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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN, FRIDAY, APRIL 17TH, 2009
MITCHELL SEEKS THREE-PEAT AND TRAINING FIRST IN MARATHON SAN JUAN
In more than 30 years as a trainer, Mike Mitchell has never won the same stakes race three years in a row. That void on his resume could be fulfilled Sunday if the 60-year-old Bakersfield native wins Santa Anita’s traditional closing-day feature, the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 ¾ miles on turf.
Mitchell sends out last year’s winner, Big Booster, and Church Service, in a compact field of six. Mitchell won the 2007 San Juan with former claiming horse On the Acorn.
“No, I don’t believe I’ve ever won a stakes three straight years,” Mitchell said. “It would be great, especially because the San Juan is such a fun race. You don’t see races of this distance often in this country, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.”
Six trainers have won the San Juan at least twice in a row. Charlie Whittingham, who won the race an astonishing 13 times, won it five straight times from 1983 through 1987.
With three racing days remaining, Mitchell held a 39-37 lead over John Sadler in the race for training honors. Mitchell bested Sadler last year, 33-28.
Mitchell had eight scheduled starters over the final three days, while Sadler had five.
The field for the 70th San Juan: defending champion Big Booster, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Church Service, Mike Smith, 117; Midships, Victor Espinoza, 115; On Fire, Danny Sorenson, 111; Spring House, Alex Solis, 117; and Obrigado, Joel Rosario, 114.
In other San Juan news:
It’s impossible for a horse to win if it can’t breath properly, which is why Alex Solis is inclined to draw a line through the fifth-place finish by Spring House in the Grade II San Luis Rey Handicap on March 21, and he anticipates a return to form in Sunday’s San Juan Capistrano Handicap.
“I don’t know what happened to him in the San Luis Rey,” Solis said. “On the turn, he kind of quit, and he wasn’t breathing right that day. But he’s a nice horse. He runs hard.”
Spring House, a 7-year-old Chester House gelding owned by R.D. Hubbard and trained by Julio Canani, went off at 2-1 in the San Luis Rey but faded after running close to the pace for a mile and was vanned off after the race.
Understandably disappointed about losing his Kentucky Derby mount, The Pamplemousse, due to a tendon injury on April 4, Solis waxed philosophical.
“Life goes on,” he said. “I have to concentrate on all the good things that are happening. We had a great meet, and I’m looking forward to Hollywood Park and Del Mar and doing it all over again. I’m having fun riding, and I think people see that. I’ve got another chance, and I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Solis is favored to gain entrance into racing’s Hall of Fame when inductees are announced this Monday. Eddie Maple and Randy Romero are the other two finalists in the jockey category.
Asked his Derby choice now that The Pamplemousse is hors de combat, Solis said: “I like Pioneerof the Nile. He’s a tough horse. He trains hard and runs hard, and (Bob) Baffert is one of the few guys who has done so great in the Kentucky Derby (three wins). He knows how to win it, and you have to respect that.”
‘LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT’ WITH CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR PIONEEROF THE NILE
Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile got his first glimpse of the storied Twin Spires at Churchill Downs yesterday as he galloped on the traditional dirt track for the first time. Bob Baffert couldn’t have been happier with the result.
“He loved it there,” Baffert said on a warm, sunny morning at Clockers’ Corner. “Everything is good. He was full of himself, full of energy.”
Pioneerof the Nile, a son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker owned by Ahmed Zayat, has never raced on a traditional dirt surface. His first two starts were on grass at Saratoga as a 2-year-old; his last six have come on synthetics.
“Pioneerof the Nile looks great. He looks healthy . . . This is where I wanted him,” Baffert said. “I haven’t had a hiccup with him. Now, all we need is luck.”
To court further good fortune, Baffert gave $100 tips to Clockers’ Corner hostess Rosie Ybarra and her four co-workers Friday for their attentive service this meet.
Baffert leaves for Kentucky today and will meet with agent Ron Anderson Saturday to learn whether Garrett Gomez rides Pioneerof the Nile or Florida-Derby runner-up Dunkirk for Todd Pletcher in the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
Former jockey Joey Steiner, Pioneerof the Nile’s regular work mate, leaves Sunday for Churchill Downs, where he will work Pioneerof the Nile twice before the Derby.
TOQUE DE QUEDA SET FOR SATURDAY’S SANTA BARBARA
Toque de Queda hasn’t raced in more than six months, but the English-bred mare’s workouts and her confident demeanor have Humberto Ascanio optimistic about Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“She has settled in nicely and carries herself like a good filly,” said Ascanio, long-time assistant to Bobby Frankel, Santa Anita’s career leader in victories with 916. “I expect her to run well.”
Toque de Queda (“curfew” in Spanish) was third in the Grade I Beverly D in her U.S. debut last Aug. 9, then flattened out late while finishing fifth in the Grade I E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 4.
The field for the 61st Santa Barbara, which goes as the ninth race on a 10-race program: Magical Fantasy, Alex Solis, 117, 5-1; Step Softly, Michael Baze, 112, 30-1; Toque de Queda, Victor Espinoza, 115, 5-2; Persian Express, Martin Garcia, 110, 30-1; Grace Anatomy, Tyler Baze, 111, 30-1; Tizfiz, Agapito Delgadillo, 117, 12-1; Ainamaa, Mike Smith, 114, 15-1; Foxysox, Rafael Bejarano, 118, 3-1; and Black Mamba, Joel Rosario, 119, 2-1.
DESERT CODE BACK ON COURSE IN SATURDAY’S SAN SIMEON
Thanks to a quick boost from Mother Nature, Desert Code is being wheeled back in less than two weeks to run in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 San Simeon Handicap for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at 36-1 last Oct. 25, Desert Code faded to eighth and last at 3-1 in the Grade II Arcadia Handicap at one mile on turf on April 4. Trainer David Hofmans discovered an abscessed foot soon after the disappointing performance.
“He recovered really quick,” said Hofmans in explaining the rapid turnaround. “It had to be the abscess (that caused him to run so poorly), because he was pretty sore the day after the race.
The second day, it was gone, so we’re in good shape. The outside post is perfect.”
The field for the 42nd San Simeon: Euroglide, Michael Baze, 114, 8-1; Prussian, Rafael Bejarano, 115, 5-2; Doppio, Alex Solis, 115, 10-1; Tiz West, Victor Espinoza, 117, 10-1; Jungle Prince, Agapito Delgadillo, 116, 8-1; Headache, Julien Couten, 112, 15-1; El Merito, Corey Nakatani, 115, 15-1; Mr Gruff, Joel Rosario, 113, 7-2; and Desert Code, Aaron Gryder, 122, 3-1.
‘EDDIE LOGAN DAY’ IN ARCADIA THIS SUNDAY
The City of Arcadia has proclaimed this Sunday, April 19, as “Eddie Logan Day” in honor of Santa Anita’s iconic shoeshine attendant who passed away on Jan. 31 at the age of 98. Logan, a self-proclaimed “Footman,” ran his Santa Anita shoeshine stand from opening day, Dec. 25, 1934, until the morning of Jan. 3, when he suffered a seizure and stroke from which he never recovered. Born in 1910, he would have been 99 on May 20.
Santa Anita will also unveil a beautiful oversized bronze relief plaque in Logan’s image on Sunday, with an inscription that captures the essence of what he meant to The Great Race Place over a span of eight decades. The plaque will be unveiled in a winner’s circle ceremony and will be installed for permanent display in the area overlooking his long-time work area adjacent to the racing office.
“There really has been a tangible void here since Eddie’s passing,” said Santa Anita President Ron Charles. “He meant so much to all of us who were in contact with him and we still have fans asking about him. When he had the stroke, we made a decision to leave his shoeshine stand vacant until he returned and then we decided to leave it unattended for the remainder of the meet, out of respect.
“We are very proud of the plaque and we think it’s only fitting that it overlooks the area where he brought so much joy and professionalism for so many years. It will become a permanent part of Santa Anita, just as the Kingsbury Fountain and the Seabiscuit monument in the paddock gardens area are. We’re confident Eddie’s family, friends and all of those who knew or heard of him are going to treasure this for all-time.”
A former boxer and professional baseball player, Logan was blessed with remarkably good health and an infectious smile. As recently as two years ago, he shadow-boxed for camera crews and regaled them with stories about his time spent in baseball’s Negro Leagues in the 1920s and early ‘30s.
Logan would often lecture horsemen about the care of their boots and shoes and perils the stable area presented for leather. “Salt, brace, alkali and urine,” were invariably cited as primary enemies of the leather he so skillfully treated.
“He had that great sense of humor and he’d make you laugh,” said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. “He’d talk about his days with the Kansas City Monarchs and he was just full of life. He said his dad always told him, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, and you’ll learn something.’ I hope Santa Anita maintains his shoeshine stand forever, he was one of a kind.”
SANTA ANITA FANS COULD WIN MORTGAGE-FREE MONTH OF MAY ON SUNDAY
Fans coming to Santa Anita on the meet’s final Sunday—April19—could have their mortgage or rent paid for the month of May (up to $3,500).
Interested fans should enter the Santa Anita Stimulus Drawing at any admission gate. One name will be selected immediately following the sixth race. Sponsored by Westside Rentals, the winner’s mortgage or rent for the month of May, up to $3,500.
FINISH LINES: With 24 scheduled mounts over the final three days and 95 wins going into Friday, Rafael Bejarano has a chance to be the first rider to break the 100-win mark at Santa Anita in more than a decade, when Kent Desormeaux won 112 races at the 1994-95 meet. That same meet, Corey Nakatani also topped the century mark with 107 victories . . . A celebration of life for Judge Charles Stoll will be held tomorrow, 11 a.m., at the La Caňada-Flintridge Country Club, 5500 Godbey Dr., La Canada (phone 818 790-0611). Stoll, who died Wednesday of multiple organ failure at the age of 78, was an owner who had horses with trainer Barry Abrams for more than 10 years . . . Agent Vince DeGregory advises that a Preakness Day fundraiser will be held May 16 at Belmont Park for Bob Flynn, who spent his entire professional career at the New York Racing Association and New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Flynn recently was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, commonly referred to in the medical field as FTD, a rare brain disease. There is no known treatment that can stop or reverse FTB. Flynn is unable to work and will soon require 24-hour care. To make a donation or to attend on May 16, contact the following: Mary Hauswald, firstname.lastname@example.org; Cathy Marino, email@example.com; Nancy Kelly, firstname.lastname@example.org’ or Janet Reid, email@example.com . . . The promising 3-year-old colt Zensational went smooth and easy as he worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride for Bob Baffert Friday in a bullet :46.20, fastest of 26 drills at the distance . . . Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day at Santa Anita. All fans in attendance will receive a free Santa Anita Park baseball cap with paid admission, while supplies last, courtesy of San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. First post time is 12:30 p.m.