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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ASMUSSEN’S TAPIZAR IN GOOD SHAPE AFTER IMPRESSIVE SHAM VICTORY
• NOTHING UNUSUAL FOR ABRAMS IN MONDAY’S GR. II SAN MARCOS
• TWIRLING CANDY BREEZES FOR STRUB STAKES
RACING WORLD AWAITS TAPIZAR’S NEXT RACE
Tapizar, who stamped himself as a leading Triple Crown contender by virtue of his impressive 4 ¼-length victory in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes, was in good shape Sunday morning, but there was no word on the colt’s next race.
“He’s good this morning,” said two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “We’ll take him back to the track, talk to the owners and try to decide what to do next.”
Asmussen said after the Sham triumph that he intended to keep Tapizar at Santa Anita and go through the 3-year-old series that includes the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9, a path that hopefully will lead to the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
The Sham was Tapizar’s first race on Santa Anita’s new traditional dirt main track. The bay son of Tapit owned and bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC broke his maiden by 10 ½ lengths at Churchill Downs Nov. 27 prior to the Sham. Tapizar is out of the Deputy Minister mare Winning Call.
MILLIONAIRE UNUSUAL SUSPECT MAKES 56TH START IN SAN MARCOS STAKES
Barry Abrams enters so many horses, the racing office should give him an 800 number. Never shy at the entry box, the 56-year-old trainer has always marched to his own drummer, often running horses with the frequency of a standardbred trainer, which he once was.
Thus it comes as no surprise that Abrams has entered Unusual Suspect in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature, the Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes for older horses at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
It will mark the 56th career start for Unusual Suspect, nearly twice as many as any of the other 19 horses nominated to the race. With a 9-8-6 record, he has earned $1,035,171 for Barry’s brother David, Barry’s wife, Dyan, and Barry, who form the ownership group. Unusual Suspect has won at distances from six furlongs to a mile and a half and won on grass and synthetic.
“He’s just getting good right now,” Abrams said of the 7-year-old Unusual Heat horse, who captured his first Grade I victory in his last start, the 1 ½-mile Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 13. “A mile and a quarter might be too short for him, but we’ll give it a try and go from there,” Abrams said. “There are a lot of big races all over the world at a mile and a half, a mile and three-quarters, and that’s what I’m shooting for.”
But first things first, and that would be the San Marcos, which is the 20th straight stakes race for Unusual Suspect. Only 12 of his races have not been added-money events, including his first two, which were for maidens. He has been ridden by 17 different jockeys, including Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for the 10-1 upset in the Turf Cup, and who sticks with him in the San Marcos.
The field for the San Marcos: Philatelist, Patrick Valenzuela, 30-1; Imponente Purse, Chantal Sutherland, 30-1; Unusual Suspect, Corey Nakatani, 10-1; Riviera Cocktail, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; Marlang, David Flores, 10-1; Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Where’s the Remote, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Buenos Dias, Brice Blanc, 12-1; Expansion, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Sebastian Flyte, Garrett Gomez, 4-1; and Champ Pegasus, Joel Rosario, 5-2.
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.
TWIRLING CANDY BREEZES FOR STRUB STAKES
Twirling Candy, who set a track record of 1:19.70 for seven furlongs in winning the Grade I Malibu Stakes by a nose on opening day, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:00.60, breezing, for trainer John Sadler.
An emphatic winner of two turf stakes this past summer; the one mile Oceanside and the Grade II Del Mar Derby at 1 1/8 miles, Twirling Candy is a candidate for the Grade II Strub Stakes, to be contested at 1 1/8 miles on dirt on Feb. 5.
Twirling Candy worked in company Sunday with stable mate Hammurabi, who was given the same five furlong time.
“The horse is healthy as can be,” said Sadler assistant Larry Benavidez, addressing backstretch murmurings that Twirling Candy was perhaps not himself. “He ran in 1:19 on opening day. I’m looking at him now from the tack room. His head is poking out of his stall and he’s eating up a storm.”
TRAINER HOPES TO TOAST ‘CHAMPAGNE’ IN EL ENCINO
Eric Guillot expects significant improvement from Champagne d’Oro when she runs in today’s El Encino Stakes.
The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro had a wide trip finishing sixth by nearly eight lengths in the La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs Dec. 26, but Guillot is inclined to draw a line through the race.
“The track was really too fast that day,” the colorful Louisiana native recalled, “and she’s not really a seven-eighths horse. He (rider Michael Baze) had to gun her the whole time to try to keep up (to front-running winner Switch, who covered the distance in 1:20.33) . . . It took her forever to get her footing, and then once she did, how are you supposed to go wide and close on them kind of fractions?
“It’s virtually impossible.”
UNBEATEN MR ARTISTIC M D SEEKS THIRD STRAIGHT IN SAN PEDRO STAKES
Mr Artistic M D is one of three unbeaten 3-year-olds scheduled to start in Monday’s $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs, but Kathy Walsh, who trains the gelded son of Mr. Greeley, feels it won’t be easy to keep her stretch-running bay’s streak going.
“I hope there’s enough speed in the race to help us,” Walsh said. “The trouble is, he’s kind of got a bias against him on this track, because it’s been speed-favoring lately. But who knows? We’ll try ‘em. That’s all we can do.”
Mr Artistic M D rallied to win his first two starts, both at Hollywood Park, under Joel Rosario, who rides in the San Pedro. Mr Artistic M D was favored each time.
“My horse hasn’t surprised me,” Walsh said. “He’s always been a nice horse.”
The field for the San Pedro: Industry Leader, Victor Espinoza, 115, 6-1; Classic Legacy, Garrett Gomez, 117, 8-1; Sinai, Rafael Bejarano, 115, 5-2; Indian Winter, Martin Pedroza, 115, 8-1; City Cool, Joe Talamo, 119, 3-1; Mr Artistic M D, Joel Rosario, 117, 5-1; and Arcadian, Patrick Valenzuela, 115, 4-1.
CARACORTADO DRILLS FOR SUNSHINE MILLIONS TURF
Caracortado worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Saturday in a bullet 1:28.60 under Joe Talamo for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 29.
“The work was really good,” trainer Mike Machowsky said. “I worked him in company with Kelly Leak (who was clocked in 1:29).” Kelly Leak is nominated for Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at six furlongs on dirt, but Machowsky is not likely to run there.
“I’m going to try an allowance race for him, probably down the hill,” he said. Santa Anita Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle reminds horsemen that pre-entries for the Sunshine Millions will be taken this Wednesday, Jan. 19.
Six races worth $1.8 million in purse money will be run on Saturday, 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 at six furlongs; the $300,000 Filly & Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles; and the $500,000 Classic at 1 1/8 miles.
FINISH LINES: Steve Asmussen said that Captain Cherokee “breezed good this morning (four furlongs in :49.20) and we’ll see how he comes out of it and talk with the Jacksons (owners of Stonestreet Stables),” before deciding on Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes. Probables for the six furlong race for older horses include Gato Go Win (Patrick Valenzuela) and Ventana (Rafael Bejarano) . . . La Brea winner Switch, prepping for the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs Jan. 30, worked five furlongs under Joel Rosario on Santa Anita’s dirt track Sunday in :58.80 for John Sadler . . . Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Dakota Phone worked four furlongs in :49.80. “It was a nice, easy half, just a maintenance work,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, who added he had “no plans at this moment” for the gelded son of Zavata . . . Setsuko, seventh in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on opening day, is entered in Monday’s second race, a $56,000 allowance test against four rivals at 1 1/8 miles. “I hope it’s a confidence builder,” trainer Richard Mandella said. Setsuko was second in last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby but has only a maiden win in 10 career starts . . . Brice Blanc celebrates his 38th birthday today. “We’re going about our work and trying to ride live horses,” said Blanc’s agent, Mike Ciani. “It is a tough circuit, but we’re taking a positive outlook and trying to build up our percentage. We’re looking to have a good meet.”…One winning ticket in Saturday’s Pick Six paid $118,223. The singleton was purchased through the TVG network hub . . . The California Horse Racing Board will conduct its regular monthly meeting this Thursday, Jan. 20, in the Baldwin Terrace Room at Santa Anita beginning at 9:30 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend. An audio-only Webcast of this and all monthly Board meetings can be heard through the “Webcasts” link on the CHRB Website (www.chrb.ca.gov). The audio is available through iPhone, Blackberry, and other mobile devices. The agenda, supporting package of materials, and Webcast for this meeting, can be accessed through the following links: agenda, package, Webcast. The audio archive for past meetings also is available on the CHRB Website . . . Jay Privman, national correspondent for Daily Racing Form, will host the DRF seminar next Saturday, Jan. 22, in the East Paddock Gardens, beginning at 11:15 a.m. His special guest will be syndicated handicapper Bob Ike, co-host of the "Thoroughbred Los Angeles" radio show, heard Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8-9 a.m. on KLAA AM 830. Also joining the seminar for a brief visit will be Jerry Antonucci, the long-time public handicapper who retired last year, but who will be at Santa Anita on Saturday to be feted by the track with a race named in his honor. Antonucci, for more than two decades, was the previous host of the Saturday handicapping seminars.