TRAINING STILL A WORK OF ART FOR SHERMAN
MILLER IS READY FOR WEEKEND STAKES RACES
VACCAREZZA: FRESH FACE, FASCINATING STORY
SANTA ANITA HONORS MEMORY OF TOM LASORDA
SHERMAN LOOKS FORWARD TO 2021’S KALOOKAN QUEEN
The New Year is here and one of racing’s undisputed good guys, Art Sherman, welcomed it in fine fettle as he prepares to turn 84 on Feb. 17.
In 2016, Sherman was named winner of the Big Sport of Turfdom, awarded annually by the Turf Publicists of America honoring a “person or group of people who enhance coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.”
Sherman, who gained fame and fortune most trainers can only dream about when California Chrome burst on the scene in 2013, is content with a more mundane pace these days.
On Sunday, he runs the four-year-old filly Acting Out in the $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes for fillies and mares, four and up, at 6 ½ furlongs.
She also was nominated to Saturday’s Grade II La Canada Stakes, but with two Grade I winners in there (Fighting Mad and Hard Not to Love), Sherman felt the race came up too tough and opted for a softer spot.
A four-year-old gray daughter of Blame, who handed the great Zenyatta her lone defeat by a diminishing head in a dramatic edition of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic under the late Garrett Gomez, Acting Out won her last two starts in overnight races by a combined margin of just over 10 lengths, one on turf the other on dirt.
“She’s doing well and been running well on both surfaces,” said Sherman, who owns 50 percent of the filly with his son, Alan. Bobby Harkins and Zvika Akin share the remaining 50 percent.
Born in Brooklyn where he became street smart in his father’s Runyonesque barber shop, Sherman later moved to Los Angeles and went to work for Rex Ellsworth, accompanying the great Swaps in May of 1955 to Churchill Downs where he won the Kentucky Derby, and on Aug. 31 to Washington Park in Homewood, Ill., 27 miles south of Chicago, for a historic match race with Nashua before a crowd of 35,262.
Sherman began a career as jockey in 1957, retired in 1978, and took out his trainer’s license in 1979. Thirty-four years later along came California Chrome and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sherman is comfortable with a stable of “about 10 horses” at his Los Alamitos headquarters, and has no plans to call it a career. “If people read that I might retire, nobody will want to give me any horses,” he said.
Winner of the Kentucky Derby in 2014 and a two-time Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016, California Chrome became an international fan favorite and Team Sherman was aboard for the wild ride.
The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit-Love the Chase retired with a 16-4-1 record from 27 races, earning $14,752,650. Now 10, he stands at stud in Japan for four million yen ($36,500 in Yankee dollars).
“The only time I get to see him is on Facebook,” Sherman said, “but I’d sure like to visit him. I have an open invitation to see him anytime.”
Aside from keeping tabs on California Chrome and winning races, Sherman’s foremost priority is his health, which, knock wood, is good these days. Presently he is cancer-free from a tumor that was discovered on his bladder and surgically removed in March of 2019.
“My last visit four months ago I was free of cancer,” Sherman said, “so I won’t have to see the doctor again for a while.”
And that’s the best news of this or any year.
The field for the Kalookan Queen, race eight of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Amuse, Drayden Van Dyke; Biddy Duke, Umberto Rispoli; Qahira, Joel Rosario; Acting Out, Abel Cedillo; Dynasty of Her Own, Ricky Gonzalez; and Mo See Cal, Flavien Prat.
MILLER HAS PROUD EMMA IN GRADE II LA CANADA
Peter Miller, a threat to be leading trainer at any meet in which he participates on a full-time basis, hopes to enhance his chances at Santa Anita’s current campaign when Proud Emma runs in Saturday’s Grade II La Canada Sakes and Mo See Cal runs in Sunday’s Kalookan Queen Stakes.
Proud Emma, a five-year-old gray daughter of Include owned by Gem Inc. and Tom Kagele, won the Grade III Bayakoa at Los Alamitos last out on Dec. 6. On paper, it looks like there’s ample speed in the La Canada to benefit her usual closing stretch run.
“She’s doing very, very well,” 54-year-old Los Angeles native Miller said of Proud Emma. “We’re excited.” A chestnut mare bred in Kentucky by the state’s 58th Governor, Brereton Jones, Proud Emma has six wins and two seconds from 16 starts, with earnings of $304,658.
Santa Anita’s current riding leader with 12 wins, Juan Hernandez, retains the mount.
Mo See Cal, a six-year-old Uncle Mo mare owned by Rockingham Ranch, also was nominated to the La Canada at 1 1/16 miles but returns to a dirt sprint in Sunday’s Kalookan Queen at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Mo See Cal was unplaced in a one-mile overnight race on turf at Del Mar Nov. 28 but won the Betty Grable for California-breds sprinting seven furlongs on dirt at the seaside track Nov. 8.
The La Canada, race seven, with a 12 noon first post time: Proud Emma, Juan Hernandez, 6-1; Hard Not to Love, Ricky Gonzalez, 2-1; Fighting Mad, Abel Cedillo, 9-5; Message, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Sanenus, Umberto Rispoli, 6-1; Miss Stormy D, Mike Smith, 8-1; and Never Be Enough, Tiago Pereira, 12-1.
PASSION FOR RACING BRINGS TRAINER TO SANTA ANITA
Carlo Vaccarezza is a new name among trainers in Southern California but he’s not a racing novice.
Far from it.
The 68-year-old native of Italy who immigrated to the United States in the 1960s sends out 20-1 morning line longshot King Theo in today’s $65,000 feature race at one mile on turf, a course over which Vaccarezza has had success in the past, although not as a trainer.
He was the breeder and his wife, Priscilla, the owner of Florida-bred gelding Little Mike who posted a 17-1 upset in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in 2012, when trained by Dale Romans.
Carlo currently has six head at Santa Anita and another six due in this Wednesday from Keeneland, two of them related to Little Mike, a four-year-old filly (Little Jewel) and a three-year-old colt (Militarist), both sired by Liam’s Map.
Vaccarezza, who will have a string of horses at Santa Anita for the first time, has been training since 2014 but he is not a one-trick pony. “I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life,” he said. “I own restaurants in New York City and I’m building one in Lexington, Kentucky. I have a couple in South Florida, and I’m involved in an olive oil company in La Mirada, California, but my passion was always horse racing.”
All his restaurants are named Frank and Dino’s, after Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. “They are high-end Italian restaurants and we play the Rat Pack music and rock and roll,” Carlos said. “I used to cook for Frank.”
How high-end are they? Spaghetti primavera is 26 bucks and a dish called Fagottini Sinatra goes for $30.50, but it’s worth visiting Frank and Dino’s website to ogle the mouth-watering fare on the expansive menu.
But back to racing.
“In 2007 I got lucky and bred a mare (Hay Jude) that actually was a giveaway, to Spanish Steps and the rest is history,” Carlo said. “The foal was Little Mike (named for Carlo’s 18-year-old son; Carlo’s 21-year-old son Nicholas, who earned his spurs as a foreman and assistant to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, now assists with his Dad’s business).
Both sons miraculously survived the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 15 miles from Vaccarezza’s Frank and Dino’s restaurant in Boca, where on Feb. 25, Carlo raised $182,254 in a fundraiser to benefit the school.
Little Mike, who had a 14-2-1 record from 30 starts with earnings of $3,543,392, was Hay Jude’s second foal. Spanish Steps was an unraced son of Unbridled who had a modest stud fee of $5,000.
California always held a special place in Vaccarezza’s heart. “(Del Mar Racing Secretary) David Jerkens had invited me to race there and I just couldn’t make it, but when Chris (Merz) took over (as Director of Racing and Racing Secretary) at Santa Anita, things sort of fell into place.
“I was a board member of the HPBA (Horsemen’s Protective and Benevolent Association) in South Florida, so I know The Stronach Group really well. Craig Fravel (CEO of The Stronach Group) called me and got me involved with Chris and I couldn’t wait to try Santa Anita.”
A key factor is Santa Anita’s Sunshine Bonus Incentive Program, which offers a guaranteed $3,000 bonus for any eligible starter in its initial Santa Anita race (stakes excluded) whose previous start was made outside California.
Also, there is an additional 35 percent bonus applied to a horse’s purse earnings (first through fifth) in its initial Santa Anita race (stakes excluded) whose previous start was made outside California.
“It’s an extra incentive,” Carlo said of the program, “a beautiful gift.”
SANTA ANITA HONORS TOMMY LASORDA
Santa Anita Park will honor the memory of legendary Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda with a memorial wreath and a moment of silence prior to Friday’s first race. An occasional visitor the Great Race Place, Lasorda passed away Thursday night at his home in Fullerton at age 93.
Lasorda was a personal friend of the late Hall of Fame trainer Lazaro Barrera, as the two had met while Lasorda was playing winter ball in Cuba in the early 1950s.
A man who embodied a can-do spirit that took him to the top of his profession, Lasorda lived the American Dream and was a treasured part of the fabric of all things Los Angeles for five decades.
“There are two things about Tommy that I will always remember,” said Vin Scully in a press release issued by the Dodgers. “The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of ‘beans’ and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else.
“The other was his determination. He was a fellow with limited ability and he pushed himself to be a very good Triple-A pitcher. He never quite had that something extra that makes a major leaguer, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try. Those are some of the things…His heart was bigger than his talent and there were no foul lines for his enthusiasm.”
Lasorda’s memorial wreath has been placed astride Santa Anita’s Seabiscuit Statue and following a moment of silence as the horses are in the Seabiscuit Walking Ring prior to today’s first race, Jay Cohen will honor Tommy Lasorda with a special rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
FINISH LINES: American Theorem, a son of 2015 Triple Crown king American Pharoah‘s first crop who was second in the Sept. 27, 2019 American Pharoah Stakes to Eight Rings, worked six furlongs at Santa Anita Friday morning in a bullet 1:13.20 for George Papaprodromou. “It was his fourth breeze back and he went very well under Flavien Prat,” said the trainer, who mentioned no race for the four-year-old’s return. Owned by Rustin Kretz, American Theorem last raced on March 14, 2020, finishing seventh behind Nadal in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park. Overall there were 102 recorded drills this morning, 13 on the training track.
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