Santa Anita Stable Notes Sunday, January 22, 2023
STABLE NOTES BY VICTOR RYAN
SUNDAY, JAN. 22, 2023
• KIMURA MAKING HIS MARK WITH TWO MORE WINS SATURDAY • D’AMATO TALKS STAKES PLANS FOR SEVERAL TURF STARS • GIII LAS VIRGENES, GII SAN PASQUAL ON TAP NEXT SATURDAY • PLAYER-FRIENDLY ‘COAST TO COAST PICK 5’ RETURNS SUNDAY • WIN-MACHINE THE CHOSEN VRON RETURNS TO WORK
KIMURA MAKING HIS MARK WITH TWO MORE WINS SATURDAY
You’ll likely be seeing a lot more of jockey Kazushi Kimura in the coming weeks of the Classic Meet. After a relatively slow start to the stand, things have started to pick up for the reigning champion jockey in Canada.
Last Sunday, Kimura won his first race ever at Santa Anita and first U.S. graded stakes when rallying Kristenbosch to a nose victory in the Grade III La Canada for trainer John Sadler. Then on Saturday, Kimura took things up a notch when closing the card with a flourish.
Riding 13-1 long shot Duvet Day in the featured Astra Stakes for trainer Michael McCarthy, Kimura was content to sit second-last in the mile and one half turf marathon. Then with a quarter mile left to run, Kimura angled out widest of all for clear running room and closed with a flourish to win going away by 1 ¼ lengths.
Two races later, Kimura uncorked another flying finish aboard Hawker to win a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight on turf for Sadler.
“He’s definitely gaining some momentum,” said Brandon O’Bryan, who recently took over as Kimura’s agent. “Sadler and McCarthy have been his top supporters, so to win for those guys was especially nice. But he’s also been meeting new trainers and starting to work for guys outside of just those two. We’re getting into new barns – (Mark) Glatt, (Carla) Gaines and others.
“It may have been a touch slow earlier in the meet, but he’s got the ball rolling now,” O’Bryan added.
A 23-year-old native of Hokkaido, Japan, Kimura got his start as a jockey at the Japan Racing Association’s Horseracing School. He arrived at Woodbine in 2018 and that year would earn the Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding apprentice jockey. The following year, he would win the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey.
Kimura said the move to Santa Anita after spending last winter at Turfway Park is all part of his career strategy.
“It’s been great here,” he said. “When I left my (jockey) school in Japan, I wanted to leave the country and get all the different experiences I could,” Kimura said. “To me, experience is the most important thing. To learn different riding styles, work on my English, things like that. Everything has just been great.”
Following Duvet Day’s win in the Astra, McCarthy noted Kimura rode for him last winter at Turfway Park “and he did an exceptional job.
“He handicaps the races very well, comes prepared, always eager to work and has a smile on his face,” McCarthy said.
Kimura acknowledged things are a bit different on the track at Santa Anita as compared to other places he has rode. Most notably, Woodbine and Turfway Park have synthetic main tracks. Riding on dirt at Santa Anita has been a slightly new experience.
“I grew up in Japan, everything is different,” Kimura said. “The morning training, the racing. Here you have to be quick to get into position. It’s always most important to be aggressive.”
Kimura is now winning at 15 percent clip at Santa Anita entering Sunday’s action. According to O’Bryan, Kimura has much more he wants to accomplish in his riding career and is putting in the work to do so.
“I spoke with him and he told me, ‘I want to be the best jockey in the world, like a Frankie Dettori.’ I thought that was really impressive to have such an ambitious goal like that.
“Also I didn’t know, but when he was the leading rider at Woodbine, he would go down to Presque Isle Downs and ride on his off days. He was doing nothing but riding. I really like his dedication to the profession.”
As things stand, Kimura said he plans to remain at Santa Anita at least until the start of the Woodbine meet on April 22. Last year at Woodbine, Kimura won at a 20 percent clip while booting home 152 winners, 30 more than the runner-up in the jockey’s standings. O’Bryan is hoping Kimura’s star continues to grow at Santa Anita in the coming months.
“It’s one of those things where we’ll cross that bridge when it comes,” O’Bryan said of a potential return to Woodbine. “For now, I just want him to have a good experience and win races.”
D’AMATO OUTLINES STAKES PLANS FOR SEVERAL TURF STARS
With his usual abundance of riches across all turf divisions, trainer Phil D’Amato shared plans on Saturday for several of his top stakes horses.
Multiple graded stakes winner Hong Kong Harry, off since winning the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on Nov. 26, returned to work last Saturday. D’Amato said he’ll likely make his 6-year-old bow in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 4.
“He had a little working vacation,” D’Amato said of the past seven weeks for Hong Kong Harry. “I really didn’t want to turn him out, but I want to have a fresh horse later in the year with a chance to run in the Breeders’ Cup. I’m going to pick out his races so he runs just a handful of times. Hopefully he’ll be ready when the Breeders’ Cup comes around.”
Expected to join Hong Kong Harry in the Kilroe Mile is multiple stakes-winning stablemate Balnikhov. The 4-year-old Irish-bred most recently finished second by a nose as the favorite in the Grade II Mathis Mile on Dec. 26.
Returning to work on Saturday for D’Amato was multiple stakes winner Comanche Country. Last year, the Irish-bred daughter of Highland Reel won both the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar and Grade III Surfer Girl at Santa Anita. She was subsequently shipped to Keeneland for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf where she finished seventh with a bit trouble on Nov. 4.
“For the company she faced, I thought she held her own pretty well,” D’Amato said of Comanche Country’s Breeders’ Cup run. She got in a little tight late. If she didn’t get closed off, I think she would have had a chance to hit the board. She didn’t disgrace herself and I’m looking for big things from her this year.”
He added Comanche Country will get the year started in the one-mile China Doll on March 18.
D’Amato’s first stakes win of the meet came with Rhea Moon in the Grade I American Oaks on opening day Dec. 26. The American Oaks was her third win in a row following previous score in an allowance at Del Mar in August and the Grade III Autumn Miss at Santa Anita on Oct. 29. Rhea Moon has not worked back since the American Oaks.
“We’ll see what we do with her. She’s getting a little working vacation for now and we’ll see about a stakes in March to kick off her 2023 campaign.”
GRADE III LAS VIRGENES ADDS INTRIGUE TO NEXT SATURDAY’S CARD
The stakes action picks up considerably next week at Santa Anita with four graded stakes on the calendar including both the Grade III Las Virgenes and Grade II San Pasqual on Saturday.
The Grade III Las Virgenes, a steppingstone to the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks on April 1, is shaping up as an intriguing matchup between several well-regarded 3-year-old fillies. Among those expected to run in the one-mile heat are Faiza and Pride of the Nile, the one-two finishers in last month’s Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos; and stakes-winner Justique, who had to be scratched from the Grade III Santa Ynez on Jan. 1 following a brief illness. Justique has since worked three times for trainer John Shirreffs and looks to be all systems go.
It remains to be determined if the winner of the Santa Ynez, Ice Dancing, wheels back for the Las Virgenes. The daughter of Frosted on Saturday had her first work since the Santa Ynez when drilling a half mile for Richard Mandella. The Hall of Fame trainer also has nominated Coffee in Bed, an impressive debut winner on Jan. 6. On Sunday, Mandella said he was undecided on whether one or both will run in the Las Virgenes.
“It’s a little close (between races) for both of them, but I’m thinking about it,” he said.
PLAYER-FRIENDLY COAST TO COAST PICK 5 RETURNS SUNDAY
After Saturday’s Coast to Coast Pick 5 returned a healthy $4,183.80, handicappers will have another crack at a lucrative score Sunday when the wager kicks off at approximately12:38.
The Coast to Coast Pick 5 combines races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park and is a $1 minimum wager with a player-friendly 15 percent takeout. It is offered every Saturday and Sunday during the Santa Anita and Gulfstream meets.
Sunday’s wager begins with the eighth race from Gulfstream Park, an entry-level allowance going five furlongs on turf. The sequence continues with the ninth race at Gulfstream, third race at Santa Anita, 10th race at Gulfstream Park and concludes with the fifth race from Santa Anita at approximately 2:29 p.m.
Finish Lines: The Chosen Vron returned to work Sunday following his victory in the California Cup Sprint, his ninth win in 13 starts for trainer Eric Kruljac…There is a $149,361 carryover for Sunday’s Rainbow Pick 6. It is a 20-cent minimum wager…Bugler Jay Cohen advises he’s hoping to return to action at Santa Anita on Friday after being sidelined with an illness…Entering Sunday’s action, favorites have won at 29.4 percent clip during the Classic Meet…Every Friday during the Classic Meet on-track patrons will receive free admission, free parking and drink specials that include $3 beers and $5 margaritas…