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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• LEADING TRAINER BAFFERT HAS PAIR SET FOR SATURDAY’S GR. II PALOS VERDES
• PRE-ENTRIES TAKEN FOR SUNSHINE MILLIONS
• FINALLY, ZENYATTA GETS HER JUST REWARD
• RETIRED TURFMAN ANTONUCCI HONORED BY SANTA ANITA
BAFFERT FIRES BOTH BARRELS IN PALOS VERDES STAKES, ADDRESSES ADDED SAND
Bob Baffert has Ventana and Euroears primed for Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes after lengthy layoffs.
Ventana, a 5-year-old Toccet horse owned by the Lookin at Lucky trio of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, has not raced since last May 1. Euroears has been away from the races since last July 4.
“Both are coming back well off the layoff,” Baffert said after watching one of his prime Kentucky Derby hopefuls, The Factor, gallop a mile and half on a picturesque Thursday morning. “It’s hard to separate them. Ventana’s doing great and Euroear is real fast.
“Ventana didn’t have surgery or anything. He developed a ‘synthetic fever.’ That happens.”
Seven horses were entered in the Palos Verdes, a six furlong sprint for older horses.
Asked if he had a race in mind for The Factor, who set a track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs on opening day at Santa Anita, the meet’s leading trainer said, “Not yet . . . I’m going to work him this weekend, so we’ll know more.”
Asked his read on the main track since sand was added Tuesday, Baffert said, “They seem to like it. It seems soft. They’re still working well on it. You’ve seen a lot of form change because of dirt horses that are fast. They carry their speed. They’re fast horses.”
Private clocker Gary Young said the track is playing “about four-fifths of a second slower” since sand was added. “I think a good horse can still work fast, but I don’t think we’re going to be getting blazing fast times any more.”
The field for the Palos Verdes: Smiling Tiger, Russell Baze, 123; Euroears, Mike Smith, 118; Ventana, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Captain Cherokee, Joe Talamo, 118; Gato Go Win, Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Hunch, Joel Rosario, 118; and Don Tito, Corey Nakatani, 118.
SUNSHINE MILLIONS PRE-ENTRIES ATTRACTS NEARLY 100 HORSES
A total of 98 horses were pre-entered Wednesday for the ninth annual Sunshine Millions, six races showcasing horses from California and Florida in head-to-head competition at Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Jan. 29.
Post positions will be drawn this Sunday.
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. .
Santa Anita features the $200,000 Sprint at six furlongs; the $300,000 Distaff at 1 1/16 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.
SMITH BASKS IN GLORY OF ZENYATTA BEING NAMED HORSE OF YEAR
Mike Smith has peace of mind at last after the mare he rode to 16 straight victories before losing to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 6, Zenyatta, was named 2010 Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards dinner in Florida Monday night.
“It makes everything all right,” the Hall of Fame jockey said at Clockers’ Corner Thursday morning. “I’m so excited and happy for her. She finally got what she deserves.”
Smith is looking forward to visiting with the 7-year-old mare, who is about to become a broodmare at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky.
“I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get back there, but I will visit with her when I do go,” Smith said. “I’ll find an opening.”
Added Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, now an analyst for HRTV: “Both horses were deserving, but my heart was hoping Zenyatta would win it. I was very excited when she won it.”
SANTA ANITA HONORS RETIRED TURFMAN JERRY ANTONUCCI SATURDAY
Santa Anita on Saturday will honor long-time turf writer and handicapper Jerry Antonucci, who retired last year after undergoing surgery for removal of a brain tumor. Antonucci conducted the popular Today’s Racing Digest seminar at Santa Anita on Saturdays during the race meet for nearly 25 years.
"When I was asked by Today's Racing Digest in 1987 to host the Saturday seminars at Santa Anita, I was a little bit hesitant,” Antonucci recalled. “I had done plenty of radio and television work, but speaking before a live audience of between 150 and 500 fans was a little scary.
"I felt my job as host of the seminars was to make it entertaining and informative for not only the hard-core patrons, but also the less sophisticated fans. With the help of great guests from the backstretch--trainers, jockey agents and even an occasional jockey and my handicapping friends in the press box--it worked very well.
"Interacting with the fans after the seminar was the most enjoyable part because they now could put a face with the name Jerry Antonucci, public handicapper and turf writer who was published every racing day in either the Herald Examiner, Orange County Register or the San Gabriel Valley Tribune for 37 years.
"My biggest thrill was to have an opinion about a horse I really thought would win. The phrase I would commonly use is: 'If this horse doesn't win, my family won't eat this week.' The comment usually got a chuckle from the audience, and when I used that phrase, the horse won about 80 percent of the time.
"Hosting the seminar was 'my baby' for more than two decades, so it was great news to hear that it has been taken over by such professionals as Jay Privman, Brad Free and Steve Andersen. I know they will do an excellent job for the fans.
"When Santa Anita would have a big day, like the Santa Anita Handicap or the Santa Anita Derby, I knew the crowd for the seminar would be SRO. Just before I stepped on the stage, I would say to myself, 'It's show time.'
"The seminars, with its interaction with the fans--the people who consistently support horse racing in Southern California--probably are what I will miss the most. “It comes from the heart when I say I'm so grateful to Santa Anita management for giving me such a special day. I'm really looking forward to it, and so are my family and many friends.”
2010 HORSE OF THE YEAR ZENYATTA ON TOP 10 LIST
Racing historian Jon White has come up with his list of the Top 10 Thoroughbreds to be voted Horse of the Year since the introduction of the Eclipse Awards.
“There have been 33 different horses voted Horse of the Year since the inception of the Eclipse Awards in 1971,” said White, who makes Santa Anita’s official morning line and provides television commentary from the paddock for the track’s simulcast network. “First, I whittled the 33 down to a Top 10. Then I ranked those 10. It’s just my opinion, of course. I am sure that my list would differ from just about everyone else’s list. For instance, no doubt some people would rank Zenyatta higher, while others would put her lower.”
Here is White’s list of the Top 10 Thoroughbreds to have earned the Horse of the Year award since 1971: (1) Secretariat, (2) Spectacular Bid, (3) Seattle Slew, (4) Forego, (5) Affirmed, (6) Zenyatta, (7) John Henry, (8) Cigar, (9) Sunday Silence, (10) Alysheba.
FINISH LINES: According to Ray Paulick’s “Paulick Report,” jockey Martin Garcia, whose rags to-riches deli cook to star jockey story grabbed the attention of the national media after he won the 2010 Preakness aboard Lookin At Lucky, is headed back to Southern California, trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday night. Garcia, who was forced to return to his native Mexico in early November because of problems with his immigration status, had been prevented from re-entering the United States until he was issued a new work permit from the federal Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly the INS) . . . Todd Pletcher, who won his fifth Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding trainer Monday night, hasn’t ruled out competing in stakes races at Santa Anita this meet, although he is based in Florida. “We’re keeping an eye on some stakes,” he said, “but right now we don’t have anything lined up.” . . . Brad Free of Daily Racing Form and handicapper extraordinaire Aaron Hesz will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.