Santa Anita Stable Notes Thursday, September 28, 2023
STABLE NOTES BY VICTOR RYAN
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28, 2023
• HONG KONG HARRY RETURNS IN CONTENTIOUS GII CITY OF HOPE • I’M A GAMBLER SHORTENS UP IN GII EDDIE D DOWN THE HILL • BREEDERS’ CUP: TOP-RATED ARCANGELO ARRIVES AT SANTA ANITA • RAY SIBILLE NAMED TO LOUISIANA SPORTS HALL OF FAME • FREE PARKING/ADMISSION, DRINK AND FOOD SPECIALS FRIDAY
HONG KONG HARRY RETURNS IN CONTENTIOUS GII CITY OF HOPE
As would be expected when running the top turf barn in California, trainer Phil D’Amato looks to have a pair of live chances in Saturday’s GII City of Hope at a mile on turf.
Set to go for D’Amato are multiple graded-stakes winner Hong Kong Harry, who has been off since the GI Shoemaker Mile here May 29, and Cathkin Peak, who was a close-up second in last year’s City of Hope.
In the Shoemaker Mile, Hong Kong finished third by 1 ½ lengths to winner Exaulted, who earned an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Mile with the victory and is bypassing the City of Hope. Hong Kong Harry was subsequently given the summer off by design before returning to the work tab in late July at Del Mar.
In the City of Hope, Hong Kong Harry will be ridden for the first time by Santa Anita’s perennial leading rider Juan Hernandez.
“We freshened him up and he’s come back in good order,” D’Amato said of the 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding. “He’ll have a new pilot and hopefully he’s ready to go.”
Cathkin Peak was most recently a troubled seventh, beaten 2 ¾ lengths, in the GII Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles. The City of Hope will be his third start following a nearly 10-month layoff.
“We experimented running him 1 3/8 miles last time and I think it was a little too far, so we’re going to cut him back to a mile. He ran good in this race last year,” D’Amato noted.
In last year’s City of Hope, Cathkin Peak was beaten just three-quarters of a length when second to Beyond Brilliant. That was the final race of his 4-year-old campaign.
D’Amato is expecting a big effort from Cathkin Peak on Saturday.
“He’s coming in good. In fact, he’s trained extremely well,” D’Amato said. “I think he’s the dark horse in the race.”
Among the D’Amato pairs chief rivals are Twist for John Sadler and Astronomer for Simon Callaghan.
Twist was beaten just 2 ½ lengths by winner Du Jour in the GII Del Mar Mile despite a troubled trip on Sept. 2. With Kent Desormeaux up, Twist hopped at the start, found traffic leaving the second turn and then had to check at the stretch. Sadler feels it was enough to cost Twist a better placing.
“We thought he would have been second without the trouble line, but he wasn’t going to beat the winner,” Sadler said of the 6-year-old gelding bred in France. “He’s come back and trained really well. He’s on an improving-type pattern and didn’t get beat too far, so we’re going to give him another chance.”
Desormeaux will be replaced by Hector Berrios, who guided Twist to an allowance win at Del Mar prior to the Del Mar Mile.
“Hector gave him a really a good ride last time,” Sadler said.
Astronomer has run well in two starts after being sidelined for 16-plus months due to what Callaghan said was bone bruising. Owned by Michael Tabor and Alice Bamford, the 4-year-old gelding by Air Force Blue flashed speed and faded in an allowance at Del Mar July 21, but then returned with a promising upset victory at the level Aug. 19 at Del Mar.
“We’ve had high hopes for him since he was a 2-year-old,” Callaghan said. “We had to be patient through his 3-year-old year. We’re really looking forward to see how he does against these better horses. We think he fits.”
The City of Hope goes as the 10th and final race on Saturday’s card. Post time is approximately 5:30 p.m. Pacific. The field in post position order: Il Bellator, Alejandro Gomez (15-1; War At Sea, Victor Espinoza (8-1); Hit the Road, Joe Bravo (15-1; Hong Kong Harry, Juan Hernandez (5-2); Astronomer, Antonio Fresu (6-1); Flavius, Jose Valdivia Jr. (12-1); Twist, Hector Berrios (3-1); Cathkin Peak, Umberto Rispoli (4-1); Irideo, Mike Smith (8-1).
I’M A GAMBLER SHORTENS UP FOR GLATT IN GII EDDIE D
I’m a Gambler was a multiple stakes winner in England and Ireland. Since joining Mark Glatt’s barn last year, he’s been close in three stateside stakes tries, all going a mile on turf. Glatt thinks a move to the hillside turf course in Saturday’s GII Eddie D could provide a breakthrough.
“I think the hillside course will fit him like a glove,” Glatt said Thursday.
I’m a Gambler is the 6-1 co-third choice on the morning line behind Bran (5-2) for John Sadler and Lane Way for Richard Mandella. I’m a Gambler returned from a nearly six-month layoff July 23 in the one-mile Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar and was third, beaten just a length by winner Du Jour. In the subsequent GII Del Mar Mile on Sept. 2, also won by Du Jour, I’m a Gambler had a narrow lead at the eighth pole before getting overhauled late.
The Eddie D will be I’m a Gambler’s third start on the comeback trail.
“I thought it was a good effort in the Del Mar Mile, he got a big number for the race,” Glatt said in reference to I’m a Gambler’s 97 Beyer Speed Figure. “We’re going to shorten him up a little bit and see if that’s a winning move.”
Antonio Fresu, who has been aboard for both of I’m a Gambler’s starts this year, again has the call on Saturday.
While the Eddie D is a potential steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint going five furlongs here Nov. 4, that will not be the road taken for morning-line favorite Bran no matter how good he runs in the about 6 ½-furlong Eddie D.
Bran returned from nearly a year layoff in the GIII Green Flash going five furlongs at Del Mar Sept.2. Last early in a 12-horse field, the 5-year-old French-bred gelding made a late bid to finish 3 ½ length behind winner Motorious.
“We wanted to run five furlongs because that’s the distance of the Breeders’ Cup,” Sadler said. “But what we thought was true was proven true. It was too short for him.”
Last year, Bran won a pair of stakes on the downhill turf course (Siren Lure, GIII Daytona). Sadler believes a return to the unique layout should make him tough Saturday.
“He’s been great here at Santa Anita, he’s won down the hill and it’s his second start off the layoff,” Sadler said. “He should be a good fit in this spot.”
Top turf trainer Phil D’Amato will saddle Balnikhov (6-1), a multiple stakes winner at a mile on turf, and promising allowance winner Unconquerable Keen (8-1). Balnikhov will be trying the hillside course for the first time.
“We’re trying something a little different,” D’Amato said. “He’s a horse that likes to have speed to run at. I think he’ll have a better chance of getting that scenario going down the hill. We’ll see if this gives him another dimension.”
Unconquerable Keen, a 4-year-old Irish-bred gelding, won a second-level allowance going five furlongs on turf at Del Mar Aug. 31. In June, Unconquerable Keen tried the hill for the first time. He faded to seventh after setting a sharp pace.
“We tried the hill one time and he kind of ran off that day,” D’Amato said. “Joe Bravo’s been working him and getting to know him. I think he’ll get him to relax and finish a little better.” The Eddie D goes as the ninth on a 10-race card. Post time is approximately 5 p.m. Pacific. The field in post position order: Balnikhov, Geovanni Franco (6-1); Bran, Juian Hernandez (5-2); Sumter, Umberto Rispoli (15-1); Mas Rapido, Edwin Maldonado (30-1); Noble Reflection, Mario Gutierrez (6-1); Lane Way, Mike Smith (3-1); I’m A Gambler, Antonio Fresu (6-1); Unconquerable Keen, Joe Bravo (8-1); Ah Jeez, Tiago Pereira (8-1); Packs a Wahlop, Hector Berrios (15-1); Radical Right, Diego Herrera (20-1).
BREEDERS’ CUP: TOP-RATED ARCANGELO ARRIVES AT SANTA ANITA
Arcangelo, the top-rated horse in the official Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings, arrived at Santa Anita Wednesday evening. The GI Belmont and GI Travers winner was bright and alert Thursday morning.
Trained by Jena Antonucci, Arcangelo has a record of 4-1-0 in six starts with earnings of $1,754,900. The Arrogate ridgling hasn’t lost since his second start as a maiden at Gulfstream Park in January.
Also on Thursday, Classic contender White Abarrio jogged over the Santa Anita main track. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., the GI Whitney winner last worked on Sept. 20 at Santa Anita. As for when he’ll return to the tab, assistant Chip Dutrow said Thursday morning “we’ll let him tell us.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news, four horses on the grounds trained by Steve Asmussen – Echo Zulu, Clairiere, Gunite and Society – all tack walked, according to assistant Scott Blasi.
RETIRED JOCKEY RAY SIBILLE TO ENTER LOUISIANA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
With the first of his 4,264 winners coming on June 29, 1969 at Evangeline Downs in his native Louisiana, the highlight of jockey Ray Sibille’s 35-year career came on Nov. 5, 1988, when he guided a 5-year-old gelding named Great Communicator to a gutty half length victory over a course softened by rain in the Grade I, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. While that was undoubtedly the highlight of his career, Sibille experienced a once-in-a-lifetime thrill off the track when it was announced Wednesday that he would be inducted into the prestigious Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as part of its class of 2024 in June.
“You know, to these guys down here, going into the Louisiana Hall of Fame is better than the Saratoga Hall of Fame,” quipped Sibille, who rode full-time in Southern California from 1981 prior to shifting his tack to Northern California in 1992. “I stayed out of trouble, for the most part and now, looking back on my career, it’s a really good feeling knowing that you accomplished a lot and treated people right.
“When I first started out, every young jockey was under contract and you learned the fundamentals of horsemanship. A trainer named Buster Leger had my contract and boy, you had to work. No goin straight home after you galloped some horses. You had to groom ‘em, do the bandages, take care of their feet, do everything. And then, if we were running at night, you ponied horses to the gate.
I had an agent named Jimmy Daigrepont. We went to Chicago and right away at Arlington, I was third-leading rider and I thought, ‘Man, this is pretty good.’ We were together there about nine years and he did a great job. I was leading rider a few times at all three tracks, Arlington, Sportsman’s and at Hawthorne.”
In 1981, Sibille followed his lifetime friend, Eddie Delahoussaye, to Southern California in the fall of 1981 with legendary trainer “King” Richard Hazelton.
“Eddie and me were together from the time I was 14. He started riding full time out there in 1978 and I came out with Richard just to ride the Orange County Fair Meet at Los Alamitos,” Sibille recalled. “Well, Richard went back home at the end of the meet and I stayed.”
Indeed he did, becoming a fixture in a Santa Anita/Hollywood Park and Del Mar Jockeys’ Room that at the time, included the likes of Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron, Sandy Hawley, Fernando Toro, Patrick Valenzuela and others.
Regarding his biggest moment on the track, Great Communicator’s win in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Turf, run at a mile and one half over a grass course listed as “good,” Sibille fondly recalls the entire day, including a college football result.
“I didn’t really realize the magnitude of that race until I got the (Breeders’ Cup) ring, that’s when it really sunk in,” said Sibille, who currently works as an association clocker at Evangeline Downs, which is 12 miles from his place of birth and current home in Sunset, LA. “The other thing about that day is, I was in the jocks’ room all day and I was watching LSU and Alabama.
“I went out and rode the race (which went off at 5 p.m. ET) and did all the interviews after the race, with about 20 reporters. Then I got back in jocks’ room just in time to see LSU kick the game-winning field goal. We hadn’t beat Alabama in about 20 years, so that was the icing on the cake.
“And then the most amazing thing about that day was when I walked out of the interview room right behind the paddock at Churchill Downs. When I walked out into the paddock, I said ‘It’s dark!’ And they still had five minutes to the Classic with Alysheba. ‘How they gonna run this race, it’s dark?’ Well, they did, and Alysheba won it.”
Trained by fellow Cajun Thad Ackel, Great Communicator was a Kentucky-bred by Key to the Kingdom. With Sibille up, he had a sensational year throughout 1988, winning not only the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but prior to that the San Luis Obisbo, San Marcos and San Juan Capistrano Handicaps at Santa Anita and the Hollywood Turf Cup across town at Hollywood Park.
So, what in Ray Sibille’s opinion does a jockey need, besides good horses, to have a long, successful career?
“Well, back when we first started, we raced six days a week and took Sundays off,” he said. “So, we’d stay out all night on Saturday and sleep all day Sunday. But I’ll say this, the last 15 years I rode, I worked out a lot and I took care of myself really good…Didn’t drink near as much. And I guess that’s what kept me around for so long…I got a whole lot smarter and if you’re going to have a long career, you gotta make those adjustments.”
A winner of the 2005 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, Ray Sibille, who was born Sept. 13, 1952, will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in late June along with several other Louisiana legends including Drew Brees, who quarterbacked the New Orleans Saints to victory in the 2010 Super Bowl. --Mike Willman
FINISH LINES: First post for Friday’s opening day card is 1 p.m. PT…Admission gates open at 11 a.m.… On-track fans Friday will receive free parking and admission, $3 beers and $5 margaritas…Sunday’s card featuring the GII Zenyatta, GII John Henry, GIII Tokyo City Cup and Unzip Me Stakes will be drawn on Thursday...The Autumn Meet marks the return of the traditional Pick 6 at Santa Anita with a $1 minimum…Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi will be host Tom Quigley’s seminar guest Friday on the Santa Anita simulcast feed starting at 11:50 a.m…Santa Anita is offering customers limited-edition Zenyatta Pins while supplies last. A Zenyatta Pin can be acquired by either donating $25 to Old Friends Equine or betting $50 through 1/ST Rewards, 1/ST BET, or Xpressbet. They can be redeemed at Santa Anita during live racing from Oct. 1 through Oct. 9...During the Autumn Meet, XB Rewards members who wager at least $100 on-track on Santa Anita races through 1/ST BET or Xpressbet will receive a free Santa Anita hooded sweatshirt.