Mike Smith hasn’t ridden Sharp Susan competitively, but the Hall of Fame rider still has considerable respect for the 5-year-old mare based on his one workout aboard her prior to Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“I worked her Saturday at Hollywood Park,” Smith said of the daughter of 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, owned by Paul Flemming and trained by Neil Drysdale. Sharp Susan went six furlongs on Cushion Track in a bullet 1:11.20, fastest of 20 drills at the distance.
“I didn’t do a lot with her,” Smith said. “We just broke off nice and comfortable. She went out seven-eighths in like 25 and change, just cruising around there.”

Sharp Susan raced exclusively on the East Coast prior to her eighth-place finish in the restricted Wishing Well Handicap at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 31.
“She’s a nice filly,” Smith said. “You can throw the downhill race out.”

Probable for the 42nd Santa Ana: Belmont Cat, no rider; Exquisite, Alex Solis; In My Glory, Martin Garcia; Satan’s Circus, Joe Talamo; Sharp Susan, Smith; and Visit, Garrett Gomez.
Belmont Cat worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf Wednesday in 1:01 for John Sadler, while Satan’s Circus went four furlongs in :48.40 for Patrick Biancone.


The Pamplemousse, prepping for the April 4 Santa Anita Derby and a showdown with Pioneerof the Nile, worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in :59.80 under regular rider Alex Solis.

“He went very nice, nice and easy,” trainer Julio Canani said of the San Rafael and Sham Stakes winner. “He was three wide and just galloping. I’m very happy. He was just breezing. I’m very pleased.”

El Camino Real Derby winner Chocolate Candy, also pointing to the Santa Anita Derby, is scheduled to work at Golden Gate Fields tomorrow, after which he will ship to Santa Anita, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said by phone on Wednesday.

Another Santa Anita Derby candidate, Mr. Hot Stuff, third in the Sham Stakes, worked five furlongs Wednesday for Eoin Harty in :59.40.


Two-time Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez, three shy of breaking the Santa Anita meet record for stakes wins, should have at least eight more opportunities to do so before moving his tack to Keeneland when the Kentucky track opens on April 3.

Gomez has 17 stakes wins through Sunday. Santa Anita’s record is 19, shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97). Gomez is scheduled to ride Bittel Road in the Lane’s End at Turfway Park this Saturday, and Dunkirk in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 28.

“He is scheduled to ride in five stakes here on Santa Anita Derby day (April 4),” agent Ron Anderson said. “He’ll have a good opportunity to break the record, but if it happens, it happens.”
Gomez holds a 13-margin lead in the race for Santa Anita riding honors through Sunday, 73-60, over runner-up Rafael Bejarano.

FINISH LINES: Former trainer Ulric “Rick” Berry died on March 12 at The Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance. He was 83. Berry trained virtually every breed of horse, but mainly Thoroughbreds during the last 15 years of his career. In addition to his love of horses, Berry was proud of his military service and the fact that he was a World War II veteran. He will be buried at Riverside National Cemetery. A memorial service will be held 10 a.m. this Friday, March 20, at Arlington Mortuary, 9645 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA, 92503. Berry is survived by his daughter, Kimberly Frasca, and three grandsons. The Rick Berry Memorial Trust Account has been established for the two younger grandsons, Dustin, 14, and Darik, 11. Contributions can be made by contacting Ms. Harpreet Kaur at 951 520-0614, or the Wells Fargo Bank in Corona at 951 739-9546 . . . Papa Clem, runner-up to Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby, leaves tomorrow from the Fair Grounds for Oaklawn Park, where he will run in the Arkansas Derby on April 11. “At first, we were going in the Illinois Derby (at Hawthorne on April 4),” trainer Gary Stute said Wednesday morning, “but we couldn’t make travel connections and had to change plans.” Rafael Bejarano, who rode Papa Clem in the Louisiana Derby, has the mount in the Arkansas Derby, a Grade II race at 1 1/8 miles with a $1 million purse. The Illinois Derby, also a Grade II at 1 1/8 miles, offers $500,000 . . . There were 22 participants alive in ShowVivor II going into Wednesday’s races . . . Ron Ellis said Rail Trip is on course for his stakes debut in the Santana Mile on April 4. The undefeated gelding worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:03.40. “He started off real slow,” the trainer said. “He’s right on schedule.” . . . Paul Lambrakis, author of “The 10-cent Superfecta,” will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at Saturday’s Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 11 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Jason Levin of “Inside Information,” airing Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on XTRA, 570AM, and Aaron Hesz of Handicappers’ Report will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.