If ever a horse was a natural for Barry Abrams to train, it’s On Fire. The 5-year-old horse was sired by Pulpit, although On Fire’s name might seem more appropriate if the stallion had been Abrams’ go-to sire, the prolific Unusual Heat, whose progeny dominate the Abrams barn.

At any rate, On Fire, recently purchased privately by Abrams’ client Team Green, will run in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap for older horses at 1 ½ miles on turf. “He’s a good horse,” Abrams said of the 5-year-old gelding bred by Ogden Mills Phipps and previously owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey. “The horse has a lot of seconds (three), but I think the mile and a half is going to help him. He came here to win the San Juan Capistrano. That’s our major objective. He’s a well-bred horse, he’s come from behind in his Florida races and he was on the market.”

The Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano is Santa Anita’s traditional closing day feature, April 19, at about 1 ¾ miles on the turf.

On Fire is coming off three straight seconds, two at Gulfstream Park and one on a yielding Keeneland turf course last Oct. 24.

He rallied from 10th in a nine furlong allowance race on Jan. 28, and closed from 11th and last before that to finish second in a one-mile allowance race on the grass.

Unusual Heat, meanwhile, “stallions” on. At age 19 and standing at Old English Rancho in Sanger, he holds the all-time, single-year record for California stallion progeny earnings of $5,827,513, set last year. He had 58 earners of $100,000 or more from only 238 starters; average earnings per starter of more than $75,000; median earnings per starter of over $38,000.

The field for the 53rd San Luis Obispo: Champs Elysees, no rider; Church Service, Rafael Bejarano; Spring House, Alex Solis; Artiste Royal, David Flores; Bonjour, Joe Talamo; Kris Silver, Tyler Baze; Zambezi Sun, Garrett Gomez; Medici Code, Joel Rosario; Obrigado, Martin Garcia; Marsh Side, Victor Espinoza; On Fire, Brice Blanc; and Attempted Humor, Mike Smith. Lightning Hit, Chantal Sutherland, and Mr. Universo, Michael Baze, are on the also-eligible list.


Yankee Bravo has had one false start this year, but trainer Paddy Gallagher hopes to get off on the right foot Saturday.

That’s when Yankee Bravo is due to make his belated 2009 debut, in the Grade II San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs on Pro-Ride. The 4-year-old son of Yankee Gentleman was entered for the Thunder Road Handicap on Feb. 7, but when weather forced the Grade III race to be moved from turf to Pro-Ride, Gallagher aborted.

Yankee Bravo has not started since finishing 10th of 12 in the Preakness Stakes last May 17. In five races prior to that, he won the Eddie Logan Stakes on turf, and the California Derby on Golden Gate’s synthetic Tapeta track. He has won at distances from five furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.

“We’ve got to get him started somewhere,” Gallagher said. “This race came up, so that’s where we are. If all goes well after the San Carlos, I’d like to get him back on the grass. Distance doesn’t appear to be a problem. He’s handled it in the past.”

The field for the 71st San Carlos, which goes as race No. 4 on a 10-race card: Star Nicholas, Michael Baze, 114, 12-1; Halo Najib, Rafael Bejarano, 114, 5-1; Yankee Bravo, Alex Solis, 116, 15-1; Past the Point, Joel Rosario, 115, 4-1; Georgie Boy, Garrett Gomez, 120, 3-5; and Mutadda, Joe Talamo, 115, 6-1.


John Velazquez, a native of Puerto Rico and a two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, has been selected by a vote of his peers as the 2009 winner of the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The Woolf announcement was made Thursday on HRTV by retired Hall of Fame jockey and past Woolf winner Gary Stevens.

Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, this year marks the 60th presentation of one of racing’s most prestigious awards. The Woolf Award honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize Woolf, who was known as one of the greatest riders of his era and who died soon after a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946. The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

Velazquez, 37, was America’s leading money-winning and Eclipse Award-winning jockey in 2004 and 2005, and he is currently riding full-time at Gulfstream Park in Florida. He moved from Puerto Rico and began riding in New York in 1990, where he has amassed 24 riding titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.

A winner of the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches, who was conditioned by one of his primary clients, Todd Pletcher, Velazquez has won six Breeders’ Cup races and numerous other stakes nationwide. In 2004, he won the Bill Shoemaker Award for top Breeders’ Cup performance by a jockey, as he took the Distaff with Ashado and the Sprint with Speightstown. Velazquez, born Nov. 24, 1971, got his 4,000th career win on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park. His recent stakes victories include a win aboard the Pletcher-conditioned Cowboy Cal in the Grade II Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7.

“Johnny V.,” as he is known in racing circles, has long been regarded as a leader among his peers and commands the respect of horsemen and media throughout the racing world. Velazquez first came to New York at the behest of fellow Puerto Rican and retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., who currently serves as his agent.

Velazquez is married to the former Leona O’Brien, daughter of trainer Leo O’Brien. They have two children, a daughter, Lerina, and a son, Michael Patrick. The Velazquez’s reside permanently in New York.

Past winners of the Woolf Award are Gordon Glisson (1950), William Shoemaker (1951), John Longden (1952), Eddie Arcaro (1953), Ralph Neves (1954), Ray York (1955), Johnny Adams (1956), Ted Atkinson (1957), Merlin Volzke (1958), Bill Boland (1959), Bill Harmatz (1960), Peter Moreno (1961), Steve Brooks (1962), Ismael Valenzuela (1963), Manuel Ycaza (1964), Walter Blum (1965), Alex Maese (1966), Donald Pierce (1967), Braulio Baeza (1968), John Sellers (1969), Laffit Pincay Jr. (1970), Jerry Lambert (1971), Angel Cordero Jr. (1972), John Rotz (1973), Alvaro Pineda (1974), Fernando Toro (1975), Sandy Hawley (1976), Frank Olivares (1977), Darrel McHargue (1978), Ron Turcotte (1979), Chris McCarron (1980), Eddie Delahoussaye (1981), Patrick Valenzuela (1982), Marco Castaneda (1983), Steve Cauthen (1984), Pat Day (1985), Jorge Velasquez (1986), Don MacBeth (1987), Don Brumfield (1988), Larry Snyder (1989), John Lively (1990), Earlie Fires (1991), Jerry Bailey (1992), Kent Desormeaux (1993), Phil Grove (1994), Eddie Maple (1995), Gary Stevens (1996), Alex Solis (1997), Craig Perret (1998), Jose Santos (1999), Mike Smith (2000), Dean Kutz (2001), Russell Baze (2002), Edgar Prado (2003), Robby Albarado (2004), Ray Sibille (2005), Mark Guidry (2006), Jon Court (2007) and Richard Migliore (2008).

Velazquez will receive the Woolf Award at Santa Anita on a date to be announced shortly.

FINISH LINES: Rafael Bejarano, Martin Garcia and Alonso Quinonez won seven of the eight races yesterday, Bejarano winning three to climb within one (47-46) of leader Garrett Gomez. “He’s a nice rider,” trainer A.C. Avila said of Garcia, who rode his Unusual Smoke to a 2 ¾-length victory in the fourth race. “To see a kid who was working in a pizza store and three months later become a jockey and be the leading apprentice up north, he must be good.” . . . Agent Richie Silverstein is making hay while the sun shines with Quinonez, whose book he took last Saturday while his long-time client, Martin Pedroza, is recovering from a fractured pelvis. “Alonso is a good, young rider,” Silverstein said. “My first mount with him was the Phoenix Gold Cup, which he won for Doug O’Neill. With any luck, that horse will go to Dubai (Golden Shaheen on March 28). Alonso has already made a national splash. He went around the country (last year) with Intangaroo, winning three Grade I races. Some guys ride for 25 years and don’t win a Grade I. This kid just started and he’s got three, so obviously, given the chance, he can get the job done.” . . . Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to work Sunday, “probably five furlongs,” for the March 14 San Felipe Stakes. “He looks good,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He handled his last race well.” . . . Lewis runner-up Papa Clem, prepping for the Louisiana Derby the same day, is scheduled to work Saturday, “probably seven-eighths,” trainer Gary Stute said . . . Patrick Biancone reports San Fernando Stakes winner Nownownow is on course for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7. The trainer tended to forgive the colt’s seventh-place finish in the Strub Stakes, in which he was beaten less than three lengths. “All these horses are pretty equal,” Biancone said. “It’s the trip that counts. The key to racing is having the dream. Keep dreaming.” . . . Last Monday’s Buena Vista Handicap, moved from turf to Pro-Ride due to inclement weather, and won by Jibboom, retained its Grade II status, the Graded Stakes Committee announced . . . Big ’Cap candidate Mast Track, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Friday for Bobby Frankel in a bullet 1:13.40 . . . NFL lineman Jacob Bell will be a Santa Anita visitor on Saturday. A graduate of Miami of Ohio, Bell currently is a member of the St. Louis Rams . . . Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form and syndicated handicapper Terry Turrell will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:45 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.