• GARCIA SITTING PRETTY ON BAFFERT FAVS THIS WEEKEND
• EIGHT (POST) IS (GOOD) ENOUGH FOR NO JET LAG IN ARCADIA
• PICK SIX ‘CARRYOVER KING’ REIGNS AT SANTA ANITA
• TALAMO READY FOR SUPER BOWL PARTY HANDICAP
FOR MARTIN GARCIA, HARD WORK PAYS OFF WITH BAFFERT
Martin Garcia has paid his dues.
From slinging hash in a Bay Area deli 10 years ago, through hard work and persistence, the 29-year-old jockey has become a mainstay with one of the world’s most successful racing operations, that of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
At Santa Anita this weekend, Garcia rides two morning line favorites for Baffert in a pair of important races, the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, and the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes for older sprinters on Sunday.
Garcia virtually is on call for Baffert 24/7. He is a regular at the barn most every morning, working Baffert’s blueblood Thoroughbreds, even though he doesn’t always get to ride all of them in the afternoons.
Fortunately, such is not the case this weekend, when Garcia rides 2-1 morning line favorite Streaming in the Las Virgenes, and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, the 4-5 choice in the Palos Verdes.
“I’ve been working Secret Circle, and I think he’s better than he was last year,” Garcia said of the 5-year-old Eddington horse, who is unbeaten in two starts under Garcia, including the Breeders’ Cup race last Nov. 2.
“I also work Streaming,” said the native of Veracruz, Mexico, whose agent is Brad Pegram. “I work everyone. Streaming and Secret Circle are both very good horses, and it’s good to be on them in the afternoon. I work hard and I’m grateful to get the opportunity to ride horses like this for Bob in big races.”
Another relatively unsung hero at the Baffert barn is assistant Jim Barnes, who recognizes full well the contribution made by Garcia.
“Martin has just been a great guy,” Barnes said. “He works very hard for us,” emphasizing the word ‘very.’ It’s paid off for him. He’s wound up with more than a couple of nice horses. He does work hard every day, but it’s paid off for him, I’ll say that.”
The field for the Las Virgenes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 5: Saintly Joan, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Fashion Plate, Gary Stevens, 4-1; Arethusa, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Artemis, Mike Smith, 4-1; Earthflight, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Sushi Empire, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; Taste Like Candy, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Streaming, Martin Garcia, 2-1.
The field for the Palos Verdes: Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Sahara Sky, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Majestic Stride, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; Secret Circle, Martin Garcia, 4-5; and Moonshine Bay, Gary Stevens, 12-1.
STREAMING’S POST POSITION SPARKS MEMORIES OF RAGS TO RICHES
Jon White, who makes the morning line at Santa Anita and provides pre-race television commentary for the track’s simulcast network, has observed it is rather ironic that Streaming drew the outside post position in the field of eight entered for Saturday’s Las Virgenes Stakes.
“Streaming’s dam (Teeming) is a half-sister to Rags to Riches, who broke from the outside post in a field of eight in the 2007 Las Virgenes,” White noted.
After Rags to Riches left the starting gate from the outside post in the Las Virgenes, she went on to win the one-mile event by three-quarters of a length despite an extremely wide trip.
“Rags to Riches veered out leaving the gate,” White recalled. “And then she was ‘hooked six wide’ going into the clubhouse turn, as Trevor (Denman) put it. Rags to Riches raced even wider all the way down the backstretch when out past the middle of the track.
“She never got any closer to the inside rail than about the four path the whole race. I’d say perhaps no horse in the history of racing in California ever won a Grade I race with a wider trip than Rags to Riches in the Las Virgenes. That performance really showed that Rags to Riches was a special filly.”
After Rags to Riches’ Las Virgenes victory, she would go on to win the Santa Anita Oaks, Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes.
Even though she stumbled at the start in the Belmont, Rags to Riches prevailed by a head over Curlin to become the first filly to win the Belmont in 102 years. The daughter of A.P. Indy was voted a 2007 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.
“Kentucky Derby winners Genuine Risk and Winning Colors, like Rags to Riches, both won a Triple Crown race,” White added. “And Genuine Risk and Winning Colors are both deservedly in the Hall of Fame. I really think Rags to Riches should be in the Hall of Fame, too. Rags to Riches actually won more Grade I races (four) during her career than Genuine Risk (two) and Winning Colors (three).”
EIGHT IS ENOUGH FOR NO JET LAG IN ARCADIA STAKES
Simon Callaghan is not concerned over drawing the outside post for No Jet Lag in Saturday’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes at one mile on turf. Au contraire.
“It’s a good post,” the trainer said. “It means he’s going to load late, and the plan with him is to take him back and not get involved early, get him to relax. I’m happy with the post.”
No Jet Lag’s four U.S. starts have all been at one mile on turf. He won the City of Hope Mile Stakes at Santa Anita last October and was fifth after stalking the pace last out in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes Dec. 26.
“He’s training well, we’re happy with him, and he seems ready,” Callaghan said.
The Arcadia field: Procurement, Drayden VanDyke, 12-1; Vagabond Shoes, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Unbridled’s Note, no rider, 8-1; Si Sage, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Regally Ready, Mike Smith, 6-1; Tom’s Tribute, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Winning Prize, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; and No Jet Lag, Corey Nakatani, 6-1.
Peace and Justice was scratched.
SANTA ANITA HOME OF CARRYOVER KING
If Santa Anita is the King of Carryovers, then Rick Hammerle is the Carryover King. Take it from no less an authority than private clocker Gary Young, who, as a player for over 30 years, has won all or part of more than 200 of the wildly exotic wagers requiring bettors to select six consecutive winners in quest of lottery-type bonanzas.
It’s a gamble with an adrenaline rush that has changed the face of racing, especially in Southern California, where the clime is always bright and the time is always right. Through 23 racing days, there have been nine Pick Six carryovers at Santa Anita this meet, the latest one worth $70,422 into Friday. With racing for the first time extending through June 29, assuredly there are more to come.
“Hammerle is the Carryover King,” Young said, bestowing a new nickname on “Hammer,” Santa Anita’s Racing Secretary who, along with his crack staff, is responsible for putting together attractive and challenging racing cards at The Great Race Place.
“It’s great to have carryovers,” said Young, who began his clocking career in 1978 at Calder Race Course. “My friends and I were talking about the days before intertrack wagering and ADW (advance deposit wagering). When there was a carryover back then, especially on a weekend, you would have to fight to get through the crowds in the grandstand at Santa Anita or Hollywood.
“It was unbelievable, because everyone was concentrated in one place. It’s a different kind of excitement today, because you’re watching on HRTV, where Laffit (Pincay III) and those guys do a good job telling you how many combinations are still alive and other information.
“But is it like it was when there was a carryover on a weekend and there were 40,000 people at the race track? Not quite, but it still is the only bet out there that can really, really, really change your life.
“If you get lucky and hit a Pick Five for maybe 20, 30 thousand, unfortunately, that doesn’t go as far as it used to. But you could win a hundred thousand if you hit a Pick Six.
“The Pick Six has been cannibalized somewhat by the Pick Five and the Pick Four and other exotic wagers, and quite frankly, the Pick Six is more difficult to hit. Plus, it’s not as long between drinks when you can play a 50 cent Pick Five instead of a $2 Pick Six.
“You don’t have to be a Stanford grad in mathematics to figure out that you have a whole lot more horses involved in one bet than the other. But the Pick Six has kind of defined my gambling career. I’ve been lucky to have had a piece of over 200 of them in my life.”
Asked what it may have netted, Young was his usual candid self.
“Put it this way,” he said. “There has been a lot more expense than there’s been profit. When gambling was a really, really high priority in my life, it was what you lived for.
“There would be certain days when there were maiden races I liked or workout horses I had clocked that maybe the rest of the world didn’t know about, like they do today because of the technology. Those were days when I felt I had a chance to go out and hit the Pick Six.
“It made you feel like you were on top of the world.”
TALAMO READY FOR SUPER BOWL PARTY HANDICAP SUNDAY
Joe Talamo is looking forward to Sunday and not just because of “The Big Game.”
The 24-year-old rider, third in Santa Anita’s standings with 18 wins through Thursday, rides Depreciable for trainer Jeff Mullins in Sunday’s sixth race, aptly dubbed The Super Bowl Party Starter Handicap, a nine furlong grass race for older horses.
“He won well at Hollywood and ran really hard last time when he was second by a nose,” Talamo said of the 6-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike. “He just got real unlucky. The winner just got up the last part. But a mile and an eighth should be right up his alley.”
As for his “Big Game” pick, Talamo said, “I like Denver, just because Mark Glatt likes Seattle.”
Fans at Santa Anita on Sunday can enjoy “The Big Game” matching the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, and partake of bargain eats as well. Not only is general admission to the track Sunday just a buck, but beers, sodas and hot dogs are also available at a dollar apiece. Early first post time is 11 a.m. Gates open at 9 a.m. With Promo Code YARD, fans can get the following for only $10: all you can eat buffet; half-priced drinks and $1 beers; seating area in Sirona’s; and your first drink included. Visit santaanita.com/events for further information.
FINISH LINES: With a fourth Kentucky Derby win his major objective, Kent Desormeaux will ride Noble Cornerstone for trainer Wesley Ward in Saturday’s Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs. The Hall of Fame rider also was named to ride Unbridled’s Note for Steve Asmussen in Saturday’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita. “Barring any last-minute changes, Kent will not ride at Santa Anita tomorrow,” said his agent, Danny Thomas. “We really appreciate the opportunity given to us by Steve Asmussen, but Kent’s main focus is on winning the Derby and that’s the priority right now.” Desormeaux returned to Santa Anita last Saturday and won two races on the Sunshine Millions California Cup card, including $132.40 longshot Susans Express in the Oaks . . . Mindless minutiae: Of the 24 horses that finished in the money at Santa Anita Thursday, all but two were ridden by jockeys whose last name ends in a vowel.