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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• SANTA ANITA’S BIG MEET NEVER GETS OLD FOR BOB BAFFERT
• JIMMY CREED ‘BRILLIANT’ IN DRILL FOR OPENING DAY MALIBU
• MY MISS AURELIA ‘DOING GREAT’ FOR GRADE I LA BREA
• STEVENS BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN AT SANTA ANITA—ON HRTV
FANS LOOK FORWARD TO SANTA ANITA TRADITION, BAFFERT SAYS
Santa Anita begins the latest chapter in its storied history on Dec. 26 when it kicks off the 76th season of one of America’s most anticipated meets, a 71-day session that offers 41 graded stakes, nine of them Grade I’s, and nearly $10 million in stakes money.
It never gets old for Bob Baffert, a record 11-time Santa Anita training champion who makes his headquarters at The Great Race Place where he has developed a plethora of champion Thoroughbreds.
“It starts a fresh new year,” said the Hall of Fame trainer, who turns 60 on Jan. 13. “It’s the day after Christmas and it holds a lot of tradition. People look forward to it. It’s like opening day of the NFL season.”
Baffert, whose personal trademarks include his snow white hair and his occasionally bawdy banter, had an opportunity to draw a new perspective on life following a heart attack he suffered in Dubai last March and the loss of his 88-year-old father, Bill Sr. in September but his grass roots demeanor hasn’t changed much.
“A lot of things happened this past year, but it’s still like that Bill Murray movie, ‘Groundhog Day,’ Baffert said. “Every day’s the same thing.”
With a barnful-plus of blueblood stock, that may be a stretch. The three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer understandably seeks new horizons to conquer, one of which will be another Santa Anita Handicap victory on March 2. Baffert hopes to have Game On Dude ready for the $750,000, Grade I race at a mile and a quarter.
“He came out of his race (the Native Diver at Betfair Hollywood Park) really well,” Baffert said of the gelding owned in part by baseball legend Joe Torre. “We’ll probably run him in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 3.”
JIMMY CREED WORKS IN COMPANY FOR GRADE I MALIBU STAKES
Jimmy Creed worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Wednesday in 1:24.80 in his final major drill for the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day, next Wednesday, Dec. 26. “Brilliant” is how private clocker Toby Turrell of the Winners Card termed the move by the 3-year-old son of Distorted Humor, which was performed in company with stable mate Moulin de Mougin, who was clocked in 1:26.20.
“He went really nice,’ Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said of Jimmy Creed, who will be seeking his first stakes victory in the seven-furlong Malibu, which offers $300,000 in purse money. “He went in company to keep it real.”
Jimmy Creed, a chestnut colt owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, was ninth of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3. Prior to that, he was third beaten three-quarters of a length in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship and second by a neck in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar.
Probable for the Malibu, which will be drawn Friday with the rest of the opening day races: Drill, Fed Biz, Jimmy Creed, Midnight Transfer, Politicallycorrect, Private Zone, The Lumber Guy and Unbridled’s Note.
First post time opening day is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
ECLIPSE FAVORITE MY MISS AURELIA WORKS FOR OPENING DAY LA BREA
My Miss Aurelia, runner-up to Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 2, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday morning in 48:60 for the Grade I La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on opening day.
“She’s doing great,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, who has 29 head on hand for the winter/spring meet. “She’s a good-feeling filly. She’s not mean, very manageable and self-reliant.”
Blasi has a vested interest, of course, but feels My Miss Aurelia is a legitimate favorite to win the Eclipse Award as outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2012. “She should get it,” Blasi said. “She beat Questing twice (in the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion and in the Ladies’ Classic).”
My Miss Aurelia, a bay daughter of Smart Strike owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton and bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, had won six straight races, three of them Grade I’s, before the Ladies’ Classic setback.
Said private clocker Toby Turrell of My Miss Aurelia: “She could not be any more ready.”
Gary Stevens has dashed speculation that he would resume his riding career after an absence of seven years.
“As far as a comeback, I don’t know who’s spreading these rumors . . . I will be working for HRTV on opening day. That’s the only comment I have,” said the retired Hall of Fame jockey, who turns 50 next March 6.
Stevens, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner who rode for 27 years, announced his retirement on Nov. 27, 2005.
Stevens has been working horses recently at the Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond, Washington, and reportedly has his weight down to 122 pounds. The Pegasus operation is overseen by Stevens’ longtime friend, trainer Mike Puhich.
WHEN IT COMES TO $100 PAYOFFS, KNAPP’S NOT ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Just call Steve Knapp the Hundred Dollar Man
Knapp has not been a high percentage trainer in recent seasons, even though he was the leader at the 2005 Oak Tree meet with 16 wins, but his return on investment on a $2 win wager shows a profit this year.
The 56-year-old Chino Hills resident lit up the tote board at Betfair Hollywood Park on closing day last Sunday when he saddled Lia Juliana to a $100.40 victory under jockey Orlando Mujica. In a 12-year career, it was the fifth Knapp-trained winner that paid at least $100.
The others were Dozy Doaks, ridden by Victor Espinoza, $103.40; El Nadia, $111, with Tyler Baze up; Magic Rooy, $102, ridden by Kerwin John; and Peace Pledge, $165 under Joel Rosario.
Here’s a sampling of other Knapp winners that have lit up the tote board, with payoffs rounded off to the nearest dollar: Jungle Girl, $75 and again at $47; Taffy Boy, $47; Lady Memo, $46; Playful Blint, $43; Tricky Vivana, $58; Easy on the Eye, $74; Magic Mamma, $72; My Dark Vada, $83; Stylish Account, $46; Genie Magic, $51; Icantgoforthat, $46; Prison Caper, $59; Verkada, $52; Hooton Newton, $63; and Talking to John, $54.
According to statistics provided by Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free, Knapp’s ROI thus far in 2012 is $2.23 for each $2 win bet. His career total, however, shows a flat bet loss at $1.55.
“I run a lot of horses and that eats up your percentages,” Knapp said. “When I won the Oak Tree title, I had many favorites that won because I had horses then. The economy hurt us.”
FINISH LINES: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday morning in 48.80 as she prepares for the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on Jan. 21. “She’s in great shape,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said of the filly who handed Executiveprivilege her first defeat in the Juvenile Fillies to thrust herself firmly in the picture for an Eclipse Award in that category. Executiveprivilege’s subsequent fourth-place finish in the Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park virtually cemented honors for Beholder. “She’d be my pick,” Mandella allowed. “Today’s work was just what we needed and if all goes well it’s on to the Santa Ynez.” . . . Amazombie is on a break and not expected back to the races until late next March or April, trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr said of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion . . . Trainer Mike Pender reports that stakes stars Ultimate Eagle and Jeranimo are being pointed to the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 5 and the Grade III Daytona Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf Dec. 29, respectively . . . Dennis O’Neill, brother of trainer Doug O’Neill, said that Champagne Stakes runner-up Goldenscents will make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 5, while Best Pal winner Know More “is in training, but we backed off a bit.” Goldenscents worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Tuesday in a bullet 1:11.80, fastest of 17 drills at the distance. Dennis added that recent acquisition Mudflats is set to make his first start for Team O’Neill in the $200,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 5.