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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SMITH SEES THE LIGHT ON MIDNIGHT TRANSFER FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY
• CONWAY JR. TO HOST SANTA ANITA DERBY DRAW BREAKFAST WEDNESDAY
• TWO TRAINING WINS FRIDAY MARK FIRST FOR SEAN McCARTHY
SMITH LEARNS THE ROPES ON MIDNIGHT TRANSFER FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY
Mike Smith was three shy of career win No. 5,000 at the start of Saturday’s races. The major milestone would hold even more significance should it come aboard Midnight Transfer in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby next Saturday.
Smith picked up the mount on the San Pedro Stakes winner through the misfortune of fellow rider Victor Espinoza, who had ridden Midnight Transfer to a third-place finish in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 10 and had been given the call for the Santa Anita Derby by trainer Carla Gaines.
But when Espinoza suffered a hairline fracture to his left hand in a racing mishap last Friday, agent Brad Pegram, who represents both Smith and Espinoza, was able to book Smith on Midnight Transfer.
“It was a good fit,” Gaines said of the move to Smith.
Smith was aboard Midnight Transfer for the first time Friday morning when he worked the son of Hard Spun six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track in a bullet 1:11.80, fastest of 15 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:13.74.
“It was my first time on him and it was good to have that experience,” said the 46-year-old Smith, a member of racing’s Hall of Fame who won the Kentucky Derby in 2005 on 50-1 shot Giacomo, and whose name is indelibly etched in racing annals as the regular rider of 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.
“Midnight Transfer has a nice quick, little turn of foot, and it was nice to feel it,” Smith said. “Now I know how to gauge him a little.
“I thought he was brilliant. I probably hit the front with the company I was working with a bit too soon; he tends to wait a little, so I wish I’d have waited a little more. I’d have had more of a gallop out, but other than that, he went great. It’s better to have that experience now rather than in the race.
I’m really happy with the work.”
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Mike Harrington plans to give favored Creative Cause a four furlong blowout Tuesday at his Hollywood Park headquarters in the colt’s final major drill for the 1 1/8-mile race. The trainer added that Creative Cause is right on schedule.
Added Joel Rosario, who rides the gray son of Giant’s Causeway: “He’s fun to ride and he’s doing really well right now. We’ve got a big race coming up and we’ll see how he runs.”
At Hollywood Saturday, Senor Rain worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 for Peter Miller.
Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez; Blueskiesnrainbows; Baby Blake; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez; Longview Drive; Paynter; and Senor Rain.
Also on Santa Anita Derby Day, there will be a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4.
TIM CONWAY JR. HOSTS SANTA ANITA DERBY DRAW BREAKFAST WEDNESDAY
Top-rated Los Angeles talk show host Tim Conway Jr. will emcee this year’s Santa Anita Derby Draw Breakfast at the track’s FrontRunner Restaurant on Wednesday, April 4. The draw will determine the field for the Grade I, $750,000 Derby to be run next Saturday.
“Tim is a great personal friend and a great friend of Santa Anita,” said Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge. “I guarantee everyone this: we are going to have some fun with the draw on Wednesday.
“Tim’s got a great sense of humor and knows the game inside and out. We’ve got some outstanding horses lined up and we want everyone to know they can come out to Santa Anita and have a great time and be a part of what we hope is going to be an unforgettable Derby Day.”
Conway, son of legendary actor/comedian Tim Conway and the host of the “Tim Conway Jr. Show,” on KFI, AM 640, weeknights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., is a regular attendee at The Great Race Place.
“My father told me as a child, ‘Son, one day you’ll be a part of the Santa Anita Derby.’ I thought he meant as an owner!” said Conway. “You gotta love a racetrack that gives out tee shirts the same day they’re running the Westfield Best Dressed Contest. I remember the good old days when they used to call it ‘Fewest Stains Wins.’”
This year marks the 75th running of the Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s premier Kentucky Derby prep, a race that has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners over the years, most recently Giacomo in 2005.
It is expected this year’s Santa Anita Derby, for 3-year-olds to be run at 1 1/8 miles, could attract as many as 10 horses, including the likely favorite Creative Cause, winner of the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 10.
NO ‘BLANKS’ FRIDAY FOR JOCKEY BRICE BLANC AND TRAINER McCARTHY
No “blanks” today. That was the applicable phrase for jockey Brice (pronounced Breece) Blanc (pronounced Blonk) and trainer Sean McCarthy at Santa Anita on Friday.
Blanc rode two winners, both for McCarthy, Bench Glory ($9.20) in the third race and Mary Contrary ($10.20) in the eighth, which cinched a Pick 6 carryover into Saturday of $54,705.
It was the ninth race for Bench Glory and the fourth for Mary Contrary. No other jockey has ridden either horse in a race except Blanc, a 39-year-old native of France.
“Sean’s been very good to us,” said Blanc’s agent, Mike Ciani. “I believe Brice rode Bench Glory’s dam, Image of Glory, to a stakes win for (trainer) Carla Gaines.”
It was a first as well for the 49-year-old McCarthy. “I’ve never won two races on the same day before,” said McCarthy, who also lends his expertise on occasion as an analyst on HRTV. “I did win four races in a row years back, but never two on the same day. I won a race at Del Mar, then another at Bay Meadows, and then two more at Pomona, but yesterday was a first for me.”
HRTV'S ‘INSIDE INFORMATION’ AIRS MINE THAT BIRD'S DERBY WIN TOMORROW
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby is little more than a month away, and HRTV will take an in-depth retrospective on one of the most stunning Derbys of all-time when its Media Eclipse Award-winning documentary show, Inside Information, premieres Inside Information: 2009 Kentucky Derby on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
The half-hour documentary will offer racing fans a historical look back at the entire field, highlighting the improbable victory by Mine That Bird, a rank outsider in the field who closed strongly, storming up the rail over Churchill Downs' sloppy track to post a shocking win.
The gelding paid $103.20, the second-highest winning price in the race's history. Additionally, Mine That Bird's winning margin was 6 3/4 lengths, the largest in 60 years.
Jockey Calvin Borel's rail-skimming ride aboard Mine That Bird further solidified his place as one of the sport's top riders. Inside Information: 2009 Kentucky Derby will offer new interviews with Borel, Mine That Bird's unassuming trainer, Chip Woolley, as well as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose Pioneerof the Nile finished second in the 2009 Derby.
Also featured in the show are Garrett Gomez (Pioneerof the Nile's jockey), as well as the intriguing story of owner-trainer Tom McCarthy, a former school teacher and principal, who reached the pinnacle of the sport when he started General Quarters, winner of the Bluegrass Stakes, in the 2009 Derby.
WOOLF WINNER DOMINGUEZ TO RESUME RIDING IN N.Y. ON FRIDAY
Two-time defending North American Eclipse champion Ramon Dominguez, who was on hand at Santa Anita last Sunday to humbly accept the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award bestowed upon him by his peers, is expected to resume riding Friday at Aqueduct.
The 35-year-old Dominguez, a native of Venezuela, suffered a separated collarbone during a race less than three weeks ago.
“I’m feeling pretty good and am hoping to ride a few horses Friday,” Dominguez said in a NYRA Communications release. He is seeing his doctor Monday for clearance. “It’s only been two weeks,” Dominguez continued, “and I can feel big progress from one day to the next.”
Dominguez is expected to ride Alpha in the Grade I, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial at Aqueduct next Saturday, April 7, New York’s final major prep race for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
Dominguez also is the regular rider of reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
He injured his collarbone in a spill at Aqueduct on March 18.
FINISH LINES: Two-time Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Setsuko worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in 49 flat for Richard Mandella, while John Sadler sent Santa Monica Stakes winner Home Sweet Aspen five furlongs in 1:01.20 and come-backing stakes winner Zazu four furlongs in 49.20, breezing . . . At Hollywood Park, Santa Ana winner Vamo a Galupiar worked three furlongs on Cushion Track in 39.60 for Neil Drysdale, who plans to run the Chilean-bred mare in the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap on April 21 . . . Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form and HRTV’s Laffit Pincay III will be host Jack Disney’s guest handicappers at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . The racetrack Bible Study program will sponsor a Palm Sunday event tomorrow from 5 to 7 p.m. at Santa Anita’s Top ’O the Stretch area. All backside and frontside workers and their families are invited to enjoy free tacos with beans, rice and beverages, and the music of HRTV’s Joe Chile and his band, Ezakala.