Spring House and Artiste Royal are the starting highweights at 118 pounds in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap, but trainers Barry Abrams and Steve Knapp feel they have longshot chances with their horses in the 42nd renewal of the mile and a half turf marathon.
Abrams trains the recently acquired On Fire, who was scratched from an earlier race at Santa Anita when it was moved from grass to Pro-Ride. Knapp conditions Bonjour, a 9-year-old New Zealand bred who has shown good form in his last three races.

“It’s a tough field, but I expect a good race out of him,” Abrams said of On Fire, who was purchased privately from the Phipps Stable, where he was trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey in Florida. “He might not be fit to go a mile and a half, but we’ll give it a try.” Abrams is on record as saying his ultimate goal with On Fire is the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 ¾ miles on turf on closing day, April 19. “That’s our long-term plan,” Abrams said. “Hopefully, he’ll run well Saturday and move on to that race.”

Knapp, who saddled Christiana’s Heat to win last Sunday’s Irish O’Brien Stakes, says an upset is possible if the two favorites allow On Fire and Bonjour to steal away to an easy lead.

“We brought Bonjour from New Zealand, and he struggled early on,” Knapp said of the gelded son of Frenchpark, who has 11 wins from 37 starts, two in the United States from nine starts.
“But eventually, he acclimated well, and he’s doing the best he’s ever done right now,” Knapp continued. “We have the choice of going to the lead, or sitting right off the one horse (On Fire). But either way, my horse will relax well, and I believe he’ll run a real big race.”

The field for the San Luis Rey, which goes as race No. 7 on a nine-race program: You Got Me Rocking, Tyler Baze, 113; Bonjour, Joe Talamo, 114; Medici Code, Joel Rosario, 115; Midships, Victor Espinoza, 113; Spring House, Alex Solis, 118; Artiste Royal, Rafael Bejarano, 118; and On Fire, Brice Blanc, 112.


Joel Rosario, Santa Anita’s third-leading rider with 59 victories through Wednesday, will ride El Camino Real Derby winner Chocolate Candy in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 4, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Thursday morning. Rosario rode Chocolate Candy to his maiden victory at Santa Anita last Oct. 4, but perennial Bay Area champion Russell Baze had ridden the son of Candy Ride in his last two starts, victories in the California Derby and the El Camino Real Derby.

“My connections prefer to use riders who are familiar with the course,” Hollendorfer explained. “That’s why we use Russell up here and will use Rosario in the Santa Anita Derby.”

Chocolate Candy, owned by the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust, worked one mile on Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface Thursday in 1:41.20. “The work was very nice, although the track was kind of dead up here this morning,” Hollendorfer said. “He was very steady all the way around.”

In other Santa Anita Derby news:

Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher, said Take the Points will run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 11.

San Felipe stakes winner Pioneerof the Nile jogged on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Thursday morning. “He looked great,” trainer Bob Baffert said.

Corey Nakatani rides Mr. Hot Stuff for Eoin Harty, while regular rider Alex Solis has the mount on Sham Stakes winner The Pamplemousse for trainer Julio Canani. Thursday morning, Canani said “everything is under control” when asked how The Pamplemousse came out of Wednesday’s five furlong work in :59.80.


Pioneerof the Nile, who took last Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes for his third consecutive graded stakes victory, maintains the top spot on Jon White’s Kentucky Derby list this week.
“By winning the San Felipe, Pioneerof the Nile was able to succeed where a couple of other Bob Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby winners did not,” noted White, a commentator for HRTV and Santa Anita’s simulcast network. “Silver Charm and Real Quiet both ran in, but did not win, the San Felipe before they went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
“And, keep in mind that unlike Silver Charm and Real Quiet, Pioneerof the Nile won the San Felipe without having actually turned three yet. Pioneerof the Nile was foaled on May 5, 2006, the day before Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby.

“Silver Charm, a Feb. 22 foal, ran second in the San Felipe on March 16. Real Quiet, a March 7 foal, ran second in the San Felipe on March 14. Silver Charm and Real Quiet both also finished second in the Santa Anita Derby prior to their Kentucky Derby victories for Baffert.”
Pioneerof the Nile likewise will use the Grade I Santa Anita Derby as a springboard to the May 2 Run for the Roses. In the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby on April 4, the Empire Maker colt is scheduled to meet Grade III Sham Stakes winner The Pamplemousse, who is also on White’s current Kentucky Derby list.

Here is White’s current Kentucky Derby Top 10: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) I Want Revenge, (3) Friesan Fire, (4) Quality Road, (5) The Pamplemousse, (6) Old Fashioned, (7) Papa Clem, (8) Dunkirk, (9) Chocolate Candy, (10) Theregoesjojo.

Chocolate Candy, winner of the California Derby and Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields after finishing third behind Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge in the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last Dec. 20, also is a Santa Anita Derby candidate.
Friesan Fire, who registered a 7 ¼-length triumph in last Saturday’s Grade II Louisiana Derby on a sloppy track, moved up to No. 3 on White’s list this week after being No. 6 last week. Finishing second in the Louisiana Derby while making his first start on something other than a synthetic surface was Southern California shipper Papa Clem.

Papa Clem, a Smart Strike colt trained by Gary Stute, advanced one spot on White’s list this week after previously being ranked No. 8. Papa Clem, who finished second to Pioneerof the Nile in Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7, will make his next start in the Grade II, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 11, according to Stute.

I Want Revenge, now up to No. 2 on White’s Kentucky Derby list, won Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes by 8 ½ lengths on March 7 and currently is training at Hollywood Park in preparation for a return trip to New York to run in the Grade I Wood Memorial at the Big A on April 4. Jeff Mullins conditions I Want Revenge for owner-breeder David Lanzman.
“It looks like the Wood is going to have a small field,” Lanzman said between races Wednesday at Santa Anita.


A group of Santa Anita-based jockeys will participate in a “meet and greet” gathering with special-needs youngsters provided by AbilityFirst, in Santa Anita’s fabled Seabiscuit Walking Ring from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 26, to promote Santa Anita’s Derby Day 5K Walk and Run on April 4.

AbilityFirst is a Pasadena-based charity that enables children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities to realize their full potential. AbilityFirst also works to meet the needs of those afflicted with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and epilepsy.
The Santa Anita Derby Day 5K is part of AbilityFirst’s Marathon Campaign, which raises money to enhance programs and services to children and adults with disabilities at all 24 of its locations. In its 24-year history, the Marathon Campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition to meeting such jockeys as Tyler Baze, Rafael Bejarano, David Flores, Garrett Gomez, Aaron Gryder, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, Chantal Sutherland and Joe Talamo, AbilityFirst participants will be able to meet the actual horse who portrayed the immortal Seabiscuit in the 2003 blockbuster film of the same name.

Along with the jockeys, “Seabiscuit” will be available for photos, candies and carrots.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to work with AbilityFirst this year,” said Santa Anita Community Events Coordinator Pete Siberell. “AbilityFirst is a first-class, highly respected organization that helps those who need it the most. Having them associated with the Santa Anita Derby 5K Walk and Run is truly a win-win for everyone.

“The meet and greet that we have planned next week should be a big hit with their special-needs kids and to have the jockeys participating in this is just tremendous. We’re confident this is going to attract many more people’s attention to the Derby 5K Walk and Run, and to the race itself,” he added. AbilityFirst Marathon Campaign information can be found, and sponsorships made, at

In addition to its association with AbilityFirst, Santa Anita will also make community donations to the Arcadia High School Athletic Boosters Club, the Arcadia Historical Museum and the Arcadia-area Explorer Scouts.

The 72nd Santa Anita Derby will be run on Santa Anita Derby Day, Saturday, April 4. The Derby Day 5K Walk and Run will get under way at 7:45 a.m. For more information on registration, go to

FINISH LINES: Wednesday’s single winning Pick Six ticket at Santa Anita worth $657,949 was purchased for $32 at the Lancaster, California, OTB facility . . . Channing Hill, a 21-year-old jockey from Grand Island, Nebraska, who has been riding at New York venues since 2005, is scheduled to make his Santa Anita debut as a regular next Wednesday, agent Tom Knust reports. “Richard Migliore (formerly represented by Knust) suggested we get together,” Knust said . . . Agent Tony Matos said that Victor Espinoza will be at Sunland Park March 29 to ride Mayor Marv in the $800,000 Sunland Derby and Gabby’s Golden Gal in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, both for Bob Baffert . . . Aaron Gryder leaves Friday for the Middle East, where he rides Well Armed and Informed at Nad Al Sheba on Dubai World Cup day, March 28 . . . Actor Danny DeVito and his wife, actress Rhea Perlman, enjoyed lunch today at Santa Anita’s popular FrontRunner Restaurant.