STEADY MUCHO UNUSUAL BACK IN BUENA VISTA
PRAT COULD HIT 1,000 CAREER VICTORIES TODAY
FAST PACE WOULD AID SHERMAN MARE SUNDAY
ALL RACE OPTIONS ARE IN PLAY FOR ROMBAUER
CLOCKER FANCIES KNICKS GO IN RICH SAUDI CUP
MUCHO UNUSUAL DOES IT ALL FOR TEAM YAKTEEN
If Mucho Unusual were human, she’d be considered an ideal employee. She’s industrious, productive, honest and earns her keep.
Not much more one could ask for from an equine or a human.
A five-year-old California-bred mare owned and bred by George Krikorian, Mucho Unusual lives up to her name be it in Spanish or English as she has won sprinting on dirt and routing on grass, running her last 13 races in stakes competition, 12 in open company, including her most noteworthy triumph in the Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes last September.
Next up: Saturday’s Grade II Buena Vista Stakes at a mile on turf, a race in which she was second last February. Victory would be worth $120,000, drawing her closer to millionaire status at $942,715.
“She’s doing great,” said Tim Yakteen, who trains the five-year-old bay for longtime client Krikorian. “She’s in good form so we’re good to go.”
Joel Rosario, who has ridden Mucho Unusual six times previously, winning three, pilots Knicks Go against Charlatan in the $20 million Saudi Cup Saturday, so Abel Cedillo rides her for the first time in the Buena Vista.
“It’s been great working with an operation like George’s,” said Yakteen, 56, the son of a German mother and a Lebanese-born father who joined the U.S. Army which earned him an assignment in Nuremberg, where Tim was born.
Krikorian built a career in real estate and commercial development before founding Kirkorian Premiere Theaters in 1984, but never lost sight of horses. His father, George Sr., trained horses in the 1960s and ’70s.
Once asked what his father taught him, Krikorian quipped, “Well, he tried to teach me not to buy any horses, but I didn’t listen.”
His steadfastness has paid off.
“George always puts the horse first and it’s great working with someone like that,” observed Yakteen, who was assistant to Bob Baffert from 1988 through 1991 before working with another Hall of Fame trainer, the late Charlie Whittingham, for six years. Yakteen rejoined Baffert in 1997 and remained through 2004 before going on his own.
He is married to Millie Ball, a horsewoman in her native England and thus a knowledgeable TV commentator with XBTV.
“George raises fantastic horses,” Yakteen noted. “A number of them have been sold at auction and done exceptionally well. Honor A.P is one. (The Honor Code colt sold for $850,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton July sale and would go to win last year’s Runhappy Santa Anita Derby). They are horses you want to get up for in the morning.”
Mucho Unusual is in that category, worth waking before sunrise.
“I’ll take a barnful like her,” Yakteen said.
The Buena Vista, race seven of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Bohemian Bourbon, Jose Valdivia Jr., 20-1; Mucho Unusual, Abel Cedillo, 7-2; Warren’s Showtime, Juan Hernandez, 5-1; Nasty, Ricardo Gonzalez, 6-1; Red Lark, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; Sedamar, Ruben Fuentes, 8-1; Going to Vegas, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Charmaine’s Mia, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Sloane Garden, Tiago Pereira, 12-1; and Heathers Grey, Jessica Pyfer, 20-1.
PRAT ATOP STANDINGS, TWO SHY OF 1,000 CAREER WINS
Dismissing longtime agent Derek Lawson last week hasn’t prevented Flavien Prat from returning to a familiar spot, on top of the Santa Anita jockey standings.
The 28-year-old Frenchman won six races last weekend and 11 the last four racing days–the last three in a row Saturday–to inch ahead of Juan Hernandez, 30-29, and draw within two of career victory 1,000 in North America.
His new agent is Brad Pegram, who also represents Hall of Fame member Mike Smith, who rides Charlatan in the richest race in the world Saturday, the $20 million Saudi Cup.
Prat could reach 1,000 after today’s second race as he is named on 9-5 morning line favorite Du Jour for Bob Baffert in the first race and 2-1 morning line favorite Clockstrikestwelve for Jonathan Wong in the second.
With Lawson technically the agent of record through Condition Book Four, which concludes this Sunday, Prat is named on six horses overall, four of them morning line choices.
Currently sans rider, it was Lawson whose efficient business acumen during their six-plus years together that helped put Prat on a world-class plateau and a path to the Hall of Fame.
SHERMAN MARE BACK ON DIRT IN SPRING FEVER STAKES
Hollywood Hills, a five-year-old mare owned and bred by George Krikorian, returns to the main track in Sunday’s $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes for fillies four and older at six furlongs, one in the CTBA’s lucrative Golden State Series for eligible California-bred or sired horses.
The bay daughter of Hoorayforhollywood has run twice on dirt in her 14 career races, winning the Fleet Treat for state-breds and running second in the Grade III Torrey Pines, both at Del Mar in 2019.
“She’s doing well now and I think she’ll run a decent race,” said trainer Art Sherman, he of California Chrome fame. “Of course, she’s got to come from out of it, so it all depends on the pace scenario.
“She’ll be closing down the lane, I’ll tell you that. I think she’s better on dirt than she is grass.”
Sherman, who celebrated his 84th birthday two days ago on Wednesday, will be at Santa Anita today for the eighth race when he runs 12-1 morning line chance Gov from Above for owner/breeder Ed Allred.
ALL OPTIONS REMAIN OPEN FOR ROMBAUER
As of this morning, Michael McCarthy was still pondering plans for Rombauer’s next race after the son of Twirling Candy closed from 11 ½ lengths behind at the half-mile marker to win the El Camino Real Derby by a neck at Golden Gate Fields last Saturday.
“Just keeping all of our options open,” the trainer said.
Owned and bred by John and Diane Fradkin, Rombauer is believed to be named after Rombauer Vineyards in St. Helena, California, 50 miles north of Oakland, where a bottle of their fine Chardonnay goes for $36.99.
CLOCKER FAVORS KNICKS GO IN SAUDI CUP
The racing world will have its eyes on the world’s richest race Saturday at 9:40 a.m. PT, when Charlatan, trained by Bob Baffert, and Knicks Go, conditioned by Brad Cox, are favored over 12 rivals in the $20 million Saudi Cup going a one-turn mile and an eighth.
Fox Sports 1 is scheduled to televise the event starting at 9 a.m.
Respected private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young has seen Charlatan live and in color at his home track of Santa Anita, yet still gives the edge to Knicks Go, although he figures it will be a two-horse race.
“With all due respect to the other players, the only way I see one of the top two contenders not winning is if a suicidal pace duel takes place,” Young said.
“I give Knicks Go a slight edge because he’s had more of a campaign leading into this, whereas Charlatan is stretching out off one race (an easy 4 ½-length victory in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs last Dec. 26).
“Besides, the Knicks are due to win something.”
FINISH LINES: Brazilian-bred mare Jolie Olimpica, scheduled to face males in the Grade III San Simeon Stakes at six furlongs on turf March 13, worked four furlongs Friday for Richard Mandella in 47.20 . . . Michael McCarthy had a busy morning, breezing Independence Hall (five furlongs in 1:01.20 for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 6), Smooth Like Strait (five furlongs in 1:00.20 for the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf, also March 6) and Moraz (five furlongs in 1:00.40 for the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes on March 7). In all there were 96 recorded workouts Friday, 12 on the training track . . . Trainer Dan Blacker reports Hit the Road is doing well as the son of More Than Ready prepares for the Kilroe Mile. In his first start since last July 10 when he won the Oceanside Stakes, the four-year-old colt was an authoritative winner of the Grade III Thunder Road Stakes by nearly four lengths on Feb. 6, giving Blacker his first graded stakes victory.
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