Gerard Butler didn’t fly across the pond just for a Santa Anita reunion. The 42-year-old Irish trainer based in England came to run synthetic specialist Dansant in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

“He’s arguably the best all-weather horse in England, or in Europe,” Butler said. “We spoke about going to Dubai (for the $6 million World Cup on March 28). We were there last year, and he didn’t like the track. In a consultation with the owner (Mrs. Barbara Keller of Switzerland), we decided the next best place to go would be back on a synthetic surface, and the Big ’Cap was a logical choice.”

Dansant has raced on synthetic eight times, winning five races with one second.

Butler worked for D. Wayne Lukas in the 1990s at Santa Anita, Monmouth Park, Belmont Park and Saratoga, and “did the whole thing with Wayne for four years, and covered a lot of ground. My home is in Ireland, but I’ve been in England for the last 10 years,” he said. “We’ve had plenty of runners in America, but none here on the West Coast. Dansant is our first runner in California.”

Butler was lured by Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride, and he hasn’t been disappointed.

“The synthetic surface is a huge attraction for us,” he said. “It’s a lovely surface. We have no complaints, but we’ll see how he fares on Saturday. It’s very kind, very fair. If he comes out of it OK, we’d come back for the Breeders’ Cup (at Oak Tree on Nov. 6 and 7).

“Touch wood, so far, so good. He’s doing well here. His mind is very good, he’s relaxed, and we don’t need to do anything more with him. He hasn’t had a breeze over this track, but I don’t think he’s had to. His last work was at Lingfield Park (on a synthetic track) over a mile and a quarter. We didn’t get a time on it, but he went very, very well. This was about 12 days ago. He’s been running all winter long, so there are no problems with his fitness.”

Dansant, a 5-year-old English-bred horse by the Danehill sire, Dansili, has a 7-3-1 record from 19 starts, with earnings of $277,069.

In other Big ’Cap news:

With a 9-2 morning line favorite (Colonel John), the race is wide open. “It’s a very deep field, a very contentious race,” said Eoin Harty, trainer of Colonel John.

Cowboy Cal and Monba schooled yesterday after their works Sunday. “Both horses worked very well,” said Todd Pletcher assistant Mike McCarthy. “They appear to be coming up to the race in very good order. We’re running rain or shine.” McCarthy said Pletcher is expected to be at Santa Anita this weekend.

The field for the 72nd Big ‘Cap, which goes as race No. 10 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 local 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.


Bobby Frankel had no complaints Thursday morning about drawing the rail for his fantastic females, Stardom Bound and Ventura, each of whom will be favored in Saturday’s Santa Anita Oaks and Frank E. Kilroe Mile, respectively.

“They’ll save ground, and hopefully, they don’t get themselves boxed in,” said Santa Anita’s career leader in training victories with 911. “I don’t think they will. It’s a good spot for each of them. You want both of them covered up.”

Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track, unexpectedly entered in the Kilroe after being considered for the Santa Anita Handicap and later the New Orleans Handicap, was an unlikely Kilroe starter.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Frankel when asked if Mast Track would run, adding that he would not run in New Orleans, either. “We’ll look for another race. I entered (the Kilroe) just to make sure there’s pace in the race. If there’s no pace in the race, I might run. But if Monterey Jazz and Hewitts go, I’ll scratch.”

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

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

When John Velazquez receives Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in the winner’s circle between races on Sunday, Angel Cordero Jr. will be standing by basking in paternal gratification.

Cordero, a member of racing’s Hall of Fame and winner of the Woolf Award in 1972, has been the agent for Velazquez since 2000. Together, they have reached racing’s pinnacle. The Woolf Award honors and recognizes riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport, and is regarded as one of the most prestigious honors in the racing world.
“I’m very, very proud,” Cordero said by phone Thursday morning. “John is not just my boss; he’s like my son. I’ve known him since he was a kid. I’m very proud that he accomplished so much in such a short time. I‘m very proud of his riding and his behavior.”

Cordero, now 66, had a reputation as a renegade during his storied riding career. His suspensions were the stuff of legend. Velazquez, by comparison, has kept on the straight and narrow, which is fine with Cordero.

“He’s an example of what an athlete should be,” Cordero said. “He has the quality that I didn’t have. He’s got my ability, but he’s very professional, very clean, very well-liked by everybody. I’m very, very proud of him.”

FINISH LINES: Santa Anita offers another in its series of ‘Free Fridays’ tomorrow. General admission is free, as are box seats, while supplies last. Hot dogs, soda, beer, coffee and popcorn are $1 . . . Indian Blessing might pass the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 28. “I’m planning on going, but I’m looking for an excuse not to,” trainer Bob Baffert said after the two-time Eclipse Award-winning filly worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in :59 seconds flat. “I’m on the bubble. It’s a long way to go, even though I wasn’t planning to go myself. I was going to send Jimmy (assistant Jim Barnes), but he doesn’t want to go if I don’t go. I’m training her like she’s running, but there’s a lot of stuff going on. Johnny V. (Indian Blessing’s jockey, John Velazquez) wants to ride Quality Road (in the Florida Derby the same day as the Golden Shaheen).” A decision would have to be made prior to March 17, the scheduled departure date for Dubai . . . The popular TV show, “Jockeys,” currently airing Fridays on Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet network, has been renewed for another season and will again be filmed at Santa Anita starting this Saturday . . . Robert B. Lewis Stakes runner-up Papa Clem, prepping for the March 14 Louisiana Derby, worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in a bullet 1:11.80 for Gary Stute . . . Undefeated and untested Rail Trip is expected to make his next start in the $70,000 Santana Mile at Santa Anita on April 4. “The ($500,000) Oaklawn Handicap is the same day,” trainer Ron Ellis said, “so I can kind of point for either race, but he’s run well here and he’s comfortable here. Plus, it gets him on schedule for races at Hollywood (Park).” . . . 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 . . . Agent Roger Olguin, father of jockey Gerry Olguin, said his son has returned to Canada where he is recovering from a rib injury suffered at Santa Anita earlier this meet. He plans to resume riding when Woodbine opens April 4 . . . There were 2,324 participants alive in ShowVivor II going into Thursday’s races . . . Former Los Angeles Times handicapper Bob Mieszerski, currently with Today’s Racing, will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest Saturday, 10:30 a.m., at the Today’s Racing Digest seminar 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.