With 14 entries and a 9-2 morning line favorite, Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presents handicappers with a plethora of perplexing propositions. Garrett Gomez, who rides 9-2 choice Colonel John in the Grade I race at 1 ¼ miles, recognizes the challenge, but was not overwhelmed with strategic options as post time drew within 24 hours.

“There are eight horses that can actually win the race,” said Santa Anita’s riding leader and winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey the past two years. “It’s wide open, and it’s going to come down to who gets the best trip and who handles the race track best.”

Morning line oddsmaker Jeff Tufts said in his 30-some years on the job, 9-2 is the highest morning line price for a Big ‘Cap favorite in his memory.

Gomez will be seeking his first Santa Anita Handicap victory.

In other Big ’Cap news:

Richard Mandella, three-time winner of the race (Siphon, 1997; Malek, 1998 and Rock Hard Ten, 2005), goes for No. 4 with the Chilean-bred Matto Mondo, who has raced at 1 ¼ miles only once in 11 career starts, and that on turf in his native Chile.

“He hasn’t had much experience at a mile and a quarter, but he’s got enough experience in recent races, and if he’s ever going to do it, he’s going to do it now, I think,” Mandella said. “It’s the Santa Anita Handicap. We’ve got to give it a try.”

Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the Big ’Cap last year with Heatseeker, on how he obtained the services of Robby Albarado for Blue Exit: “The owners were interested in riding him, and I have worked with him before. He’s ridden Hystericalady for me, and a bunch of horses in Chicago.”

The field for the 72nd Big ‘Cap, which goes as the 10th race on an 11-race program: Matto Mondo, Rafael Bejarano, 116, 6-1; Cowboy Cal, John Velazquez, 120, 5-1; Heroi Do Bafra, Michael Baze, 111, 30-1; Monba, Edgar Prado, 114, 15-1; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez, 119, 9-2; Magnum, Joel Rosario, 116, 12-1; Blue Exit, Robby Albarado, 115, 12-1; Einstein, Julien Leparoux, 121; 6-1; Dansant, Tyler Baze, 116, 20-1; Cause, Jon Court, 110, 30-1; Court Vision, Ramon Dominguez, 119, 6-1; Zambezi Sun, Victor Espinoza, 116, 12-1; Champs Elysees, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118, 12-1; and Stream Cat, Alex Solis, 114, 20-1.

Saturday’s weather forecast calls for sunny skies and a high near 70 degrees.

All fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free Big ‘Cap sports bag with paid admission, while supplies last.

First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Clark Hanna hopes to make his first visit to Santa Anita a winning one. The trainer will saddle Wise River for owner Don Benge of Waxahachie, Texas, in the Grade I, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf Saturday.

“We got here late last week,” said the 41-year-old Hanna, who makes his home in Louisville, Ky. “New Orleans is my home base for the winter. What really prompted me to come was the (distance of one) mile. The horse was really doing well, and I preferred going to the West Coast rather than the East Coast. This is my first time at Santa Anita.”

Hanna has been training for eight years, although he’s been in the business “a long time. I used to work for Dewey Smith. When he passed away, I started on my own.”

Wise River, a 6-year-old horse by the Danzig sire, Belong to Me, has a 5-9-4 record from 26 starts, with earnings of $337,304.

In other Kilroe news:

Garrett Gomez, who has ridden Ventura in each of her eight U.S. races, five of them victories, was confident, even though she will be breaking from the rail for the first time in America. “She’ll get her cover being down inside,” Gomez said. “I won’t have to work my way over too much, because I’m already there. I’ll just get her to settle and travel well. She’s gotten better over time, being here, relaxing and stuff. That’s the whole key with her, just getting her to get off the bridle for a little while.”

The field for the 50th Kilroe: Ventura, Garrett Gomez, 118, 2-1; Mast Track, Julien Leparoux, 117, 12-1; Monterey Jazz, Russell Baze, 116, 12-1; Hewitts, David Flores, 114, 15-1; Wise River, Robby Albarado, 116, 15-1; Artiste Royal, Rafael Bejarano, 119, 5-1; Dixie Chatter, Tyler Baze, 115, 10-1; Mr Napper Tandy, Joel Rosario, 113, 15-1; Global Hunter, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116, 8-1; Becrux, Edgar Prado, 115, 15-1; Gio Ponti, Ramon Dominguez, 118, 6-1; and Victory Pete, Mike Smith, 113, 20-1.


Based on her morning line odds of 2-5, it would appear Stardom Bound’s nine rivals in Saturday’s Santa Anita Oaks are running for second. The champion 2-year-old filly of 2008 will be seeking her fifth consecutive Grade I victory in the 1 1/16-mile race, but that doesn’t deter the optimism of Corey Nakatani, who rides Nan.

“Stardom Bound is the monster, obviously,” said Nakatani, a four-time Oaks winner with champions Sweet Catomine (2005) and Serena’s Song (1995), and Sharp Cat (1997) and Lite Light (1991). “But my filly always runs hard. She always gives her best, and that’s what we’re looking for. I just have to get in there and battle with them.”
Nan, a Kentucky-bred daughter of the Storm Cat sire High Yield, owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Craig Dollase, finished fourth by 2 ¼ lengths to Stardom Bound in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 7. She has failed to earn a check only once in eight starts, with a 1-2-2 record overall.

The field for the 70th Santa Anita Oaks: Stardom Bound, Mike Smith, 2-5; Burg Berg, Tyler Baze, 10-1; Miss Silver Brook, Alex Solis, 12-1; Hooh Why, Robby Albarado, 15-1; Stormy Slew, John Velazquez, 30-1; Nan, Corey Nakatani, 15-1; Will O Way, Russell Baze, 8-1; Beltene, Joel Rosario, 15-1; Third Dawn, Rafael Bejarano, 30-1; and Acronym, David Flores, 20-1. Each filly carries 122 pounds.

John Velazquez, winner of the 2009 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, will receive the prestigious honor at Santa Anita on Sunday.

In a ceremony between the fourth and fifth races in the Santa Anita winner’s circle, Velazquez will formally receive the Woolf Trophy and be joined by many former winners of the award, which was instituted by Santa Anita in 1950. By a vote of his peers nationwide, Velazquez was selected over four other finalists: Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano and David Flores.

The winner’s trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of George Woolf which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area. The statue was created through donations from the racing public after Woolf’s death following a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946.

Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big-money riders of his era, was affectionately known as “The Iceman” in reference to his cool under pressure, and was revered by his colleagues as a fierce competitor and consummate professional. The award, which honors and recognizes riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing, is regarded as one of the most prestigious honors in the racing world.

Legendary jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. will autograph advance copies of his biography, “Laffit: Anatomy of a Winner,” this Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon. The signing tent will be across from Champions! Gift Shop in the East Paddock Garden area.

Fans can obtain first printings of the Hall of Fame jockey’s book that won’t be available elsewhere until June of this year. The book, authored by Madelyn Cain, sells for $28.

FINISH LINES: Scheduled post times for tomorrow’s four stakes races: 2:12 p.m. for the $100,000 Honest Lady Stakes (race No. 5); 3:24 p.m. for the Santa Anita Oaks (race seven); 4:30 p.m. for the Kilroe (race No. 9); and 5:02 p.m. for the Santa Anita Handicap . . . Garrett Gomez and Rafael Bejarano, one-two in Santa Anita’s jockey standings through Thursday, also rank first and second nationally in purse earnings with $2,801,246 and $2,586,972, respectively . . . Impressive maiden winner Zensational worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Friday in a bullet 1:10.60 under David Flores. Trainer Bob Baffert said the $700,000 son of Unbridled’s Song is not likely to start in next Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes . . . Robert B. Lewis runner-up Papa Clem and trainer Gary Stute leave next Wednesday for next Saturday’s Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. “The main reason we’re going there is to see if he likes real dirt. Plus the race is worth $600,000,” Stute said . . . Inquiries regarding ticket information for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Oak Tree next Nov. 6 and 7 should be directed to one of three websites (,, or for online registration. Each site now links to the Breeders’ Cup ticket registration page established to coordinate all ticket requests into one master data base. Registered patrons will be notified when online ticket sales begin in May. Call 626-574 6315 with any questions . . . David and Mary Jo Kiser of Springfield, Missouri, recently were first-time visitors to Santa Anita on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. The couple went to Oaklawn Park on their first date . . . Jason Levine of “Inside Racing,” on XTRA (570 AM), Los Angeles at 8 a.m. weekends, and HRTV’s Jon White, will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:45 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Santa Anita overnights are now available to be e-mailed automatically on a daily basis as soon as they’re available. To sign up for this free service, go to . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Turn your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.