Santa Anita Stable Notes Friday, April 2, 2021




History lies in wait for Bob Baffert should he win Saturday’s Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

A victory by either favorite Medina Spirit or longshot Defunded, a recent maiden sprint winner, would add to the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer’s record of nine Santa Anita Derby victories that started with California-bred Cavonnier in 1996 and culminating thus far with Roadster in 2019.

A win would also give Baffert his 219th Grade I stakes triumph, tying him with fellow Hall of Fame member D. Wayne Lukas for most Grade I victories in the United States and Canada since Jan. 1, 1976 through March 26, 2021.

The winning horse will earn 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, second through fourth 40, 20 and 10, respectively.

Baffert and Medina Spirit’s owner, Amr Zedan, obviously have a vested interest in the race, as does private clocker Gary Young, the bloodstock agent who recommended Zedan buy the son of Protonico for the bargain price of $35,000.

To date the colt has earned nearly five times that amount and a victory in Saturday’s $750,000 race, offering $450,000 to the winner, would be worth almost 13 times his purchase price.

Young is just back from the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where he purchased a first-crop Gun Runner colt for Zedan at $1.7 million, the sale’s second-highest price.

A clocker since he was 18 and an agent for more than 30 years, the 59-year-old Young acknowledges Medina Spirit is likely to face speed both inside and outside from his No. seven post position in a field of 10 going a mile and an eighth, including from John Shirreffs trainee Parnelli who adds blinkers, drew post position four and has noted speed rider Edwin Maldonado aboard for the first time, surefire indicators the horse will not be taken back early.

“We wanted our horse to have a target,” Young said. “He’s trained really well since his last race (second by eight lengths behind undefeated but sidelined stablemate Life Is Good in the San Felipe Stakes March 6).

“In many ways it might look like he was a well-beaten second but when you consider he entrapped in that race . . . we’re not saying he would have beaten Life Is Good, but I think it was a pretty gallant effort to run second under those conditions.”

It was discovered after the San Felipe that Medina Spirit had suffered a slightly entrapped epiglottis, necessitating minor throat surgery. According to The American Association of Equine Practitioners, an entrapped epiglottis is “a condition in which the thin membrane lying below the epiglottis moves up and covers the epiglottis. The abnormality may obstruct breathing.”

Added Young: “We respect the competition, but if he’s getting his air better this time, it’s got to be a plus.

“I think I speak for Bob and Mr. Zedan when I say he’s going to be pretty tough in this race.”

          The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby is race eight of 12 with a 12 noon first post time. It will be broadcast live on NBCSN, with approximate post time 4:15 p.m. Pacific.

The local weather forecast is ideal, sunny skies with a high of 82 degrees.

The field for the 84th running of the race: Roman Centurian, Juan Hernandez, 8-1; Dream Shake, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Rock Your World, Umberto Rispoli, 4-1; Parnelli, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Back Ring Luck, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Ottothelegend, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Medina Spirit, John Velazquez, 5-2; Law Professor, Kent Desormeaux, 10-1; The Great One, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; and Defunded, Mike Smith, 8-1.

The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby headlines six stakes on Saturday, four of them graded and two showcasing California-bred or sired runners.

Purses on Saturday’s blockbuster program total $2,196,000, the six stakes alone offering a combined $1,750,000.



Javanica, second in her last four races, all stakes and all on either synthetic surfaces or turf, steps up in company and tries dirt for the first time in Saturday’s Grade II Santa Anita Oaks at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track.

Eoin Harty feels she deserves the chance.

“This will be her first time on dirt but she works great on it,” the trainer said.

“She doesn’t seem to mind the kickback. She ran against colts last time out and just got beat by a good horse,” alluding to a game neck loss despite a four-wide trip on Feb. 13 to Triple Crown candidate Rombauer in the El Camino Real Derby.

Javanica is a bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned and bred by Godolphin LLC, for whom the 58-year-old Harty has been training just over two decades. The native of Ireland has engaged Mike Smith to ride in the Oaks, which Smith won last year on champion Swiss Skydiver.

The Hall of Fame rider also won the Oaks on two other champions, Midnight Bisou in 2018 and Songbird in 2016.

Javanica is not one to carry her track around with her, having raced at Arlington Park, Woodbine, Del Mar, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in her six starts.

“She’s been everywhere,” Harty said.

The Oaks, race six: Moraz, Juan Hernandez, 8-5; Brilliant Cut, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; Soothsay, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Javanica, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Beautiful Gift, John Velazquez, 9-5.



Phil D’Amato, who has turned Charmaine’s Mia into a monster in the two races he’s had her, expects a third straight graded stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares four and up at a mile on turf.

Tied at 26 for Santa Anita’s training lead with Bob Baffert, D’Amato says Charmaine’s Mia “is super; she’s locked and loaded.”

Her previous 25 races were on east coast surfaces at Woodbine in Canada and Gulfstream Park in Florida, but the five-year-old daughter of The Factor has readily taken to Santa Anita’s turf course, winning the Grade III Las Cienegas at six furlongs and the Grade II Buena Vista at a mile.

“I think it’s a combination of things,” D’Amato said when asked the reasons for her taking a fancy to The Great Race Place. “One is the firmer turf surface we have in California; another is her confidence has increased by winning here.

“Those two things have turned her around.”

D’Amato also entered Raymundos Secret in the Royal Heroine. The five-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Treasure Beach “is training phenomenal as well.”

Raymundos Secret stumbled when fourth in the Grade II Goldikova going a mile on turf at Santa Anita in her most recent race last Oct. 25, but since has been training lights out with three recent bullet drills.

“She kind of sprung a shoe in the gate in the Goldikova,” D’Amato said, “and it’s taken us this long to get her foot right. Once we did, she’s been working up a storm as well.”

John Velazquez has the mount.

The Royal Heroine, race number nine: Dogtag, Umberto Rispoli, 8-1; Tapwater, Mike Smith, 6-1; Charmaine’s Mia, Flavien Prat, 8-5; Warren’s Showtime, Juan Hernandez, 8-1; Raymundos Secret, John Velazquez, 4-1; Laura’s Light, Abel Cedillo, 6-1; Rideforthecause, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; and Ippodamia’s Girl, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1.



Richard Mandella had three horses nominated to Saturday’s Grade III Providencia Stakes but entered the most logical one, Ivy League, in the nine-furlong turf race for three-year-old fillies.

“She’s doing really well right now, I’d say the best she’s done so far,” Mandella said of the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned and bred by LNJ Foxwoods.

True, Ivy League is coming off a maiden win, but the bay has been no secret with bettors, going off favored in four of her six starts, finishing second four times, once via disqualification.

She has experienced trouble in four of her races, bumped in three while seven wide in another, but has enough versatility to attend the pace or come from off it.

Her best performance may have been a third by a half-length in Del Mar’s Juvenile Fillies Turf last Sept. 6 while seven wide.

The Providencia, race five: Sensible Cat, Juan Hernandez, 6-1; Quattroelle, Tyler Baze, 7-2; $2,000 supplement Derby Quest, Alexis Centeno, 50-1; Going Global, Flavien Prat, 6-5; Royal Address, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Closing Remarks, Umberto Rispoli, 3-1; and Ivy League, Mike Smith, 6-1.



In racing, the bell rings in silence for Ray Bell and his family.

A third-generation horseman, trainer Thomas Ray Bell II (call him Ray) is one of a faceless backstretch breed who brown-bags it daily before sunrise to sunset, their dedication and love of the horse etched in stone.

More than four decades into his trade, and although his family’s story is historically compelling, the 67-year-old Bell maintains a low profile at Southern California race tracks, where he and his forefathers have plied their trade for nearly a century.

Tomorrow, Bell sends out a promising daughter of Mr. Big named Pawnee in the $150,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for three-year-old California-bred or sired fillies at 6 ½ furlongs on dirt. He has engaged Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to ride.

Owned in part by Bell and Richard A. Bell, an attorney from Oklahoma but no relation, Pawnee has won her last two races by a combined margin of nine lengths, finishing fourth after a slow start in her debut last August 20 on Del Mar’s turf course.

“Her last win came in a starter allowance race, but it was against open company,” Bell pointed out. “She’s a nice filly and obviously hasn’t faced any superior horses yet, but she’s won very, very comfortably in her last two races, so I just don’t know how good she is.”

Bell’s grandfather, Ray Bell, began his career in the late 1920s, while the present trainer’s father, who goes by the name of Tom Bell, trained circa 1950-1980, and though now retired, is still living life to its fullest, getting married last year at 91 and going strong now after  turning 92 last month.

It was the sedulous genes of his granddad, a champion cowboy, a member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame and a professional polo player, that were passed on to both Ray and his father, to their everlasting benefit.

For example: in the latter part of the 1930s, grandpop Ray trained for Lindsay Howard, who became nationally known when he and Bing Crosby raced horses together under the name Binglin Stable.

It was at that time Lindsay’s father, Charles Howard, happened to own a Thoroughbred that was to become the Babe Ruth of horse racing, immortalized in books, movies and statues.

The horse was Seabiscuit.

The field for the Evening Jewel, race 10: Governor Goteven, Tiago Pereira, 8-1; I’m So Anna, Umberto Rispoli, 10-1; Fifi Pharoah, Mike Smith, 6-1; Maybe I Will, Abel Cedillo, 6-1; Becca Taylor, Flavien Prat, 5-2; $25,000 supplemental nominee Dylans Wildcat, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Big Clare, Juan Hernandez, 12-1; Pawnee, John Velazquez, 8-1; and Pray for My Owner, Tyler Baze, 3-1.



Mister Bold is a throwback.

The three-year-old colt by the Stephen Got Even sire Time to Get Even owned by Edward J. Brown Jr. doesn’t have to carry his track around with him.

In five career races he has won at four different tracks and makes his second stakes start Saturday in the $150,000 Echo Eddie for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

It is one in the lucrative Golden State Series exclusively for California-bred or sired runners.

Out of the Bold Badgett dam Bold Mystique and bred by Rusty and Debi Brown, Mister Bold has a diverse style, usually in close attendance to the pace but coming from sixth and last to win by a length going 5 ½ furlongs at Del Mar last Oct. 31.

“He’s trained real well for this race and we’re excited to run,” trainer Jeff Bonde said. “He doesn’t carry his track with him; he comes to play. He’s a nice little horse.”

The Echo Eddie, race 12: Sabuda, Tyler Baze, 30-1; Letsgetlucky, Umberto Rispoli, 5-1; The Chosen Vron, Mike Smith, 8-5; None Above the Law, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Found My Ball, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Good With People, Juan Hernandez, 6-1; Big Flame, Abel Cedillo, 20-1; Cargo, John Velazquez, 10-1; Alpine Thunder, Heriberto Figueroa, 30-1; and Mister Bold, Edwin Maldonado, 6-1.

Top Harbor was scratched.



George Taniguchi, believed to be America’s first Japanese-American jockey and later a highly respected Southern California racing official, passed away at age 94 following a brief illness at his home in Palm Springs in early March, according to his niece Donna Johnson, who had served as his caretaker.

Born in 1926 in the farming community of El Centro, CA, Taniguchi’s family moved to Los Angeles following World War II and he quickly became enamored with acting–which led to a chance encounter with major league horseracing at Hollywood Park in 1950.

In search of a producer whom he hoped would give him a leading role in MGM’s “Go for Broke,” Taniguchi high-tailed it to the Track of the Lakes and Flowers, only to be denied entrance to the Turf Club.  Although dejected, Taniguchi soon liked what he saw on the track and was told to contact a quarter horse trainer in Bakersfield named Jimmy Monji–who would later train quarter horses for Ed Allred, who would later become the owner of Los Alamitos Racecourse.

According to Taniguchi, in a story published in Discover Nikkei on Aug. 10, 2020, it was Monji who taught him how to ride with a horse, not just on a horse.  His experience with Monji in Bakersfield led to him becoming a freelance exercise boy at Hollywood Park in 1952 and then a licensed jockey in 1954.

Hollywood Park’s leading apprentice and a winner of a career-high 230 races in 1954, Taniguchi more than held his own riding at tracks around the country with the likes of John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, Eddie Arcaro, Ray York, Milo Valenzuela, Bill Boland, Donald Pierce, Jerry Lambert and other top riders of the 1950s and 60s.  With 203 wins in 1959, Taniguchi enjoyed his best money-won year, as his mounts earned $934,711, placing him 12th nationally.

A multiple leading rider on Pomona’s half mile bullring, Taniguchi, who retired from the saddle in 1968, booted home a total of 1,597 winners from 11,354 mounts.

“My dad loved George and he won a lot of races with him at Pomona,” said trainer Gary Stute in reference to his father, the late Mel Stute.  “My dad always said nobody rode that bullring out there better than George.  He was fearless and a great judge of pace.  I can tell you this, he was a great racing official also.  He knew the game and he respected everyone.”

Among his biggest wins, as reported by Steve Andersen in Daily Racing Form, were the $218,940 Arlington Futurity in 1960 aboard Pappa’s All, with whom he also won that year’s Hollywood Futurity.

Taniguchi also rode Hall of Famer Round Table to victory in the 1957 El Dorado Handicap at Hollywood Park and in 1958, he won Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes aboard Carrier X.  A multiple stakes winner at Pomona, Twenty One Guns and Taniguchi also won the Del Mar Handicap in 1959.

Following his retirement, Taniguchi worked as a racing official at all major California tracks and served as Assistant Racing Secretary at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

“George was a good friend and a tremendous official,” said longtime Santa Anita Placing Judge, Bob Moreno.  “He was always upbeat and he made the job fun.  He was professional at all times and he knew the game thoroughly.  A first class man in every respect.”

George Taniguchi is survived by his son Ryan and niece, Donna Johnson.

-Mike Willman



There will be a mandatory payout Saturday on Santa Anita’s popular 20-cent Rainbow Pick Six, with the pool possibly reaching $5 million according to track officials.

The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby goes as race eight and will be leg two in the Rainbow Pick Six.

It will be broadcast live on NBCSN, with approximate post time 4:15 p.m. Pacific.

The Rainbow Pick Six starts with race seven which has an approximate post time of 3:45 p.m. Pacific.


FINISH LINES: Horses named for former Major League stars were among the 81 workers Friday, George Herman Ruth going four furlongs for Phil D’Amato in 49.40 and Johnny Podres breezing three furlongs on the training track in 37 seconds for Steve Miyadi. In all there were 81 recorded workouts, 12 on the training track. On Monday, there were 15 recorded workouts on the training track and as is his wont, seven were by horses conditioned by D’Amato. The race for top conditioner remains highly contentious with D’Amato and Bob Baffert tied for the lead at 26, followed by Peter Miller (25), Richard Baltas (23) and Doug O’Neill (22). The jockeys’ race is a runaway, Flavien Prat ahead of Juan Hernandez, 75-50.



Stronach 5 All-Star Ticket for April 2nd, 2021

Jeff Siegel’s Triple Crown Tracker for the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby

Preview of the Grade III Providencia Stakes

Preview of the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks

Preview of the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby

Preview of the Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes

Preview of the Evening Jewel Stakes 

Preview of Race 7


Tap Back (McCarthy) 4-1-21

Lalic (Outside) and Cielo d’Oro (Sadler) 4-1-21

Dolce (Baltas) 4-1-21

My Man Bags (Outside) and Guinessey (Aguirre) 4-1-21

Brutto (Outside) and Justinian (Baffert) 3-31-21

The Chosen Vron (Kruljac) 3-29-21

Idol (Baltas) 3-29-21

Kalypso (Baffert) 3-29-21

Count Again (Outside) and Cathkin Peak (D’Amato) 3-29-21

Qahira (Baffert) 3-29-21

Medina Spirit (Outside) and Laurel River (Baffert) 3-28-21