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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• INJURED RIDER’S FRIENDSHIP LEADS TO MALIBU MOUNT FOR PEDROZA
• NACHEZ DAWN SET FOR GRADE I LA BREA ON OPENING DAY
• BIG BANE THEORY DUE FOR BETTER TRIP IN SIR BEAUFORT
• PROUD PAPA DAVID FLORES HAPPY TO BE WOOLF FINALIST
RACING MANAGER RENE DOUGLAS PUTS BFF ON PRIVATE ZONE
Martin Pedroza and Rene Douglas have been friends for more than three decades.Natives of Panama, they attended jockey school there before migrating to the United States where they reached the upper echelon of their profession.
Douglas, a regular in Southern California before returning to the Chicago area where he was a six-time champion at Arlington Park, was paralyzed from the waist down in a tragic spill at that track on May 23, 2009.
Throughout his travails, Douglas maintained contact with Pedroza, who buoyed his spirits during bouts of depression, which diminished with time to the point that now Douglas is racing manager for the Good Friends Stable, which has Private Zone entered in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day next Wednesday. The rider: Martin Pedroza.
“Rene and Martin not only grew up together, they went to jockey school in Panama,” said Pedroza’s long-time agent, Richie Silverstein. “They’ve remained best friends and Rene suggested to Doug (O’Neill, who trains Private Zone) that because of his relationship with Martin, he’d like to keep him on the horse.”
Pedroza has ridden Private Zone in four of the gelding’s five U.S. starts, finishing second the last two, beaten only a length last out in the Grade III Vernon Underwood at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.
Douglas’ recovery has understandably been a work in progress.
“The first year and a half, he wouldn’t take phone calls, seemingly because he was depressed,” Silverstein said. “Now when I speak to him on the phone in Florida he seems in very good spirits. I know he goes to physical therapy every Saturday, but all in all, he’s sharp mentally and he knows his stuff.”
Added Pedroza: “It was rough in the beginning, but now I talk to him pretty much every day.”
As for Private Zone, who set the pace in his last two starts before he was overtaken in late stretch, Pedroza is optimistic, even though personally he’s coming off a forgettable Betfair Hollywood Park meet where he won only once from 68 mounts. He needs just one more victory to reach career milestone 3,500.
But right now, Pedroza’s focused on Private Zone. “I think he’s going to be all right,” Pedroza said.
The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: Fed Biz, Mike Smith; Jimmy Creed, Garrett Gomez; Drill, Martin Garcia; The Lumber Guy, John Velazquez; Politicallycorrect, Joel Rosario; Basmati, Mario Gutierrez; Castaway, Joe Talamo; Private Zone, Pedroza; Guilt Trip, Rafael Bejarano; and Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani.
Fed Biz worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday in 58 flat, while Drill went six furlongs in a bullet 1:10.20 handily from the gate, both for Bob Baffert. Drill’s time was the fastest of 32 at the distance, the average time of which was 1:14.25.
Politicallycorrect worked five furlongs for Wesley Ward in 1:01.20.
CONSISTENT NECHEZ DAWN MAKES SANTA ANITA DEBUT IN LA BREA
Nechez Dawn looks like she’ll be a pace factor in the Grade I La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on opening day. Trainer Jeff Bonde feels the consistent daughter of Indian Charlie will run her race again after missing by a neck in the Dec. 1 Skillful Joy Stakes, which was scheduled to be run on turf but was moved to Betfair Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track due to inclement weather.
“The track was a little slow that day,” Bonde said, with the final time of 1:13 for six furlongs supporting his statement. “She’s been running well. We expect another strong effort.”
Nechez Dawn will be making her first start at Santa Anita in the seven furlong La Brea.
The field for the La Brea: Mamma Kimbo, Mike Smith; Nechez Dawn, Edwin Maldonado; Reneesgotzip, Garrett Gomez; Creditcardroulette, Joel Rosario; My Miss Aurelia, Corey Nakatani; Candrea, Martin Garcia; and Book Review, Rafael Bejarano.
BIG BANE THEORY ATTEMPTS TO REBOUND IN SIR BEAUFORT STAKES
Big Bane Theory’s ninth-place finish in the Grade I Hollywood Derby was worse than it looked. Take it from Joe Talamo, who has ridden the 3-year-old son of grass champion Artie Schiller in each of his four starts, winning two.
“I’m surprised he didn’t fall,” said the 22-year-old Talamo, fresh from winning Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet riding title with 37 victories. “I was following a horse—I don’t even know what horse it was—and he clipped heels in front of me and I almost ran right over him.
“My horse definitely didn’t have that good of a trip, especially down the lane. The race before (an allowance win at 1 1/8 miles on the grass) he ran an unbelievable race. We really thought a lot of him to run him in the Hollywood Derby, but you can just toss that race out.”
The field for the Sir Beaufort: Fit to Rule, Edwin Maldonado; Press Baron, Victor Espinoza; Smart Ellis, Julien Leparoux; Big Bane Theory, Joe Talamo; Midnight Crooner, Martin Garcia; Conspiracy, Garrett Gomez; Battle Force, Mike Smith; and Silentio, Rafael Bejarano.
NEW FATHER FLORES EXCITED ABOUT BEING WOOLF AWARD FINALIST
David Flores was passing out faux cigars (of the blue bubble gum variety) at Clockers’ Corner Wednesday morning in celebration of the birth of his first son, John Lorenzo, “My wife (Dawn, 32) had our boy on Dec. 5,” said the 28-year riding veteran, who will be 45 on Feb. 5. “This is my fifth child, but my first boy. I have four girls. He weighed seven and a half pounds.”
Told it seemed the baby was too big to be a jockey, Flores concurred. “I think he’s overweight already,” said Flores, who is among five finalists this year for Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.
“First of all, it’s a privilege to be here in this colony of riders and among all the big trainers, owners and the fans,” said Flores, waxing philosophically. “To be nominated for the George Woolf, wow. It’s an award any rider would love to have.”
MEL STUTE ANXIOUS TO BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
With apologies to Jimmy Boyd, all Mel Stute wants for Christmas are his $2 bets. Mel may not be a candidate for “Jeopardy” since he fell and hit his head in a fall in West L.A. on Dec. 15, but the 85-year-old retired trainer is still savvy about his first love, horse racing.
“My father’s doing pretty good,”’ said his son, trainer Gary Stute, who won two races at Betfair Hollywood Park last Saturday. “If you ask him something about racing, he knows the answer.
“But the questions they ask him in rehab facility in Pomona, he doesn’t care about. We tell him there was no racing for two weeks, but he says, ‘Well, Gulfstream’s running.’ Things he cares about, he knows about.
“But when he’s asked what day of the month it is, he’s not too clear on it. They’re hoping to let him out right after Christmas.”
Mel Stute’s best horse in a career spanning more than six decades was the California-bred Snow Chief, 1986 Preakness winner and that year’s 3-year-old champion.
As for Gary, he was thrilled with two wins in one day. “For a seven-horse stable, it’s not too bad,” he said.
BLACKER, HOOVER LEND EXPERTISE TO HRTV TEAM
HRTV will sport something old and something new when Santa Anita starts its 71-day winter/spring meet the day after Christmas. Newcomer Christina Olivares Blacker and veteran Kurt Hoover will be part of HRTV’s crack announcing team--with Olivares Blacker making her first appearance on Jan.1.
Olivares-Blacker, who recently married trainer Dan Blacker, and is the daughter of retired top jockey Frank Olivares, started her career with HRTV before moving to TVG. Hoover, one of the sport’s most knowledgeable spokesmen whose smooth on-air presence puts viewers readily at ease, starts his 26th campaign at The Great Place but his first as a full-fledged member of the HRTV team.
FINISH LINES: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Friday morning in 1:15.80. “The dogs were wide but she went well,” said trainer Mike Puype, who has the Grade II Monrovia Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf in mind for the downhill grass specialist . . . M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu in 2009, has been retired to trainer Bruce Headley’s complex in Arcadia. A gelded son of One Man Army, M One Rifle had a record of 5-2-7 from 22 starts with career earnings of $535,142. His last start came in the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap in which he finished fifth on May 28 of this year . . . Alberto Delgado makes his Santa Anita riding debut this meet. The 48-year-old native of Puerto Rico has been riding in Maryland and has Craig Haines as his agent. “I always wanted to come to Santa Anita,” said Delgado, the nation’s leading apprentice rider in 1982. “I finally got the opportunity, so this is a dream come true.” . . . Trainer Vann Belvoir, who plied his trade in the wet and wild Northwest before moving his base of operations to relatively balmy Southern California recently, plans to make it permanent. “We just bought a half-acre horse property in San Dimas,” said Belvoir, speaking on behalf of his wife, Sauci, his right hand girl at the barn . . . Lookalikes: Doug O’Neill and Ben Roethlisberger . . . Game On Dude’s favorite treat: Smarties.