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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SMITH ON BODEMEISTER IN KENTUCKY DERBY; GOMEZ RIDES DADDY NOSE BEST
• MARATHON ACE FALCON ROCK SEEKS FIRST U.S. STAKES WIN IN SAN JUAN
RIDER WAS ‘LEAST OF MY PROBLEMS’ FOR KENTUCKY DERBY, BAFFERT SAYS
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez will ride Daddy Nose Best for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, agent Tony Matos said Sunday morning via phone from Kentucky.
“We wouldn’t trade places with anybody,” said Matos, who has represented riders who accounted for six Derby triumphs under his tutelage. “There will be a lot of speed in the Derby and Daddy Nose Best can get the mile and a quarter. We’re very excited to be riding for Steve Asmussen.”
That breaking news shortly before noon freed up Mike Smith to ride Bodemeister in the Run for the Roses. After some last-minute shuffling and frequent cell phone calls, agent Brad Pegram confirmed that Smith did indeed have the mount on Bodemeister. The 46-year-old Hall of Fame rider, who last Saturday at Santa Anita posted career win No. 5,000, rode Bodemeister for the first time yesterday in the $1 million Arkansas Derby, winning by a jaw-dropping 9 ½ lengths.
Rafael Bejarano had ridden the son of Empire Maker in his previous three starts, but was on Arkansas Derby runner-up Secret Circle for Baffert yesterday. Bejarano has ridden the son of Eddington in each of his seven starts, including victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, a division of Southwest Stakes, and the Rebel.
Smith had been on record as the rider of Daddy Nose Best for the Derby, but left the door open about his Derby mount in a post-Arkansas Derby interview with Jay Privman on CNBC. With Gomez on Daddy Nose Best, winner of the $800,000, Grade III Sunland Park Derby, Smith and Pegram were free to pursue the Derby mount on Bodemeister.
Earlier Sunday morning, the racing world was on pins and needles awaiting word on who would ride Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby. But that didn’t include Bob Baffert.
Addressing the smashing win by Bodemeister, named for Baffert’s seven-year-old son, Bode (BO-dee), Baffert said:
“He ran like he did when he broke his maiden (winning by 9 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita going one mile on Feb. 11). He was relaxed. His last race (second by three-quarters of a length to Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 after leading into the stretch), he sort of fell apart going to the gate, he got hot; he was a mess. Yesterday he was pretty calm, cool and relaxed. He did everything very professionally.”
At this point, Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, plans to ship Bodemeister and Secret Circle to Kentucky, along with CashCall Futurity winner Liaison, whose recent races have been disappointing. All three have more than enough graded earnings to draw into the Derby field, which is limited to 20 starters based on money gleaned in graded stakes races. “We’ll train them at Churchill Downs and see what happens,” Baffert said.
Asked if he would be on hand for the Derby in light of recent travel restrictions due to his heart attack, Baffert answered in typical fashion with a rhetorical question:
“Does a frog have an a—hole that’s watertight?”
We’ll take the amphibious response as an affirmative.
WHITE SEES BODEMEISTER AS LIKELY KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITE
Santa Anita-based Bodemeister probably will be the favorite in the Kentucky Derby following his smashing 9 ½-length victory in the Grade I Arkansas Derby, according to Santa Anita’s oddsmaker Jon White, who will be making the official morning lines for the Breeders’ Cup events at Santa Anita Nov. 2-3. Churchill Downs’ Mike Battaglia makes the morning line for the Kentucky Derby.
“I think most people would agree that Bodemeister’s Arkansas Derby was the most impressive performance that we’ve seen by a 3-year-old so far this year,” said White, who also provides pre-race television commentary from the paddock for Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “He not only won by a big margin, he earned a 105 Beyer, which is the top figure this year by any of the potential Kentucky Derby starters. The 105 Beyer is a preliminary figure. Randy Moss, who makes the Beyers for Oaklawn Park, said via Twitter that the 105 is under review and doesn’t become ‘official’ until Monday. Moss indicated the official figure actually may end up being higher than 105.
“This was Bodemeister’s third straight triple-digit figure after he earned a pair of 101 Beyers at Santa Anita. Even though this appears to be a quality crop of 3-year-olds with the likes of Union Rags, Gemologist, I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause, I definitely think Bodemeister is going to be the Kentucky Derby favorite based on that speed-figure power and his brilliance in the Arkansas Derby.
“A lot of people like Union Rags. But I also think a lot of people are going to be betting elsewhere after Union Rags finished third in the Florida Derby. And, like Gemologist, Union Rags has never earned a triple-digit Beyer.
“Gemologist, who won the Wood Memorial, is undefeated. But even though Gemologist has never lost in five career starts, I don’t think his odds will be shorter than Bodemeister’s in the Kentucky Derby. Gemologist doesn’t have a single triple-digit Beyer and won the Wood by a small margin (a neck).
“I think Bodemeister’s big win in the Arkansas Derby also means he will be a shorter price in the Kentucky Derby than both I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause (who ran one-two in the Santa Anita Derby). Yes, Creative Cause beat Bodemeister in the San Felipe. But Creative Cause beat Bodemeister by only a half-length. And don’t forget that Bodemeister, coming off a maiden win, was a slight favorite over Creative Cause in the San Felipe. The key in terms of their relative Kentucky Derby prices is what has occurred since the San Felipe. Creative Cause got beat in the Santa Anita Derby, albeit narrowly, while Bodemeister romped in the Arkansas Derby.”
If White is right and Bodemeister starts as the Kentucky Derby favorite, it will be the fifth time that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is the conditioner of the wagering choice in the Run for the Roses. Baffert trained Kentucky Derby favorites Indian Charlie (who finished third at 5-2 in 1998), Point Given (who finished fifth at 9-5 in 2001) and Lookin At Lucky (who finished sixth at 6-1 in 2010). Baffert also sent out Excellent Meeting and General Challenge (fifth and 11th, respectively, at 9-2 in 1999) as a favored coupled betting interest.
Baffert’s three Kentucky Derby winners—Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002—were not favored. Silver Charm was 4-1, Real Quiet 8-1 and War Emblem 20-1.
CALLAGHAN GOES TO PLAN B WITH FALCON ROCK IN CLOSING DAY SAN JUAN
With San Marcos Stakes winner Slim Shadey headed for Churchill Downs to run in the Grade I Woodford Reserve on Derby Day, May 5, Simon Callaghan plans to go to the bench for the Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap, traditional closing-day feature at Santa Anita next Sunday.
The 29-year-old Englishman, enjoying a successful Santa Anita campaign with seven wins and eight seconds from 37 starters through Saturday, plans to send out Irish-bred Falcon Rock in quest of his first U.S. stakes win in the marathon San Juan, to be decided at about 1 ¾ miles on turf.
“He’s a very consistent older horse,” Callaghan said of the 7-year-old Hawk Wing gelding owned by Michael Tabor. “He’s kind of a tough horse to win with. He’s placed in a lot of races and picked up some good purse money, so we feel he’s in with a shot. My other horse doesn’t run and I guess Neil Drysdale’s horse is the one to beat.”
That would be Bourbon Bay, winner of the San Juan in 2010 and winner of six of eight starts on Santa Anita’s turf, with one second. Falcon Rock won an overnight race at Santa Anita in his U.S. debut on March 6, 2010, but hasn’t won since, a string of 14 straight. But he has earned his keep with pieces of the pot in several Grade II stakes and a third in the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup last November.
Overall, Falcon Rock has a 2-9-3 record from 24 starts, with earnings of $206,382.
“Falcon Rock can get the distance of the San Juan,” said Callaghan, noting marathon grass races are much more common across the pond than they are in North America. “The distance isn’t an issue for him, so let’s hope he runs well.”
EURTON WINS WITH UNPRECEDENTED EIGHTH STRAIGHT STARTER AT SANTA ANITA
Trainer Peter Eurton saddled his eighth consecutive winner at Santa Anita on Saturday, as Chickie Charms stormed home to win by 5 ¼ lengths in the sixth race under Joe Talamo.
Although impossible to confirm, it is believed Eurton’s feat, which began April 5, is unprecedented in the 75-year history of Santa Anita.
“Going into last Saturday, we had four wins and 15 seconds,” said Eurton, 54. “I thought we could turn some of those seconds around and now things are clicking. What can you do? It’s almost scary. Before this race I thought ‘I can’t win this one, too.’”
Owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stables, Ciaglia Racing and Rob Dyrdek, Chickie Charms paid $8 to win.
Eurton’s only other starter on Saturday was Called to Serve, who was a handy 3 ¾ length winner of the fifth race under apprentice Eswan Flores. Off at odds of 5-2, he paid $7.
Best known as the trainer of Grade I Del Mar Debutante and Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes winner Weemissfrankie, Eurton insists his current run of good fortune started this past summer at Del Mar.
“It just seems that since (owner) Frank (Alesia) died at Del Mar, we’ve been blessed. Weemissfrankie won there on opening day and then she won the Debutante,” said Eurton.
When asked if he was superstitious about the way he has entered his horses during the streak or with how he’s dressed or watched races, Eurton was quick to respond.
“Not at all. I do things the same way at the barn but I’m not superstitious.”
Eurton’s eight-race roll began on Thursday, April 5, as he sent Belle Passe and Joel Rosario to victory in the third race, paying $4.80 to win. He recorded a hat trick two days later on Santa Anita Derby Day, April 7, winning the first race with Valley Cat and Rafael Bejarano, the third with Relentless Heat and Talamo and the seventh race with Fiddlers Afleet and Bejarano. The winners paid $8.80, $5.40 and $4.20.
His next starter came on Thursday, April 12. Eurton’s Itssultryinthecape, with Chantal Sutherland up, won the second race by 4 ½ lengths and paid $8.40 to win. Win number six came on Friday, as Eurton braved stormy weather conditions, giving Kevin Krigger a leg up in the third race aboard Lemon Hero. The result was a head victory and win mutuel of $7.60.
Eurton had no horses entered for Sunday and none for the rest of the meet that ends next Sunday. “Winning eight straight probably will never happen again in my lifetime,” he said, “so we’re having a lot of fun with it. “
FINISH LINES: Agent Richie Silverstein said Martin Pedroza is expected to be sidelined two to four weeks with “a couple broken ribs” suffered in a ninth-race spill yesterday. He was in Huntington Memorial Hospital Sunday morning. Apprentice Eswan Flores, also involved in the mishap, escaped serious injury but took off his mounts Sunday while recovering at his home. He was expected to resume riding on Thursday, agent Joe Griffin said . . . Bill Spawr said he is “60-40” on running California-bred Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie in the $125,000 Tiznow at Hollywood Park on April 28 as opposed to the $400,000 Churchill Downs in Kentucky on Derby Day, May 5 . . . Agent Tom Knust said he will keep Kevin Krigger’s book when Patrick Valenzuela resumes his comeback at Hollywood Park on opening day, April 26 . . . Multiple stakes winner Switch worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 58.80 for John Sadler, who has her ticketed for the Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 5 . . . There were 15 contestants alive in ShowVivor2 with five racing days remaining.