Short field, lone speed, streaking front-runner. Joe Talamo knows he has his work cut out if he expects to beat Ellafitz when he rides Include Me Out in Saturday’s Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. But that hasn’t shaken the 22-year-old rider’s confidence.

“She was only a length and three-quarters off the lead when they went 45 and four last time when she won the La Caňada,” Talamo said of Include Me Out, who “powered away” to win that race by 4 ¼ lengths. “She can definitely lay close and she was pretty close on her own.”

Trained by Ron Ellis for the Jay Em Ess Stable, Include Me Out is a lightly raced 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Include with a strong stretch surge. She has three wins from seven starts.

“Obviously, Ellafitz is the one to beat and the one to catch because she’s got that speed and she keeps on going with it,” Talamo said. “But my filly’s doing real good right now and they’ve done a great job with her.

“She’s nice and fresh, too. She hasn’t run since the La Caňada on Jan. 22 and they skipped the Santa Maria (on Feb. 18, won by Ellafitz for her third straight gate-to-wire stakes win) because Ron was pointing her for this race.

“Another thing in our favor is the fact that Ellafitz is going an extra sixteenth of a mile from her last three races. They were all a mile and a sixteenth. My filly finishes real well and she’s bred to run all day. She’ll be tough.”

The field for the Santa Margarita: Miss Mittagong, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Love Theway Youare, Joel Rosario, 15-1; Kayce Ace, Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Ellafitz, Martin Garcia, 6-5; Include Me Out, Joe Talamo, 9-5; and Awesomemundo, Mike Smith, 5-2.


With seven wins from 11 starts on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course, Unzip Me is an unqualified fancier of the course that necessitates a right-hand turn heading to the race’s abbreviated dirt portion leading into the homestretch.

That’s the venue for Saturday’s $100,000 Irish O’Brien Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf for older California-bred fillies and mares.

“She likes the big, sweeping turn,” said trainer Marty Jones in analyzing the chestnut mare’s affinity for the course. “In the past she had trouble with tight turns, but she’s gotten better and I think it’s because of the big turn.”

Not that the 6-year-old daughter of City Zip has to carry her course around with her. “She’s won going five-eighths (on turf) at Del Mar and six furlongs at Hollywood and Woodbine,” Jones pointed out. “She can pretty much run on anything.”

Not on a sealed race track, however. With rain forecast locally beginning late Friday and through the weekend, if the race is off the turf and the main track is sealed, “She won’t run,” Jones said.

The field for the Irish O’Brien: Unzip Me, Mike Smith; Bench Glory, Brice Blanc; Advance Ticket, Kevin Krigger; Lindz Winz, Edwin Maldonado; Secret Cove, Joe Talamo; Halo Dolly, Joel Rosario; Camille C, David Flores; and Sunburn, Victor Espinoza.


Horsemen at Santa Anita Thursday morning were virtually unanimous in their opinions that cancellation of HBO’s horse racing series, “LUCK” following euthanization of a horse on Tuesday after a freak accident, will have a dramatically negative impact on California’s already bankrupt state.

As former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said during his administration: “Our wallet is empty.” The Golden State’s abysmal debt took another hit with LUCK’s termination.

Tragically, on Tuesday morning, a filly used in the production of LUCK, was being hand-walked to her stall when she became frightened, reared and hit her head when falling to the ground. She was subsequently euthanized.

LUCK, filmed in large part at Santa Anita, was canceled by HBO on Wednesday in reaction to the accident.

“It is with heartbreak that the executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK,” the cable network said in a statement, adding “ . . . We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation,” and finally adding these quotes from Mann and Milch: “The two of us loved this series, the cast, the crew and writers. This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”

“Heartbroken,” was the first word from Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who had a major role in the series. “Everybody’s just in shock, the cast, the crew. A lot of people have been put out of work.”

Said jockey Chantal Sutherland, who also had a role on the show: “It’s sad, not only for the actors, but for the horses as well. They were actors, too. They’re out of a job and have nowhere to go. It’s too bad.”

Added Hall of Fame trainer and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert: “It’s very disappointing. I was hoping it’d be a big hit. I feel bad for all the people they employed, because the race track has really helped a lot of people.”

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said: “It’s unfortunate, but they had some bad luck. Saying that, you do have to realize that horses in any environment, including in nature, will have accidents.”

“A lot of my friends were involved in that show,” said world-class jockey agent Ron Anderson. “I feel very bad. It affects their livelihood and their income. All those guys were depending on a job. Jobs are tough (to find) these days. It’s a harsh situation. You’re working one day, the next day you’re not.”

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, who has conditioned five national champions in a career spanning six decades, including two-time Horse of the Year John Henry, was perplexed and miffed by the cancellation.

“I don’t agree with it,” the 79-year-old trainer said. “They (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals--PETA) should watch that animal program (Animal Planet), where terrible accidents happen to animals, horses, dogs, cats, you name it.

“My position is, it (cancelling) was wrong, absolutely 100 percent wrong. Accidents happen in our business just like they do in football, baseball, every sport you can think of. It’s the same with animals. It’s a foregone conclusion that something can go wrong. It’s part of the game, just like it is in football and other sports. It’s unfortunate but it happens."

The California Horse Racing Board issued the following statement on the matter: “The California Horse Racing Board takes very seriously and cares deeply about the death of any racehorse in California and is conducting an investigation of the equine fatality in connection with the filming of the Luck television program Tuesday at Santa Anita Park. Even though HBO announced the cancellation of the Luck series Wednesday, the CHRB will conduct a thorough investigation, which will include a postmortem examination and toxicology testing.

The CHRB is assured by those onsite at Santa Anita who are responsible for equine health and safety that every precaution was being taken to protect the horses appearing in the HBO program. In fact, because the filming was taking place in an enclosure within the CHRB’s jurisdiction, the level of care for these animals exceeded the level of care for animals on other filming locations. Everyone involved in the handling of the horses that appeared on Luck is licensed by the CHRB and qualified to do so.

Three equine veterinarians were on the scene and did everything possible on behalf of the horse. They were Dr. Heidi Agnic, HBO’s attending veterinarian and licensed by the CHRB as a racetrack practitioner; Dr. Gary Beck, who normally works as the CHRB official veterinarian at Los Alamitos Race Course, and Dr. Scott Meyer.


Ardent racing fan Tim Conway Jr., whose “Tim Conway Jr.” radio show airs nightly from 7 to 9 p.m. on KFI, AM 640, has announced he will present the stretch calls of Santa Anita’s feature race each racing day at 8 p.m. on a segment called “the 8th at 8,” effective this evening.

Conway, the son of legendary comedian Tim Conway, offers his often irreverent views on topics world wide weeknights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on top-rated Los Angeles-based KFI.


“Kiss Me, I’m Irish” Casino Night will be held in Santa Anita’s Chandelier Room on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, at 7 p.m. The event, featuring gambling, games and entertainment, benefits the Eye on Jacob Foundation.

The Eye on Jacob Foundation is a 501 c-3 nonprofit organization founded by Sonia Desormeaux in 2008. Sonia’s younger son, Jacob, the son of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, suffers from Ushers Syndrome. To become an Eye on Jacob sponsor, visit


Santa Anita will proudly host an equine baby shower in honor of the great Zenyatta’s newly arrived foal on Saturday All on-track attendees will receive one “It’s a Boy” poster, free with their paid admission and will have an opportunity to meet “Team Zenyatta” in an autograph session prior to the races.

“The Queen’s Dance,” a life-size painting of Zenyatta on post parade, will also be on display at Santa Anita on Saturday. This magnificent work of art, first unveiled during Breeders’ Cup week this past November at Churchill Downs, was created by Jaime Corum (whose posters and original artwork will be available at the gift shop this weekend).

Corum, along with members of the Zenyatta team including Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, trainer John Shirreffs, jockey Mike Smith and owners Ann and Jerry Moss, will all be on hand Saturday and will participate in the Zenyatta autograph session which will take place from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens area.

Several charities, including CANTER of California, Old Friends, Race for Education and EAGALA, which have been involved with Zenyatta throughout her legendary racing and now maternal career, will be represented at Saturday’s event.

The baby shower prints are $25 each, plus shipping and handling, with proceeds divided evenly between Old Friends and CANTER. For more information, visit

FINISH LINES: Simon Callaghan did not enter Falcon Rock in the San Luis Rey Stakes that had been scheduled Sunday for a mile and a half on turf. “He had a small setback,” the trainer said. Coincidentally, the San Luis Rey was postponed and will be run next Sunday, March 25, instead . . . California-bred Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie is scheduled to work five furlongs Friday “before the rain,” trainer Bill Spawr said Thursday. The 6-year-old gelding is a candidate for the Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes on April 7 . . . Crystal Water winner Holladay Road worked three furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday in 35.60 for Julio Canani. On Santa Anita’s turf course, San Marcos winner Norvsky went five furlongs in 1:01.80 for Don Warren . . . Going into Thursday’s races, 769 players remained alive in Santa Anita’s on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor2 . . . Jay Privman, National Correspondent for Daily Racing Form, hosts the publication’s handicapping seminar Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens, weather permitting . . . Leading trainer Bob Baffert, back from the Ocala Sales, said he bought one horse, a son of Bluegrass Cat, “the only one I’ve ever bought.”