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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• CAL-BRED THE USUAL Q.T. PEAKING FOR GRADE II SAN MARCOS
• SETSUKO TO RETURN IN SANTA ANITA HANDICAP ON MARCH 3
• BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR GUTIERREZ AFTER BIG WIN
THE USUAL Q.T. IN STRONG SAN MARCOS LINEUP ON SATURDAY
The Usual Q.T., one of Unusual Heat’s wealthiest and most successful progeny and one of a rash of California-bred Thoroughbreds to gain national prominence recently, hopes to add to his millionaire status Saturday when he runs in the Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes for older horses at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
Second to then-stablemate Evening Jewel in last year’s California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Horse of the Year voting for horses bred in the Golden State, The Usual Q.T. was third in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 16. It was the first race in nearly eight months for the 6-year-old gelding, and trainer Jim Cassidy had to employ a less-than-ideal training schedule to make the race.
But it’s business as usual for the San Marcos. The Usual Q.T. worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday in 1:15.60 under regular rider Victor Espinoza.
“His schedule was a bit advanced to make the San Gabriel,” Cassidy said, “and we’ve had more time to prepare for this race. Not only that, I think the mile and a quarter will be easier on him . . . and he’s doing well. Victor was very happy with his work on Friday.”
The Usual Q.T. is a multiple Grade I winner and has earned $1,531,240 thanks to eight wins, six seconds and five thirds from 23 career starts. He is owned by Don Van Kempen of Carlsbad, Michael Nentwig of Fremont, and George Saadeh and Jeffrey Byer, both of San Diego.
Among the recent California-breds to be saluted nationally are Acclamation and Amazombie, who received recognition last month by earning Eclipse Awards as outstanding Older Male and Outstanding Male Sprinter, respectively.
Acclamation and Amazombie are also CTBA finalists for Cal-bred Horse of the Year honors in 2011. The winner will be announced at the organization’s annual dinner Monday in Pasadena.
Probable for the San Marcos: Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano; Norvsky, Joe Talamo; Sanagas, Joel Rosario; Slim Shadey, David Flores; The Usual Q.T., Victor Espinoza; and Worth Repeating, Martin Pedroza.
SETSUKO ON COURSE FOR ANOTHER TRY AT SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
Setsuko, beaten a nose at 25-1 in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap, punched his ticket for a return trip on March 3 with a comfortable victory in an allowance test in Saturday’s finale. It was the first start for the 5-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect since the Pacific Classic, in which he finished ninth and last on Aug. 28.
“His schedule was a little tight, which is why I wasn’t sure he would make the Big ‘Cap this year, but it worked out fine,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said Sunday morning. “Three weeks ago I didn’t think he was quite that fit and then his works just stepped right up so I said, ‘let’s go.’
“He ran good yesterday and came out good, so we’ll give it another try.”
GUTIERREZ CELEBRATES BIGGEST WIN IN GRADE II ROBERT LEWIS
Mario Gutierrez was back working horses at Santa Anita Sunday morning, hours after he registered the biggest win of his career with a 2 ¾-length victory on 43-1 shot I’ll Have Another in Saturday’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
“I had worked the horse (for trainer Doug O’Neill) at Hollywood, so I knew he was a good horse,” said Gutierrez, a 25-year-old native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, who made his bones at frigid outposts like Hastings Park in Canada. Gutierrez is represented by octogenarian agent Ivan Puhich.
“I wasn’t really expecting to ride him, because there are so many good jockeys here. But then I saw my name on him when the entries were out and I was very happy. Doug just told me rate him if another horse wanted to go out there, but if no one wanted to take the lead, to take it myself.”
‘PARADE’ OF GOOD REVIEWS CONTINUES FOR “LUCK” ON HBO TONIGHT
The second showing of “Luck” airs on HBO tonight at 9 p.m. Filmed in large part at Santa Anita, the racing-themed series has received favorable reviews such as the following that appeared in Parade Magazine on Jan. 29:
“Deadwood creator David Milch and director Michael Mann team up for a fascinating series about strivers, power brokers, and sad sacks who convene at the Santa Anita race track. With a language all its owns and racing photography so thrilling you’ll be itching to place a bet yourself, this drama’s a sure thing. Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte lead the splendid cast.”
Viewer response to “Luck” has been so favorable that HBO has announced renewal of the series for a second season.
FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert said Liaison and Sky Kingdom came out of their disappointing showings in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes in good order, while Steve Asmussen said Tapizar came out of his fourth-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Strub Stakes “great.” . . . Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Big 'Cap winner Game On Dude's co-owner Joe Torre was a Santa Anita visitor Sunday . . . NBA Hall of Famer Dan Issel was in the house on Saturday . . . With all six remaining ShowVivor contestants selecting 2-5 favorite Mr. Commons in yesterday’s Arcadia Stakes, each advanced to play again going into Sunday’s races.