STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• GOMEZ NEEDS BETTER START IN SUNDAY’S EL ENCINO STAKES

• CHAMP PEGASUS READY FOR 2011 DEBUT ON MONDAY

• ASMUSSEN SENDS OUT CITY COOL IN MONDAY’S SAN PEDRO STAKES

BETTER BREAK WILL HELP MALIBU PIER IN SUNDAY’S GRADE II EL ENCINO

Garrett Gomez will need good luck to upset Blind Luck in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 El Encino Stakes.

Gomez rides Malibu Pier in the race for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, second leg of the La Caňada series. The chestnut daughter of Malibu Moon trained by Carla Gaines was second by four lengths to prohibitive favorite Switch in the first leg of the series, the Grade I, seven furlong La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26.

Daily Racing Form’s trouble line reads, “steadied after start” for Malibu Pier in the La Brea. “She got annihilated leaving the gate, but still ran a really good race,” Gomez said. “She’s not a very big filly. She’s full of heart. She’s back going two turns and I think that will be more to her liking.”

Owned and bred by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, Malibu Pier’s best races have been as a stalker, although she broke her maiden leading throughout in a one-mile turf race at Del Mar last August.

“Hopefully, she can continue to move forward,” Gomez said. “In the La Brea, she still ran a real respectable race against some good horses, got annihilated leaving the gate and still wound up finishing second. The El Encino is a tough race but she’s a tough filly. Hopefully she’ll run good.”

As for the meet’s leading trainer Bob Baffert, who sends out speedster Always a Princess in the El Encino, his strategy is clear.

“We’re just going to put Always a Princess on the lead and see how far she goes,” Baffert said.

The field for the El Encino, which goes as the eighth of nine races: Champagne d’Oro, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Blind Luck, Joel Rosario, 4-5; Malibu Pier, Gomez, 3-1; Fashion Trend, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Always a Princess, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Life Well Lived, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; and It Tiz, David Flores, 20-1. Our Georgia was scratched.

BC RUNNER-UP CHAMP PEGASUS SET FOR MONDAY’S GRADE II SAN MARCOS

Champ Pegasus is cranked up and ready to go. The 5-year-old horse by 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus makes his first start since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last Nov. 6 when he runs in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday turf marathon, the Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes for older horses at 1 ¼ miles.

“He’s doing good,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said. “He ran in the Breeders’ Cup (Turf Nov. 6, finishing second after leading most of the way). We gave him a little bit of a rest and he’s back in great shape. We expect him to run his best race.”

That’s ominous news for rival trainers in the San Marcos. Champ Pegasus has displayed a variety of style in winning four times, with three seconds and one third in nine career starts. He has earned $898,520 for owners Jerry Ford (Diamond A Racing Corp.) of Dallas and Arturo Vargas of Buenos Aires.

The field for the San Marcos: Philatelist, Patrick Valenzuela; Imponente Purse, Chantal Sutherland; Unusual Suspect, Corey Nakatani; Riviera Cocktail, Alonso Quinonez; Marlang, David Flores; Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano; Where’s the Remote, Joe Talamo; Buenos Dias, Brice Blanc; Expansion, Victor Espinoza; Sebastian Flyte, Garrett Gomez; and Champ Pegasus, Joel Rosario.

Each horse is assigned 118 pounds, except Unusual Suspect and Champ Pegasus, who have 123 each, and Bourbon Bay, 120. First post time Monday is 12:30 p.m.

CITY COOL MAKES SANTA ANITA DEBUT IN MONDAY’S SAN PEDRO FOR ASMUSSEN

Steve Asmussen has one of his lesser-known 3-year-olds entered in Monday’s $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs. It remains to be seen whether the son of City Zip will elevate himself into Triple Crown timber.

“It’s not a major race, but this is a good opportunity for him,” said Asmussen, on hand to saddle Tapizar in today’s Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes.

City Cool won a minor stakes race at Sunland Park by 7 ¼ lengths on Dec. 28 and in five starts, has never failed to earn a check for owner Mike McCarty of Austin, Texas.

The field for the San Pedro: Industry Leader, Victor Espinoza, 115; Classic Legacy, Garrett Gomez, 117; Sinai, Rafael Bejarano, 115; Indian Winter, Martin Pedroza, 115; City Cool, Joe Talamo, 119; Mr Artistic M D, Joel Rosario, 117; and Arcadian, Patrick Valenzuela, 115.

DUTY CALLS, SO AILING DENMAN KEEPS 39-YEAR STREAK ALIVE

When it comes to work ethic, Trevor Denman has a longer winning streak than Zenyatta. And he’s still undefeated.

Santa Anita’s popular track announcer has been behind the microphone high atop the grandstand at The Great Race Place going on three decades. He has never missed a day due to illness with his distinctive and accurate calls.

His skein almost ended Thursday when he was hit with an 11th-hour bug that turned his easy-on-the-ears voice into something akin to a fog horn. But ever the trouper, the 58-year-old Denman soldiered on.

“I came here in 1983, so it’s going to be 27 years I haven’t missed a day,” Denman recollected. “But I’ve been calling races for 39, and I’ve never missed a day. Two days, I came close. I had food poisoning once about 20 years ago, but people probably didn’t know, because my voice sounded OK.

“But Thursday was the sickest I’ve been in all that time. It just hit me like 11 o’clock Thursday morning. You might not feel that bad, but the worst thing is, you can’t talk. So that was only the second time in what, 26 years at Santa Anita, I think, that I’ve had to really, really struggle.

“But I’ve never missed a day. Not that that it’s a credit to me. That’s sheer luck. You can’t control your health. But I’ve been lucky enough to be healthy enough that I’ve never missed a day’s work in my life.

“I don’t know what motivates me. I guess we’re old school and we have a responsibility to fulfill. They say every man shall do his duty, and that’s what I live by. You have to do your duty.”

CASSIDY DUO ON COURSE FOR RICH SUNSHINE MILLIONS

The Usual Q.T. and Evening Jewel are on schedule for their engagements in the Sunshine Millions at Santa Anita on Saturday, Jan. 29. The Usual Q.T. goes in the $300,000 Turf at 1 1/8 miles, while Evening Jewel runs in the $300,000 Distaff at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

“They both worked this week,” trainer Jim Cassidy said. “He worked slow; she worked fast. Next week, she’ll work slow, he’ll work fast and hopefully it will even out. But they’re dong fine and we’re looking forward to running.”

Santa Anita Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle reminds horsemen that pre-entries for the Sunshine Millions will be taken next Wednesday, Jan. 19.

The races worth $1.8 million in purse money will be run on Jan. 29, three at Santa Anita and three at its sister track, Gulfstream Park. The event showcases horses from two of the nation’s best Thoroughbred breeding states—California and Florida—in head-to-head competition.

Santa Anita features the $200,000 Sprint at six furlongs; the $300,000 Distaff at 1 11/6 miles; and the $300,000 Turf at 1 1/8 miles.

Gulfstream presents the $200,000 Filly & Mare Sprint; the $300,000 Filly & Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles; and the $500,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Free Seminar – An Introduction to, January 22 at Santa Anita Park

FREE TOC SEMINAR AT SANTA ANITA ON JAN. 22

The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) is offering a free seminar, “Ownership 101 – An Introduction to Racehorse Ownership” – an introductory course designed to explain the basics of acquiring a racehorse, choosing a trainer, and costs of ownership, at Santa Anita, Saturday, Jan. 22 beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Speakers will include horse owner and breeder Roxanne Martin Umphenhour, owner James Rust, bloodstock agent and clocker Gary Young, and trainer Howard Zucker. The panelists will discuss the basic principles of becoming an owner, using their own experiences to illustrate each topic.

Following the panel discussion, a barn tour will give participants an opportunity to see racehorses up close and ask questions of trainers. Participating trainers are Brian Koriner, Mike Machowsky, Eddie Truman and Danny Velasquez.

The seminar will take place at the Top O’ The Stretch just past Clockers’ Corner at Santa Anita Park. Santa Anita Park is located at 285 W. Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007. Although it is free and open to the public, reservations are recommended and can be made by calling TOC at (800) 994-9909 or visiting www.toconline.com.

TOC is the official organization serving new, veteran and future Thoroughbred owners in the state. It represents, advances, and protects owners’ interests and rights in legislative, administrative and business matters. Additionally, the organization provides ongoing educational opportunities for current and prospective owners, regularly presenting programs on Thoroughbred ownership.

FINISH LINES: Doug O’Neill said Square Eddie came out of his impressive 3 ¼-length victory in Friday’s $59,000 allowance race at 6 ½ furlongs in good order and will point to the Grade I, $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5. “He came out fantastic, legs ice cold, jogging sound at the shed row and ate up everything,” Santa Anita’s three-time training king said. “We really worked him strong in the mornings (for Friday’s race, his first since the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, 2009). In my mind, it wasn’t really his first race back off a layoff. It was more like his third, because a couple of the works were race-like works. We’re penciling in the Donn Handicap (for his next start).” . . . O’Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam also listed the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap as a possible destination . . . Congratulations to Brice Blanc and Alonso Quinonez on winning two races each on Friday’s eight-race card. Quinonez has eight wins on the meet, tying him for fifth in the standings with Martin Pedroza and Garrett Gomez. Blanc has three victories, good for a three-way tie for 9th.

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