A word of caution from Team O’Neill: Handsome Mike is not a one-hit wonder. Those who thought the same of I’ll Have Another after his 43-1 upset in last year’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes paid the price if they missed the boat when he went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Handsome Mike is considerably less accomplished than I’ll Have Another, having won only a maiden race besides the Pennsylvania Derby. Next up is the Santa Anita Handicap a week from Saturday, a mile and a quarter classic that could set up well for the 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt owned by J. Paul Reddam.

“Handsome Mike can rate,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s brother, Dennis. “When he won the Pennsylvania Derby, he was sitting right in behind them on the outside and rallied. So he would love to get another pace scenario like that.

“Game On Dude broke real good in the San Antonio (Stakes on Feb. 3). You really have to get to him, when he breaks like that. You don’t hope he breaks bad, but if he does, and you’re in front of him, it compromises his chances.”

Handsome Mike worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday morning in 1:11.80 with regular rider Mario Gutierrez aboard. “He worked really well,” Doug O’Neill said. “He cooled out good so we’re going to take a shot in the Big ’Cap. We were happy with him.”

Another O’Neill Big ’Cap candidate, Richard’s Kid, who disappointed in the grassy San Marcos Stakes on Feb. 9, worked six furlongs under Tyler Baze in 1:13.80, while Sham Stakes winner Goldencents, prepping for the San Felipe Stakes on March 9, went six furlongs under Kevin Krigger in a bullet 1:10.40.

“They both worked fantastic," O’Neill said. “Richard’s Kid worked by himself. We’ll see how Richard’s Kid cools out, but plans right now are to run in the Big ’Cap.”

Probable for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino: Game On Dude, Ron the Greek, Called to Serve, Guilt Trip, Stephanoatsee, Handsome Mike, John Scott, Clubhouse Ride, Tritap and Richard’s Kid.

Not only will Santa Anita present three Grade I races on Big ’Cap Day, fans on track will receive free an attractive Santa Anita tote bag with paid admission while supplies last.

Festivities also will include popular premium Food Trucks, a KROQ concert featuring Youngblood Hawk, a microbrew and craft beer presentation and a $400,000 guaranteed late Pick 4 presented by Daily Racing Form.

First post time on Big ’Cap is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Called to Serve registered his third straight bullet work in preparation for the Santa Anita Handicap when he went five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday in 59.20 with Gary Stevens up. The Hall of Fame rider, who turns 50 on March 6, has the mount in the Big ’Cap.

“I got him in 59 and one and had him home in (one) 23 flat (for seven furlongs) and out the three-quarters in (one) 10 and three,” said trainer Nick Canani, son of trainer Julio Canani, who won the Santa Anita Handicap in 1989 with 50-1 shot Martial Law.

“I was very pleased with the work. He worked great. He did it the right way and I really couldn’t ask for much more. I’m happy that Gary breezed him a second time (he was aboard for a six-furlong bullet in 1:13 2/5 on Feb. 16. Prior to that, Called to Serve worked five furlongs at Belmont Park on Feb. 1 in a bullet 1:00 3/5).

“I know Gary’s got to go to New Orleans (he rides at the Fair Grounds on Saturday) and catch a plane this morning, but I think having him work him one more time allowed them to get to know each other a little bit better. The second time’s always better than the first.”

As far as digesting and planning pre-race strategy, Canani was understandably ambivalent. “I don’t think we can change our horse’s style,” said Canani, who trains the stretch-running son of Afleet Alex for owner Marc Ferrell. “I really think the mile and a quarter’s going to benefit us. I think that’s the horse’s true distance and what he really wants to do.

“The best horse will prevail, hopefully.”

Other Big ’Cap workers Friday included Strub Stakes runner-up Stephanoatsee, who went six furlongs in company with an unnamed Richard Mandella 3-year-old in 1:14.80, while San Antonio runner-up Clubhouse Ride went seven furlongs in 1:25.20 for trainer Craig Lewis.

“He went well,” trainer Graham Motion said of Stephanoatsee before catching a flight back East. “He worked in company because he’s not a good work horse, but I was happy with his effort.”


Regarded by many as the greatest rider of all-time, Laffit Pincay, Jr., won the Santa Anita Handicap five times. His first triumph in North America’s oldest continuously run “Hundred Grander” came 40 years ago, aboard the Charlie Whittingham-conditioned Cougar II, who was the 3-2 favorite and 126-pound highweight in the 1973 renewal.

“Cougar was a very good horse, but he hadn’t run in a long time,” said Pincay on Friday morning. “He came to the race on works alone and I was a little afraid that he might get a little tired, but Charlie was the best at getting a horse fit.

“Kennedy Road (ridden by Don Pierce) ran really good that day and we had a tough time going by him. There was a little contact and there was an inquiry. When they left it official, I was very, very happy.”

For the record, the official Daily Racing Form chart listed Cougar’s margin of victory as a nose, with the following footnote: “Cougar II dropped back at the start, moved nearer along the outside around the first turn, took a breather on the far turn, responded to rally and challenged Kennedy Road from the outside before reaching the furlong pole, drifted inward to bump with Kennedy Road about the sixteenth pole, accepted the pressure and took a desperate decision.”

Both Pincay and Cougar would go on to be enshrined in Racing’s Hall of Fame and Pincay, would go on to win Big ’Caps in 1977 with Crystal Water, in 1979 with Affirmed, in 1981 with John Henry and in 1986 with Greinton.

“The Pirate” as he was known early in his career, has fond memories of what racing was like “Back in The Day,” at The Great Race Place.

“I tell you what, at that time, the Big ’Cap was very, very special,” said Pincay. “We had huge crowds and people dressed up. I used to wear a suit and tie every Saturday and Sunday when I came to ride. It was special. At that time there were only four hundred granders here at Santa Anita: The Strub, the Big ’Cap, the Santa Anita Derby and the San Juan Capistrano.”

When asked if there was one thing he’d do to try to revive on-track attendance: “I’d let everyone in free.”

It’s safe to say that “Back in The Day,” thousands of people were more than willing to pay their money to see and bet on a jock named Pincay, a fierce competitor and a class act who always gave his backers a hundred percent.


Sahara Sky won at first asking after an absence of seven months on Jan. 19, roaring from behind to capture the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs by a length under Joe Talamo.

On Saturday, Sahara Sky goes for his second straight stakes win in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs. Talamo feels the extra furlong is an advantage.

“He was a little closer than he normally is,” Talamo said of the Palos Verdes, in which he was 3 ½ lengths off the pace at the half-mile marker. “Usually, he’s about 10, 12 (lengths) back. I was really surprised that he was dragging me that day. He was real fresh.

“If he runs that same race, he should be tough, and I think he’s more of a seven-eighths horse anyway. That’s why he really impressed me, getting up at six furlongs. It’s definitely a tough field. It’s no walkover by any means. There are some nice horses in there.”

Conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned in part by the Hall of Fame trainer, Sahara Sky has a 5-2-4 record from 13 starts. The consistent Florida-bred son of Pleasant Tap has earned $236,680. The Palos Verdes was the first stakes win for the 5-year-old horse.

The field for the San Carlos: Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; Capital Account, David Flores, 4-1; Justin Phillip, Mike Smith, 8-1; Canonize, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Sahara Sky, Joe Talamo, 6-1; The Lumber Guy, Garrett Gomez, 5-2; and Drill, Julien Leparoux, 12-1.


Santa Anita’s jockeys had their modest two-game winning streak against Holy Angels School snapped last night, falling well behind early and never recovering in a 42-26 defeat before a turnout of several hundred fans at La Salle High School in Pasadena.

“We were really never in the game,” said HRTV’s Kurt Hoover, who coached the jockeys. “We fell behind 12-0 and cut it to nine or 10 later, but we were never in it.”

While the jockeys lost, the Holy Angels athletic program and the Kentucky-based Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) benefited from funds generated through the efforts of many, including co-sponsors and Meticulous Talent Management.

Other sponsors included Hollywood Sports Park, KHS Bicycle, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and Temple City Bike Shop. donated $1,000 to the cause.

Orlando Mojica led the jockeys in scoring with 10 points, followed by Josh Desormeaux, (son of jockey Kent Desormeaux) with six; Corey Nakatani (five); Julien Leparoux (three); and Joe Talamo (two). Brice Blanc, David Flores, Rafael Bejarano and Edwin Maldonado played but did not score.

“It was a good night for the Frenchmen,” Hoover noted. “Not only did Leparoux bag a three-pointer but Tony Parker scored 31 points last night for the Spurs in San Antonio’s victory over the Clippers.”


Mario Pino, Maryland racing’s all-time leading rider, has been selected by a vote of his fellow jockeys as the 64th winner of the prestigious Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The announcement was made Friday morning on HRTV and it is expected that Pino will fly west to Santa Anita from his Maryland base in mid or late March to accept the award.

Pino outpolled a group of finalists that included Javier Castellano, Perry Compton, David Flores and Rodney Prescott.

Initiated by Santa Anita in 1950, the Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Born Sept. 8, 1961, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Pino won his first race at Maryland’s Bowie Racecourse on Jan. 16, 1979. He became racing’s tenth-winningest jockey this past Sept. 18, as he passed Hall of Famer Earlie Fires by notching his 6,471st victory at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Pino garnered national acclaim as the regular rider of top-tier 3-year-old Hard Spun in 2007, guiding him to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and to victories in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. He would go on to ride the Larry Jones trainee to a runner-up finish behind eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

One of the most highly respected jockeys in America, Pino and his wife, Christina and three daughters reside in Ellicott City, Maryland where he devotes much of his spare time to coaching youth sports.

Pino’s career has been marked by consistency as he has never won fewer than 141 races in a year. He has topped the 200-win mark 12 times, with his highest win total coming in 2001, when he booted home 297 winners.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize the legendary jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big money riders of his era and who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946.

The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area. The Woolf Award was won last year by Ramon Dominguez.


Facoltoso makes his first start in seven months when he runs in Saturday’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Handicap for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.

“He came out of the Del Mar race (a division of the Oceanside last July 18) a little bit sore so we gave him some time,” trainer Simon Callaghan explained. “He’s training really well even though I think he’s a horse that’s going to be better going a mile.

“This is an extremely hard race. There’s a horse (6-5 morning line favorite Unbridled’s Note) that was second in the Breeders’ Cup (Turf Sprint). It’s a tough spot to start him back, but he’s a nice horse.”

The field for the Joe Hernandez, the fifth of nine races: Klisz, Mike Smith, 4-1; Chips All In, Tyler Baze, 4-1; Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani, 6-5; Tale of a Champion, Joe Talamo, 15-1; Facoltoso, Julien Leparoux, 10-1; Make Music for Me, Edwin Maldonado, 12-1; and Irish Art, Garrett Gomez, 5-2.

FINISH LINES. Amazombie worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday before sunrise as the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion prepares for his return to the races, probably in the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on April 6. “I had him in 48 (and) four; the clockers gave him 49 flat,” said trainer Bill Spawr, who owns the California-bred son of Northern Afleet with Tom Sanford. “I’m going to let the horse put us in the race,” Spawr said. “I’m not going to force him into anything.” Spawr added that stakes-winning filly Ismene is scheduled to work tomorrow. "She’s going to go three-eighths, out a half,” Spawr said. “When she works three-eighths, it’s really (like) a half, because she gallops out as fast as horses work.” . . . Renee’s Titan, who upset champion Beholder in the Jan. 21 Santa Ynez Stakes, worked five furlongs for Doug O’Neill in 1:00.60 as she prepares for a return match with Beholder in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile a week from Saturday . . . Some 220 photographers showed up at Clockers’ Corner on a picture-perfect Friday morning for Santa Anita’s sixth annual Photo Day. “They loved it,” said Pam Walden of Santa Anita’s Event Sales department. “We took them to Doug O’Neill’s barn and he showed them (Triple Crown prospect) Goldencents. Mike Smith and Simon Callaghan also spoke with them.” . . . Trainer Mike Machowsky will be Steve Andersen’s guest at Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:30 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.