Rivals of high weight Tuscan Evening face a daunting task trying to beat her in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf. That said, Paddy Gallagher is going to give it his best shot.

The trainer has entered General Consensus in the Santa Ana in an effort to conquer the Irish-bred Tuscan Evening, who will carry 123 pounds as she seeks her third straight win and her ninth from 13 starts in the United States.

General Consensus, a 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway mare, was second to Rachel Alexandra conqueror Zardana in the restricted Swingtime Stakes last October.

“Tuscan Evening is a very, very good filly and she’ll be tough to beat,” Gallagher said, “but my mare seems to be doing good, so we’ll take a look and try her.”

The field for the Santa Ana, the eighth of nine races: Eissoai, Michael Baze, 113; General Consensus, Alex Solis, 115; Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Chasin Dreams, Danny Sorenson, 113; Treat Gently, Garrett Gomez, 116; Belmont Cat, Tyler Baze, 115; April Pride, David Flores, 117; and Cat by the Tale, Joel Rosario, 117.


A.C. Avila plans to run Unusual Smoke in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Nothing uncommon about that at first glance, except that the son of Unusual Heat would be running back in only nine days.

“The horse is healthy and happy, so there’s no reason to sit in the barn,” the trainer said. “The distance will be no problem for him.”

Unusual Smoke was beaten a nose against lesser competition going a mile and a half in April of last year, and was third under Avila’s go-to rider, Omar Berrio, in an allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on March 11. But A.C. (the initials stand for Antonio Carlos) has given the mount back to Martin Garcia, who has ridden the 5-year-old horse in 10 of his 20 races, winning four. “His last race was OK, but he doesn’t run much for Omar,” Avila said. “He runs much better for Martin.”

The field for the San Luis Rey, which is the eighth of 10 races: Dynamic Range, David Flores, 119; High Court Drama, Michael Baze, 118; Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Obrigado, Garrett Gomez, 117; Sudden War, Solis, 118; Lease of Life, Joel Rosario, 116; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez, 117; Romp, Chantal Sutherland, 115; Quasicobra, Joe Talamo, 116; and Unusual Smoke, Martin Garcia, 117.


Who’s Up, idle since winning the Grade III Generous Stakes at one mile on Hollywood Park’s turf course last Nov. 28, is scheduled to work one mile Sunday under the supervision of trainer Mike Puhich at the Pegasus training facility in Redmond, Washington. Owned by M Racing and trained by Kathy Walsh, the Florida-bred son of Graeme Hall is scheduled to leave for California next Wednesday, March 24, for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. Victor Espinoza, who has ridden the chestnut colt in each of his four starts, two of them victories, retains the mount in the mile and an eighth Santa Anita Derby.

In other Santa Anita Derby news:

Bob Baffert said Thursday morning that “right now, I’m leaning towards the Arkansas Derby” for Rebel Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky, “unless I change my mind and run him in the Santa Anita Derby. The Arkansas Derby gives me an extra week. I’ll let the horse tell me.” The Grade II, $1 million Arkansas Derby at nine furlongs is run at Oaklawn Park April 10.

Richard Mandella said Setsuko, runner-up in the Sham Stakes as the 5-2 favorite, worked a “very easy five furlongs” on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:05.80. “He’ll have a more serious work next week,” the Hall of Fame trainer said.

Larry Benavidez, assistant to John Sadler, said San Felipe Stakes winner Sidney’s Candy galloped Thursday with “good energy” as he prepares for the Santa Anita Derby.

Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher, said that San Felipe runner-up Interactif would pass the Santa Anita Derby and ship to Kentucky for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 10.

Clarifying reports that Alphie’s Bet had been sold, trainer Alexis Barba said Thursday morning that the Sham Stakes winner has not been sold and is still owned by Peter O. Johnson Sr. and Theresa McWilliams of Santa Barbara. The California-bred son of Tribal Rule will train up to the Santa Anita Derby and be ridden by Alex Solis.

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano; Thomas Baines, no rider; Outlaw Man, no rider; Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis; Posse Power, no rider; Cardiff Giant, no rider; and Who’s Up, Victor Espinoza.


Santa Anita’s popular “Santa Anita Uncorked” wine event has been scheduled for Sunday, March 28, in the track’s Paddock Gardens area, adjacent to the Seabiscuit Walking Ring. The event, which debuted in 2008, will include wine tasting, cuisine sampling, an art show and a day at the races.

Fans 21 and over are encouraged to spend a day at spectacular Santa Anita tasting fine wines, world-class cuisine from popular area restaurants, and perusing a colorful Paddock Art Exhibit while experiencing a day at the races.

“Santa Anita Uncorked” will again be sponsored by the Wine of the Month Club based in nearby Monrovia.

Among those upscale area restaurants participating are: San Marino Seafood, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Cafe 322, Charcuterrie and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner. Wineries represented will include Zaca Mesa, Mike Smith and Alex Solis’ Jinetes, and many more.

“Santa Anita Uncorked” packages will include parking, Club House admission with a grandstand seat, program, wine tasting, cuisine sampling, art exhibit and a souvenir wine glass.

Tickets for admission, parking, program and restricted area wrist band are available for $60 each and can be purchased at the Santa Anita ticket office, or by phone at (626) 574-RACE. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at

Proceeds from “Santa Anita Uncorked” will go to benefit Rotary Club Youth Services.

FINISH LINES: Tomorrow is another of Santa Anita’s popular Free Fridays. 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 . . . HRTV’s initial showing of “HRTV Encore” will relive the 2010 debuts of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra Saturday at 5:30 p.m. HRTV aired both of the superstar females’ races live on its “Grandstand” show last Saturday . . . The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s (NTRA) website,, will offer free, live video streaming Saturday of the Grade I, $750,000 Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park. Saturday’s Webcast, hosted by ESPN/ABC analyst and NFL Network host Randy Moss, will start at 3 p.m. Post time for the Florida Derby is 3:20 p.m. . . . ESPN's coverage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Oak Tree last November has received a nomination for the Emmys in the live sports category . . . Steve Knapp registered his second win this meet from 54 starts Wednesday when Torrey Cliffs posted a neck victory under Joe Talamo over 9-10 favorite She’s Not Lion in the fifth race. “My owners have struggled with the economy the way it is,” the 53-year-old Chino Hills resident said. “They’re all going to come back, but until the economy gets going, sometimes when you’re not changing horses, you don’t have the right group, and it’s hard to win when you don’t have enough stock. That’s the bottom line. We could have had five or six winners with better luck, but sometimes things just don’t work out.” Knapp claimed Torrey Cliffs for $25,000 last November. The 4-year-old Benchmark filly ran third in her next four starts against allowance maidens before winning. “She’s been kind of an unlucky horse, but she had some pace to run at yesterday,” Knapp said. “Joe fits her well and he did a perfect job of riding her yesterday.” . . . Janet Armstrong posted her third victory of the meet from only 20 starters when Miss Olivia K won Wednesday’s first race by a half-length under Joel Rosario. “I have 23 horses here, but nine are babies (2-year-olds),” said Armstrong, who has been training for seven years. She is a native of Vancouver, British Columbia. “I worked on Syd and Joanne Belzberg’s Budget Stable’s farm and managed it for several years before going on my own,” Armstrong said. “This is my second year here. You can’t beat the weather. It’s beautiful, but the competition is really tough.” . . . Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in :48.80. “It was like apple pie,” said John Sadler assistant Larry Benavidez. “She’ll go straight to the Kentucky Oaks (April 30). She’s had three races in seven weeks.” . . . Jockey Iggy Puglisi has been suspended three days (March 19-21) for careless riding, which resulted in an accident following the eighth race on March 12, in which both Puglisi and Chantal Sutherland were unseated . . . Santa Anita will offer its $1 million St. Pat’s Pitch presented by Budweiser on Saturday. Five lucky fans will have an opportunity to win $1 million by throwing a ringer in a horse shoe pitch. On March 15, 2008, John Placzankis did just that. BEER AND HOT DOGS SATURDAY WILL BE JUST $1 . . . Bob Mieszerski, contributor to the Today’s Racing Digest website and the Orange County Register, and HRTV’s Peter Lurie, will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Three players remained alive in ShowVivor II entering Thursday’s races: Roland Frederick of Kaplan, La.; Orlando Arango of Los Angeles; and Mary Jo Lessell of La Grange, Ky. One selected Yodelady O, winner of Wednesdays’ second race, and two tabbed Canonize, winner of the seventh.