Kobe’s Back is John Sadler’s Joe Btfsplk. Btfsplk is the character in cartoonist Al Capp’s satirical comic strip Li’l Abner, who is the embodiment of bad luck. He is well-meaning, but the world’s worst jinx, bringing disastrous misfortune to everyone around him.

A small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovers over his head to symbolize his bad luck.

No such portent of evil floats over the head of Kobe’s Back, but the trouble lines in his six career races are ominous: “Broke in air, slowly, off slow, three wide turn, clipped heels, ½, weakened, three-wide move, ridden out, off slow, rank early, and hit gate, 1/8, good kick,” sum up his trips to date.

Sadler expects a turn for the better when the gray son of Flatter starts in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Laz Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.

“He’s had some issues in the gate, but we’ve been working with him really hard in that regard and he’s been doing well,” Sadler said. “It’s a good spot for him on Saturday.”

On Candy Boy, who like many others, had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th, Sadler said, “He went back to the track today. It was his first day back. We’ll kind of watch him for a few days . . . We haven’t decided where we’re going to run yet. Everything’s a possibility.”

On California Chrome: “I think if we didn’t win, we were all going to root for the California connections. It’s a great story, really a feel-good story, so we thought it was sensational.”

The field for the Barrera, race seven of nine: Ferocious, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Tonito M., Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Kobe’s Back, Corey Nakatani, 9-5; Chelios, Gary Stevens, 3-1; Twenty Percent, Mike Smith, 6-1; Puppy Manners, Tyler Baze, 20-1; and Top Fortitude, Kayla Stra, 6-1.


California Chrome, who won last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby by 1 ¾ lengths in a sparkling performance as the 5-2 favorite, is expected to be a much shorter price in the May 17 Preakness Stakes.

“I look for California Chrome to be less than even money in the Preakness,” said Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White, who again will be making the official morning lines for this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. “And this view is supported by what John Avello has done in Las Vegas and by what Keith Feustle said he plans to do at Pimlico.

“Odds for the Preakness came out Wednesday from the Wynn Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas. John Avello has made California Chrome a 4-5 favorite at the Wynn.

“Meanwhile, Keith Feustle, who is Pimlico’s oddsmaker, was quoted in a Daily Racing Form story by Marty McGee that he expects to make California Chrome in the 3-5 range on his Preakness line. Feustle said California Chrome would have to be somewhere around 3-5, maybe even a touch lower.”

This will be Feustle’s first Preakness morning line. He replaced the retired Frank Carulli as the oddsmaker at both Pimlico and Laurel.

California Chrome, who won the Santa Anita Derby prior to capturing the Kentucky Derby, will take a five-race winning streak into the Preakness. Owned and bred by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin and trained by Art Sherman, the popular Lucky Pulpit colt became the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962.

Victor Espinoza, who has guided California Chrome to his last five victories, again will ride the 3-year-old sensation in the Preakness. Fans can watch and wager on the Preakness at Santa Anita, which also will be conducting live racing that day. The first live race at Santa Anita on Preakness Day is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Admission gates open at 8 a.m.


Three days removed from victory aboard favored California Chrome in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, winning jockey Victor Espinoza was at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner Tuesday morning, feeling “relieved” in the aftermath of his second career win in the Run for the Roses. Espinoza, who continues to field a multitude of interview requests, sat down for a question and answer session at Santa Anita’s popular coffee and breakfast destination located at the top of the stretch:

Q.) Now that the dust has settled, how does it feel to be back at Santa Anita?

“I feel a tremendous sense of relief. It’s great to get back home with a victory because there was so much pressure on me. It’s just great to be back at Clockers’ Corner, to come back and see all my friends and to get back into my regular routine. That’s what you have to do, because the business goes on every day.”

Q.) There had been a lot of concern about California Chrome’s behavior in the starting gate. You drew post five, so you were in there a pretty long time. How was he as the other horses were loading in?

“Well, at one point, he leaned to the outside and then to the inside. But when they said ‘One more to load!’ he stood straight, and I’m thinking, ‘Kick it!’ He’s not that big, but he’s so quick. We broke good and he put us in a good position.”

Q.) How would you compare his performance on Saturday with his win here in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5?

“He had to run harder. The Kentucky Derby is such a tough race. You’ve got tough horses, tough trainers and tough jockeys and a lot of them. We got it done and hopefully he’ll recover from all the energy he put out in the Derby.”

Q.) Whenever you’re the favorite, there’s more pressure. Did you have a basic plan going into the race?

“I had no idea how I was gonna ride him. You think of so many things that can go wrong and you have all these plans and when the gates open, you can forget about it. It was tough on me.”

Q.) What did you do to celebrate on Saturday night and did you think about staying there another day, just to enjoy the whole thing?

“I got out of the track so late; it was probably around 10 o’clock. I had a lotta friends there from Florida and New York and we went out to an Italian restaurant. We didn’t eat until about midnight and I got back to my hotel at 2 a.m. I admit it, I thought about staying another day, but I had two mounts here on Sunday and I figured, ‘I’m up now. I’ll just keep going.’”

Q.) Were you able to sleep on the flight home?

“No. I left the hotel at 3 a.m. and my flight was on Delta at 6 a.m., with a stop in Atlanta. I was hoping to just sleep on the plane, but everybody recognized me, so I just talked to people the whole way. When I got here to Santa Anita on Sunday, I was just running on adrenaline. I rested the whole day Monday, and now I’m back in my routine.”

Q.) You won your first Kentucky Derby with War Emblem in 2002. How does this one compare to that?

“With War Emblem, it all happened so fast. I picked the horse up pretty late. I’m enjoying it more this time because we had a month between the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. We knew we’d be the favorite and even though there was a lot of pressure, it’s been fantastic.”

Q.) Have you ever won five races in a row on any other horse?

“Yes, with Officer (California-bred colt by Bertrando, who won his first five races with Espinoza up beginning July 6, 2001 to Oct. 6, 2001).”

Q.) Do you think winning the Kentucky Derby will help your business?

“Any time you win, it helps. You have to keep working though, and you have to go with your routine.”

Q.) California Chrome has been committed to run in the Preakness on May 17. It looks like he stands out against those he ran against in the Derby, but did you happen to see Steve Asmussen’s filly, Untappable, run in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday?

“Yes I did. She’s an unbelievable filly. She’s so good; it looks like the other horses aren’t even running. She’s something special.”

And so was Espinoza’s triumph in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. A Mexico City native, Espinoza, 41, has two scheduled mounts today and Friday at Santa Anita.


Tiago Pereira is off to a good start at Santa Anita’s Spring Meet. The 37-year-old native of Brazil has won with three of his first 13 mounts (23 percent), tied for fifth through seven racing days in Santa Anita’s standings.

A world traveler, Pereira has ridden in France, Singapore and Dubai, where he won the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Gloria de Campeao on March 27, 2010.

“The riding style is different at each place,” Pereira said with help from his interpreter, agent Michael Burns. “They go very fast here. It’s very similar to Rio de Janeiro racing, because as soon as the gates open, everybody’s whipping and pushing their horses. You have to be in position for speed here very early.

“The style where I come from is similar. They send from the gate.”

FINISH LINES: Goldencents worked seven furlongs form the gate under Rafael Bejarano after Sunday’s second race in 1:21.97. “Fantastic” is how Doug O’Neill termed the drill, the trainer adding he was looking at the Grade I Met Mile on Saturday June 7 for last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner, who ripped off splits of 22.25, 45 flat and 1:09.25. “I’ve been entering him, but I couldn’t get a race to go,” O’Neill said in explaining the between-the-races workout. “We wanted a race setting where there was a bit more stress than a morning work. We worked him out of the gate and I thought everything went very well. I was very happy with it.” . . . Fashion Plate, 12th and last in the Kentucky Oaks last Friday, is doing well despite her eventful journey at Churchill Downs and is ticketed for the Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7. “She had a couple little superficial scrapes on the front ankle, which we’re treating, but it’s nothing serious,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of the Santa Anita Oaks winner. “She’s still under consideration for the Acorn. We’ll firm up plans in the next couple of weeks.” . . . A tip of the cap to the San Diego Padres: Prior to their home game last Saturday against Arizona at Petco Park, the Friars showed the gate-to-wire running of California Chrome’s dramatic victory in the Kentucky Derby with Victor Espinoza aboard . . . Jonathan Hardoon of the Ragozin Sheets will be Tom Quigley’s seminar guest Saturday, and Brian Beach, agent for Espinoza, on Sunday, each day starting at 11:50 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.