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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• HOLLENDORFER IN PURSUIT OF FIRST SANTA ANITA TITLE
• SHARED BELIEF WILL WORK WHEN HE’S ‘100 PERCENT’
• ECLIPSE EXPERIENCE BITTERSWEET FOR YAKTEEN
• APPRENTICE VANDYKE A YANKEE DOODLE DANDY
HOLLENDORFER TAKES LEAD FROM BAFFERT IN TRAINERS’ RACE
Team Hollendorfer is nothing if not confident.
When a trainer has 6,568 victories and counting in a Hall of Fame career that ranks him third all-time behind Dale Baird and Steve Asmussen, a touch of braggadocio is certainly within reason.
Through the first 14 days of Santa Anita’s meet, Hollendorfer has won 13 races from only 32 starts, 41 percent, putting him two in front of 11-time Santa Anita training king Bob Baffert, who has sent out 33 runners. Hollendorfer won with both his starters Thursday.
In the words of Al Jolson, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
While he won every training title in the Bay Area during a 12-year span from 1986 to May 2008, including 32 straight at Golden Gate and 37 in a row at Bay Meadows, Hollendorfer has never won a crown in Southern California. But he has only been a presence on the circuit “for five or six years.” This could be the meet. He is making up for lost time.
“Get used to it,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s trusted assistant, expressing self-assurance consistent with Team Hollendorfer’s record.
With an abundance of runners that includes a Who’s Who of local stakes campaigners, including unbeaten Kentucky Derby Future Book contender Shared Belief, Ward has every right to express optimism, even in the face of Midnight Hawk’s daylight win in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes, which could lead to a possible future showdown between the two.
“I didn’t see anything in the Sham that scared me, even a little bit,” Ward said. “The last eighth, that horse (Midnight Hawk) was lookin’ for a bleeping taxi to get him home. He went in 13 and one (fifth). You could have timed him with a sun dial.”
Baffert pooh-poohs that by pointing out that the Sham was “a match race,” and that Shared Belief has never won on dirt.
Hollendorfer, forced to move his main base of operations to Santa Anita upon the closing of the Inglewood track Dec. 22, has made the transition from synthetic to dirt without so much as a hiccup.
“Our horses had been training at Hollywood Park, but they are better here, sounder here,” Ward said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Added Hollendorfer on his transition from “owning” the Northern California circuit to becoming a force in Southern California: “It takes a long time to learn the ropes and to build up a stable, so we’ve been very patient in that regard, and we’re doing pretty well right now, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Midnight Hawk vs. Shared Belief in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5 would be a PR man’s dream. Maybe it wouldn’t be The Thrilla in Manila, but with Shared Belief the likely favorite, it could be billed as The Hawk vs. The Chalk.
The two leading 3-year-olds on the West Coast, both Midnight Hawk and Shared Belief currently are unbeaten, both are trained by members of racing’s Hall of Fame, each is bred to the purple, Midnight Hawk by the mighty young stallion and two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute, whose sire was 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet, and Shared Belief by Candy Ride, out of the Storm Cat dam Common Hope.
There are enough storylines to satisfy Col. Parker.
But, the Santa Anita Derby is light years away in horse time.
Shared Belief, who missed a scheduled workout last Sunday due to an abscess on his right front foot, still is ticketed to make his 3-year-old debut the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 8, but Hollendorfer understandably will not rush the gelding.
“I’m not going to work him until he’s perfect,” Hollendorfer said Friday morning. “We want to try and make the Lewis if we can, but if we don’t, it’s not going to bother me any.
“The injury is not serious at all, but it’s the kind of thing that if you go too quickly, then you could set yourself back. It still wouldn’t be serious, but you could set yourself back if you don’t time it right.”
Noted time is in his favor, Hollendorfer agreed, then added, “We’re not going to get too worried about it. As long as we keep him safe and sound, we’ll be happy, because there’s plenty to run for this year.”
Meanwhile, Baffert and Hollendorfer are set to square off in Santa Anita’s two Grade II stakes this weekend, Saturday’s Strub Stakes and Sunday’s La Canada.
Baffert has Govenor Charlie and Malibu winner Shakin It Up entered in the Strub, while Hollendorfer has Hear the Ghost and Zeewat.
In the La Canada, Baffert entered Fiftyshadesofhay and Ondine, while Hollendorfer entered Broken Sword and Let Faith Rise.
The field for the Strub: Dice Flavor, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Rookie Sensation, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Shakin It Up, Mike Smith, 7-2; Zeewat, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Govenor Charlie, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani; Heir of Storm, Joe Talamo, 4-1; and Say Ow, Tyler Baze, 20-1.
The field for the La Canada: Let Faith Arise, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ondine, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Oscar Party, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Fiftyshadesofhay, Mike Smith, 8-5; Broken Sword, Rafael Bejarano, 7-5; Spellbound, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; and Rathbaun, Tyler Baze, 15-1.
YAKTEEN ‘HONORED’ TO BE AT ECLIPSE AWARDS CEREMONY
Tim Yakteen has put on his game face and soldiered on like the professional that he is ever since Points Offthebench was euthanized due to a training mishap eight days before he was scheduled to run as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita last Nov. 2.
Friday morning, with the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop at Clockers’ Corner, Yakteen was preparing to depart for Florida where Points Offthebench is a finalist for an Eclipse Award as Outstanding Sprinter of 2013. The Eclipse Award winners will be announced Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
“Bobby (former mentor Bob Baffert) got a ticket for me and I’m all squared away, so Millie and I are on our way,” said Yakteen, who was Baffert’s assistant for five years until going on his own in 2004. “Millie” is Tim’s wife, Millie Ball, host and analyst for HRTV.
Yakteen preferred to see the glass as half full. “It could be bittersweet under the circumstances,” the 49-year-old native of Nuremburg, Germany, said. “But it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as some of these Hall of Famers like Baffert, (Jerry) Hollendorfer, (Charlie) Whittingham and (Ron) McAnally.
“The list is endless. This is what we’re in the game for.”
APPRENTICE VANDYKE NOT BUGGED BY WEIGHT
On the surface, judging by name, one might think Drayden VanDyke just stepped off the canvas of a Rembrandt painting, or arrived from an overseas port of call like The Netherlands.
Not so. The 19-year-old apprentice jockey, who won his fourth career race Thursday and benefits from a 10-pound weight allowance until he wins No. 5, at which time he adds three pounds, is American born and raised.
He’s a bit fuzzy on his genealogical tree, however.
“I was born in Louisville but raised in Hot Springs,” VanDyke said after piloting Horse Laugh to a come-from-behind, 2 ¼-length victory for owner Lathrop Hoffman and trainer Jerry Fanning in yesterday’s second race. Horse Laugh carried 110 pounds, getting 10 from 11-10 favorite Maximinus, who ran second.
“I’ve been around the track for two years, but only riding for about four months,” said VanDyke, who is represented by first-time agent Sarah Wolfe. “My dad (Seth) was a rider. Now he gallops for Dale Romans.”
VanDyke weighs a Shoemakerish 103 pounds and tacks 106, certainly a plus with horsemen looking for a spread on the scale.
“He’s a nice kid and he can ride,” Fanning said. “And he can do the weight.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN’S BC CLASSIC WIN NTRA MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Mucho Macho Man’s nose victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic has been voted by fans the 2013 National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Moment of the Year.
The results of the online poll were announced at the second annual ThoroFan Awards Breakfast at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Mucho Macho Man, owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, went off at 4-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race in which he finished second the previous year. Jockey Gary Stevens, who earlier in 2013 had come back from seven years of retirement, urged Mucho Macho Man to the lead approaching the top of the stretch and saved enough to barely hold off late charges from Will Take Charge and Declaration of War in a three-horse photo finish.
Heart transplant survivor Kathy Ritvo became the first female trainer to win North America’s richest race, rewarding Patti and Dean Reeves for the faith they showed in both her and the popular horse, who had never won a Grade I event until the second half of 2013 despite several close tries.
Balloting was conducted at the NTRA Web site, ntra.com, and offered voters 12 different images illustrating a range of human emotions as well as outstanding displays of equine athleticism. Finishing second was Paynter’s winning return to racing following a miraculous recovery from colitis and laminitis. The popular Grade I winner’s near-fatal illness earned topped the 2012 Moment of the Year voting.
The 2013 images and events that fans chose from (listed chronologically, with percentage of votes received, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percentage point):
• Gary Stevens rides his first winner in North America since 2005 aboard Branding in the first race at Santa Anita. (1.2%)
• Spicer Cub bolts around the parked starting gate along the outside rail and still nearly wins at Pimlico Race Course, losing by a nose. (15.8%)
• Orb wins the Kentucky Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and owners Stuart Janney III and Dinny Phipps. (5%)
• Oxbow wins the Preakness Stakes, giving Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his sixth win in the Triple Crown’s middle jewel and Gary Stevens his third. (3.5%)
• Paynter, after battling back from life-threatening illness the year before, returns to the races to win an allowance at Betfair Hollywood Park. (18.3%)
• Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze becomes the first North American rider to reach the 12,000-win milestone aboard Handful of Pearls at the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton. (2.2%)
• Ken & Sarah Ramsey win three major Grade I turf stakes – the Secretariat (with Admiral Kitten), Sword Dancer (Big Blue Kitten) and Arlington Million (Real Solution) – at two different tracks in less than two hours. (4.2%)
• Will Take Charge barely gets up to beat front-running Moreno by a nose in the $1 million Travers at Saratoga Race Course. (5.3%)
• Retired jockey Ramon Dominguez is presented with the Mike Venezia Award, as well as the 2012 Eclipse Award trophy for Outstanding Jockey he was unable to accept last January, during a ceremony in the Saratoga winner’s circle. (5%)
• Five-year-old mare Mizdirection beats males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the second straight year in her final career start. (3.2%)
• Wise Dan wins the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile for the second straight year, capping a season that will likely be recognized with a repeat Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. (6.2%)
• Mucho Macho Man wins the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic for Gary Stevens, trainer Kathy Ritvo and owners Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. (30%)
“Mucho Macho Man’s win in the Breeders’ Cup was thrilling because it was a wild finish decided by a nose, but it was especially unforgettable because of the stories behind the horse,” said Keith Chamblin, NTRA Senior Vice President. “Voting for the Moment of the Year was up more than 50-percent this year and the popularity of Mucho Macho Man and his connections are surely part of the reason.”
The first-ever “NTRA Moment of the Year” was the touching scene between Charismatic and jockey Chris Antley following the 1999 Belmont Stakes. The next year’s winner was the stretch run of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which saw Tiznow hold on for a dramatic victory against Giant’s Causeway.
Tiznow won again the following year as fans selected his stirring repeat victory in the Classic over Sakhee. In 2002, fans cited the passing of the last living Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew. In 2003, the popular Kentucky Derby win by Funny Cide was selected. Birdstone’s upset win in the Belmont Stakes over Smarty Jones took down top honors for 2004. In 2005, fans selected Afleet Alex’s spectacular victory in the 2005 Preakness Stakes. Voters in 2006 chose Barbaro’s gallant struggle to recover from his Preakness injury while at the New Bolton Center. The 2007 Moment of the Year was a historic victory by filly Rags to Riches over Curlin in the Belmont Stakes. In 2008, it was Zenyatta’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Zenyatta “repeated” in 2009 as fans selected her triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita welcomes jockey Alexis Archard who will be riding here 10 weeks, primarily for trainer Leonard Powell. The 22-year-old Frenchman has 73 victories . . . Happy Birthday number 93 to Paddock Supervisor John Shear . . . On 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.