, “but she’s right near the top.”
The Lady’s Secret will also showcase Ask The Moon, who ships in from New York for trainer Marty Wolfson. Ask The Moon comes off two straight Grade I wins with Javier Castellano at Saratoga and also is prepping for the Ladies’ Classic. The 6-year-old Malibu Moon mare was claimed for just $75,000 on June 15.
Probable for the Lady’s Secret: Ask the Moon, Blind Luck, Great Hot, Switch, Ultra Blend and Zazu. Zazu worked six furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in a bullet 1:11.40, fastest of 19 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:13.24.
BIG ’CAP WINNER GAME ON DUDE DRILLS FOR GOODWOOD
Grade I Santa Anita Handicap winner Game on Dude worked seven furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in 1:24.60 for Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes.
No decision on the Goodwood had been made Monday morning by Bob Baffert for Coil, winner of the Grade I Haskell Invitational on July 31 but 10th and last by 41 ¼ lengths in the Grade I Travers on Aug. 27.
“I don’t know yet,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I’ve got to think about it. I don’t know what to do, either ship him or keep him here. It’s either the Goodwood or the Indiana Derby.”
Acclamation’s Goodwood status also was up in the air Monday morning.
Winner of the Pacific Classic on Polytrack and a multiple Grade I winner on turf, the California-bred son of Unusual Heat owned in part by Bud Johnston and trained by Don Warren also is nominated to Sunday’s Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship.
“We just have to see what Buddy decides,” Warren said. “I want to go in the turf race, but the Goodwood is a Grade I and worth more money ($250,000 to $150,000) than the Hirsch, which is a Grade II. The Goodwood might be easier.”
Probable for the Goodwood: Game on Dude, Chantal Sutherland; Golden Itiz, Joe Talamo; and Nijinsky’s Song, Patrick Valenzuela.
BAFFERT SEEKS SIXTH NORFOLK WIN WITH DRILL
Drill, an early favorite for the 2012 Kentucky Derby, is one of three horses nominated to Saturday’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has won the race won the race five times dating back to 1997, with Souvenir Copy.
Drill, a son of Lawyer Ron owned by the Lookin At Lucky trio of Karl Weitman, Mike Pegram and Paul Watson, won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity in his third start on Sept. 7.
Gun Boat and Laison also were nominated to the Norfolk by Baffert.
MEDAGLIA D’AMOUR SHARP FOR YELLOW RIBBON
Medaglia d’Amour worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:12 flat for Saturday’s Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes presented by Emirates Airline.
“It’s a tough race, but she’s doing very well,” trainer Ben Cecil said of the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, second by less than a length in the Grade II Palomar at Del Mar on Sept. 5.
“I don’t think she’ll have a problem with the mile and a quarter,” Cecil said. “The breeding is there. I think if anything, a mile and a quarter will suit her more. She broke through the gate before her last race and that didn’t help her.”
In six career starts, Medaglia d’Amour has never raced beyond nine furlongs. Her three wins have come at one mile on turf.
Probable for the Yellow Ribbon: Cambina, City to City, Cozie Rosie, Dubawi Heights, Malibu Pier, Medaglia d’Amour and Well Monied.
NEWCOMER MY GI GI STEPS UP IN GRADE I OAK LEAF STAKES
East Coast invader My Gi Gi makes her California and main track debut in Sunday’s Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
“There she is now,” pointed out trainer Brian Koriner as the daughter of E Dubai headed towards the barn area Monday morning. “She just came in Thursday.”
My Gi Gi won her maiden race at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 18, going 7 ½ furlongs on turf, then came back at that track to finish second by a head at one mile on the grass.
“She’s bred for the grass, but back in Louisiana, the guy who had her (trainer Al Cates) said she’s never been outworked on the dirt,” Koriner said, “and she ran a really good sheet number. She’s already had two routes, which is probably more than anybody else in the race. She’s already proved herself at a distance.”
Probable for the Oak Leaf: Charm the Maker, Garrett Gomez; Egg Drop, no rider; My Gi Gi, Chantal Sutherland; and Regal Betty, no rider.
NTRA TELECONFERENCE ON BREEDERS’ CUP TOMORROW
There will be an NTRA communications national media teleconference tomorrow, Tuesday, featuring a countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships: The Jockey Club Gold Cup; Beldame Invitational, Kelso Handicap and the Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park and from Santa Anita, the Lady’s Secret Stakes, Yellow Ribbon Invitational and the Oak Leaf Stakes.
The teleconference starts at 10 a.m. Scheduled to participate are trainers Todd Pletcher, Larry Jones and John Sadler.
POPULAR FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL, LIVE BANDS AT SANTA ANITA SATURDAY
This Saturday, Oct. 1, Santa Anita hosts another of its popular Food Truck Festivals in its infield. Approximately 70 gourmet food trucks will have a variety of food options available.
Admission to the festival is free with paid admission to the races. The food trucks will be throughout the entire Infield including the East End, Wine Shed Lawn, and the Center Infield Fountain Lawn.
In addition to the food trucks, there will also be two Gastropubs serving popular craft beers. Two live bands will perform between races beginning at 1 p.m. through 4 p.m. The Polyester Players will perform live on the East End stage and the M 80’s will perform live between races near the small tunnel.
SANTA ANITA PRESIDENT HAINES WEARS HIS HONOR WITH PRIDE
The City of Arcadia honored Santa Anita President George Haines last Tuesday night by officially proclaiming Sept. 20 as “George Haines Day” in his native Arcadia.
Haines grew up in Arcadia and is currently in his 40th year of employment at “The Great Race Place.” After graduating from Arcadia High School in 1972, Haines attended California State University, Long Beach, where he graduated with a degree in accounting in 1976.
Haines first worked at Santa Anita in 1972, manning an information window as a member of the track’s Pari-mutuel Department, helping patrons with a variety of questions and paperwork related to wagering.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been this long, but it has been 40 years,” said Haines. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with so many fine people over the years and to have been able to experience some of the greatest racing in Santa Anita’s history. It’s been an incredible run for me and my family and we sincerely thank the City of Arcadia for this proclamation. It’s a real honor.”
Haines was appointed Director of Santa Anita’s Pari-mutuel Department in 1984, a period in which average daily crowds often totaled 30,000 or more. “The racing business has changed a lot over the ensuing years,” he said. “Now we offer simulcasting and advanced deposit wagering for our fans. “The new Autumn Meet opens Friday and we’re getting ready for that. It’s just as exciting for me now as it was 40 years ago. I can’t wait.”
Haines was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 1999 and became Santa Anita’s Vice President, Operations and General Manager in 2004. He became President and General Manager in May, 2010.
In addition to his executive duties, Haines serves as Secretary-Treasurer for the Winners Foundation, a racing industry charity that helps men and women with substance abuse problems. Haines is also a member of the Los Angeles Sports Council. He lives in Monrovia with his wife, Adrienne, and sons, Alex and Brian.
FINISH LINES: Jack Carava, who had been training privately for the La Caňada Stable of Ron Valenta for the past three years, will continue to train for Valenta but will also open his operation to all-comers this meet. “I’m going to start training for other clients now,” said the 45-year-old Carava, a native of Arcadia who began training in 1993 and who guided Valenta’s stock to leading owner honors at Santa Anita in number of wins with 16 in 2010-11. “We’ll have a more wide open barn,” Carava added. “We’ll get a few new horses in and let the barn expand a little bit hopefully and continue to focus on winning as many races as possible.” . . . Agent Tony Matos reports that four-time national money leader Garrett Gomez will honor stakes commitments out of town next month. The 39-year-old jockey who handed Zenyatta her only defeat when he guided Blame to an upset head victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year rides at Keeneland Oct. 7, 8 and 9, and again at the Kentucky track on Oct. 13, 14, 15 before moving to Woodbine to ride on Oct. 16 . . .
The Factor, who holds Santa Anita’s six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 set Dec. 27 last year, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track last Wednesday in a bullet 1:11.20 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Average time for the distance of 15 works that day was 1:13.57. Asked if The Factor was as fast a horse as he’s ever trained, Baffert said, “I think Euroears is pretty damn fast himself. It’s hard to separate those two going six (furlongs).” Bing Crosby winner Euroears, a candidate for Saturday’s Vosburgh at Belmont Park, worked four furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in :47.20, breezing. The Factor is pointing to the Grade I Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 8 . . . Retired trainer Ross Brinson, who conditioned Cover Up to win the 1947 Hollywood Gold Cup, turns 100 today . . . Retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye celebrated his 60th birthday Sept. 21 and had the bubbly flowing again three days later on the occasion of his son Loren’s marriage. Eddie D.’s former agent Ray Kravagna was on hand for the festivities . . . Trainer James Cassidy said that multiple Grade I winner The Usual Q.T. returned to Santa Anita last Wednesday after enjoying R&R in Ontario where the California-bred son of Unusual Heat had been turned out . . . All residents of Arcadia, home of Santa Anita, will be admitted free to the Club House opening day with proof of residency. Gates open Friday at 11 a.m. First post time is 1 p.m.