- TEAM McLAUGHLIN HAPPY WITH GRADE I CONTENDERS
- STAKES DEBUT FOR VIGILANTE IN MATHIS BROTHERS
- McANALLY NEARS SEVENTH DECADE AT SANTA ANITA
- POPULAR WALL CALENDAR FREE TO FANS OPENING DAY
McLAUGHLIN INVADERS SET FOR MALIBU, LA BREA
Happy, healthy and hell-bent on winning, talented East Coast invaders Cavorting, Marking and Watershed had their final major workouts Friday morning at Santa Anita for their respective Grade I stakes engagements in the La Brea and Malibu on Opening Day a week from tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 26.
Cavorting, an eventful fourth as the 3-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland Oct. 31, went four furlongs in 48 seconds flat. Marking, unbeaten and untested in his two career victories, also went four furlongs, in 47.40, while Watershed went the same distance in 47.60. Each three-year-old was ridden by exercise rider Pat Correa.
“I’m very happy. The horses are eating well, they’re bright, they’re very happy and fresh in this cooler weather,” said Neal McLaughlin, 46-year-old brother of 55-year-old trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is enjoying a cruise in the Caribbean.
Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson had Watershed going his first quarter-mile in 24.60 with a five furlong gallop-out time of 1:01.60. Marking was given 24.40 for his first quarter, with a gallop-out time of 1:01.80.
“We came out of Florida, which is having heavy record heat right now, so it’s nice to see the horses in this cooler weather,” Neal said. “They are fresh and feeling good. I’m glad we changed our plan a little bit. Usually, we do our breezes at home and then ship here and run.
“We changed up this year and came out two weeks early to breeze here over the track. The horses are happy, eating and enjoying the weather and I hope the plan works.
“We’ll do that for Breeders’ Cup (at Santa Anita next year on Nov. 4 and 5), come out a little earlier, breeze them and hope they run well.”
Cavorting, owned by Stonestreet Stables, LLC, is the most accomplished of the trio. The bay filly has had eight starts, winning five, including the Grade I Test Stakes and the Grade II Prioress.
“She went super,” McLaughlin said. “It was nice to let her stretch her legs. She’s a bit of a high-strung filly and can be a difficult gallop, so this is probably her exercise rider’s second-favorite day. His favorite day is her day off tomorrow.
“She’s certainly fit and ready and a fast filly. We just wanted a nice path and that’s what we got, so it went well.”
All three horses are progeny of Bernardini, who stands at Darley Stud in Lexington, Ky. for $100,000. Marking and Watershed are owned by Godolphin Racing, LLC.
Also working at Santa Anita Friday for the La Brea was streaking speedster Hot City Girl, going four furlongs in 47.40 for trainer Linda Rice.
“She went well,” Rice said by phone from New York. “We’re happy with it. We wanted to get one breeze over the track before the race.” Hot City Girl, a chestnut City Zip filly bred in New York and owned by Lady Sheila Stable, won her last three starts, including the Safely Kept at Laurel by 8 ¼ lengths Nov. 14.
The Malibu and the La Brea each offers $300,000 in purse money and will be decided at seven furlongs, the La Brea restricted to three-year-old fillies and the Malibu to three-year-olds.
Two additional stakes will be presented Opening Day, the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile (turf) and the Grade III Daytona.
First post time opening day is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
VIGILANTE MAKES STAKES DEBUT IN MATHIS BROTHERS MILE
Vigilante, a lightly raced son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, makes his stakes debut in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile on turf Opening Day.
Phil D’Amato is hoping for a solid performance, based on how the three-year-old bay colt owned by Gary and Mary West has been training.
“He came in from back East after running at Keeneland on Oct. 21,” the trainer said. “We’ve had him for a little while and he’s doing well, so we’ll give it a shot.”
A committed stretch runner, Vigilante came from 10th and last at the half-mile marker to win a one-mile allowance race on turf by three-quarters of a length in the Keeneland race.
ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW FOR RON McANALLY
Ron McAnally has been around the track a few times. The legendary Hall of Fame trainer, who turns 84 come next July 11, has been at every Santa Anita meet since 1948, save 1950 and 51, when he served two years in the Air Force.
A fixture at his Clockers’ Corner table as early as 6:30 when temperatures have hovered near the freezing mark on recent mornings, McAnally is sharp of mind and in relative good health as Santa Anita embarks on its 79th season the day after Christmas, Dec. 26.
Born in Covington, Ky. and raised in an orphanage with two younger brothers and two sisters, McAnally would go on to reach racing’s greatest heights, training 12 national champions, the most famous of which was two-time Horse of the Year John Henry.
He walked hots for his uncle, Reggie Cornell, trainer of the mythical stretch runner, Silky Sullivan, whose breathtaking rushes from last to first in the late 1950s would make him a household name.
“I was a groom mucking stalls at Santa Anita with this little guy at the next barn, right where Paddy Gallagher is stabled now,” remembered McAnally, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, active trainers still on the beat. He might have more rings around his trunk than any of his contemporaries.
“I went into the Service and when I came back, this guy was all the rage, winning races left and right. I didn’t know who he was.”
The man was Bill Shoemaker.
“I came here in 1948 in the dead of winter,” McAnally said, “and Lefty Nickerson had come in from the East Coast. It snowed like hell while he was here and he looked at me and said, ‘I thought it never snowed in Southern California.'”
McAnally, ably assisted by former trainer Dan Landers since 1995, isn’t winning in bunches like he did three decades ago, but he takes it in stride, waxing philosophically.
“No trainer can win races with bad horses,” he says. “But life goes on.”
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will give away its popular full color Wall Calendar free on Opening Day to all fans at the track with paid admission while supplies last . . . The first 20,000 paid attendees will receive a $100 Mathis Brothers Furniture gift certificate, and the first 5,000 kids 17 and under accompanied by a paid adult will get a plush, mini-Thoroughbred toy, courtesy of the Mathis Brothers . . . Santa Anita will offer an opening day Trackside Package that includes special trackside seating, a free first drink, and an officially licensed American Pharoah T-shirt commemorating the first-ever Grand Slam champion of horse racing. Use promo code PHAROAH for $5 off the package price . . . Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, who worked five furlongs Thursday in 1:00.40 for Bob Baffert, will not run in the Malibu, the Hall of Fame trainer said Friday morning. “I don’t want to back him up,” Baffert said, alluding to the 1 1/8-mile Native Diver Stakes Dortmund won on Nov. 28 and the seven furlong Malibu. A more likely spot for the son of Big Brown would be the Jan. 9 San Pasqual Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth and a likely confrontation with 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome . . . Another candidate for the San Pasqual is Gold Cup at Santa Anita winner Hard Aces trained by John Sadler, who said Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind is enjoying some R&R and won’t start back until mid-meet, with the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita a long-range goal . . . Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza, a finalist for Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, was a visitor to Clocker’s Corner Friday morning, recently back from Hong Kong where he participated in a Jockeys’ Challenge competition . . . Agent Nelson Arroyo reports that Stuart Elliott arrives from Kentucky next Friday to ride full time at Santa Anita. Arroyo also represents Abel Lezcano, who has been busy in the mornings working horses for alpha trainers Richard Baltas, Jerry Hollendorfer, Peter Miller, Doug O’Neill and Sadler . . . Multiple graded stakes winner Taris worked four furlongs Friday in 49.40 for trainer Simon Callaghan . . . Agent Michael Burns has taken the book of jockey Jose Verenzuela. The 48-year-old has been riding more than 25 years and ridden more than 1,500 winners with his biggest victory coming in the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba in 2009 aboard the Jerry Barton-trained Big City Man for Saudi Prince Sultan Mohammad Saud Al Kabeer. A native of Venezuela and a countrymate of North America’s leading jockey by earnings Javier Castellano in addition to hot-riding Santiago Gonzalez, Verenzuela also rode for three seasons in Singapore, with his biggest success coming aboard Flax in the $500,000, Group 1 Raffles Cup in 2012. Burns also represents 25-year-old Gonzalo Nicolas, who began riding as a journeyman on Memorial Day and has ridden 51 winners . . . Greg Hendricks, 20-year-old son of trainer Dan Hendricks, was aboard multiple stakes winner Om as he galloped Friday morning in preparation for the Mathis Brothers Mile. “Greg’s been galloping for me since he was 16,” Dan said . . . Serving coffee free at Clockers’ Corner, generously initiated by Los Angeles Turf Club Chairman Keith Brackpool two days ago, is proving a rousing success. “We served over 200 cups Thursday, double our normal amount,” said hostess Rosie Ybarra. “Before, everybody would walk around with a Starbucks. Now they walk around with a Rosiebucks.”