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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• HORSE OF THE YEAR A NO-BRAINER FOR McANALLY, ASMUSSEN NONCOMMITAL
• SAND TO BE ADDED ON TUESDAY
• QUESTIONS SURROUND BLIND LUCK’S NEXT RACE
MCANALLY SAYS ZENYATTA DESERVES HORSE OF THE YEAR HONORS
The votes are already in, but it could come down to a photo finish when Horse of the Year is announced tonight at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner in Florida. But in the minds of two trainers, one in the Hall of fame and the other destined to be, it’s one vote for Zenyatta and one for abstention.
“Being involved in it the last three years, I’ve realized how, if you don’t have anything at stake, you should keep your mouth shut,” said Steve Asmussen, who conditioned Curlin to titles in 2007 and 2008, and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. “I know this: I feel for all three of them (finalists Blame, Goldikova and Zenyatta).”
Ron McAnally took a firmer stance. “Definitely Zenyatta,” said the 78-year-old Hall of Fame trainer, who conditioned legendary John Henry to a Horse of the Year title as a 9-year-old in 1984. “There’s no question in my mind. Even though she got beat in her last race (losing by a head to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 6, her first defeat after starting her career with 19 straight victories), probably with a little bit of luck, she would have beaten the other horse. I think another jump, she was going to anyway.
“But what she’s done for racing is incredible. I’ve never heard of a horse winning that many straight races. She’s just phenomenal. The Mosses (owner Jerry and Ann) were good to keep her in training for another year, and show her off. The chances they were taking with a filly like that, to race her another year, they deserve a lot of credit, as well as (trainer) John Shirreffs.
“He picked the right races, the right timing and didn’t over-race her. To me there’s no question that she should be Horse of the Year.”
SAND TO BE ADDED TO SANTA ANITA MAIN TRACK
In response to concerns about fast times on the main track, a significant amount of sand will be added following training hours on Tuesday. Recent heavy rains are believed to have altered the balance of clay, silt and sand that comprise the one mile oval.
“The racetrack may have changed during periods of heavy rain, and we want to get it right back to where we started,” said Santa Anita President George Haines.
Haines met on Monday morning with representatives of the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) in order to discuss the amount of sand that will be added.
NEXT RACE UP IN THE AIR FOR BLIND LUCK
Where Blind Luck makes her next start was open to speculation Monday morning after the rags-to-riches filly finished second as the 7-10 favorite by 3 ½ lengths to Always a Princess in Sunday’s Grade II El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Santa Anita’s new traditional dirt main track.
Blind Luck, a stone closer who is a prohibitive favorite to be named 3-year-old filly champion of 2010 at tonight’s Eclipse Awards dinner, was fifth and last, nine lengths behind leader Champagne d’Oro, at the three-quarter marker, which was further off the pace than trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had anticipated.
For the record however, Hollendorfer took the hit when asked for a post-race comment, saying, “If she got beat it’s because of my training.” Rafael Bejarano had ridden Blind Luck in six straight races until a conflict arose and Joel Rosario obtained the mount.
“Blind Luck came out of the race really good,” said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward Monday morning. “Both guys ride the horse very well. Bejarano rode the horse good. The only reason he was off is he was going to ride Tuscan Evening for us in the Beverly D, which was the same day as the Alabama (Aug. 21, at Saratoga, a race which was won by Blind Luck).
“They (Bejarano and agent Joe Ferrar) were thinking ahead and they wanted to ride in the Beverly D because they also had a mount in the Arlington Million. It wasn’t like we took him off (of Blind Luck). They’re both good riders, but we’ll see what the future holds. The important thing is Blind Luck came back in really, really good shape, sound.”
GOMEZ TAKES ‘FLYTE’ IN GRADE II SAN MARCOS STAKES
Ben Cecil had to go to Plan B when rain forced the Sir Beaufort Stakes from turf to dirt on opening day. It necessitated the scratch of Sebastian Flyte, who is 4-1 on Jon White’s morning line to win today’s Grade II, $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on the grass.
Sebastian Flyte also gets a new rider for the San Marcos in four-time national earnings leader and Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez. “That worked out very well,” Cecil said speaking of obtaining the services of Gomez and smiling like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. “It looks like a good match between horse and rider. I hope so.” Julien Leparoux, currently based at Gulfstream Park, had been named to ride Sebastian Flyte in the Sir Beaufort.
Sebastian Flyte, who turned four on Jan. 1, was second by a neck last out in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at 1 ¼ miles on turf. It was an eventful trip, with a tight start and traffic in deep stretch. Cecil is hoping for better luck today.
“The horse is doing great,” he said. “It’s a good test for him, first time against older horses, and obviously, some pretty nice ones in there. But I think he’ll run very well.”
O’NEILL SAYS HIS HORSE IS QUICK ENOUGH FOR SUNSHINE MILLIONS SPRINT
Doug O’Neill, who won two races Sunday in quest of his fourth Santa Anita training title, is looking forward to running Quick Enough in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 29.
The 7-year-old California-bred son of High Brite was second in his last two starts, following a disappointing 10th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last Nov. 6.
“He’s doing great,” O’Neill said. “He’s just such an honest horse. We ran him in the Breeders’ Cup and the turf was kind of slick on top. He never really got a hold of it, but he came back and ran a great race to Cost of Freedom (second in the Miles Tyson at Hollywood Park Dec. 11). He likes this track; he’s got a win over it, so we’re excited about running him.”
Santa Anita Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle reminds horsemen that pre-entries for the Sunshine Millions will be taken in two days, on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
Six races worth $1.8 million in purse money will be run on Sunshine Millions Day, 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: Agent Scott McClellan reports that Joe Talamo has been engaged by trainer Steve Asmussen to ride Captain Cherokee in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes. Other probables for the six furlong race for older horses include Euroears, Mike Smith; Gato Go Win, Patrick Valenzuela; Hunch, no rider; and Ventana, Rafael Bejarano. Gato Go Win worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Monday in :48.20 for trainer Robert Troeger . . . St Trinians worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park Monday in :59.80 for Mike Mitchell as she prepares to defend her crown in the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes on Feb. 12 . . . Ron McAnally has named Bejarano to ride Beverly D winner Éclair de Lune in next Sunday’s $75,000 Megahertz Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf.