Ron McAnally’s been there, done that. At 81, the legendary Hall of Fame trainer of nearly 20 champions headed by the immortal John Henry, has seen it all since he began his career more than half a century ago.

On-track crowds that surpassed 70,000 were not uncommon in the John Henry era in the 1980s, before satellite wagering became all the rage. McAnally was there with bells on when John Henry won back-to-back Big ‘Caps in 1981 and 82. He sent out longshot Mr Purple to win the race in 1996.

“Good horses and good races will bring the people in,” McAnally said. “You’ve also got to have a ‘name’ horse, for example, John Henry. Horses like him and Zenyatta, people come to see them run.

“We’re all looking forward to Saturday. Hopefully a lot of people will come out.”

McAnally hopes to win the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile for the second straight year Saturday with Suggestive Boy, who was fifth in the Arcadia Stakes on Feb. 1, his first race since winning the 2013 Kilroe last March 2.

“He might have needed that race,” McAnally said of the Arcadia. “He’d only had that one small work, seven-eighths (1:27.60 on Jan. 23). He seems to be a lot more aggressive this time, the way he’s acting. I feel he’ll run a better race.

“Joe (Talamo) rides him again and he knows the horse. He worked with the dogs up in 1:13 on Feb. 26, which is a heckuva work.”

In other Big ‘Cap news:

Morning line favorite Mucho Macho Man exercised about two miles Thursday morning on Santa Anita’s main track, jogging a mile and galloping a mile. As to strategy for the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner breaking from the No. 2 post position Saturday, trainer Kathy Ritvo smiled and said, “I’ll let Gary (Stevens) handle it.”

Jerry Moss, who owns San Antonio winner Blingo with his wife, Ann, is accustomed to big on-track crowds. The couple owned Zenyatta, remember. Like most racing fans, Moss is looking forward to Saturday’s “Race of the Year” at Santa Anita.

“We’re grateful to be in the race,” he said. “We have a shot. There should be a great turnout. It’s a chance to see great horses all at one time, so we should get a great crowd.”

Added John Shirreffs, who trained Zenyatta and who conditions Blingo: “I’m very happy with the (three) post. I’m excited that Mucho Macho Man is here and Lukas’ horse, Will Take Charge. I’m very happy with the way my horse is training though, too.

“(Aaron) Gryder has had a lot of experience with him now, he’s worked him quite often and he’s been on him in the afternoon, so I think that’s real important for Blingo. He’s ready.

“I met Kathy (Ritvo) when her horse was in the Preakness (in 2011). I was there with Mr. Commons. I got to know her very well and she’s a delightful person. I even told her that anytime she wanted to stay in my barn I’d be delighted. So I’m very happy for her.”

The field for the Santa Anita Handicap, race nine of 11 on a card that starts at 12 noon: Will Take Charge, Luis Saez, 2-1; Mucho Macho Man, Gary Stevens, 9-5; Blingo, Aaron Gryder, 8-1; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Rousing Sermon, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; American Blend, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Game On Dude, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Hear The Ghost, Joel Rosario, 20-1.

The field for the Kilroe, which goes as the eighth race: Lochte, Orlando Bocachica, 8-1; Regally Ready, Mike Smith, 8-1; Optimizer, Luis Saez, 12-1; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Za Approval, Joel Rosario, 3-1; Winning Prize, Corey Nakatani, 7-2; Horizontalyspeakin, Edwin Maldonado, 30-1; Tom’s Tribute, Gary Stevens, 10-1; Silentio, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; and Lakerville, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1.


While the Santa Anita Handicap is foremost in prestige and purse money, with Triple Crown aspirants coming evermore into focus, Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes is far from taking a backseat to the Big ’Cap.

The Grade II race for sophomores at 1 1/16 miles offers 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, virtually assuring a spot in the Run for the Roses on May 3.

Kristo is one of the favorites in the San Felipe. The $500,000 son of Distorted Humor trained by John Sadler for the Hronis brothers, Peter and Kosta, was second last out in his stakes debut, the Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile on Jan. 11. It was his first start since last Oct. 31, when he broke his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita.

“He’s trained exceptionally well,” Sadler said. “He’s ready, it’s good spacing (between his races), so we’re very happy.” Kristo worked six furlongs Monday in 1:13.40.

Sadler, like horsemen and fans alike, is looking forward to Big ‘Cap Day.

“Saturday is a big day,” he said. “They’ve got great racing. I hope they advertise the hell out of it, because they’ve got a really good card.”

The field for the San Felipe, race No. 5: Home Run Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Unstoppable Colby, Luis Saez, 20-1; Rprettyboyfloyd, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 3-1; Sawyer’s Hill, Martin Garcia, 30-1; Bayern, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Kristo, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Schoolofhardrocks, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 4-1; and Recanted, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.


Big Macher has already won himself out for owners Tom Mansor of La Mesa and Brendan Bakir of Malibu, who races as Tachycardia Stables.

Trainer Richard Baltas claimed the 4-year-old California-bred gelding for $20,000 from his first start, last July at Del Mar. Since then, the Beau Genius bay has won three of seven races, including the $125,000 California Cup Sprint on Jan. 25. Next up: Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 San Carlos Stakes for older horses at seven furlongs.

“He’s already won at seven furlongs,” Baltas said. “He won by 4 ½ lengths at Hollywood last November. It’s a step up, but he’s doing well. Now’s the time to try it.”

“Macher,” freely translated from Yiddish, means “Big shot.”

The field for the San Carlos, which is the seventh race: Sahara Sky, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Clubhouse Ride, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Zeewat, Corey Nakatani, 10-1; Big Macher, Luis Saez, 6-1; Cyclometer, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Ready for More, Martin Garcia, 15-1; Let’s Get Crackin, Agapito Delgadillo, 8-1; Midnight Transfer, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; and Shakin It Up, Mike Smith, 3-1.


In addition to a blockbuster 11-race card that will include four graded stakes and a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool, the first 15,000 fans through the turnstiles on Saturday, will each receive a complimentary ticket good for free admission on Breeders’ Cup Day One, Friday, Oct. 31.

This Breeders’ Cup comp is an official “Thank You” to those fans who choose to attend early on Saturday. Santa Anita will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented third consecutive year on Oct. 31 & Nov. 1. Breeders’ Cup General Admission for the 2013 World Championships was $10 per person.

Expectations are very high for the 77th running of the Santa Anita Handicap, as it will be the first time since Alysheba and Ferdinand met in 1988 that the 1-2 finishers (Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will re-engage in America’s longest continually run hundred grander.

There will be a special early first post time on Saturday of 12 noon, with admission gates opening at 10 a.m.

FINISH LINES: Kentucky Derby winning trainer Barclay Tagg is at Santa Anita with his multiple stakes winning mare, Munnings West, who will be ridden by Luis Saez in Sunday’s Grade III Las Flores Stakes…Santa Anita Derby and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday in 53.80, breezing. He went the first quarter in 28.40. “It was just an easy half; he got some air in his lungs,” said Dennis O’Neil, brother of Doug O’Neill, who trains the son of Into Mischief . . . Two-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder worked three furlongs Monday in a bullet :34.80, breezing. “She got a little excited before the work,” trainer Richard Mandella said in explaining the quick move, “but she’s coming along nicely.” . . . Agent Tony Matos reports that Corey Nakatani will again ride New York-bred Uncle Sigh in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5 after finishing second by a neck in the Grade III Gotham last Saturday . . . Agent Richie Silverstein says Martin Pedroza is expected to visit Santa Anita tomorrow as he recovers from broken shin bones in his left leg suffered in a starting gate mishap on Feb. 7. “Everything’s going well,” Silverstein said. “It’s healing naturally and no surgery is needed at this time. A target date for his return is May 1.” . . . An essay on the Santa Anita Handicap history by Ed Bowen can be found on the following link: . . . Tom Quigley’s guests at his East Paddock Gardens seminars will be Mike Tice, part owner of Midnight Hawk and offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons, Saturday at 10:50 a.m., and John Perotta, owner, breeder and executive story editor for HBO’s “LUCK,” on Sunday at 11:20 a.m. . . . Jason Levin of “Inside Racing,” which airs Saturdays from 7 to 8 a.m. on KEIB, 1150, “The Patriot,” will have Steve Pollack and Alan Benewitz handicapping Saturday’s Santa Anita card at the Top O’ the stretch inside Clockers’ Corner at 10:30 a.m. Cost is $25 and includes program, donuts, pastries and fun giveaways.