Shadow of Illinois will attempt to write another chapter to Santa Anita’s storied history on New Year’s Day. The California-bred gelding will seek to become the first 10-year-old to win a stakes race at Santa Anita Friday when he runs in the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

“He’s doing as well as ever, and Anthony (trainer Anthony Saavedra) does a great job with him,” said Alex Solis, who has ridden the son of Illinois Storm 14 times in his 40-race career, the last seven in a row.

Shadow of Illinois has won five of those seven and finished second in the other two, both claiming races. Saavedra trains the durable campaigner for his wife, Jennifer. The couple resides in Monrovia, where Shadow of Illinois has enjoyed occasional R&R and sunshine at the Saavedra’s abode that caters to his every need.

Shadow of Illinois has five of his 10 lifetime victories at Santa Anita, among them the Grade III San Simeon Handicap on April 18, 2005.

Solis knows a good old stakes horse when he rides one. The 45-year-old jockey rode Softshoe Sure Shot to victory at age nine in the 1995 San Carlos Handicap, and champion Kona Gold to victory at nine in the 2003 El Conejo Handicap. Both were trained by Bruce Headley.

“They were very competitive at that age,” Solis recalled. “They have to stay sound to keep going that long, and it’s nice to see horses that old continue to be successful at such a high level.” Other horses to win Santa Anita stakes at nine were Super Diamond in the 1989 San Antonio Handicap, and Desert Chief III in the 1965 San Marcos Handicap.

Overall, Shadow of Illinois has a 10-9-3 record, with earnings of $497,665. “Right now, he’s really a different horse,” Solis said. “He’s willing. He wants to win. Maybe he drank from the Fountain of Youth.”

The field for the Sensational Star: Bestdressed, Joel Rosario; Feisty Suances, David Flores; Big Bad Leroybrown, Tyler Baze; Mobilized, Rafael Bejarano; Enriched, Michael Baze; Compari, Garrett Gomez; Shadow of Illinois, Solis; and Live Sundays, Joe Talamo.


Lava Man’s racing future was undecided as of Monday morning following his seventh-place finish Sunday in the San Gabriel Handicap, the first race for the rags-to-riches 8-year-old gelding since his retirement 17 months ago.

Racing’s greatest claim with $5,268,706 in earnings, Lava Man was beaten about 6 ½ lengths in the nine-furlong turf race after setting the pace for six furlongs.

“He looks fantastic,” trainer Doug O’Neill said Monday morning from his Hollywood Park headquarters. “He came out of the race in great shape. We’re going to huddle up and figure out what to do.

“A decision could be made in maybe a week or so. I might send him up to Alamo Pintado (Equine Clinic in Los Olivos) and let them do a once-over on him, and then let us think about what they say and do what’s right by Lava Man. We’re going to play it by ear.”

It was decided to bring Lava Man out of retirement after the California-bred son of Slew City Slew underwent state-of-the-art procedures about a year ago at Alamo Pintado to regenerate cartilage in his surgically repaired ankles.


Rosa Grace is set to take on Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Life Is Sweet in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf. It wasn’t the first option for trainer Ben Cecil, but opportunities to run the 5-year-old English-bred mare have been limited since Oct. 10, when she finished fifth in the Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes.

“There just wasn’t anywhere to run her,” Cecil said. “She wants like a mile and an eighth . . . there were no allowance races three-other-than. This is not an easy spot, and she really wants to go a mile and a quarter, plus.”

Cecil hopes an equipment change will benefit Rosa Grace, who is winless in her six U.S. starts “We’re putting blinkers on her to try and get her to pay more attention,” he said. “She hasn’t been very focused in her races.”

Probable for the San Gorgonio: Cat by the Tale, Joel Rosario; Century Park, Tyler Baze; Diamondrella, Alex Solis; Life Is Sweet, Garrett Gomez, and Rosa Grace, Joe Talamo.


Jim Cassidy, who won two stakes races the first two days of the meet, hopes to continue his hot streak next Sunday when he sends out Pasar Silbano in the $100,000 Grade III Monrovia Handicap for fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

“We brought her back in the Providencia, and maybe it was a little too far,” Cassidy said of the one-mile turf race on April 4. “I ran her there after she won the La Habra at 6 ½ furlongs on Feb. 1. She finished eighth in the Senorita at a mile early in May and she had some foot problems after that race.

“Then I ran her back in the Maddy at Oak Tree in October when she finished second to a nice filly (Gotta Have Her). I tried to run her at Hollywood, but there was never a race for her, so we’ll try ‘em again here.”

The Irish-bred Pasar Silbano has a 5-1-2 record from 11 starts, with earnings of $289,804 for owner Three Chimneys Racing.

Probable for the Monrovia: Empressive Lady, Victor Espinoza; Hermione’s Magic, Alex Solis; Lemon Chiffon, Tyler Baze; Lucky Copy, Garrett Gomez; Pasar Silbano, David Flores; Queen of the Catsle, Mike Smith; Reba Is Tops, Joe Talamo; Royal Taat, Joel Rosario; and Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano.

FINISH LINES: Agent Vic Stauffer said Joel Rosario took off his scheduled five mounts Monday because he was “under the weather.” . . .With 2009 nearing a close, two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez was $82,824 behind leader Julien Leparoux in quest of his fourth straight national purse earnings title. Through Sunday, Leparoux’s mounts had earned $18,560,565 to $18,477,741 for Gomez, according to Daily Racing Form statistics . . . Probable for Saturday’s $60,000 Impressive Luck Handicap for 4 year olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf: Euroglide, Michael Baze, 115; Mr. Cacht, Felipe Valdez, 118; Noble Court, Joel Rosario, 121; Quietly Mine, Gomez, 115; and Stoneside, Mike Smith, 116 . . . Long-time Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter and his wife, Linda, were guests of Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and his wife, Debbie, on opening day. Former Dodger and current Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was also an opening-day attendee . . . World Series rivals New York and Philadelphia had a reunion of sorts after Evening Jewel won Sunday’s California Breeders’ Champion Stakes. Former trainer Mark Molina, a staunch Phillies’ fan, participated in the winner’s circle ceremony with trainer Jim Cassidy, a rabid New York Yankees fan who saddled Evening Jewel. “I thought it would be fitting because we’re always needling each other,” Molina said. “Seriously, my daughter, Lindsey, works horses for Jim, so everybody got together to celebrate."