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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• CONSISTENT HEAR THE GHOST SET FOR STRUB STAKES
• SHARED BELIEF MISSES WORK BUT ON COURSE FOR LEWIS
• STEVENS READY TO REUNITE WITH MUCHO MACHO MAN
• IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY FOR KENTUCKY DERBY FEVER
HOLLENDORFER HAS TWO FOR THE MONEY IN STRUB
With three wins Saturday including the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes with front-running favorite Blueskiesnrainbows, Team Hollendorfer hopes to continue its winning ways next Saturday when it sends out the double-barreled duo of Hear the Ghost and Zeewat in the Grade II, $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
The three victories moved Hollendorfer into a tie with Bob Baffert for the training lead at 11 each, Hollendorfer’s coming from 27 starters (41 percent) and Baffert’s from 32 (34 percent).
Hear the Ghost, a gelded son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, won the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita as a 3-year-old, and last out was second to stablemate Blueskiesnrainbows in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes at Hollywood Park Dec. 14.
Corey Nakatani, who has ridden Hear the Ghost in three of his five career starts, the last three in a row, retains the mount on the consistent Kentucky-bred chestnut, who has never finished worse than second.
“I think he’s very talented,” Nakatani said. “I think he can do either, go to the lead or track and come from behind.
“If they want to go too fast, he’ll be tracking. If they want to go a moderate pace, I think he can be on the lead.”
Zeewat, who will be ridden by leading rider Rafael Bejarano, closed from 14 lengths back at the half-mile marker to finish third in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on opening day, beaten just a length and a quarter.
Prior to that, the son of Harlan’s Holiday upset Flashback in the Damascus Stakes at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Flashback, trained by Bob Baffert, will try to make amends in the Strub.
Mark Casse, trainer of Kaigun, had the Canadian-bred son of Northern Afleet scheduled to fly out from Florida Monday morning for the Strub, but was mulling a final decision for the chestnut gelding at press time.
“He’s a really nice horse who has never run on dirt, but he’s trained well on it,” Casse said. Four of Kaigun’s starts have come on synthetic surfaces, and the last three on grass.
Probable for the Strub: Flashback, no rider; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani; Heir of Storm, Edwin Maldonado; Rookie Sensation, Victor Espinoza; and Zeewat, Rafael Bejarano. Flashback and Shakin It Up worked in company for Baffert Sunday morning, going six furlongs in 1:14.40 and 1:14.60, respectively.
SHARED BELIEF MISSES WORK, REMAINS ON COURSE FOR LEWIS
Undefeated Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite Shared Belief missed a scheduled workout Sunday morning but is still on course for his 3-year-old debut in the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 8, Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.
“An abscess busted out on his right front foot,” Ward said of the gelded son of Candy Ride, winner of his three races by a combined margin of more than 20 lengths, including a 5 ¾-length triumph in the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 14.
“As soon as the area is dry, when he’s 100 percent, we’ll work him,” Ward added. “The Lewis is four weeks away. We should be fine.”
STEVENS LOOKS FORWARD TO JOINING UP WITH MUCHO MACHO MAN
Gary Stevens is counting down until reuniting with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man in next Saturday’s $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Stevens said Sunday morning. “It’s his first race of the year off a little bit of a layoff, but I’ve got nothing but confidence in the horse. I’ve been in contact with Kathy (trainer Kathy Ritvo) and Finn (Racing Manager Finn Green).
“The horse had a great workout yesterday (four furlongs in 47.87) in his final tune-up for the race, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed for good weather. I hope it’s not like it was this past Friday, when they raced on a sloppy track. It’s in the hands of the weather man.”
FOUR MONTHS OUT, DERBY FEVER STRIKES
As sure as the sun rises in the East, the 3-year-old picture comes into ever-sharper focus come the first of every year.
That’s when 2-year-olds turn three and Derby Fever begins, rising by degrees until it becomes white hot on the first Saturday in May when the Run for the Roses lures 20 sophomores to the starting gate at Churchill Downs.
Seems like all they have to do is open the doors and the storied Louisville track overflows with more than 100,000 revelers, this year on May 3, when the mile and a quarter classic is run for the 140th time.
Seems also like little or no pre-race publicity is necessary to generate world-wide media attention. It’s an enigmatic phenomenon.
“I don’t know if it’s because of how it’s marketed or because everybody knows the Derby,” says private clocker Gary Young, a keen observer on the 3-year-old scene. “And interest has grown even more in the last 10, 15 years. It’s hard to believe 20 years ago, when Brocco ran in it, that there were only 14 starters.
“From now until the end of time there will always be 20 horses in the Derby. Everyone is just infatuated. Why? I don’t know. It’s always been the one race people identify with. Unfortunately, for every horse that makes the Derby there are probably four or five whose careers are shortened or hindered trying to make the race.
“Why the public is infatuated with it, I don’t know, but we should probably be glad that they are infatuated with at least one race.”
With the Run for the Roses just under four months away, a million things can go right or wrong before then. Opinions, however, are never lacking.
“I like (Shug) McGaughey’s horse (Honor Code), especially his stride,” Young said. “When he won the Remsen, it was basically an inconclusive race because it was run like a turf race.
“They just crawled to the top (of the stretch) and those two horses (Honor Code and runner-up Cairo Prince) sprinted home. Honor Code did show guts in coming back and winning the photo, but it wasn’t a normally-run race. It was kind of inconclusive.
“Shared Belief is a nice horse. Midnight Hawk ran to his workouts in the Sham. It was his first route race and he kind of shut it down a little bit, but once it looked like the race might get close again, he took off again.
“Right now, around here, I would imagine most people would have him and Shared Belief No. 1 and No. 2 on their list.”
Asked if it would be in that order, Young said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.
“I saw Gold Hawk for (Steve) Asmussen break his maiden at Churchill and I saw his one-other-than at Fair Grounds, and he acted like a very nice horse.
“There will be others that come along and others that fall by the wayside. Shared Belief and Honor Code are the shortest prices in Vegas right now. I think both of them are 10-1 (in the Derby Future Book).
“But if you ever see me taking 10-1 before the Derby, call the Twinkie mobile for me. Taking 10-1 four months before the Derby would be a bit ridiculous, but they’d be the two favorites right now.”
Young added that Midnight Hawk was listed at 65-1 before his Sham victory.
FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert said Midnight Hawk came out of his smashing victory in Saturday’s Sham Stakes in good order, but “we haven’t even strategized” plans for his next race . . . John Sadler is likely to pass next Sunday’s Grade II La Canada stakes with Iotapa in favor of the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs on Jan. 25. “She’s been out since Del Mar (July 21),” Sadler said. “We nominated her to the La Canada for 4-year-old fillies but we’re probably leaning towards the Santa Monica. I want to keep my options open. Demonic will probably not make the Strub. He’s going to work early this week. He’s nominated, but he’ll probably be ready right after that.” . . . With two wins from just 12 starts, things are looking up for jockey Kayla Stra. “I’m very happy,” the Aussie lassie said. “Something good is going on, and I’m going to keep doing whatever I’m doing to keep it that way. When you’re happy, it helps everything. That’s pretty important, and Richie (agent Richie Silverstein) is a good guy and gives me good support.” . . . Through the first 12 days this meet, there have been seven—count ’em—seven, dead-heats . . .BIRTHDAY BOY—“Happy” number 24 today to Joe Talamo!! . . . Next Monday, Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Santa Anita offers holiday racing and Dollar Day. Beers, hot dogs and sodas will be just a buck. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. First post time is 12:30 p.m.