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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ODDS FAVOR GOMEZ ON SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY
• BUSY SATURDAY FOR LOUISVILLE COACH PITINO
• CHAMP BEHOLDER ON OUTSIDE FOR SANTA ANITA OAKS
• UNBRIDLED’S NOTE EYES POTRERO GRANDE UPSET
GOMEZ GETS SECOND CHANCE WITH BAFFERT IN SANTA ANITA DERBY
Garrett Gomez is sitting pretty Saturday. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey could ride three favorites, ranging from short, shorter to shortest, in three graded stakes at Santa Anita: Flashback in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Beholder in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, and Jimmy Creed in the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes. In all, he is named to ride in nine of the 11 races, the most for him in one day this meet,
Through Sunday, Gomez had 45 wins from 188 mounts, good for third in Santa Anita’s standings.
But Saturday, it boils down to just another day at the office for the 41-year-old rider, whose battles to hell and back with substance abuse have been well-documented in his award-nominated book, “The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey’s Journey Through Addiction & Salvation.”
“I just ride my races,” Gomez said when asked if there was more pressure than usual riding favorites in big races. “Of course, you always look forward to them. Anytime you get an opportunity to ride good horses in good races, it’s exciting.
“Hopefully, the horses all perform the way they have been. We know they’re prepared or else they wouldn’t be entered. They’ve been doing well and hopefully they show their talent.”
Gomez got the mount on Flashback when trainer Bob Baffert jettisoned Julien Leparoux after he finished second on the even-money favorite in the San Felipe Stakes.
Gomez, like others before him in his profession, has been on both sides of the fence. In fact, Gomez was publicly railed by Baffert after finishing fourth in a troubled trip on the trainer’s 4-5 favorite Lookin At Lucky in the 2010 Santa Anita Derby.
“It’s part of the business,” Gomez affirmed. “The wheels just keep turning, but I keep doing what I do. I enjoy riding and winning races, and as long as I keep doing that, hopefully people (trainers) will keep seeking my services and I’ll go out there and perform. The more live horses I get to ride, the better I look.”
Gomez has never ridden Flashback in a race, “but I worked him a week ago Monday. He breezed very nicely, he did everything beautifully and he seems to be very talented.”
As for strategy, Gomez will wait and see. “I don’t know what Bob has in mind yet,” Gomez said, “but I’m sure I will as the race draws nearer. As far as right now, I’ve been on him, gotten a feel for him, and kind of gave him a test drive and it was an enjoyable ride.”
Gomez’s resume to date is replete with Hall of Fame potential save for every jockey’s dream: victory in the Kentucky Derby.
“That’s why most of us ride,” Gomez said. “We have similar goals and that’s what most of us are in the sport to do. Just to ride in it is a heck of an accomplishment, but I want to win that thing. Bob and I got close in 2009 when we ran second with Pioneerof the Nile. “Hopefully we can it get done this year with Flashback.”
The field for the Santa Anita Derby, race nine of 11: Flashback, Garrett Gomez, 9-5; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Power Broker, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Tiz a Minister, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger, 6-1; Super Ninety Nine, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Summer Exclusive, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Storm Fighter, Gary Stevens, 20-1; and Dirty Swagg, Tyler Baze, 50-1. Each horse carries 122 pounds.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Bob Baffert, who seems to draw the rail in the majority of stakes races, on getting No. 1 for Flashback: “Can you believe it?,” then quickly tossing in this rational addendum, “but there’s a lot of speed in the race. They’ll sort themselves out.” Baffert has 11 horses entered Saturday.
Tyler Baze anticipates Dirty Swagg outrunning his morning line odds of 50-1 now that the son of Street Hero can properly inhale and exhale again. “They did some throat surgery on him, so hopefully he can breathe better,” Baze said.
That could explain Dirty Swagg’s distant finishes in his last two races, seventh by 14 ¾ lengths in the CashCall Futurity Dec. 15, and fifth by 27 ½ lengths in the Sham Stakes Jan. 5.
Owned, bred and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, Dirty Swagg was third prior to those two races, beaten only a length by Carving in the Real Quiet Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in November.
Daily Racing Form presents a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 on Santa Anita Derby Day; fans at Santa Anita will be offered a free Santa Anita Derby T-shirt with paid admission, while supplies last; KROQ presents Iration in concert; and there will be more than 50 microbrew/craft beer vendors, in addition to Premium Food Trucks.
Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), the Eclipse Award-winning broadcast organization based in Lexington, KY, will provide exclusive coverage of the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial Saturday.
HRRN’s broadcast, which will include coverage of the undercard stakes at both Aqueduct and Santa Anita, will be hosted live from Santa Anita Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time and air nationwide on Sirius channel 93 with live streaming provided on the HRRN website, www.horseracingradio.net.
LOUISVILLE COACH PITINO SEEKS GOLD ON BOTH COASTS SATURDAY
Team O’Neill expects Goldencents to make amends in the Santa Anita Derby after a costly pace duel that resulted in a fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes. The son of Into Mischief drew post five in a field of nine.
“It’s a great draw,” said Dennis O’Neill, brother of trainer Doug O’Neill who was still enjoying a spring break trip with his kids on Thursday. “He gets to load late and he couldn’t be doing any better. Hopefully, the race sets up for him.
“You wouldn’t think he’ll get caught up in the same scenario as he did in the San Felipe. The last two or three weeks he’s relaxed. We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Dennis had time Thursday morning to communicate via social media with Rick Pitino, whose Louisville Cardinals are favored to win their Final Four game against Wichita State in Atlanta Saturday afternoon, with tip-off prior to Goldencents’ start in the Santa Anita Derby.
Pitino, who races as RAP Racing, owns a small share of Goldencents but his name is big in marquee value. Other owners are Josh Kaplan, Glenn Sorgenstein and Dave Kenney.
“We were kind of texting back and forth,” Dennis said of his exchange with Pitino. “We weren’t talking basketball. I was trying to keep his mind on horses this morning. It’s an exciting time for him, I’m sure. It’s got to be. I can’t even imagine how much.
“He just talked about competitive stuff, hoping the horse runs well. I told him Goldencents is doing really, really well. It would be great to have Rick along for the ride. Saturday’s a big day for Coach, that’s for sure.”
BEHOLDER NO OUTSIDER IN SANTA ANITA OAKS
Beholder drew post position six in a field of six for Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Oaks. Malibu winner Jimmy Creed also got the outside, eight of eight, for the Potrero Grande Stakes.
No big deal for the trainer of each, Richard Mandella, who also sends out Spellbound in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks. “Very nice,” the Hall of Famer said between rounds on a busy Thursday morning. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Asked if he would give his rider on each horse, Garrett Gomez, any words of advice, Mandella said only “Good luck.”
The field for the Santa Anita Oaks: Black Witch, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Spellbound, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; Could Be Trouble, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Fiftyshadesofhay, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Iotapa, Joe Talamo, 8-1; and Beholder, Gomez, 3-5.
UNBRIDLED’S NOTE SEEKS FIRST STAKES WIN ON DIRT
Unbridled’s Note is set to take on Grade I Malibu Stakes winner Jimmy Creed and six other entrants in Saturday’s Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs.
The consistent son of Unbridled’s Song trained by Steve Asmussen was third to Jimmy Creed in the Malibu on Dec. 26, but won the Grade III Eddie D Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf last Sept. 28 and took the John Hernandez over the same course on Feb. 23. The bay colt will be seeking his first graded stakes win on a surface other than grass.
“We stayed here with this race in mind,” said Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi. “The horse is training well and we’ve got a good post position. We should get a good stalking trip.”
Blasi said Asmussen’s Santa Anita contingent will head to Churchill Downs when the tour is done here.
The field for the Potrero Grande: Italian Rules, Kevin Krigger, 6-1; Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 5-2; Camp Victory, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Second City, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Haverhill, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani, 4-1; Apriority, Martin Garcia, 8-1; and Jimmy Creed, Garrett Gomez, 3-1.
O’NEILL HAS TWO FOR THE MONEY IN PROVIDENCIA STAKES
Doug O’Neill hopes to double-team the opposition in Saturday’s Grade III Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Birdlover runs close to the pace; Wittgenstein can track and close.
“Birdlover ran huge winning the China Doll,” said Dennis O’Neill, brother of trainer Doug O’Neill. “She got an easy lead, so we’ve got one on the front end and one coming from behind. That’s the plan.”
The field for the Providencia: Kyriaki, Joe Talamo, 12-1; Sultry Season, Aaron Gryder, 30-1; Sarach, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; Sweet Red Cat, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; Birdlover, Edwin Maldonado, 9-2; Scarlet Strike, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Magnificent Shirl, Tyler Baze, 4-1; Flashy Ways, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Wittgenstein, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; and Akiss Forarose, Orlando Mojica. 12-1.
BALDWIN AVE. CLOSED EARLY FOR SATURDAY 5K RUN
Baldwin Ave. will be closed from the 210 Freeway to Huntington Drive temporarily early Saturday morning in order to accommodate Santa Anita’s annual Derby Day 5K Walk and Run. The closure will apply to vehicular traffic from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Accordingly, Santa Anita’s Gate 8, which adjoins the Westfield Shopping Mall on Baldwin Ave., and Gate 7, at the track’s northeast end, will also be closed to vehicles during the same time frame.
Those wishing to visit Santa Anita’s popular Clockers’ Corner venue at the top of the stretch can enter on Santa Anita’s east end, through Gate 5, or Gate 3, on the track’s southern perimeter. Gates 3 and 5 will be open for easy access to Clockers’ Corner beginning at 5 a.m. and will remain open throughout the day. Santa Anita’s main track will be closed for training at 7:30 a.m.
Gate 3 is located at the intersection of Holly Ave. and Huntington Drive. Gate 5 is located on the east end of the racetrack, at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive.
For more information on how to register for the Santa Anita Derby 5K Run and Walk, visit www.kinaneevents.com.
FINISH LINES: Spit Ball, the 2-1 morning line favorite, seeks his fourth win of the meet in today’s fourth race, while Joe Carl, 5-2 second choice, has been claimed from his last four starts . . . With odds-on favorite Unbelongtomemissy winning Sunday’s second race, all seven ShowVivor II contestants advanced into Thursday’s round . . . Host Steve Andersen will have trainer Doug O’Neill as his guest at Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Jason Levin will be joined by “Inside Racing” handicapper Steve Pollack to analyze Saturday’s 11 races at Santa Anita, in addition to selected out of town races, in the Baldwin Terrace on the second floor of Clockers’ Corner starting at 10:30 a.m. The cost is $25. “Inside Racing” airs every Saturday from 7 to 8 a.m. on KTLK AM 1150 . . . Garrett Gomez has several stakes assignments at Keeneland April 13, including Palm Beach runner-up Charming Kitten for Todd Pletcher in the Blue Grass Stakes . . . Agent Brad Pegram says Mike Smith’s choice of a Kentucky Derby mount remains undecided to date, although the Hall of Fame rider has been engaged to ride War Academy for Bob Baffert in the Arkansas Derby on April 13. However, one thing is certain, Pegram said. “Wherever Game On Dude runs, we’ll be there.”