- TRIPLE CROWN-SAVVY ESPINOZA SET ON BOLT D’ORO
- WINNING TITLES NEVER GETS OLD FOR BOB BAFFERT
- TOUGH SUNDAY TOUGH PACE FACTOR IN THOR’S ECHO
- JOSE FERRER TO RECEIVE WOOLF AWARD ON SUNDAY
- BAFFERT, SMITH GIVEN PEGASUS WORLD CUP RINGS
- PANCAKE BREAKFAST APRIL 19 BENEFITS VALENZUELA
ESPINOZA SEEKS FOURTH DERBY WIN ON BOLT D’ORO
If any jockey knows how to win on the Triple Crown trail, it’s Victor Espinoza.
In the past four years, the Hall of Fame rider has captured five of the six jewels in racing’s most prestigious prize. They were the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness on California Chrome in 2014, and the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2015 aboard American Pharoah, who became the first horse in 37 years to sweep the three races comprising the Triple Crown.
On the outside looking in for a Derby mount until recently, Espinoza now will attempt to win the Run for the Roses for a fourth time when he pilots Bolt d’Oro for owner/trainer Mick Ruis in the mile and a quarter classic for three-year-olds on May 5.
Javier Castellano had ridden the son of Medaglia d’Oro in his last two starts, but aborted in favor of Florida Derby winner Audible for Todd Pletcher, leaving Bolt d’Oro available for Espinoza, who had worked the colt twice before.
“We had conversations about Victor getting the mount during Bolt’s last two races,” said Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach, “and there was considerable interest on both sides. When Castellano took off officially, Victor and Mick met for dinner one night and sealed the deal.”
Espinoza won the Derby in 2002 on War Emblem for Bob Baffert, in 2014 on California Chrome for Art Sherman, and in 2105 on American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert.
“Victor’s very excited,” Beach said. “He got a little taste of Bolt working him twice prior to his first start back (in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10). He got excited then and he’s even more excited now, to join up with him in a race.
“He feels like he fits him very well. That’s his kind of horse, tactical with a lot of heart, and his third race off a layoff should be his best. A bit of pressure is off of him, too (with unbeaten Justify’s win in the Santa Anita Derby stamping him as the Kentucky Derby favorite).
“We’re just hoping everything goes smoothly between now and May 5. We’re trying to help Mick get a Kentucky Derby win.”
BAFFERT DOESN’T TAKE WINNING FOR GRANTED
It was more than just another day at the office this meet for Bob Baffert.
The Hall of Fame trainer, who turned 65 on Jan. 13, had a spectacular Winter Meet, leading in races won (37), money won ($2,798,258) and stakes won (nine), all accomplished from only 116 starters for an eye-catching win percentage of 32, not to mention 19 seconds and 14 thirds for an in-the-money percentage of 60.
“It was a team effort,” Baffert said. “We got to run a lot of horses, many of them young horses, and races written by the racing department filled, so it all helped.
“Basically, we had a pretty strong stable. Everything went well, went smooth, and this is why we work seven days a week. It’s good to be able to last as long as I have (this is his record 12th Santa Anita Winter-Spring meet title).
“It’s tough to keep it going in this game, but you know what? We all really put in a lot of time. I never step back and relax a little bit. It’s tough, but you’ve got to stay aggressive.
“I remember when I first came here. I was stabled next to Charlie Whittingham, and he was here every day, and if you want to compete at this level, you’ve got to breathe it, you’ve got to live it, and you’ve got to love it.
“That’s what it’s all about, and I love it. You can’t find a better office than Santa Anita. It’s the most beautiful track in America, and I’ve been to all of them.
“That’s why they call it The Great Race Place.”
TOUGH SUNDAY ONE TO CATCH IN THOR’S ECHO?
Tough Sunday seeks his second straight stakes win Saturday in the $100,000 Thor’s Echo Handicap for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs. The race is one in the Golden State Series for California-bred or sired horses.
A six-year-old full horse by Grazen owned and bred by Nick Alexander, Tough Sunday won the Sensational Star for state-breds over a muddy track on March 11, and drew the number two post for the Thor’s Echo.
“The inside is difficult, it always is,” said trainer Steve Miyadi. “Our plan is to make the lead and see what we’ve got.”
The consistent Tough Sunday has a 5-5-5 record from 18 starts with earnings of $333,838.
The Thor’s Echo, race seven of 11 with a 12 noon first post time: Edwards Going Left, Tyler Baze, 6-5; Tough Sunday, Joe Talamo, 7-5; Image of Joplin, Tiago Pereira, 12-1; Smokey Image, Evin Roman, 7-2; Grazen Sky, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Make It a Triple, Edwin Maldonado, 10-1; and B Squared, Mario Gutierrez, 2-1.
FERRER RECEIVES WOOLF AWARD ON SUNDAY
Jockey Jose Ferrer, a mainstay on the eastern seaboard dating back to 1982, will be at Santa Anita Sunday to receive the 2018 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in a Winner’s Circle ceremony after the fourth race.
Ferrer, 54, outpolled fellow riders Alex Birzer, Javier Castellano, Rodney Prescott and Joe Talamo in winning the 69th Woolf Award, which was instituted by Santa Anita in 1950 to honor riders whose careers and personal character bring credit not only to themselves, but to the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Born March 31, 1964, Ferrer is a proponent of the power of positive thinking and views each day as a God-given opportunity to contribute to a sport that has provided him a magnificent career. With more than 4,200 wins to his credit, Ferrer is currently based at Tampa Bay Downs. Second in the rider standings this past summer at Monmouth Park, Ferrer has rebounded from serious injuries sustained in a spill at Delaware Park last September.
The 2018 Woolf Award Trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue that adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area. The Woolf Award memorializes one of the greatest “big money” riders of all time, George Woolf, who died the morning after a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946.
BAFFERT, SMITH PRESENTED RINGS FOR PEGASUS VICTORY
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who teamed for victory this past Saturday in the 81st running of the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby with Justify, took home some additional hardware on Thursday as they were each presented with Championship Rings commemorating their epic win at Gulfstream Park in the inaugural running of the world’s richest race, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28, 2017.
This year the Pegasus World Cup Invitational began a new tradition, whereby the winning owner, jockey and trainer each received a Pegasus World Cup Invitational Championship Ring. The first of its kind in the sport of Thoroughbred racing, the ring was commissioned by The Stronach Group (TSG) and created by Miami based celebrity jeweler Christopher Petrillo (also known as “Boodaddy” of Boodaddy Diamonds).
The 18K yellow gold Championship Ring is inspired by the iconic Pegasus statue at Gulfstream Park and boasts over 3.5 carats of VVS round brilliant cut diamonds, valued at $50,000. Each ring was made by hand from start to finish taking over 150 hours to complete.
Presented today at Santa Anita by The Stronach Group’s Chairman and President, Belinda Stronach, the delivery of the rings put an exclamation point on Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate’s stirring 4 ¾ length victory over 11 rivals that included four-time Eclipse Award winner California Chrome and 2017 Santa Anita Handicap winner, Shaman Ghost.
“I am honored to present the 2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Championship Rings to Bob and Mike,” said Belinda Stronach. “Our intention is to continue this tradition, not unlike what is done at other great sporting events, and we would be remiss if we did not recognize the 2017 inaugural winners. Arrogate’s status as one of the best horses ever to run is now firmly cemented and it seems fitting that part of his history is as the first champion of the world’s richest race!”
With the $7 million that he collected in winning the 2017 Pegasus, Arrogate (America’s Eclipse Award winning three-year-old for 2016) was well on his way to becoming Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading money earner, as he retired in November, 2017 with career earnings of $17,422,600 from an overall mark of 11-7-1-1.
“Arrogate was a tremendously gifted horse who did things that were just unbelievable,” said Baffert. “I want to sincerely thank Belinda and The Stronach Group for creating the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and for helping to showcase the best horses in the world. These rings are incredible and they’ll sure help me to remember just how special that first Pegasus was and how great Arrogate truly was. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Smith, who guided Arrogate to four consecutive Grade I victories, beginning with a record-shattering 13 ½ length victory in Saratoga’s Travers Stakes on Aug. 27, 2016 and including his 4 ¾ length triumph in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational, was also most appreciative to receive his commemorative Pegasus ring on Thursday.
“It was a tremendous honor to win the first Pegasus and it’s quite an honor to receive this ring now,” said Smith. “I really want to thank Belinda and The Stronach Group for their kindness and class. Arrogate ran an incredible race that day and this ring is something I’m going to treasure every day.”
With Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC and Three Chimney’s Farm’s Gun Runner winning the $16 million, 2018 Pegasus World Cup Invitational this past Jan. 27, the third running of the $16 million Pegasus is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2019 at Gulfstream Park.
PANCAKE BREAKFAST BENEFITS ADRIAN VALENZUELA
Santa Anita will present a Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for popular exercise rider Adrian Valenzuela next Thursday, April 19 at Clockers’ Corner at 10 a.m. The 21-year-old son of trainer Martin Valenzuela Jr., Adrian sustained a spinal cord injury during training hours on March 31.
In partnership with the entire Southern California racetrack community, Santa Anita will also be conducting a charity raffle and silent auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support Adrian and his family.
Tickets to the breakfast, a $10 donation, are available at Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita’s track kitchen, the Santa Anita Racing Office, Los Alamitos and San Luis Rey Downs. Tickets will also be available the morning of the event.
Raffle tickets, which will also be sold in advance, will be $5 each, with five tickets for $20. Silent auction and raffle ticket items are currently being sought. To donate or for more information, please contact Ami Atkinson in the Santa Anita Racing Office at (626) 574-6471 or visit http://www.santaanita.com/events/help-support-adrian-valenzuelas-family/.
FINISH LINES: The racing community today mourns the passing of owner/breeder Myung Kwon Cho, who died at the age of 72 on April 9 after a battle with a serious infection, and years of poor health stemming from the result of multiple strokes and blood pressure issues, according to his son, Raxon. “His health issues began in 2013 and he had been in and out of hospitals and physical therapy rehabilitation centers since,” said Raxon, adding, “After having surgery in December, he was admitted to hospice care in February.” Cho is survived by his wife, Lydia, sons Raxon and Eric, and daughters Eileen, Debbie, and Regina. Among his most notable stakes campaigners were Video Ranger (fourth in the 1990 Kentucky Derby), Nationalore, Street Hero (winner of the 2008 Norfolk), Love Theway Youare (winner of the 2012 Vanity) and Critical Factor (third in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile). “My father did everything he could for his family and those around him,” Raxon said. “He always had a smile on his face, and considered everyone he met a part of his family.” A small service was held yesterday in Burbank . . . Congratulations to the following winners in Santa Anita’s 2017/18 Winter Meet Media Poll: Horse of the Meet, Justify; Sprinter, City of Light; Older Horse, Accelerate; Older Filly or Mare, Selcourt; Claimer, Mongolian Shopper; Grass Horse, Itsinthepost; Grass Filly or Mare, Beau Recall; Three-Year-Old, Justify; Three-Year-Old Filly, Midnight Bisou; Trainer, Bob Baffert; Apprentice and Jockey, Evin Roman; Race, San Felipe Stakes; Owner, tie, Hronis Racing, LLC and Rockingham Ranch, LLC; Achievement, Baffert record eighth Santa Anita Derby win and record 12th Santa Anita training title . . . Note to on-track fans: Santa Anita’s primary tote board is in the process of a scheduled replacement and will be “race ready” next Friday, April 20.
|SANTA ANITA WINTER MEET, Dec. 26, 2017-April 8, 2018, Inclusive, Final Statistics|
|(Current Through Sunday, April 8)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||180||38||23||22||21%||46%||$2,304,504|