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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• MUCHO MACHO MAN, WILL TAKE CHARGE REMATCH IN BIG ’CAP
• RESPECT NO ISSUE FOR LAKERVILLE IN SENSATIONAL STAR
• BARN WAKES UP FROM ‘KNAPP’ WITH TWO WINNERS
WILL TAKE CHARGE TO FACE MUCHO MACHO MAN IN BIG ’CAP
With those words this morning from D. Wayne Lukas, the stage is set for one of the most eagerly anticipated rematches in recent memory, one between Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8.
The two handicap stars finished a scant nose apart in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 2. The Lukas-trained Will Take Charge, Eclipse Award winner as outstanding 3-year-old of 2013, was second in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in his 2014 debut on Feb. 9.
With two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner and defending champion Game On Dude waiting in the wings for the mile and a quarter Big ‘Cap, story lines abound for the 77th edition of the historic race, which has been won by turf legends such as Seabiscuit, Noor, Round Table, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Best Pal and Lava Man, among many others.
Mucho Macho Man, 14-length winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18, committed to Santa Anita’s signature race on Saturday when trainer Kathy Ritvo and Finn Green, Racing Manager for owners Dean and Patti Reeves, announced they would be coming to Santa Anita for the Big ‘Cap.
Pending flight arrangements, Lukas said he hoped to ship Will Take Charge to California on “March 3 or 4.” Mucho Macho Man is scheduled to work Saturday in Florida and ship to California the following day, Sunday, Feb. 23.
Meanwhile, the countdown is on to March 8.
LAKERVILLE ON FAVORITE COURSE IN SENSATIONAL STAR
Lakerville rewarded his backers with a $19.60 mutuel payoff when he returned from a 17-month absence to win the Clockers’ Corner Stakes on Jan. 26.
The 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse has been favored in three of his seven career starts, but perhaps because of the lengthy layoff, was overlooked in the Clockers’ Corner, even though it was run at about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course, where Lakerville is unbeaten in two starts.
With Corey Nakatani at Oaklawn Park Saturday, Gary Stevens rides Lakerville for the first time in the Sensational Star.
“Hopefully, the horse will run like he did in his first start back,” trainer Barry Abrams said. “He’s training good, and as long as the weather’s good and the track is good, he’s going to run a good race.”
As far as being “the Rodney Dangerfield” of racing, Abrams is unconcerned about Lakerville’s lack of respect.
“That doesn’t bother me,” he said. “As long as he gets the job done, I don’t care if they bet him or not.”
Lakerville, who is also nominated to Sunday’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf, worked four furlongs on the main track Sunday in 49.40.
KNAPP KEEPS THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE DURING LOSING STREAK
It was a long time between drinks for Steve Knapp.
When you start a meet with 25 straight losers, haven’t won a race since Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park, and are in the throes of the worst losing streak in your 14-year training career, it’s not easy to put on your game face every day, but the 57-year-old trainer managed to do it.
He ended his skid Sunday when Yes She’s Unusual, ridden by Brice Blanc, dead-heated for win and survived a stewards’ inquiry to win the sixth race, and Red Barris captured the ninth race, giving Joe Talamo his third win of the day.
Knapp is grateful to be plying his trade in one of nature’s most breathtaking settings, that of Santa Anita Park. When asked how things are going on any given morning, his response is typical: “Just another day in paradise.”
But paradise turned into Hades several weeks ago when Knapp’s 24-year-old son, Sammy, survived a life-threatening ordeal after being admitted to Mission Hospital with pneumonia.
“He went in the hospital with pneumonia, and they wound up doing surgery for a strep infection that developed in his lungs,” said Knapp, who has been training for 14 years. “When he came out of surgery, his oxygen level was very low, and they had to put him on paralytics, which paralyze your whole body.
“When he came out of surgery, neither lung was working. With his oxygen that low, they had to put him on machines to support his lungs and breathing.
“The paralytics helped oxygenate his blood; that’s how you get oxygen, through your blood. They put him on paralytics because they didn’t want him moving, so he was in an induced coma for four of the 12 days he was in the hospital; then they brought him out of it.
“He’s home now and seems like he’s going to make a full recovery. It just puts a perspective on everything in life. I wasn’t worried about losing races, because my boy’s life was saved, so when you’re looking at races, they’re not so important.
“But,” Knapp added with a chuckle, “now that’s he going to be OK, winning races is important again.”
FINISH LINES: Agent Brian Beach reports that jockey Victor Espinoza will be at Los Alamitos Saturday morning to work California Chrome for the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 8 . . . Unbridled’s Note, ticketed for next Sunday’s Joe Hernandez Stakes, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Monday in 49.20 for Steve Asmussen. Corey Nakatani has the mount in the Hernandez.