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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• HUNTSVILLE TRIES TO KEEP ‘HEAT’ ON IN SAN GABRIEL
• SKY HIGH GAL WORKING WELL FOR MONROVIA STAKES
• SHARED BELIEF DRILLS FOR 3-YEAR-OLD DEBUT IN LEWIS
UNUSUAL HEAT OFF TO FAST START AS 24-YEAR-OLD STUD
Like Old Man River, Unusual Heat jes’ keeps rollin’ along.
The venerable stallion, who stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga for $20,000, turned 24 on Jan. 1 and just three days into the New Year, is again the Golden State’s leading sire with three winners, including Oh Billy Billy, who was moved into first via disqualification in Thursday’s first race at Santa Anita.
In that race, three of the five starters were sired by Unusual Heat, who will have yet another starter when Huntsville runs in Saturday’s San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
‘Whichever horse gets a good trip is going to win,” trainer Barry Abrams said of the San Gabriel, which has nine scheduled to run. “For a race with a $200,000 purse, it’s wide open.” Abrams also has another Unusual Heat offspring entered in Empty Headed.
Huntsville is no stranger to the starting gate. The 5-year-old chestnut gelding will be making his 37th start on Saturday. He is reunited with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who last rode him on Aug. 3, 2013, finishing third in a one mile race on Del Mar’s Polytrack.
Smith is off to a fast start at Santa Anita this meet, with seven victories from only 17 rides, a sparkling 41 percent win average.
Owned by Abrams and Madeline Auerbach, Huntsville is usually a stone closer, though not a frequent visitor to the winner’s circle, as his three triumphs suggest. He has paid his way, however, with seven seconds and three thirds, good for a bankroll of $281,521.
The San Gabriel, which goes as race eight: Slim Shadey, Corey Nakatani, 9-2; Te Rapa, Kayla Stra, 9-2; Artic North, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Dubai You X Y Z, Brice Blanc, 3-1; Fire With Fire, Martin Garcia, 10-1; Utopian, Jose Valdivia Jr., 12-1; Empty Headed, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; Jeranimo, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Huntsville, Mike Smith, 10-1.
Black Spirit and Willyconker were scratched.
SKY HIGH GAL SHARP FOR SUNDAY’S MONROVIA
John Sadler expects Sky High Gal to turn in a solid performance when she runs in Sunday’s Grade II Monrovia Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course.
A daughter of turf specialist Leroidesanimaux owned by Pete and Kosta Hronis, Sky High Gal was fourth in the Grade III Sen. Ken Maddy over an identical course, beaten just a length and a half on Nov. 2. It was her first race in eight months.
“She ran pretty well,” Sadler said of the Maddy performance. “She missed third by a nose. She’s doing well, so we expect a good race from her. She’s already a stakes winner (capturing the ungraded Blue Norther by a nose on Jan. 1, 2013).
“She’s been working well; we hope to get her some graded earnings in the Monrovia.”
The field for the Monrovia: Judy In Disguise, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Kindle, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Purim’s Dancer, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Golden Production, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; Ciao Bella Luna, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Sky High Gal, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ultrasonic, Mike Smith, 4-1; Pontchatrain, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Camyrn Kate, Tyler Baze, 20-1; and Winding Way, Victor Espinoza, 6-1.
HOLLENDORFER EYES GRADE II LEWIS FOR TOP SOPH SHARED BELIEF
CashCall Futurity winner Shared Belief, a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 3, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday in 1:00.40 under Corey Nakatani.
“It was a very nice work, and the last part, a very nice turn of foot,” Jerry Hollendorfer said. “I think we’re going to look at that race first,” the Hall of Fame trainer added, referring to the Grade II, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 8.
“I don’t think we’re going to run in the next race coming up (for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes at one mile on Jan. 11).”
Sweet Lulu, winner of the Grade I Test Stakes, worked four furlongs for Hollendorfer in 46.40. She is a candidate for the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs on Jan. 25.
GUARANTEED PICK 6 POOL OF $150,000 STARTS TOMORROW
Beginning Saturday, Santa Anita will guarantee a $150,000 Pick Six pool each Saturday throughout the Winter Meet which ends April 20.
The Pick Six is a $2 minimum wager that requires players to select the winning horse in each of the last six races, every racing day. If no one correctly selects all six winners, there will be a carryover to the following day’s races.
APPRENTICE RIDER NICOLAS OUT FOUR TO SIX WEEKS
As reported last night by Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen, Gonzalo Nicolas suffered a chipped vertebrae on the lower part of his back and will be sidelined four to six weeks, agent Vince DeGregory said Friday morning. The seven-pound apprentice rider was thrown when his mount, Shand, broke down and fell in upper stretch in Thursday’s eighth race.
Nicolas was treated at Huntington Memorial Hospital and released to his family, which took him to their home in Riverside.
“It was a tough night,” DeGregory said. “He had tremendous pain in his neck and back. He won’t need surgery, but we’ll take all the time necessary before coming back. Right now, it looks like four to six weeks.”
A 23-year-old native of Guatemala, Nicolas had one win from 16 mounts through Santa Anita’s first six days, with two seconds and two thirds. “He came here when he was 13 and was a wrestling champ at Riverside High,” said DeGregory, who has represented several Hall of Fame jockeys during his lengthy career, including Chris McCarron.
“Gonzalo is quiet, very polite. You’d never know him to be a fighter, but he has won nine of 11 cage fighting matches,” DeGregory said. “I sent a tape of one of his fights to McCarron. After watching it, he said, ‘I don’t think anyone in the jock’s room will mess with him.’”
FINISH LINES: Color of Courage is scheduled to make his second start for trainer Jorge Gutierrez in Saturday’s Midnight Lute Stakes. Prior to running second for Gutierrez in the Vernon O. Underwood at Hollywood Park on Nov. 28, the 7-year-old Came Home gelding was trained by Paco Gonzalez, who has been on a lengthy sabbatical. “The horse was away more than two years before the Underwood,” Gutierrez said. “I got him after Paco decided he needed time off. He ran a great race but got a bit tired at the end (beaten 2 ½ lengths in a field of five). He really needed the race after such along layoff (he was fifth in the Grade I Bing Crosby on July 31, 2011). The horse is training unbelievable right now.” As for Gonzalez, Gutierrez said he hasn’t spoken to him “in a month and a half.” . . .Trainer Tom Proctor is one shy of career win 1,000 in North America. He could have hit that milestone in Gulfstream’s third race Friday, but his 4-1 morning line chance Kwacha was out of the money . . . Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, scratched from Wednesday’s fifth race, worked six furlongs on the main track Friday in 1:12.40. “He tied up on me,” Bob Baffert said in explaining the scratch.