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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• MORE HISTORY IN THE OFFING FOR SANTA ANITA HANDICAP?
• CABALLO DEL CIELO GETS GOOD DRAW FOR SAN VICENTE
• GOMEZ, BYRONY TEAM UP AGAIN IN MONDAY’S BUENA VISTA
• WHITE MAKES SANTA ANITA RIDERS SLIGHT PICK IN CHARITY GAME
MULTIPLE STORYLINES IN SANTA ANITA HANDICAP ON MARCH 2
The Santa Anita Handicap, a race already steeped in history, could enhance its luster when it is run this year on March 2.
If Ron the Greek faces Game On Dude as anticipated, it would mark the first time in the race’s 76 runnings that two previous Big ’Cap winners meet in the classic. Ron the Greek won last year, while Game On Dude won in 2011.
And if Called to Serve runs and wins, it would be the first time a father and son won the Santa Anita Handicap. Nick Canani trains Called to Serve. His father, Santa Anita-based Julio, saddled Martial Law to a 50-1 upset in 1989.
Toss in the fact that a soon-to-be 50-year-old jockey (March 6) making his comeback after a seven-year absence rides Called to Serve, and you’ve got an abundance of storylines that Hollywood producers might reject as “too fictional.”
Whatever unfolds, Gary Stevens has been named to ride Called to Serve in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Handicap at a mile and a quarter. Stevens worked the 4-year-old gelding on Santa Anita’s fast main track Saturday morning, going six furlongs in a bullet 1:13.40. Private clocker Gary Young got Called to Serve galloping out seven furlongs in 1:27 1/5.
“I was very happy with the way he went,” Canani said. “The horse has acclimated great since coming from the East Coast (Feb. 5). He’s shipped really well and he’s had nine or 10 days to get over the race track. We’ll breeze him back a week from today and then run a week from Saturday.”
Asked what significance it would have to follow in his 76-year-old father’s footsteps and win the Big ’Cap, Nick, 39, said, “Yeah, 100 percent. I don’t think there have ever been a father and son to win it, so that would mean a lot.”
Stevens, meanwhile, is no stranger to winning the Big ’Cap, having captured the race four times, in 1991 on Ruhlmann for Charlie Whittingham; in 1992 on Farma Way for D. Wayne Lukas; in 1995 on Urgent Request for Rodney Rash; and in 2005 aboard Rock Hard Ten for Richard Mandella.
Stevens obtained the mount due to a conflict in the schedule of Joel Rosario, who had ridden Called to Serve to daylight victories in his last two starts, the Grade III Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct last Nov. 17 and the Broad Brush at Laurel on Dec. 31.
“Rosario would have ridden him, but he has to go to New York that day, so he had a conflict,” explained Stevens’ agent, John Perrotta. “That was fortuitous for us.” Said Canani: “As far as replacing Rosario, who better can we get than Gary Stevens?”
NAKATANI OPTIMISTIC ON VERSATILE CABALLO DEL CIELO IN SAN VICENTE
Corey Nakatani hopes to turn the tables on his rivals in Sunday’s San Vicente stakes. Nakatani rides Caballo Del Cielo for Steve Asmussen in the seven furlong race for 3-year-olds. Among the entrees are Shakin It Up, who beat Caballo Del Cielo by 4 ½ lengths last Oct. 27.
“He was beaten by Shakin It Up, but I think my horse is versatile,” Nakatani said. “Going seven-eighths of a mile, he’ll be pretty handy where he’s at. We got a good draw, a real good draw, so we’ll see if we can win it.”
The field for the San Vicente: Belvin, Rafael; Bejarano, 3-1; Shakin It Up, David Flores, 5-2; War Academy, Martin Garcia, 7-2; Caballo Del Cielo, Corey Nakatani, 4-1; Mudflats, Edwin Maldonado, 6-1; and Treasury Bill, Joe Talamo, 4-1.
GOMEZ SEES IMPROVEMENT FOR BYRONY IN MONDAY’S BUENA VISTA
Garrett Gomez got acquainted with Byrony for the first time when he rode the Irish-bred mare to a sharp second by a neck to A Jealous Woman in the Megahertz Stakes on Jan. 19.
The 42-year-old jockey, who won two races Friday giving him 24 for the meet and a winning average of 23 percent, likes his chances in Monday‘s Presidents’ Day feature, the Grade II Buena Vista Stakes at one mile on turf.
"She ran really well that day,” Gomez said of Byrony. “I wheeled her out and asked her to go out and get them. She ran a really good race. She couldn’t quite get to the last horse, but when I first turned for home I thought I was going to be able to run them down.
“Then when I uncovered her, she didn’t quite give me the kick that I thought she might. But I learned a little bit about her and hopefully we can get her to improve again.”
The field for the Buena Vista: Byrony, Garrett Gomez, 6-1; Mizdirection, Mike Smith, 1-1; Byrama, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; Long Face, Julien Leparoux, 20-1; Trois Aureole, Martin Garcia, 15-1; A Jealous Woman, Brice Blanc, 7-2; Charm the Maker, Joe Talamo, 15-1; and In the Stars, Gary Stevens, 4-1. First post time Monday is 12:30 p.m.
Fans attending Santa Anita on Presidents’ Day will receive free an attractive Santa Anita umbrella with paid admission while supplies last.
SANTA ANITA JOCKS FAVORED OVER HOLY ANGELS IN NEXT THURSDAY’S GAME
Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White has installed Santa Anita’s jockeys a three-point favorite when they play Holy Angels School in their annual charity basketball game next Thursday, Feb. 21, at La Salle High School in Pasadena.
“Santa Anita’s jockeys won by five points last year, 39-34,” White noted. “And two years ago, the jockeys won by one point, 36-35, in overtime, thanks to a three-point buzzer-beater by Kerwin John. The main reason I have made the jockeys a three-point favorite for this year’s game is I took those five-point and one-point victories by the jockeys into account and split the difference.”
White, who provides television commentary for Santa Anita’s simulcast network in addition to making the track’s morning line, was the jockeys’ coach on one occasion in the 1990s when they came from behind to win.
“We were down by 12 points at halftime,” White recalled. “So I had the jockeys put on a full-court press in the second half. And it worked. James Corral kept stealing the ball, over and over and over, which was the key to how we won the game.”
HRTV’s Kurt Hoover will be coaching the jockeys again this year.
“That is something else I had to take into account before I decided to make the jockeys a three-point favorite,” White said. “The jockeys certainly have a great coach in Kurt Hoover, who has forgotten more about basketball than most people will ever know.”
Proceeds will benefit the Holy Angels athletic program and the Kentucky-based Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). Game time is 7:15 p.m.; doors open at 6:15 p.m.
WestsideRentals.com and Meticulous Talent Management will co-sponsor the event which will again enjoy the support of a wide spectrum of people from the horse racing industry, including Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Gary Stevens and Mike Smith. All will be available to autograph photos and other memorabilia beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s great that we’re now able to help raise money for the PDJF and to bring awareness to the Eye on Jacob Foundation,” said Flores. “Racing is a very dangerous sport and we have a lot of guys around the country with serious injuries who need help in their everyday lives. The PDJF is there for them and we want to do all we can to help out.”
The Eye on Jacob Foundation is named for Jacob Desormeaux, the 14-year-old son of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux. Jacob was diagnosed several years ago with Usher’s Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes loss of hearing, imbalance, and eventual loss of sight in approximately 14,000 children in the United States.
In addition to WestsideRentals.com and Meticulous Talent Management, sponsors for this year’s event also include: Hollywood Sports Park, KHS Bicycle, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, and Temple City Bike Shop.
Those attending will be eligible to win prizes which include: A paint ball package to Hollywood Sports Park, an Electra Townie 3-speed Adult Alumni bike (retails for $550), a kids BMX Free Agent Stiletto bike (retails for $350), and a Half Court Prize, to be determined, by Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, as well as basketballs which will be signed by all jockeys and student-players.
This year’s Santa Anita jockey team is likely to include: Captains Flores and Talamo, Rafael Bejarano, Alex Bisono, Brice Blanc, Victor Espinoza, Omar Figueroa, Eswan Flores, Martin Garcia, Garrett Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Mario Gutierrez, Kevin Krigger, Julien Leparoux, Modesto Linares, Edwin Maldonado, Orlando Mojica, Corey Nakatani, Alonso Quinonez, Kayla Stra, Mike Smith and perhaps others.
La Salle High School is located at the southwest corner of Michillinda Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd. in Pasadena, about four miles northwest of Santa Anita Park. Admission is $5.
FINISH LINES. La Caňada winner More Chocolate worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Saturday in 1:01.20. “Perfect” is how Santa Anita training leader John Sadler termed the drill. More Chocolate is ticketed for the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 16 . . . Renee’s Titan, who upset champion Beholder in the Santa Ynez Stakes, worked six furlongs under jockey Tyler Baze in company with J K’s Mischief for trainer Doug O’Neill. Each was clocked in a bullet 1:13.40. Renee’s Titan is expected to meet Beholder again in the Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on March 2 . . . Nominations for the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap close today.