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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• MARATHONER INTERACTION SET FOR SAN JUAN ON CLOSING DAY
• BAFFERT GOES SOLO TO KENTUCKY DERBY WITH GOVENOR CHARLIE
• IT’S NOT UNUSUAL FOR ABRAMS RUNNER TO MAKE 10TH START HERE
TEAM McANALLY SAYS INTERACTION CAN GO THE DISTANCE IN SAN JUAN
Ron McAnally won his first San Juan Capistrano Handicap in 1980 with the immortal John Henry. The great gelding was five at the time, about halfway through his racing career, in which he would earn two Horse of the Year titles.
McAnally, now 80 and a member of racing’s Hall of Fame since 1990, won his only other San Juan in 1998 with Amerique. Next Sunday, closing day at Santa Anita, McAnally will send out Argentine import Interaction in the marathon turf event, to be decided at about 1 ¾ miles.
The 7-year-old horse will be seeking his first United States stakes win in his 11th start. He has already finished second in three graded races, the Grade I Eddie Read, the Hollywood Turf Cup and the San Marcos Stakes, each a Grade II. In 2009, Interaction won Argentina’s prestigious Group 1 stakes, the Gran Premio Carlos Pelligrini at 1 ½ miles by three lengths.
More recently, Interaction was fourth on March 16 behind runaway San Luis Rey Stakes winner Bright Thought, who set a world record for a mile and a half on grass in 2:22.72.
“My horse is a distance horse and he won the Pelligrini and ran second here in the San Marcos at a mile and a half,” McAnally said. “When he didn’t run well (in the San Luis Rey), the track was very hard. I think he has some kind of chance in the San Juan.”
Said Joe Talamo, who rides Interaction in the San Juan and was aboard in the Hollywood Turf Cup and the San Marcos: “I think it’s going to be a perfect distance for him. He’s definitely a mile and a half horse and that extra quarter is going to help him out a lot.
“He kind of ran into a monster last time,” referring to Bright Thought. “I think he’s one of the best turf horses around here, if not in the country. The San Juan should set up real well for Interaction.”
GOVENOR CHARLIE PRIMARY DERBY HOPE FOR BAFFERT; WAR ACADEMY ‘FINE’
“Then there was one.”
That’s how Bob Baffert summed up his prospects for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 after War Academy was pulled up in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who at press time Sunday, was still in search of a mount in the Run for the Roses.
“The one” would be Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, who has 50 points on the Derby’s new qualifying system that limits the field to 20 starters with the highest point totals, earned by the top four finishers in designated Derby prep races.
“He’s fine,” Baffert said of War Academy on an overcast Sunday morning interspersed with occasional sprinkles of rain. “Mike Smith said the horse’s hind end kept going out on him a little bit down the backside, so he didn’t feel comfortable and pulled him up. But when he got back to the barn he looked fine. We’re shipping him today to Kentucky. We’ll monitor him, but he looked fine.”
Daily Racing Form’s chart comments on War Academy read, “War Academy backed out of the gate prior to the start, reloaded, broke in good order, raced mid pack toward the front, broke stride just after a half, pulled up gradually, walked off.”
Baffert trainees Super Ninety Nine, Den’s Legacy (sixth in the Arkansas Derby) and Code West have 30, 20 and 20 points, respectively, but Baffert said last week that how his horses were training, and not points, would be the determining factor in whether they run in the Kentucky Derby, which he has won three times.
Saturday proved to be a spectacular day in out of town riding assignments for jockeys based at or formerly based at Santa Anita.
Rafael Bejarano landed his Kentucky Derby mount when he rode Overanalyze to a 4 ¼-length victory in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park for the Repole Stable and Todd Pletcher.
At Keeneland, Santa Anita-based Mario Gutierrez won the $175,000 Commonwealth for Doug O’Neill aboard Handsome Mike; Garrett Gomez rode Havelock to victory in the $100,000 Shakertown; Corey Nakatani guided Last Full Measure to an upset win in the $300,000 Madison; and Julien Leparoux, who moved his tack to Kentucky from Santa Anita last week, won the $300,000 Jenny Wiley on Centre Court before piloting Java’s War to a dramatic neck triumph over Palice Malice (ridden by Gomez) in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. Java’s War was 14th and last after six furlongs in the 1 1/8-mile race.
The exodus opened the door for Martin Pedroza, who won four of the nine races at Santa Anita Saturday, moving him into a tie for ninth in the standings with Kevin Krigger at 24.
As for Baffert’s Kentucky Derby number seemingly down to one, the Hall of Famer was philosophical. “Only one can win it,” he said.
UNUSUAL BEAM COULD MAKE 10TH START OF MEET NEXT SUNDAY
Fans haven’t seen the last of Unusual Beam at Santa Anita this meet.
The 5-year-old Unusual Heat gelding trained by Barry Abrams won Saturday’s sixth race, getting up by a half-length at 10-1 under Edwin Maldonado in the about 6 ½ furlong turf race. It was his ninth start of the meet.
But the meet’s not over. When it was suggested to Abrams that he would have to wait for Hollywood to run him again, he quickly quashed that assumption Sunday.
“No, there’s a race for him here next Sunday,” he said. “If he’s OK, he’s going to run on Sunday.”
Trainer Gary Stute, who scratched World Renowned from Saturday’s third race in what would have been his 10th start this meet, was falsely miffed upon hearing the news.
“I wouldn’t have scratched if I’d known we were tied,” Stute said.
It was only the second win from 22 starts for Unusual Beam, who also has four seconds and six thirds.
“The race set up good for him,” Abrams said. “They went 43 to the half, he was closer up than usual and it made a difference, but he runs good every time.”
FINISH LINES: Dan Hendricks was back on the beat Sunday morning after an absence of some two weeks for treatment of a sore backside. “It was just like taking a vacation,” the trainer said . . . Two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude, prepping for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic next Saturday, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Sunday a bullet 47 seconds flat, fastest of 52 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 49.57 . . . Smart Ellis and Lime Rickey, nominees to the closing day San Juan, worked one mile in 1:41 and six furlongs in 1:14.60, respectively, for Richard Mandella and Bill Spawr . . . Closing day next Sunday, in appreciation of fan support this season, all THOROUGHBREDS members can receive a free gift by visiting the THOROUGHBREDS Reward Center. There will also be mandatory payouts in the Pick 6, Pick 5 and Super High 5 . . . Santa Anita’s 2013 George Woolf Memorial Award winner Mario Pino will be Peter Lurie’s guest Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on HRTV’s “Across the Board.”