• HOLIDAY’S A WINNER FOR TRUMAN DESPITE LOSING HORSES
• BOB BAFFERT SEEKS GRADE I STATUS WITH IRISH FREEDOM
• CERIN NEEDS HORSE AT TOP OF HIS GAME FOR SAN ANTONIO
• POPULAR WALL CALENDAR FREE TO FANS ON OPENING DAY
TRAINER MAINTAINS HOLIDAY SPIRIT YEAR-ROUND
Santa Anita never gets old for Eddie Truman.
When it begins its Winter Meet on Tuesday, it will mark the 47th opening day here for the trainer, who turns 71 on Jan. 23. One of the game’s genuinely good guys, Truman has flown under the public relations radar all these years but has never been shy on social niceties.
His mother taught him well.
Thanks to his structured Midwestern upbringing based on a morally prominent value system, Truman appreciates the vast verdant landscape on which Santa Anita flourishes, and it is why he is not bitter or vindictive after his principal owner took all 14 of his horses and sent them to another trainer, depleting Truman’s barn by more than half.
“Look at those palm trees, the sunrise, the mountains in the background,” Truman gushed as darkness ebbed at Clocker’s Corner, giving way to a Monet moment.
“Santa Anita is the best. In the 1960’s, I always wintered at the prettiest track in the world, Hialeah (in Florida). That was such a beautiful track, but it wasn’t in this setting.
“Santa Anita is just outstanding.”
Truman will have to endure this meet without the benefit of horses from his main client the past three years, entrepreneur Peter Redekop of Vancouver, Canada, who prospers in several business ventures, including real estate.
Octogenarian Redekop three days ago took all 14 of his horses from Truman and gave them to trainer Bill Spawr, leaving Truman with nine head, but he holds no malice.
“Mr. Redekop and (his racing manager) Bryan Anderson were so great to train for,” Truman said. “We won a lot of races and it was a big opportunity for me. It was really quite a ride. I really enjoyed it, and they’re super people.”
Truman’s positive foundation was ingrained from the start of his Bible Belt upbringing in a small Kansas town called Mulvane, not far from Wichita.
“Mom was a prayer angel,” Truman said of his late mother, Maxine, who died one day after her 100th birthday which was on April 1, 2016. “She always prayed and we always went to church; dad, too, although not as frequently until later in life.”
Eddie would usher Mom into Santa Anita’s Winner’s circle to participate in picture-taking ceremonies after he’d won a race, wheelchair and all.
“They were always principled people,” Truman said of his parents. “At my dad’s funeral, and this so exemplifies him, the pastor said, ‘Ral Truman–we called him Ral, but his real name was Ralph–was the kind of guy you saw never saw in a crowd until you needed something. Then he was the first one to step in and help.’ That was him. If you needed something, he was there.”
Eddie lost his brother, Dale, at 78 in October of 2016. Brother Jerry, a former jockey, is still with him at age 77.
Spawr, 78, a trainer since 1977 and one of the most respected horsemen in California, if not the country, was magnanimous about receiving Truman’s horses. “It’s a great opportunity for me,” said Spawr, noting there was no animosity between the two trainers.
“Pete called me and asked if I would be interested in taking his horses,” Spawr said. “I didn’t even know the guy.”
Truman waxed philosophically over having his stock greatly diminished.
“Mr. Redekop and Bryan gave their horses the best of care,” he said. “We just had some back luck lately, but they’re fantastic people who gave me an opportunity to train good horses. They’ve got a lot of real good horses coming up, including some babies. They’re going to come up with a big horse, and they deserve it.
“As for me, I don’t have a super horse right now but I’m hoping to get some new horses, come back strong and see what happens.”
A refreshing and emotionally fulfilling outlook most appropriate during this holiday season, knowing that at least one person, trainer Eddie Truman, still adheres to a basic credo:
“Peace on earth, good will to man.”
IRISH FREEDOM SHORTENS UP FOR GRADE I MALIBU
Bob Baffert has a good reason for running Irish Freedom at seven furlongs in the Grade I Malibu Stakes opening day after five straight route races.
“It’s the last chance this year to win a Grade I,” the Hall of Fame trainer said in a festive holiday atmosphere at a well-attended Clockers’ Corner Friday morning. “This is a little short for him, but . . . ”
A son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by Donegal Racing, Irish Freedom was second in the Grade III Native Diver at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 25, third in the restricted Comma to the Top at a mile before that, won an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles, was eighth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, and fifth in an overnight race at 1 1/16 miles after breaking his maiden going six furlongs in his first start, at Del Mar last Aug. 21.
Baffert, who also Dabster entered in the race, has won the prestigious Malibu twice, with Shakin It Up in 2013 and The Factor in 2011.
The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: City of Light, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; Edwards Going Left, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Irish Freedom, Mike Smith, 5-1; Favorable Outcome, Javier Castellano, 3-1; The Street Fighter, Edwin Maldonado, 30-1; Pavel, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; Heartwood, Joel Rosario, 15-1; Dabster, Flavien Prat, 6-1; and C Z Rocket, Jose Lezcano, 7-2.
SAN ANTONIO ‘NOT AN EASY RACE’ FOR TOP OF THE GAME
Top of the Game seeks to get back on the winning track in Tuesday’s Grade II San Antonio Stakes after having a three-race victory streak broken in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes Nov. 25, in which the trouble line reads, “steadied ¼, weakened.”
“Steadied is the understatement of the year,” said Vladimir Cerin, who trains the four-year-old gelded son of Desert Party for principal clients David and Holly Wilson.
“He’s training well, but it’s not an easy race. He has to improve off his best race to be competitive in this race.”
The San Antonio will be run on an opening day for the first time in its 80-year history, and as such will serve as a key steppingstone to the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.
The field for the San Antonio, which goes as race three: Hoppertunity, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Top of the Game, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Giant Expectations, 15-1, Gary Stevens; Prime Attraction, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Accelerate, Javier Castellano, 5-1; and Collected, Mike Smith, 3-5.
FREE WALL CALENDAR AT SANTA ANITA ON OPENING DAY
One of Santa Anita’s most popular giveaways, its colorful and composite Wall Calendar, will be given free to all fans with paid admission opening day at Santa Anita while supplies last.
The 2018 calendar, themed “Our Horses, Our Passion,” features artfully presented photographs of Thoroughbreds in a variety of eye-catching stages, including maintenance, training and running at The Great Race Place.
FINISH LINES: 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 on Saturday. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. . . . Martin Pedroza is rarin’ to go after returning Dec. 19 from a visit to his native Panama where he spent time with friends and family, including his soon-to-be 88-year-old mother, Luz. The indefatigable 52-year-old jockey has been together 28 years with agent Richie Silverstein, who met Martin “when he was 17, in 1983.” . . . Congratulations to trainer David Bernstein and his sweetheart of 35 years, Liz, on getting married last month in Las Vegas after a 3 ½-decade courtship. Asked why he waited so long to tie the knot, Bernstein said, “Well, we wanted to make sure.”