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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• HEADLEY, STEVENS JOIN FORCES IN SANTA ANITA DERBY
• O’NEILL’S THE REAL DEAL THANKS TO MOM’S VALUES
• OWNER B. WAYNE HUGHES ON HAND FOR CHAMP BEHOLDER
• CAMP VICTORY RETURNS IN GRADE II POTRERO GRANDE
VETERANS UNITE IN QUEST OF SANTA ANITA DERBY VICTORY
In terms of Santa Anita Derby wins, Bruce Headley is a rookie, despite his 78 years. Gary Stevens, on the other hand, has won the West Coast’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby a record nine times.
Headley and Stevens, no spring chicken himself in jockey years at 50, team up Saturday when Stevens rides Storm Fighter for Headley in the Santa Anita Derby.
Headley has never won the race, whose winners have gone on to capture the Run for the Roses nine times. A trainer of the hay, oats and water philosophy since he began his career in 1963, the California native was second once, in 1992 with Bertrando, who led into the stretch before 9-10 favorite A.P. Indy overtook him under Eddie Delahoussaye to win by nearly two lengths.
“Bertrando was a great horse and a great stallion, who still has his progeny doing well at the races,” said Headley, who on Saturday tries his luck in the 76th Santa Anita Derby with promising California-bred maiden winner Storm Fighter.
Bertrando, Eclipse Award winner as champion Older Male in 1993 and a leading California sire before his retirement in 2011, won or placed in 15 Grade I or Grade II stakes. He earned $3,185,610.
A bay colt by Stormin Fever out of the Deputy Commander mare Throne Seeker, Storm Fighter is owned by one of the state’s iconic Thoroughbred operations, Golden Eagle Farm.
“They’ve had great horses at Golden Eagle and this one is an exceptionally good-looking horse,” Headley said of Storm Fighter, who broke his maiden against older horses by nearly six lengths going a mile and a sixteenth. “He looks like a mile and a quarter horse, with high withers, big shoulders and big girth. He’s a big horse.”
It doesn’t hurt his chances that Headley has Stevens riding with his record nine Santa Anita Derby victories. This will be his first ride in the race since coming off a seven-year retirement three months ago. His last Santa Anita Derby win came in 2003 aboard Buddy Gil.
“We’re lucky to have Stevens,” Headley said.
The feeling is mutual.
“I love my draw,” the Hall of Fame jockey said. “It’s a perfect fit.”
Stevens has already done his pre-race homework. Now it’s in the hands of fate. “When the gates open,” he said, “it’s up to the Man Upstairs and the four feet of my horse.
“He’s obviously an intelligent colt to be able to come off of a sprint race where he sat just a couple lengths off a 21 and two first quarter, a 44 and change half. You would have thought he would have been in front when we stretched him out to two turns.
“I told them I was just going to let him get away from there and he sat 3 ½ lengths off an almost 24 first quarter and a 47 half. He was very kind, very ratable and finished up the right way. His works have been outstanding since he’s come back from that race.
“The only work I rode him was the mile where he went 1:40. He finished up the right way that morning, so I’m pleased and they’re pleased.”
Stevens is scheduled to leave for Kentucky after Sunday’s riding engagements here. “I ride Wednesday, Thursday and Friday there, and ride (Oxbow for D. Wayne Lukas) in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday (April 13).
“Then the following week I ride Titletown Five (also for Lukas) in the Illinois Derby (April 20), fly back here and if everything goes according to plan, ride Smart Ellis in the San Juan.”
The field for the Santa Anita Derby, race nine of 11: Flashback, Garrett Gomez, 6-5; Power Broker, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Tiz a Minister, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger, 9-2; Super Ninety Nine, Martin Garcia, 9-2; Summer Exclusive, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Storm Fighter, Gary Stevens, 15-1; and Dirty Swagg, Tyler Baze, 30-1.
Each horse carries 122 pounds. Hear the Ghost was scratched yesterday due to injury.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
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. First post time is 12 noon.
TEAM O’NEILL STAYS THE COURSE THANKS TO FAMILY VALUE SYSTEM
Doug O’Neill knows his roots. They are the foundation of his value system, and despite the inevitable criticism that human nature spawns, it has taken him to levels of success most horsemen can only dream about.
That would include a Kentucky Derby and Preakness victory with upstart I’ll Have Another last year, which put him on the verge of a Triple Crown and catapulted Team O’Neill onto racing’s world stage.
They hope to continue on that path with Goldencents, who is expected to make amends for a fourth-place finish in the March 9 San Felipe Stakes with a solid effort in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.
An 11th-hour tendon injury forced I’ll Have Another to miss the Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown bid, but through it all, O’Neill handled the emotional roller coaster with refreshing candor, courtesy, class and consistency.
“I think it’s all upbringing,” said Doug’s brother and confidante, Dennis, who at 49 is five year’s Doug’s senior. “We were kind of raised that way. We had nothing and it helped us appreciate everything we have.
“Doug’s worked his way up from the bottom and he makes sure that from him on down, everybody appreciates what we’ve accomplished. Our Midwestern background definitely has a lot to do with it.
“If my Mom (Dixie) finds out Doug said something bad, she’s right on the phone chewing him out. She still keeps him in line. There’s no doubt about that.
“If one of his grooms is rude to somebody, Doug won’t take it. He won’t stand for it. That’s one of his big things, respect for other people. Doug tries to do it and he expects others to do it.
“If someone had some proof that Doug wasn’t for real--a lot of people say that--but I’m almost 50 years old and I’ve known him all my life and I’ve sure never seen that. We talk all day long every day of the week, and he is what he is.
“He’s a very honest, hard-working kid, but I think a lot of people have a problem with how he is. He tries to be nice to everybody and they think it’s phony. That’s their problem, not his.”
In today’s culture, “nice” is not hip, not cool. “I couldn’t agree more and I think Doug would agree, too,” Dennis said.
HUGHES RETURNS TO SANTA ANITA TO SEE BEHOLDER RUN
B. Wayne Hughes, owner of 2012 champion 2-year-old filly Beholder, was on hand at Clockers’ Corner Friday morning counting down to Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, for which the daughter of Henny Hughes trained by Richard Mandella is the 3-5 morning favorite to win the 1 1/16-mile race.
“We like her a lot,” Hughes said in an epitome of understatement. “Richard thinks she ready, so off we go.”
A fixture in Southern California before going to Kentucky six years ago, Hughes is delighted he made the move to the Blue Grass State, where he oversees his 850-acre Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, which boasts top studs Into Mischief (sire of Santa Anita Derby contender Goldencents and Gotham winner Vyjack, both bound for the Kentucky Derby), and “our best stallion,” Malibu Moon.
The latter stands for $70,000 and is the sire of Florida Derby winner Orb, a leading contender for the Run for the Roses.
“I love Kentucky,” Hughes said. “People there are great. Business is good and we’re making a profit. What more do you want? They ran me out of California with the taxes.”
In other Santa Anita Oaks news, Victor Espinoza has a vested interest, but he cautions not to overlook Spellbound in the race.
The daughter of Bernardini also trained by Mandella is unbeaten in two starts on Santa Anita’s dirt course, but winless in two starts on Del Mar’s Polytrack and in one race over Santa Anita’s turf course. “I don’t think running on dirt necessarily made a difference in her improvement,” said Espinoza, who rides the Kentucky-bred filly owned by Ramona Bass, A.B. Hancock Jr. (Claiborne Farm) and Adele Dilschneider.
“Spellbound was quite emotional before. Now, she’s awakened and figured things out. She knows what’s going on. She’s doing great and is two for two here. It’s not necessarily the dirt. She’s just figured things out.”
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.
MITCHELL HAS CAMP VICTORY READY FOR POTRERO GRANDE
Camp Victory hasn’t started since finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last Nov. 3, but trainer Mike Mitchell expects the 6-year-old Forest Camp gelding to give a good account of himself in Saturday’s Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs. A good pace would help.
“It doesn’t show in his past performances, but one of the best races he’s ever run was his first start for me on Santa Anita’s dirt track after it was installed (in July of 2011),” Mitchell said. “He was last turning for home and (Joel) Rosario rode him and he just blew by everybody like they were standing still and won.
“So it was over a different kind of surface, but I think he’ll like this track.”
Camp Victory, winner of eight of 26 career starts with earnings of $547,986, won the Grade I Triple Bend at Betfair Hollywood Park last June and was third in the Potrero Grande in April of 2012.
The field for the Potrero Grande: Comma to the Top, Edwin Maldonado, 9-5; Camp Victory, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Second City, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani, 3-1; Apriority, Martin Garcia, 8-1; and Jimmy Creed, Garrett Gomez, 2-1.
Italian Rules and Haverhill were scratched.
SANTA ANITA SIMULCAST SIGNAL IN HD FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY
Santa Anita’s simulcast signal will be presented in high definition on Saturday, Santa Anita Derby Day. In conjunction with the Racetrack Television Network, Santa Anita will offer its signal in HD to all simulcast outlets that elect to take it all day on Saturday.
Santa Anita’s live races have been presented in HD to all on-track fans at the Arcadia facility since last fall by Pegasus Communications, the track’s television provider. The signal will be available on channel 9731 on the Roberts’ Network.
ORTEGA, HOAR FAVORED IN EMPLOYEE 5K RUN SATURDAY
A field of 13 is set for the Santa Anita employee division for the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K run Saturday. Last year’s men’s and women’s champs, Tony Ortega and Sandy Hoar, are back to defend their titles.
Ortega, who dead-heated last year with fellow Operations employee Joe Laricchia (in a time of 22:59 for the 3.1 mile course), will be back, as well as Rene Henriquez. The surprise could be HRTV’s Chris Whitaker and outrider Jesus Camacho.
Hoar (26:38) returns, but so do her nemeses, Christine Beer and Mary Forney.
Tony Ortega Operations/Parking 4-5
Rene Henriquez Starting Gate 3-1
Chris Whitaker HRTV 5-1
Jesus Camacho Racing 7-1
Jerry Gutierrez Plant/Janitorial 10-1
Raymudo Franco Stable Gate 12-1
Randy Mongenez Operations/Parking 20-1
Sandy Hoar Hospitality 2-1
Yoli Garcia Stable Gate 4-1
Christine Beer Receiving Barn 6-1
Mary Forney TOC 8-1
Voni Walker Operations/Parking 10-1
Mari Comsa Stable Gate 15-1
FINISH LINES: Spit Ball became the meet’s first four-time winner when the 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding rolled to a 3 ¼-length victory under Victor Espinoza in Thursday’s fourth race at 1 1/16 miles. Ron Ellis trained the 4-year-old son of Olmodavor for owner Steve Zolotas of Ventura, but there were 23 claims in for Spit Ball, who was taken for $25,000 by Bob Hess Jr. for new owner Roddy Valente. Santa Anita assistant Clerk of Scales Charlie McCaul, who has served in various capacities on the Southern California circuit since 1984, believes it to be a record number of claims for one horse at Santa Anita, “although there were 26 claims in for one horse at Del Mar one year,” he said . . .Dennis O’Neill says last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll Have Another, who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, has serviced about 120 mares at stud in Japan in this, his first season. “I guess he’s doing fantastic,” O’Neill said . . .Doug O’Neill has seven horses entered on today’s card, boosting his meet-leading total to 222, well ahead of the runner-up in that category, John Sadler, who has 181 . . . Dan Hendricks hopes to be back at Santa Anita soon after undergoing treatment for a sore backside. “I’m just sore from sitting for too long a time,” said the 54-year-old trainer, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident on July 7, 2004. “I expect to see my doctor on Monday and know more then about when I’ll be back.” . . . Trainer Howard Zucker reports that the second surgery on jockey Joy Scott last night “seems to have been more successful. She was scheduled to be moved to rehab within Huntington Hospital Convalescence facility on Monday.” The 54-year-old Scott suffered a compound fracture to her right femur in a training accident at Santa Anita on March 12 . . . Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, headed to the Kentucky Derby, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Friday in company with La Brea winner Book Review for Bob Baffert. Each was clocked in 49 seconds flat, while Strub Stakes winner Guilt Trip went six furlongs in 1:14.60, also for Baffert . . . Not caught Knapping: Joe Talamo is batting .400 with trainer Steve Knapp this meet, winning with two of five starters including Firendesire in Thursday’s second race. They had an even better record at Betfair Hollywood Park last season, with Talamo winning on seven of the 12 starters he rode for Knapp, who also won Thursday’s $58,000 feature race with 6-1 shot The Whole Deal and claimed back his former meal ticket, Unusual Jazz, from the fifth race for $25,000. Knapp took Unusual Jazz for $8,000 at Fairplex Park in 2011 and the 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse went on to earn some $200,000 . . . Thanks in the main to favored My Cinsation winning Thursday’s third race, six remain players remain alive in ShowVivor II entering Friday’s card.