Saturday marks a homecoming of sorts for David Cohen. The 25-year-old Torrance native was a fixture in the Southern California jockey colony before departing sans fanfare two years ago to become a regular on the East Coast, where he has established himself as one of the nation’s leading riders.

Through March 2, Cohen ranked 10th nationally in purse earnings with more than $1.2 million, and ninth in wins with 43. In 2009, Cohen won 288 of 1,209 races, an impressive 24 percent. Saturday, he returns from the East Coast’s wintry clime to the relatively balmy weather at Santa Anita where he rides Tiger’s Rock for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.

Cohen is unbeaten aboard Tiger’s Rock, winning two marathon stakes at Aqueduct, the Gallant Fox and the Coyote Lakes, each at a mile and five-eighths.

“I’ve been watching David ride back east, and I think he’s one of the best riders in the country today,” said his former agent, Tom Knust. “When he was riding in California, he had to do a lot to get his weight down, but since then he’s gotten on a diet but still retained his strength. Now, he’s a strong rider, and I think that’s what he was missing out here in California. He had the talent, he looked great on horses, but I didn’t think he had the strength that he has now. He’s comfortable with his regimen and his routine, and I think that’s made the difference in his success.”

Added Pletcher assistant Mike McCarthy, in explaining how Cohen got the mount on Tiger’s Rock: “He was at the right place at the right time, I guess. David had ridden some horses for us during the winter and it worked out well.

“Competition among riders on both coasts is as good as it gets,” noted McCarthy, who has been with Pletcher going on eight years and who has 10 of his horses at Santa Anita.

Tiger’s Rock, a 4-year-old colt by Giant’s Causeway, has four wins from seven starts for owner Don Lucarelli of Lexington, Ky., who races as Starlight Partners.

“The horse arrived Tuesday and is doing very well,” McCarthy said. “He will handle synthetic. He won an allowance race at Keeneland (on Polytrack last Oct. 31).”

Pletcher might have selected a rider from the local crop, but stuck with Cohen, who grew up in Las Vegas and who wears a Star of David on his riding pants to honor his heritage. “I’ve got a long way to go,” he said during his days in Southern California, “but hopefully I can reach the position in this sport that such Jewish riders as Bill Harmatz and Walter Blum attained.”

So far, so good.

The field for the Santa Anita Handicap, which goes as race 10 on an 11-race program: Pick Six, Alex Solis, 114, 20-1; St Trinians, Joel Rosario, 113, 7-2; Rendezvous, Joe Talamo, 114, 20-1; Neko Bay, Mike Smith, 117, 8-1; Eagle Poise, Tyler Baze, 114, 20-1; Loup Breton, Garrett Gomez, 117, 4-1; Mast Track, David Flores, 117, 12-1; Pool Play, Chantal Sutherland, 114, 15-1; Marsh Side, Martin Pedroza, 117, 12-1; Tiger’s Rock, David Cohen, 114, 15-1; Dakota Phone, Victor Espinoza, 114, 20-1; Delightful Kiss, Juan Leyva, 10-1, 115; Misremembered, Martin Garcia, 116, 8-1; and Jeranimo, Rafael Bejarano, 116, 8-1.

All fans in attendance at Santa Anita on Big ‘Cap day will receive free a 75th Anniversary Wall Clock with paid admission, while supplies last. Also, there will be a $500,000 late Pick 4. First post time is12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Riviera Chic makes her U.S. debut in a Grade I race Saturday, but if she has a hint of the success other imports trainer/bloodstock agent Jamie Lloyd has brought in from across the pond, she has a longshot’s chance against favored Blind Luck and others in the Santa Anita Oaks.

“She’s only been here about a week,” the 28-year-old Newmarket native said of the bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro. “She came in really well, but obviously, we’re taking a big, big shot. She has similar form to St Trinians, who I bought (for Mike Mitchell, who runs the 7-2 morning line favorite in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap). The filly’s owners feel she has a good shot in the Oaks, from a stamina point of view.”

Riviera Chic broke her maiden by six lengths under 125 pounds going a mile and three-sixteenths on Wolverhampton’s polytrack Feb. 1. “She won really well that day,” said Lloyd, who has 12 horses in training at Santa Anita and who also was the agent who brought in stakes winners Monzante and Battle of Hastings.

“At the top of the lane,” Lloyd continued, “Riviera Chic looked like she was going to plod away, and all of a sudden she got clear and the jockey gave her a couple of taps and she quickened and ran away by six.”

The field for the Santa Anita Oaks: Sister Dawn, Victor Espinoza; Crisp, Joel Rosario; Riviera Chic, Michael Baze; All Due Respect, Garrett Gomez; Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano; Warren’s Jitterbug, Joe Talamo; Cozi Rosie, Mike Smith; and Zilva, Jose Valdivia Jr.

Each carries 122 pounds.


Kettle River has the style to win Saturday’s Sham Stakes. So says Brice Blanc, who has ridden the son of Congaree to victories in his last two races, and will be aboard again in the Grade III, $150,000 Sham at 1 1/8 miles.

“The distance won’t be a problem for him,” Blanc said. “He’s been improving and done nothing wrong in his two starts in Southern California. Eoin (trainer Eoin Harty) has done a great job with him. The race is wide open and the horse just has to keep improving, like he’s been doing. I know there’s more there.”

The field for the Sham: Marcello, Jose Valdivia Jr.; The Program, Martin Garcia; Outlaw Man, Garrett Gomez; El Mirage King, Tyler Baze; Boulder Creek, Victor Espinoza; Kettle River, Blanc; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano; Wolf Tail, Chantal Sutherland; Nextdoorneighbor, Mike Smith; and Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis.

With potential rainfall forecast for this weekend, the Sham, originally scheduled for Feb. 27, also will be carded as the 10th race on Sunday.

FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert said Thursday that “right now, I’m leaning towards the Rebel for Lookin At Lucky,” and “I might run Tiz Chrome in the San Felipe.” Baffert also has been considering the Grade II, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 13 for Lookin At Lucky’s 3-year-old debut. The Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes also will be run on March 13. Both races are 1 1/16 miles, but the Rebel at Oaklawn Park is run on traditional dirt, a surface on which Lookin At Lucky has not run. His six career races have been on synthetics in Southern California, five resulting in victories. “The Rebel would be a good spot,” Baffert said. “It’s dirt and I could see how he handles it.” Another Baffert Triple Crown hopeful, unbeaten Conveyance, worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:00.40 with Joe Steiner aboard. “He’s doing really well,” Baffert said of the winner of the Southwest Stakes . . . Tomorrow is Free Friday at Santa Anita. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Book Wager opens Friday morning and closes Sunday evening, coinciding with the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager this year . . . Cosme Rivera won his first race at Santa Anita yesterday when he guided 11-1 shot No Grande to a length and a quarter victory in the eighth race for owner/trainer Ricardo Zamora, clinching a Pick Six carryover of $82,042. “He won 60 races in his native Panama,” his agent, Roger Olguin, said of the apprentice rider, who turns 18 next month. “He carries his five-pound ‘bug’ until April 16.” . . . Garrett Gomez took off his two scheduled mounts Thursday. “He didn’t feel well,” said his agent, Ron Anderson . . . Sensational News, impressive winner Sunday by 2 1/4 lengths for Richard Mandella, is a $500,000 son of Mr. Greeley, who made his debut at age four. “He had problems,” the Hall of Fame trainer said, adding in his typical self-deprecating fashion, “I didn’t just forget him somewhere. He’s got some ability. He can really run. Hopefully, we can manage him.” . . . Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip worked three furlongs at Hollywood Park Thursday in a bullet :36 flat for Ron Ellis . . . Jon White, who makes Santa Anita’s morning line in addition to providing paddock commentary for the track's simulcast network, spotted a racing rarity in Friday’s sixth race. “Not only are there half-brothers in the same race, they are breaking from the gate right next to each other,” White noted. “Tactful (by Bertrando) and Spot the Diplomat (by Worldly Manner) are both out of the Moscow Ballet mare Scare Tactics.” Harris Farms bred both geldings . . . HRTV’s Peter Lurie and Aaron Hesz of Handicappers’ Report will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . ShowVivor II had 149 players alive going into Thursday’s races.