• COLLECTED AND DABSTER EYE OPENERS FOR BAFFERT
• ECLIPSE KING CASTELLANO RIDES HERE ON OPENING DAY
• BOLT D’ORO TO RETURN IN GRADE II SAN VICENTE FEB. 10
• UNIQUE BELLA DRILLS THURSDAY FOR GRADE I LA BREA
COLLECTED IN SHARP WORK FOR SAN ANTONIO
Arrogate conqueror Collected and Dabster are but two of the stalwarts from Bob Baffert’s star-studded stable set to compete at Santa Anita on its traditional Winter Meet opening day program next Tuesday, Dec. 26.
Collected, a four-year-old son of City Zip owned by Speedway Stable, LLC, led throughout the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, holding off Arrogate by a half-length.
With jockey Drayden Van Dyke aboard this morning, Collected, who will be ridden by Mike Smith on opening day, worked seven furlongs in 1:25.60.
“Very, very nice,” is how Van Dyke assessed the breeze. “He goes at such a high cruising speed, at the top of the lane it’s like he re-breaks again and he’s just starting to work. He’s doing very well.”
Added Baffert: “He worked great. We’re ready for opening day.”
Collected, second to likely Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 4, is one of four Baffert horses nominated to the Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio, which will be run for the first time in its 80-year history on opening day, and as such will serve as a key prep for the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.
Baffert also has Cat Burglar, Hoppertunity and Irish Freedom nominated to the San Antonio, a mile and 1 1/16 test for three-year-olds and up, which Baffert won in 2016 with Hoppertunity; twice with Game On Dude in 2012 and 2013; with Richard’s Kid in 2010; and Congaree in 2003.
Hoppertunity also is expected to run under Flavien Prat, who rode the venerable six-year-old son of Any Given Saturday to victory in the 2016 edition, defeating stablemate Mor Spirit by a length under 125 pounds.
Baffert has Dabster set to make his stakes debut in the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs on opening day. A $1 million chestnut son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Dabster crossed the wire first in all three of his starts but was disqualified from first and placed fourth in his debut race almost a year ago here, Dec. 26, 2016. Prat has the Malibu call on Dabster.
The Malibu and the La Brea–also on opening day–are two of the three remaining Grade I races on the 2017 calendar. The other is the American Oaks at Santa Anita Dec. 31.
SANTA ANITA WELCOMES FOUR-TIME ECLIPSE WINNER CASTELLANO
Javier Castellano, winner of an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey the past four years running, will be in from his East Coast headquarters to ride at Santa Anita on opening day.
Agent Mike Lakow has booked the 40-year-old native of Venezuela on three stakes mounts: Favorable Outcome for trainer Bob Hess Jr. in the Malibu; Accelerate for John Sadler in the San Antonio; and Marley’s Freedom for Hess in the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.
Lakow, former Racing Director at Santa Anita before Castellano hired him more than 18 months ago, says “Javier is a professional who’s liked by everybody . . . He’s won four Eclipses, done it all, and now we’re trying to focus on riding the top horses.”
Castellano, a finalist for Santa Anita’s prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, is second in the nation in purse earnings through Dec. 10 with $24,481,480. His 216 victories include 36 graded stakes, more than any other rider. Nine of them are Grade I’s.
RUIS PLANS TO TAKE SANTA ANITA ROUTE TO KENTUCKY
FrontRunner winner Bolt d’Oro, who suffered his first loss after bobbling at the start followed by a race-long wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4, is back at his home base of Santa Anita getting ready for his three-year-old debut in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 10.
If all goes well, the son of Medaglia d’Oro owned and trained by Mick Ruis would continue to prepare for the May 5 Kentucky Derby by running in the Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes March 10 and the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
“I’m staying here until then,” Ruis said this morning. “Santa Anita gives me stalls, so I’m going to stick to my word and run in all three races right here with the big horse. He’s been galloping and doing incredible. We turned down $15 million for him before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“I’ve already made a (breeding) deal with Mr. Hughes (B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farms in Kentucky). When we retire Bolt d’Oro, he owns 50 percent of the breeding rights and we (Mick and his wife, Wendy) own 50 percent.
“We own the horse 100 percent until the day we retire him, and then it’s 50-50 right down the middle with Mr. Hughes on the breeding rights.”
Meanwhile, Grade I winner Union Strike, unraced since last June 10 when she finished fifth in the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park, is being pointed to the Grade III Megahertz Stakes at a mile on grass Jan. 15, Ruis said.
“We always wanted to put her on the turf,” said Ruis, who nominated her to the La Brea Stakes on the main track opening day. “She runs like she wants to go on the turf and she’s bred for it (by Union Rags out of a Smart Strike mare, Classic Strike).
“We’d like to get a graded win on turf to go with her Grade I win as a two-year-old in the Del Mar Debutante on dirt and her Grade II placing in the Eight Belles as a three-year-old. If we get her a graded win on turf as a four-year-old, it would show her versatility on all surfaces.
“She went on her face in the Acorn and lost both front shoes. We kept her at Santa Anita and worked on a minor ankle issue. We gave her time because we’re here for the long run, and she’s doing incredible right now.”
FINISH LINES: Unique Bella, who had a five-race winning streak ended in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, is scheduled to work Thursday for the Grade I La Brea Stakes, according to Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer . . . Flavien Prat, who has ridden Big Score in eight of his 11 career starts including a victory in the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita last October, retains the mount in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile on turf opening day. Trained by Tim Yakteen for owner/breeder George Kirkorian, Big Score was second last out in the Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25. The Mathis Brothers could also lure Bowies Hero, Eldritch, Harbour Master, Holiday Stone, Hootie, Moves Like Ali and Van Cortlandt . . . Evin Roman, who won the recent Los Alamitos riding crown for his fifth title in Southern California at the tender age of 19 and is a lock to win an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding apprentice of 2017, is vacationing in his native Puerto Rico. He will resume riding opening day at Santa Anita, agent Tony Matos reports. Through Dec. 10, Roman had 150 victories, 68 more than second place Katie Clawson, and his mounts had earned $4,735,858, over $2 million more than his nearest rival . . . Alonso Quinonez is back as a regular at The Great Race Place, joining newcomer Rajiv Maragh. Both riders are represented by Nelson Arroyo, whose brother, Norberto Jr., is recovering from a broken right ankle suffered in a mishap at Del Mar . . . Entries for Tuesday’s opening day program will be taken this Thursday, Dec. 21 . . . First post time at Santa Anita opening day will be 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. Santa Anita will be dark Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 27 and 28, and resume live racing Friday Dec. 29 at 12:30 p.m. through New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. Santa Anita will be dark Jan. 2, 3 and 4, and begin live racing again on Friday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. Admission gates open that day at 11 a.m. Santa Anita offers simulcast wagering in the Paddock Room only this Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 21, 23 and 23. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. . . . Paco Gonzalez is now a regular each morning at The Great Race Place, site of his many stakes triumphs, including the Santa Anita Derby in 1997 and 2002 with Free House and Came Home for owners John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery. “I like to see the horses, walk around and get some exercise,” said Gonzalez, who turns 73 next March 17. He retired from training in 2012.