Santa Anita News
STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• IMPENDING CHAMPION BEHOLDER A FINE WORK IN PROGRESS
• ‘RAILBIRD’ BAFFERT HAS TWO FOR SATURDAY’S PALOS VERDES
• OPEN WATER SEEKS UPSET IN GRADE II LA CAŇADA ON SUNDAY
• SANTA ANITA TO HONOR VETERAN SCRIBE JACK DISNEY ON SUNDAY, JAN. 27
GOMEZ, BEHOLDER, OLDER BUT WISER FOR MONDAY’S SANTA YNEZ
Garrett Gomez and Beholder each had a birthday on Jan. 1. Gomez turned 41, Beholder turned three. Each has much more in common with the other.
Gomez has ridden the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, who is expected to be named champion of her division for 2012 at Saturday’s Eclipse Awards dinner in Florida, in all five of her races, in addition to her two most recent workouts.
He will reunite with the bay daughter of Henny Hughes in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature at Santa Anita, the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. “Her confidence has improved since her first race,” Gomez said, referring to a maiden allowance test at Betfair Hollywood Park last Jan. 28. Beholder won next out at Del Mar, prior to losing by a nose to then-unbeaten Executiveprivilege in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante. Then came an allowance win at Santa Anita.
Trained by Richard Mandella for owner B. Wayne Hughes, Beholder capped her 2-year-old campaign by avenging her loss to Executiveprivilege with a one-length victory in the Juvenile Fillies.
“She’s progressed all the time,” Gomez said. “She’s never really done anything wrong, although she might have been a little bit speed-crazy. We’ve been working with her and Richard’s been doing a great job with her. We’ll see how she acts when she runs Monday.
“I worked her twice (six furlongs in 1:13 on Jan. 11 and a bullet 58 4/5 for five furlongs on Jan. 4). We worked her off horses both times and she handled it well.
“Hopefully, it carries over to the race and she’s able to do certain things we need her to do and she keeps putting up those fast numbers.”
Beholder had an unrecorded workout on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday morning before Mandella departed for the Eclipse Awards. “I let her breeze a very slow half-mile this morning just to let her do a little something,” Mandella said. “She couldn’t be better.”
BAFFERT HOPES FOR GOOD LUCK IN PALOS VERDES STAKES
Bob Baffert doesn’t draw the rail in every race. It just seems that way.
That said, the Hall of Fame trainer, who turned 60 on Sunday, has the one and two post positions with his two entrants in Saturday’s Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes, Apriority and $3,000 supplemental nominee Drill.
“We got him about three months ago,” Baffert said of Apriority, a 6-year-old Grand Slam horse who hasn’t raced since last July at Calder but has three seconds in three starts at Santa Anita, including a second to 2011 Sprint champion Amazombie in the Sunshine Millions Sprint in January 2011.
“He’s doing well, but he didn’t draw very well,” Baffert said of Apriority, who has two recent bullet works on Betfair Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track. “I put Drill in there at the last minute and he drew horrible.”
The field for the Palos Verdes, race five of nine: Apriority, Julien Leparoux, 8-1; Drill, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Canonize, Jose Valdivia Jr., 5-1; Sahara Sky, Joe Talamo, 12-1; Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 3-1; Private Zone, Martin Pedroza, 5-2; and Justin Phillip, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2.
OPEN WATER IN DEEP AGAINST LADY OF FIFTY IN LA CAŇADA?
Trainer Eric Guillot realizes he’ll need some luck if Open Water is to turn the tide on favored Lady of Fifty in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 La Caňada Stakes exclusively for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
Lady of Fifty defeated Open Water by 3 ¼ lengths last out in the Grade II Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood on Dec. 8. Open Water spotted Lady of Fifty four pounds in that race, and has only one race on Santa Anita’s conventional dirt track. Open Water gets a nine-pound swing in weights in the La Caňada, 118 to Lady of Fifty’s 123.
“The Las Virgenes was the only time she ever ran on the dirt,” Guillot pointed out, referring to Open Water’s third by six lengths to front-running Eden’s Moon in the Grade I race for 3-year-old fillies last March 12 at Santa Anita.
“She’s coming into this race really good, but she’s got to beat Lady of Fifty,” Guillot added. “My filly worked good and she’s coming back very aggressive.
“If she takes to the dirt like she takes to synthetic and grass, I think she’ll be right there.”
The La Caňada field: Open Water, Corey Nakatani; Lady of Fifty, Martin Garcia; Book Review, Rafael Bejarano; Willa B Awesome, Martin Pedroza; Ubelongtomemissy, Joe Talamo; and More Chocolate, Garrett Gomez.
Jack Disney, who covered and ran with the likes of Dean Chance, Bo Belinsky, “Hot Rod” Hundley, Elgin Baylor, John McKay, Marcus Allen and Howie Long while a sportswriter with the defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, will have a race named in his honor at Santa Anita on Sunday, Jan. 27, as The Great Race Place will celebrate his recent retirement from the track’s publicity department.
“We are honored to be able to salute Jack in this way,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “He has long been one of the most respected guys in town and he always did a tremendous job for us in publicity. Jack has a great rapport with the media, horsemen, jockeys, our employees and fans and while we wish him well in his retirement, we truly miss having him with us on a regular basis.
“Jack provided us with the kind of stability, respect and solid judgment that are hard to find and we want to sincerely thank him for representing Santa Anita in the manner he did for so many years.”
In addition to “The Jack Disney Purse,” Disney’s career will also be recognized by the city of Arcadia, as Jan. 27 will be designated as “Jack Disney Day” city-wide.
A native Angelino who attended Fairfax High and counted among his classmates eventual 1959 World Series MVP Larry Sherry, trumpet legend Herb Alpert and pro football quarterback/vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, Disney had his sights set on the sports world at an early age.
“After high school, I attended Occidental College but I essentially dropped out of school and went to work at the Herald,” said Disney. “Bud Furillo, who later became sports editor, wrote a column at that time called ‘The Steam Room,’ and I learned more about journalism from him than I ever could have anywhere else.”
Along the way, Disney covered the fledgling major league Angels, the newly arrived Lakers, USC football, boxing, the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Raiders, and, of course, horse racing. He also served as a television wrestling commentator with the late Dick (Whoa Nellie) Lane weekly, on KTLA, Channel 5.
“Those were great days,” said Disney. “The crowds were huge then and I did pretty well handicapping in the paper. In addition to guys like Shoemaker, Longden, Pincay, and all the great horses, what I remember most about racing back in the ‘60s and ‘70s was how much fun it was—whether we were at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park or Del Mar, racing was really a happening and you always saw people you knew.”
Shortly before the Herald Examiner, which was regarded by many as having the best horse racing coverage in America, met its demise in April, 1989, Disney was lured by Hollywood Park’s Marjorie Everett to become that track’s publicity director.
“I’d known Marje from covering the races and it was a great opportunity for me at the time, and it facilitated my moving over to Santa Anita in 1992,” said Disney.
In addition to working in publicity, Disney, along with his twin brother Doug, Buck Rodgers, Ross Newhan, Paul Salata and others formed a horse ownership group called “Indizguys Stable.”
“That venture provided my most memorable moments in sports,” said Disney. “Bill Shoemaker’s brilliant ride aboard Olden Times in the 1962 San Juan Capistrano Handicap had spurred my interest in racing, and then to win that historic event 45 years later with On the Acorn, who we claimed for $40,000, was beyond belief.
“On the Acorn went on to win back-to-back runnings of the Jim Murray Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park, and that was special because the race was named after a former colleague and dear friend. I owe a debt of gratitude to our trainer, Mike Mitchell, whose savvy helped me realize those thrills.”
From double-dating in 1964 with L.A.’s most eligible bachelor, the Angels’ Bo Belinsky, to cavorting by air and land with unforgettable characters such as the Lakers’ “Hot Rod” Hundley and Chick Hearn, to covering sports legends like Muhammad Ali, Sandy Koufax and Bo Jackson, Disney’s life journey has been anything but ordinary.
“It’s been such a great ride I don’t need a bucket list,” he said. “Over the past summer my wife, Emily, and I just decided that after all these years of working weekends and holidays, I needed to dedicate some quality time to our family and to our grandchildren.
“I can’t think of a better place to close out my professional career than at Santa Anita. There is no venue more naturally beautiful in sports than Santa Anita Park. It is an incredible place, and Emily and I are looking forward to Jan. 27th joining a cherished list of indelible memories.”
Safe to say Jack Disney, to borrow a line from his musical hero Frank Sinatra, did it “his way,” through the years, and his readers were glad of it.
STEVENS ‘JUST GETTING FEET WET’ AT SANTA ANITA
With one win, one second and one third from eight mounts in his comeback after a seven-year absence, 49-year-old Gary Stevens is riding like he hasn’t missed a beat.
“I feel good and we’re just getting our feet wet,” said the Hall of Fame jockey, who also provides expert analysis for HRTV and NBC-TV. “It’s all good.”
Stevens, who owns a home in Louisville, told the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Eclipse Award winning turf writer Jennie Rees that he will ride the full meet at Keeneland when the Lexington track opens on April 5 and is “almost definite” to ride at Churchill Downs after Keeneland.
“I always go back to Kentucky right after the Santa Anita Derby (a race Stevens has won a record nine times; it will be run this year on April 6) and I plan to do the same thing this year,” Stevens told Rees.
FINISH LINES: In her first recorded drill since finishing fourth in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet last December, Del Mar Debutante winner Executiveprivilege worked three furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track on bright, sunny Thursday morning filled with blue skies in 36 seconds for Bob Baffert . . . Agent Brian Beach reports that Corey Nakatani rides Brown Almighty for trainer Tim Ice in Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park . . . Top European rider Jamie Spencer will be at Santa Anita to ride Strong Suit for trainer Simon Callaghan in the Grade II, $150,000 Arcadia Stakes at one mile on turf Feb. 2 . . . With 102 players eliminated after selecting 3-2 favorite Slim Shadey to finish at least third in Sunday’s San Gabriel Stakes (he finished sixth), 385 remained alive in ShowVivor entering Thursday’s races . . . Santa Anita Director of Community Services and Special Events Pete Siberell points out that an episode of “New Girl,” shot at Santa Anita last Nov. 29 and 30 by Twentieth Century Fox Television, airs at 9 p.m. tonight on Fox. The show stars Zoey Deschanel, and in the episode, actor Dennis Farina returns from his “Luck” gig for some comedy hijinks. Their bit in the saddling barn is pretty funny . . . Today begins a five-day race week at Santa Anita, with special holiday racing on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. First post time Friday is 1 p.m., and 12:30 p.m. Saturday through Monday. All Thoroughbreds members at Santa Anita on Monday will receive free a premium Santa Anita hooded sweatshirt with paid admission while supplies last.