- BLINKERS BACK ON HAPPY JACK FOR PREAKNESS
- MONSTER MEMORIAL DAY IS SET FOR SANTA ANITA
- POWELL HOPES TO KEEP WINNING IN MIZDIRECTION
- MALIBU WINNER FLIGHTLINE TO WORK MONDAY
HAPPY JACK ‘IN GOOD SHAPE’ FOR PREAKNESS
Happy Jack, who finished 14th by 19 lengths behind upstart 80-1 winner Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby, is expected to show marked improvement in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico this Saturday according to Doug O’Neill.
Like O’Neill’s stable star Hot Rod Charlie, Happy Jack is also by 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow. Happy Jack “was slow into stride and passed only tiring foes” according to the Equibase KY Derby trouble line, but O’Neill is hoping the chestnut colt owned and bred by Calumet Farm can follow in the hoofprints of O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another, who won the Preakness in 2012 following a victory in the Run for the Roses.
“Happy Jack ran 14th in the Derby, but it wasn’t a horrible race, he came out of it in good shape and he’s so fit,” said O’Neill.
“We thought off the heels of that, shortening up a bit, his sire having won the Preakness (in 2013), the winner of the Derby not running, along with a couple of the other top three-year-olds, it was the right decision.
“It’s still going to be a tough race, but it’s a good opportunity and we’ll see what happens. We’re putting the blinkers back on him and Tyler Gaffalione is going to ride him.”
Happy Jack remains at Churchill Downs and will ship to Pimlico from there.
Addressing Happy Jack’s slow Derby start, O’Neill wasn’t sure how it happened, saying, “He walked right in (to the starting gate) like he always does, and Raffy (jockey Rafael Bejarano) said about 30 seconds later you could tell something wasn’t right.
“They were trying to make adjustments and his tail was stuck in the back door, so they opened it up and backed him out.
“That would be a bit painful and I don’t know how much it effected the end result, but it wasn’t a great way to start the day.”
BIG MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND STARTS MAY 28
Fans can avail themselves of fabulous racing and fun-filled festivities at Santa Anita Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the most anticipated on America’s Thoroughbred calendar.
The $500,000 Shoemaker Mile on turf is one of three Grade I events on Memorial Day, the others being the $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup for three-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles and the $400,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares three and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The monster weekend begins Saturday, May 28, with five stakes for statebreds, followed by three graded stakes Sunday, May 29, the Grade III Daytona for four-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside turf course; the Grade II Triple Bend for four-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; and the Grade III Honeymoon for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
In addition to world class racing over the three-day holiday, Santa Anita’s Infield Carnival will return with a Ferris Wheel and a number of other rides, a giant slide, inflatable jumpers and much more.
Memorial Day also is Dollar Day, with $1 beers, $1 sodas and $2 hot dogs.
Fans are encouraged to make dining and seating reservations as well as to save handsomely on unlimited ride Carnival wristbands by visiting santaanita.com/events.
NEIGE BLANCHE HAS POWELL ON A ROLL FOR MIZDIRECTION STAKES
Leonard Powell, whose Neige Blanche won yesterday’s Grade III Santa Barbara Stakes for the second consecutive year, hopes to continue on his hot streak next Saturday when he sends out Bye Bye Bertie in the $75,000 Mizdirection Stakes for fillies and mares four and up at about 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.
The six-year-old Alteration mare is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Santa Margarita Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on dirt April 30 and will be making her debut on the unique turf oval.
“Bye Bye Bertie was too close to the pace in the Santa Margarita,” said Powell, a 45-year-old French native. “She’s doing well and we’re looking forward to running her down the hill.”
Bye Bye Bertie has raced on turf eight times, winning four, all at a mile or longer.
Powell, tied for seventh among Santa Anita trainers with 16 wins from 61 starts, 26 percent, savored the Santa Barbara victory, Neige Blanche’s third in three tries at the daunting mile and a half distance on Santa Anita’s turf course. In addition to last year’s Santa Barbara, the chestnut mare won this year’s Grade III Astra Stakes at the marathon distance on Jan. 17.
“I was very happy with the trip we had,” Powell said after Neige Blanche’s 1 ¼-length victory under Santa Anita’s leading jockey Juan Hernandez.
“We didn’t want the favorite (Queen Goddess) to get away with too much of an advantage like she did last time (winning the Santa Ana when Neige Blanche ran third).
“We were about two to three lengths (off the pace) which was perfect, we stayed strong which was even better, and at the end of the day the last quarter of a mile the stamina of my filly played to our advantage.”
FINISH LINES: Undefeated Grade I Runhappy Malibu Stakes winner Flightline is scheduled to continue preparation for the Grade I Met Mile on June 11 with a workout at Santa Anita tomorrow, trainer John Sadler reports . . . There were 172 recorded workouts at Santa Anita Sunday, including a five-furlong training track drill by Leggs Galore in 1:01.80 for leading trainer Phil D’Amato, who is preparing the daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern for the Grade I Gamely Stakes on Memorial Day . . .Leading man Juan Hernandez, who had a riding triple on Saturday, now has 15 stakes wins at the current meet, putting him in a tie with Flavien Prat, while his overall total of 76 puts him four-up on Prat… Linemaker Jon White advises Neige Blanche earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in winning Saturday’s Santa Barbara…Horseplayer Tyler Hofman is Tom Quigley‘s guest today at 11:50 a.m. from the XBTV Studios . . . Steve Knapp is tied for 10th among Santa Anita trainers but reigns as Mr. Consistency with 12 wins, 13 seconds, 13 thirds and a 13 percent winning average . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday. Live racing resumes 1 p.m. Friday, May 20.
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