STABLE NOTES BY MIKE WILLMAN

• BIG ‘CAP RUNNER-UP SETSUKO INJURED, CONTROVERSY UNABATED

• SUTHERLAND EMERGES FROM BUMPY RIDE AS FIRST FEMALE TO WIN BIG ‘CAP

• SAN FELIPE STAKES KEY RACE FOR UNBEATEN BENCH POINTS

• ALWAYS A PRINCESS SEEKS THIRD STAKES WIN OF MEET SATURDAY

MANDELLA SAYS SETUKO SUSTAINED LEG INJURY IN BIG ‘CAP STRETCH RUN

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella reported that injury has been added to what he considers insult, as Big ‘Cap runner-up Setsuko has sustained an injured left front leg, which resulted from contact with favored Twirling Candy during the controversial stretch run of Saturday’s main event.

“He came out of the race with a cut on his left front leg,” said Mandella. “He’s got a lot of swelling in the leg and we’re treating it, hoping that it isn’t going to become more serious. There’s no question he got cut by Twirling Candy.”

Setsuko, Twirling Candy and the winner, Game on Dude, were involved in repeated contact approaching the eighth pole, resulting in a 12-minute inquiry, after which it was announced that the stewards had made no change to the original order of finish.

“I said yesterday that I had no comment and I don’t want to drag the game down by saying anything now about the decision the stewards made” Mandella said. “I think they should talk to the jockeys, but I think it was chicken (stuff) that (winning trainer Bob) Baffert was trying to talk to the other jockeys and to the stewards.

“I was trying to be a gentleman and unless the trainer is claiming foul, I just don’t think it’s right that he is trying to talk to the jocks and to the stewards.”

Mandella is a three-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, winning it in 1997 with Siphon, in ’98 with Malek and in 2005 with Rock Hard Ten.

CHANTAL SUTHERLAND BECOMES FIRST FEMALE TO RIDE BIG ‘CAP WINNER

Jockey Chantal Sutherland, who with just three wins, had been experiencing a slow Santa Anita winter prior to yesterday’s controversial win aboard Game on Dude in the 74th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap, was understandably all smiles Sunday morning and availed herself to radio and (HRTV) television requests for interviews.

“Around the far turn, I was three-wide, outside of Aggie Engineer and First Dude. People are saying that I floated out when we turned for home, but I didn’t,” said Sutherland. “I was in the path I was in when we turned for home and my horse maintained a straight path.

“All I know is that in the race it felt like I got bumped from behind. My horse went off balance, and I hadn’t drifted in or anything…When I watched the replay I thought it was clear that Joel (Rosario, aboard Twirling Candy) kind of tipped into Victor (Espinoza, aboard Setsuko) and bumped him into me.

“Because he (Twirling Candy) was kind of further back on me, it was by my flank, and it affected my balance. I hit my horse left handed, but even before that he was straight. If you watch from the rail, you can see I stayed in my path…It’s been a quiet meet for me all meet, but if you’re sitting there at the right time, something great can happen. You just have to believe in yourself and keep training.”

YAKTEEN AWAITS SAN FELIPE WITH UNHERALDED BENCH POINTS

Unbeaten, untested and unsung. All apply to Bench Points, an undefeated California-bred son of Benchmark who will show whether or not he’s Triple Crown timber when he seeks his fifth victory next Saturday in the Grade II, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, an important steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

The chestnut gelding is trained by Tim Yakteen, who earned his racing spurs from icons Charlie Whittingham and Bob Baffert before going on his own at the age of 40 in September of 2004.

Bench Points already has victories in two $100,000 stakes races at Del Mar as a 2-year-old, the Graduation and the I’m Smokin, and was an impressive allowance winner at Santa Anita on Feb. 11. But the San Felipe would be his first race around two turns and will determine whether he embarks further on the Triple Crown trail. He has no graded earnings to date.

“He’s coming along well,” said Yakteen, who is married to HRTV on-screen analyst Millie Ball. “He’s been working great, and the San Felipe will tell us what direction we’re going to be taking this year. That’s going to be a very competitive race, but at this point we need to find out whether our horse can route, whether we’re going to dream in 3D or whether we’re just going to stay in color.”

Bench Points worked six furlongs at Santa Anita Saturday in 1:11.60, in company with the Janet Armstrong-trained Skid, who was clocked in 1:12.40. “It was a great drill,” Yakteen said. “He sat off a couple lengths behind his company, cruised up to him and finished nice. It was everything we’re looking for.”

If he makes it to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, it would not be the first Run for the Roses experience for Yakteen. He spent years under the tutelage of Whittingham, who at 76 became the oldest trainer to win the Derby in 1989 with Sunday Silence, and later with three-time Derby winner Baffert.

“I was at the Derby with Charlie in 1996 when he had Corker, a colt out of Bottle Top and a half-brother to Strodes Creek, who was second in the 1994 Derby,” Yakteen recalled. “Eddie D. rode Strodes Creek and we probably should have won the race, but Laffit (Pincay Jr. on Valiant Nature, who finished 13th of 14) blew the turn and Eddie had to move out of the way or he was going to drop Laffit.”

Probable for the San Felipe: Albergatti, Garrett Gomez; Bench Points, no rider; Comma to the Top, Corey Nakatani; Jakesam, no rider; Jaycito, Martin Garcia; Premier Pegasus, Alonso Quinonez; Runflatout, Joel Rosario; and Surrey Star, Joe Talamo.

Premier Pegasus worked five furlongs under Quinonez Saturday in a bullet :57.60 for Myung Kwon Cho. The next-fastest time at the distance was :58.20. Average time for 33 drills at five furlongs was 1:00.27.

STAR-STUDDED FIELD IN GRADE I SANTA MARGARITA SATURDAY

Always a Princess, a speedy daughter of Leroidesanimaux owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by Bob Baffert, will seek her third stakes win of the meet in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. It doesn’t figure to be as easy as her last two.

The 4-year-old chestnut filly won the Grade II El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles by 3 ½ lengths on Jan. 16 and came back on Feb. 13 to win the Grade II La Caňada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles by 3 ¼ lengths. Martin Garcia, who was aboard in the La Caňada, retains the mount.

Always a Princess will not be lacking for competition in the Santa Margarita, which is expected to attract Blind Luck, 3-year-old filly champion of 2010 who was second to Always a Princess in both the El Encino and the La Caňada; La Brea Stakes and Santa Monica Stakes winner Switch; Santa Maria Stakes winner Vision in Gold; and St Trinians, third in her comeback race, the Santa Maria on Feb. 12.

Probable for the Santa Margarita: Always a Princess, Martin Garcia; Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano; St Trinians, Joe Talamo; Switch, Joel Rosario; and Vision in Gold, no rider.

SHIRREFFS REFLECTS ON ZENYATTA, A HORSE FOR THE AGES

Zenyatta finally got her due when she was named Horse of the Year on Jan. 17. For John Shirreffs, it was a much-deserved and overdue honor, one he feels will grow in stature and lore.

“I’m really happy, especially because as time goes on, people probably forget what a phenomena she was and how the fans really just loved her, and the energy she brought to the race track,” said the reserved Shirreffs, who trained the brilliant mare until her retirement following her only loss, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 6. The daughter of Street Cry began her career with 19 straight victories, unleashing improbable rallies to reach the finish line first.

“Those memories will probably fade away a little bit,” Shirreffs said, “but now that she has the Horse of the Year title next to her name, that will never leave her. It will always be there. People will always know she’s a very special horse.”

FINISH LINES: With Saturday’s win, Bob Baffert notched his second consecutive Big ‘Cap win, as his Misremembered, who is the 2-1 favorite in today’s Santana Mile, won last year. Baffert’s first of three Big ‘Cap tallies came in 2000, with General Challenge…The Factor, prepping for the Sunland Derby or the Rebel Stakes, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday in a bullet 1:10.60 for Baffert. . . Multiple graded turf stakes winner Bourbon Bay worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm course Saturday in 1:16.20 for Neil Drysdale . . . At Hollywood Park Saturday, 2010 Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp worked seven furlongs in 1:23.80 for John Sadler . . . Jay Cohen expected to return to duty yesterday from neck surgery, but instead hopes to be back next Saturday, according to Kevin Brown, who is filling in for Santa Anita’s popular horn blower. “He’s doing well, but recovery is going a bit slower than anticipated,” Brown said.

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