AXELROD SHORTENS UP FOR GRADE I MALIBU STAKES
SPICED PERFECTION TESTS GRADE I WATERS IN LA BREA
WORLD CLASS RIDERS WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT SANTA ANITA
TALAMO & BAFFERT TEAM WITH DABSTER IN SAN ANTONIO
DESERT STONE SHOULD FANCY MATHIS BROTHERS MILE
WORLD-CLASS RIDERS WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT SANTA ANITA
GRYDER RETURNS TO SANTA ANITA WITH AGENT STEVENS
POPULAR WALL CALENDAR WILL BE FREE ON OPENING DAY
$1 MILLION GUARANTEED PICK 6 TO LONE JACKPOT WINNER
FANS CAN BE COOL WITH SANTA ANITA FIRST: ICE SKATING
MALIBU DISTANCE NEW DEAL FOR AXELROD
Axelrod, a three-year-old Florida-bred son of Warrior’s Reward who has raced at a mile or longer nine times in an 11-race career including the mile and a quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic last out on Nov. 3, shortens up to seven furlongs in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day, Dec. 26.
He has never run at that distance.
“Obviously seven-eighths is something new for him,” said Michael McCarthy, who trains Axelrod for owners Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Stables LLC or Michael Nentwig. “They’ll run every step of the way (referring to the speed in the Malibu), and I don’t see that as a problem for him.
“It’s the last Grade I one of the year exclusively for three-year-olds and we need to take advantage of it.”
Axelrod worked four furlongs Thursday, as did Pegasus World Cup-bound Breeders’ CupDirtMilewinnerCity of Light. Axelrod was clocked in 48:20, City of Light in 47.40. “I’m very happy with both horses,” McCarthy said.
Malibu contender Copper Bullet worked four furlongs Friday for Steve Asmussen in 49.80, breezing, while Ax Man and Solomini went four furlongs in 47.80 and a bullet 46.80, respectively, for Bob Baffert.
There will be no live racing at Santa Anita on Thursday, Dec. 27.
First post time for the 10-race opening day card is 11:30 a.m.
SPICED PERFECTION STEPS UP IN GRADE I LA BREA
Spiced Perfection, a three-time stakes winner against California-breds, ventures into open company in the Grade I La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies on opening day.
“It’s the last chance this year to run with three-year-olds and we hope to get some graded type for her,” explained Brian Koriner, who trains the bay daughter of Smiling Tiger for the Dare To Dream Stable, LLC.
Spiced Perfection has a 5-4-2 record from 13 career starts, with enviable earnings of $442,405, most coming from victories against state-breds in the Generous Portion, the Evening Jewel and the Betty Grable.
She also has a win and a second from three races at seven furlongs.
Undefeated La Brea favorite Dream Tree, with Joe Talamo up, worked four furlongs Friday in 48 flat for Bob Baffert.
WORLD-CLASS RIDERS AT SANTA ANITA OPENING WEEKEND
Five of the nation’s top six jockeys in purse earnings won this year will put their world-class talent on display opening day at Santa Anita and on Dec. 29, when the Grade I American Oaks will be run: the sensational Ortiz brothers, Irad Jr. and Jose; Florent Geroux, the regular rider of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner; Joel Rosario, regular rider of 2018 Horse of the Year contender Accelerate, and early 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite Game Winner; John Velazquez, the career leader in purse earnings with almost $396 million, and Manuel Franco, among the top 10 nationally in both purse earnings and victories.
The quintet has been lured to The Great Race Place for major stakes engagements starting with the highly attractive 10-race opening day program, headed by the Grade I Malibu Stakes for three-year-olds and the Grade I La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies, each at seven furlongs.
Irad Ortiz Jr. leads the nation in purse earnings this year with more than $27 million and is second in graded stakes wins with 30, five less than brother Jose, who is second in purse earnings with more than $26 million.
Geroux is fifth nationally with 171 victories, while Rosario, who is now riding full-time at Santa Anita, ranks fourth in purse earnings with some $22.2 million.
Throw in a local contingent that includes America’s 11th ranked leader, Flavien Prat and #12, “Big Money” Mike Smith, and Santa Anita’s opening day Jockeys’ Room could easily be compared to Ruth and Gehrig’s 1927 Yankees.
Make no mistake, world class horses and world class riders make for world class racing at The Great Race Place.
TALAMO MAKES HAY AT BAFFERT BARN WITH DABSTER
The unflagging initiative of youth has paid dividends for Joe Talamo.
The Louisiana native, who turns 29 on Jan. 12, has achieved gainful employment with Bob Baffert, joining Mike Smith, Drayden Van Dyke and other elite riders who have ready access to the two-time Triple Crown winning trainer’s blueblood stock.
One of Joe’s current mainstays is Dabster, a consistent and hard-hitting son of Curlin who runs in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes opening day. Talamo has ridden Dabster in his last four races, winning two stakes and finishing a close second in two others.
“He’s a fun horse to ride,” Talamo said. “He shows up every time, and even when he loses, he really tries hard. It should be a good race with him and Battle of Midway.
“They’re two good horses. Hopefully, we can flip the page this time.” Battle of Midway defeated Dabster by a neck last out in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes.
Added Talamo’s agent, Scotty McClellan: “Joe’s put a lot of time in at the Baffert barn. He’s been over there two, three breaks a day for four months putting his name in and Baffert’s given him a good shot.
“Riding for Baffert is due 95 percent to Joe’s efforts.”
Dabster worked four furlongs Friday in a bullet 46.60 in company with Malibu entrant Solomini, also trained by Baffert.
DESERT STONE EYES UPSET IN MATHIS BROTHERS MILE
Desert Stone will be an outsider in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile on turf opening day, but Richard Baltas says the Irish-bred colt is not without a longshot’s chance.
“It seems like he runs good for (Giovanni) Franco and he runs good at Santa Anita,” the trainer said.
Owned by Zayat Stables, Desert Stone has two wins and a third over Santa Anita’s grass course and a victory going a mile on turf at The Great Race Place with Franco aboard.
Santa Anita and Mathis Brothers Furniture, sponsors of the race, will give away $10,000 worth of scholarships in conjunction with the event. Four students will be randomly selected to each receive a $2,500 scholarship.
For details, please visit santaanita.com/college.
GRYDER BACK AT SANTA ANITA WITH STEVENS AS AGENT
Thomas Wolfe wrote the novel “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but Aaron Gryder, erudite though he may be, dismisses the gist of that title, because he is going home again.
The 48-year-old jockey, born in West Covina, several furlongs from Santa Anita, returns to The Great Race Place to ride regularly at the Winter Meet that starts Dec. 26, and he’ll have a new agent: recently retired Hall of Fame great Gary Stevens.
“I’d been riding up north, went east for a few weeks and rode in the Breeders’ Cup, but thought it was a good time to come back,” said Gryder, who began his career in 1986 south of the border at Caliente. “I never ran from a challenge. This is where I grew up loving racing and I want to be back here.
“I’ve done my tours, I feel great right now, and I wanted to come back and enjoy myself. It’s been good. The first few weeks here, I didn’t get an agent. I was working horses for some former clients, got lucky and won a couple races at Del Mar and a few at Los Alamitos.
“I had a good time and it was nice. Last week, Gary Stevens and I hooked up. We’re a team now and everything happens for a reason. I’m just having a lot of fun working horses for a lot of the right people and, if given the opportunities, I’ll have to make the most of them.
“I’m really looking forward to being back here.”
SPECTACULAR SANTA ANITA WALL CALENDAR FREE ON OPENING DAY
Racegoers will again be treated to one of the best gifts of the year as Santa Anita’s 82nd Winter Meet opener Dec. 26 will provide each attendee with a spectacular Santa Anita Wall Calendar, free with paid admission.
Themed “Santa Anita Triples,” the 2019 calendar will honor three Santa Anita-based Triple Crown Champions: Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). Along with these three greats, each month will include a photo and brief description of past champions, as far back as the track’s founding in 1934, which have graced both the main track and turf course at The Great Race Place.
Among those from the past who are shown in action at Santa Anita are four-time Eclipse Award winner and 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta; seven-time Eclipse winner and two-time Horse of the Year John Henry (1981 and 84), four-time Eclipse Award winner and three-time Zenyatta Stakes winner Beholder, nine-time Santa Anita stakes winner and three-time Santa Barbara Handicap winner Megahertz, four-time Eclipse winner and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome (2014 and 16), seven-time Santa Anita stakes winner and three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude and others.
With many of 2018’s top horses winning three or more major stakes, and in some cases going on to taste victory in the Breeders’ Cup, they will be recognized with large photos atop their respective months, in keeping with the calendar’s theme.
Santa Anita will present five stakes on opening day, headed by a pair of Grade I events at seven furlongs, the Malibu and La Brea. The Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile and the Grade II San Antonio Stakes will round out the graded stakes action, with the Lady of Shamrock Stakes supplementing the stakes roster.
For additional information on Santa Anita’s opening day wall calendar and a variety of opening day promotions and events, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
GUARANTEED $1 MILLION IN OPENING DAY 20 CENT PICK SIX JACKPOT
Racegoers now have one million additional reasons to visit Santa Anita Park on opening day, as The Great Race Place will guarantee a $1 million payout to any single ticket winner in the popular 20 cent Pick Six Jackpot, which will be comprised of the final six races on the card.
With a special early first post time of 11:30 a.m. to accommodate a blockbuster 10-race program, the opening day Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot will cover races five through 10.
Santa Anita will present a total of five stakes on opening day, with a pair of Grade I, $300,000 races for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, the Malibu and La Brea Stakes (for fillies), leading the way.
Supporting stakes include the Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio and the Grade II, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (turf). The fifth opening day stakes is the $75,000 Lady of Shamrock, for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
Probable post time for opening day’s fifth race, leg one in the Pick Six, is 1:30 p.m. PT.
SANTA ANITA FIRST: ICE SKATING AND WORLD CLASS RACING
For the first time ever, Santa Anita Park will offer fans of all ages Ice Skating in addition to world class racing on opening day of the Winter Meet, Dec. 26. Santa Anita’s authentic ice rink, presented by Ice America, which is currently part of its popular Winterfest celebration, will be available as a part of its Infield Family Fun Zone through Sunday, Jan. 6.
Fans are encouraged to come early opening day, as special first post time for a 10-race program is 11:30 a.m. Santa Anita’s Infield Family Fun Zone will open Dec. 26 at 10 a.m. and stay open until 4:30 p.m.
In addition to the ice rink, pony rides, inflatable bouncers, face painting and more will be available as part of the Infield Family Fun Zone Dec. 26, 29 & 30, as well as on Jan. 1, 5 & 6.
With free Infield GeneralPark and Admission available via Gate 6 off of Colorado Place, an Infield Family Fun Zone KID PACK, which includes an ice skating session, unlimited inflatable wristband, a pony ride and face painting, is available for $30. An ADULT PACK, including ice skating, a program and free 2019 Santa Anita Wall Calendar, is available for $16.
FINISH LINES: Agent Matt Nakatani, currently representing Angel Cruz and European import Andrea Atzeni, reports that his father, Corey, is recovering from a fracture necessitating the fusion of three vertebrae, and two herniated disks suffered in a riding accident Aug. 4 at Del Mar. “He’s a doing a lot better,” Matt said. “He’s almost back to being healthy. He started physical therapy two weeks ago after having surgery on Sept. 8.” . . . GOOD NEWS! Iconic Turf Terrace waiter Roy Franz will again be assisting early morning diners at Clockers’ Corner opening day and weekend mornings throughout the upcoming meet. . . . On the long-running game show Jeopardy last night under the category of “Recent Events,” the answer was, “Bob Baffert trained 2 recent Triple Crown-winning horses: American Pharoah in 2015 and this horse in 2018.” After a seemingly interminable amount of time passed, crickets chirping in the background, the three contestants remained silent as the time-expiring buzzer blared. They failed to come up with the question, “Who was Justify?” Duh!
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