PAVED EYES SMOOTH TRIP IN GRADE I OAKS
SANTA ANITA REMEMBERS BOBBY FRANKEL
WINTER MEET GETS OFF TO ROLLICKING START
$1 MILLION GUARANTEES IN PICK SIX WAGERS
TRAINER ANDREW LERNER MAKING HIS MARK
PAVED LOOKS TO REGROUP IN AMERICAN OAKS
The trouble line for Paved explains her disappointing 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on a good course Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs: bumped, checked 1st turn.”
Draw a line through the race, says Michael McCarthy, trainer of the Quality Road filly, who is set to rebound in Saturday’s Grade I American Oaks at a mile and a quarter on turf.
“Obviously we didn’t get the trip we were looking for on a turf course that wasn’t to her liking,” McCarthy said. “We’ll try to regroup on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, City of Light, the only runner to defeat Horse of the Year contender Accelerate this year, will work this weekend for a rematch with the John Sadler trainee in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.
City of Light handed Accelerate a neck defeat in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 14.
The field for the $300,000 Oaks, race eight of 10 with a first post time of 12 noon: Colonia, Joe Bravo, 6-1; K P Pergoliscious, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Amandine, Mike Smith, 4-1; Princess Warrior, Brian Hernandez Jr., 6-1; Paved, Drayden Van Dyke, 3-1; Retro, Brice Blanc, 30-1; Competionofideas, Joel Rosario, 4-1; andCaliforniagoldrush, 5-2.
Kodiak West was scratched.
ROBERT J. FRANKEL STAKES HONORS LATE, GREAT TRAINER
The Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes honoring the late Hall of Fame trainer will be run tomorrow, and there’s barely a race tracker alive in Southern California or elsewhere who doesn’t have a tale about the legendary horseman who died at the age of 68 on Nov. 16, 2009.
Tony Matos is no exception.
“Frankel was the one who hooked me up with Angel Cordero Jr. at Aqueduct in New York years ago,” said the veteran agent, currently representing 2017 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding apprentice Evin Roman.
“I had another jockey at the time and Angel had another agent, but Bobby got us together. I was his agent for 11 years, and when I came to California, Bobby was always a good friend of mine.
“I won the Kentucky Derby twice with Angel, on Cannonade (1974) and Bold Forbes (1976), and it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Bobby.”
The field for the Frankel, for fillies and mares, three and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf offering $150,000 in prize money: Lucy De, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Escape Clause, Ruben Fuentes, 7-2; Quebec, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Fahan Mura, Edwin Maldonado, 5-2; Sweet Charity, Tyler Baze, 5-1; Gliding By, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Amboseli, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; and Excellent Sunset, Rafael Bejarano.
SANTA ANITA WINTER MEET OFF TO ROLLICKING START
Santa Anita Park’s 2018-19 Winter Meeting got off to a record-breaking start on Wednesday, as the track posted an all-sources pari-mutuel handle of $20,491,016, a 19 percent increase over a year ago and an all-time opening day record.
Wednesday’s opening day crowd of 41,373 contributed to an on-track handle of $3,463,535, a five percent increase over last year’s $3.3 million. On-track attendance was up year to year three percent. Additionally, opening day handle on Santa Anita races was $19,015,996, up significantly from $15,888,223 wagered on a nine-race program one year ago.
In measuring the significance of Wednesday’s numbers, the last time Santa Anita opened on a Wednesday was 2012, when all-sources handle was $13.4 million, making yesterday’s handle of $20.4 million a whopping 52 percent increase. On-track attendance on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 was 27,273, making yesterday’s 41,373 a 52 percent increase.
“Yesterday’s attendance and handle numbers are the result of many factors, none greater than field size,” said Tim Ritvo, COO for The Stronach Group (TSG). “We would first of all like to thank our tremendous fans, not only here at Santa Anita, but around the country as well. They recognize a top quality product that offers value and responded in-kind yesterday.
“We had tremendous racing and the horsemen obviously responded to the great opportunities our 10-race program offered. We had world class racing and it was great to see so many top riders from the East Coast in here to ride. Operationally, we are very happy with how things went and we’ll look at everything and apply those lessons-learned to our other big days throughout the New Year, including the two-day Breeders’ Cup in November.”
Ritvo also noted the pivotal role Mathis Brothers Furniture continues to play in Santa Anita’s opening day success.
“They have been a tremendous partner,” he said. “We want to thank the Mathis family for their passion and participation here over the past four years. The Mathis Brothers Plush Thoroughbred Toys were held tight by more than 4,000 little kids and were seen on television locally and nationwide. Additionally, the Mathis Brothers Mile (Grade II, $200,000) attracted 10 horses and it was a huge part of our pari-mutuel success yesterday.”
SANTA ANITA OFFERS $1 MILLION JACKPOT GUARANTEES
Santa Anita Park will offer a $1 million guaranteed Jackpot in this Saturday and Sunday’s 20 cent Rainbow Pick Six. With 10-race cards scheduled both days, special early first post time this weekend is at 12 noon.
With a nine-race card on tap Friday, Santa Anita will guarantee a $500,000 Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot, with first post time today at 12:30 p.m.
Friday’s 20 cent Rainbow Pick Six is comprised of races four through nine. With 58 horses eligible to run, average field size for the Rainbow Pick Six is just under 10 runners per race. Approximate post time for Friday’s fourth race is at 2 p.m. PT.
Probable post time for Saturday’s fifth race, leg one in the Rainbow Six, is 2 p.m. PT. A total of 60 horses have been entered and are eligible to run.
On Sunday, the fifth race will again serve as leg one in the Rainbow Pick Six, with approximate post time 2 p.m.
LAROCCO NEW TRACK SUPERINTENDENT, SPETNAGEL VP OF OPERATIONS
Santa Anita Park has announced that a pair of longtime employees, Andy LaRocco and Jason Spetnagel, have been promoted to Track Superintendent and Vice President Operations, respectively, as the track continues to draw from a deep bench of dedicated men and women.
LaRocco, 61, will assume his position on Jan. 1, as current Track Superintendent Dennis Moore is resigning his position at the end of the year. A native of nearby Bellflower, LaRocco has been a part of Santa Anita’s track maintenance crew for 37 years and has been Moore’s chief assistant for the past five years.
“It’s really an honor to be following Dennis in this position,” said LaRocco. “Dennis is a guy who commands respect throughout our entire industry and working with him these past five years have been the best of my life at Santa Anita. I worked with Dennis when he first came and re-did the main track with El Segundo Sand, which has been the safest surface ever here.
“I believe Santa Anita is the top track in the country and I know I speak for my entire crew when I say we’re ready and that we will continue to have the same track maintenance program that we’ve had the past five years. We intend to provide the jockeys, horsemen and the betting public with the safest and most consistent surface we possibly can every day.”
A Southern California native, Spetnagel, 46, was first employed at Santa Anita as a part of the Turf Course crew in 1994. Six years later, he shifted to Golden Gate Fields, where he served as Plant Superintendent, Director of Operations and was serving as Assistant General Manager when he returned to Santa Anita as Director of Facilities and Grounds in 2007.
“I am grateful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to being part of Santa Anita’s continuing success,” said Spetnagel. “Santa Anita is obviously a very special place and we intend to keep it that way. I think our employees take a special pride in working here and I’m blessed to have such a talented team. We’re all excited for the future.”
YOUNG TRAINER PROVES A QUICK ‘LERNER’
Andrew Lerner is a fresh face among Southern California trainers who is making an impact thanks in no small part to the use of social media. The Agoura Hills native has 20 head on hand for Santa Anita Winter Meet.
The 29-year-old graduate of Arizona State numbers Vindicate Racing, Del Mar Summer Racing Club, Jack Schwartz and Eric Homme as principal owners.
“We’re excited to be back here for the long haul,” said Lerner, who learned the basics during a tour with trainer Mike Pender.
“We have some nice horses and some two-year-olds coming in. We have a promising filly named Arctic Roll we hope to campaign here. We’re optimistic about the future.”
FINISH LINES: John Sadler has “nothing written in stone” for Gift Box‘s next race, “but he came back really good, so we’ve got a lot of great choices.” Gift Box, making his first start since last March and his first for Sadler and principal owners Kosta and Peter Hronis, won the Grade II San Antonio Stakes opening day by a half-length under Joel Rosario. Meanwhile, Horse of the Year contender Accelerate breezes 6:30 Saturday morning in preparation for the $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26. Sadler’s assistant trainer, former jockey Juan Leyva, will be aboard. Sadler said Catapult will work Sunday for the $7 million Pegasus World Turf Cup, part of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series . . . Agent Derek Lawson has Flavien Prat booked to ride Gray Magician for Peter Miller in the Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile on Jan. 5 . . . Kent Desormeaux, approaching a career milestone of 6,000 victories in North America currently at 5,993, credits horsemen and his family for his long and winding road to success. “I’ve been blessed,” said the three-time Kentucky Derby winner, who turns 49 on Feb. 27 . . . McKinzie‘s overpowering move winning Wednesday’s Grade I Malibu Stakes by 4 ¾ lengths was unprecedented according to jockey Geovanni Franco, who rode sixth-place finisher Calexman. “I never heard a noise like that from a horse going by me before,” Franco said . . . Clocker Toby Turrell of The Winners Card and workout analyst Andy Harrington will be Tom Quigley‘s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively,10:50 a.m. . . . Live racing at Santa Anita continues Saturday through New Year’s Day, Tuesday, Jan. 1. First post time Saturday and Sunday will be 12 noon. There will be no live racing Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 2 and 3. Live racing will resume Friday, Jan. 4 with a 1 p.m. first post time . . . It was uncharacteristically windy Friday morning at Clockers’ Corner. How windy was it? “It was the first time,” one trainer said, “I ever spit in my own eye.”. . . Department of Corrections: Contrary to an item that appeared here one week ago, retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will not be going to work for Aaron Gryder. “I was supposed to have my back operated on yesterday, but the surgery has been put back a few days,” said Stevens. “Aaron’s a good friend, but I’m not in a position to go to work for anyone.”
For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626)574-RACE.
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