HORSEMEN FANCY ‘HOME BOYS’ IN RICH PEGASUS
NO PLACE LIKE SANTA ANITA FOR ECLIPSE CHAMPS
STAKES DEBUT FOR KING ABNER IN TURF CLASSIC
TRAINER MAKES SHORT WORK OF WET WEATHER
RICHARD’S BOY BACK ON DIRT IN CAL CUP SPRINT
BECERRA GOES FOR ‘MILLIONS’ WITH LONGSHOT
$2 MILLION GUARANTEED IN SINGLE TICKET PICK SIX
EX JOCKEY LEYVA RELISHES ROLE AS SADLER AIDE
ACCELERATE, CITY OF LIGHT DOMINATE PEGASUS WORLD CUP
Santa Anita-based horsemen almost unanimously went with the home team when asked their opinions on what horse would win the richest race in North America, Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Horse of the Year runner-up Accelerate and his only conqueror last year, City of Light, dominated in a random survey, to wit:
David Bernstein: Accelerate. “He’s trained well and he’s a real race horse.”
Vann Belvoir: “Accelerate.”
Val Brinkerhoff: “Accelerate.”
Simon Callaghan: “City of Light.”
Jack Carava: “It’s pretty close. They’re two good horses.”
Matt Chew: “City of Light. He’s been there two weeks and put himself in the best position. Working over that track can’t hurt.”
Peter Eurton: “Accelerate.”
Victor Garcia: “Accelerate.”
Eoin Harty: “Accelerate.”
Dan Hendricks: “Accelerate.”
Brian Koriner: “I’m rooting for the home team. Either one would be fine with me.”
Eric Kruljac: “I’m rooting for both. I always root for the home team, the West Coast.”
Andrew Lerner: “Audible.”
Craig Lewis: “Whoever gets the best trip. They’re both good horses.”
Alfredo Marquez: “The Southern California horses. It’s a pretty even race.”
Sean McCarthy: “City of Light.”
Doug O’Neill: “Accelerate.”
George Papaprodromou: “City of Light and Accelerate.”
Jorge Periban: “Accelerate.”
Mike Puype: “Accelerate.”
Gary Sherlock: “City of Light.”
Javier Jose Sierra: “Accelerate. Nothing can compete with him unless he doesn’t run his race.”
Eddie Truman: “Accelerate.”
Kathy Walsh: “City of Light. He’s awfully good right now.”
Paddy Gallagher: “I like New England.”
Post time for the Pegasus World Cup, televised on NBC, is 2:40 p.m. Pacific Time.
The field: Bravazo, Luis Saez, 12-1; Something Awesome, Edgar Prado, 20-1; City of Light, Javier Castellano, 5-2; Seeking the Soul, John Velazquez, 12-1; Accelerate, Joel Rosario, 9-5; Tom’s d’Etat, Shaun Bridgmohan, 20-1; True Timber, Joe Bravo, 30-1; Gunnevera, Irad Ortiz Jr., 8-1; Kukulkan, Frankie Dettori, 30-1; Audible, Flavien Prat, 10-1; Imperative, Tyler Gaffalione, 30-1; and Patternrecognition, Jose Ortiz, 10-1.
NO PLACE LIKE SANTA ANITA FOR ECLIPSE CHAMPIONS
There’s no place like Santa Anita when it comes to winning an Eclipse Award.
That was the case last night at the 48th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony in Florida where nearly 50 percent of the champions from the 17 categories were based in Southern California, six of them at Santa Anita, headed by Horse of the Year winner Justify.
The other Santa Anita-based winners were Game Winner, Two-Year-Old Male; Accelerate, Older Dirt Male; Unique Bella, Older Dirt Female; Hronis Racing, LLC, Owner; and Horse of the Year and Three-Year-Old Male Justify, the only unanimous winner, garnering all 249 of the votes cast in that division.
Other Southern California-based winners were Peter Miller-trained Roy H, Male Sprinter, and Stormy Liberal, Male Turf Horse.
Justify, only the second undefeated Triple Crown winner ever and the second Triple Crown winner in three years trained by Bob Baffert, also gave the Hall of Fame conditioner his third Horse of the Year king, joining 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Point Given in 2001.
Justify won all six of his starts including the Santa Anita Derby in an abbreviated career that began at Santa Anita last Feb.18 and was cut short by injury following his Belmont triumph.
Voting was compiled on a 10-5-1 point system basis, establishing the three top finalists in each division. There were 249 votes cast from a possible 271, or 91.88 percent.
KING ABNER SEEKS FIRST STAKES WIN IN TURF CLASSIC
King Abner makes his stakes debut in Saturday’s $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic
presented by City National Bank, the richest of four added money events showcasing California-bred horses on an 11-race program that starts at 11:30 a.m.
A five-year-old gray gelding by the Tapit stallion Hansen, King Abner has more than paid his way against lesser, with a 5-3-2 record from 15 starts and earnings of $184,646.
“He’s continued to get better since we stretched him out,” said trainer Phil D’Amato, “and he’s shown he can run on the grass last time (second by a nose in only his second start on turf). He got beat on the wire but his gallop out was pretty impressive.
“That leads me to believe a mile and an eighth (the distance of the race) will not be an issue. It’s tougher company for sure, but we’re going to take a shot and see where we stand. He’s doing really well so we’re excited to see what he’ll do.”
The field for the Classic, which goes as the 11th and final race on the card: Accountability, Joe Talamo, 12-1; Unusually Green, Luis Ocasio, 10-1; Rye, Kent Desormeaux, 5-1; The Street Fighter, Tiago Periera, 30-1; Marckie’s Water, Mario Gutierrez, 7-2; Incredible Luck, Edgar Payeras, 30-1; Camino Del Paraiso, Ricardo Gonzalez, 5-1; Tough It Out, Brice Blanc, 15-1; Ashleyluvssugar, Tyler Baze, 3-1; King Abner, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; and He Will, Geovanni Franco, 12-1.
DESORMEAUX CONTINUES TO TRAIN, WEATHER OR NOT
Keith Desormeaux is in racing for the long haul.
Make that “long” as in distance races.
The soon-to-be 52-year-old trainer is off to a successful start this meet, with nine wins through 18 racing days, despite rain that for a spell bordered on biblical proportions at Santa Anita recently, creating havoc with horsemen’s training regimen.
“I’ve been affected by it, but perhaps a little less than others,” Desormeaux said. “I don’t mind training in the mud a couple of days. It doesn’t bother me that much because I’m prepared to go the distance.
“My success overall and at this meet early on has to do with the fact that most of the young horses I buy need a distance of ground, and it’s getting near the time of year where races are written for two turns and beyond.
“My horses are bought with that in mind, they’re prepared for that, and now I have the races to run them in, so we’re seeing a little more success.
“I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far, but that said, winning under my system is not a given,” he said. “You still have to run well and win races, but I’m very thankful we started off the meet strong.”
Tomorrow, Desormeaux has Irish Heatwave in the $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint Stakes for three-year-olds at about 6 ½ furlongs. The bay son of Unusual Heat will be seeking his third straight win on the grass and his first stakes victory.
“He steadied late in his last race but still won by a nose,” Desormeaux said of the downhill triumph Jan. 1. “The horse looks good. He’s ready, he’s had the prep down the hill, he’s ready to go.”
The field for the race, which goes as the third event: Our Silver Oak, Drayden Van Dyke, 5-2; Teacher’s Treasure, Edgar Payeras, 4-1; Takeo Squared, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Irish Heatwave, Asa Espinoza, 7-2; Listing, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; Tivan, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; and Offshore Affair, Tyler Baze, 12-1.
RICHARD’S BOY RETURNS TO DIRT IN CAL CUP SPRINT
Richard’s Boy makes an infrequent appearance on the main track Saturday in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint Stakes for older horses at six furlongs.
The seven-year-old Idiot Proof gelding has made 26 of his 35 lifetime starts on turf, but has won three times on the main track for Peter Miller, who trains the venerable gray for one of his principal clients, Rockingham Ranch.
Richard’s Boy’s main rival appears to be Bob Baffert trainee Heck Yeah, winner of four of five career starts and 3-1 on the morning line despite not having raced since last April 7.
The compact but contentious field for the Cal Cup Sprint, which goes as race four: Edwards Going Left, Tyler Baze, 2-1; Minoso, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Shades of Victory, Giovanni Franco, 12-1; Richard’s Boy, Heriberto Figueroa, 9-5; Heck Yeah, Drayden Van Dyke, 3-1; and Touching Rainbows, Tiago Pereira, 7-2.
BECERRA GOES FOR THE GOLD WITH SUNSHINE MILLIONS LONGSHOT
Rafael Becerra hopes Halo Darlin returns a quick and healthy dividend in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on the grass.
Claimed for $25,000 two races back last Nov. 2, the six-year-old Lucky Pulpit mare won for $35,000 next out on Jan. 10 but will be competing in only her second stakes race in 24 starts tomorrow.
“It’s a lot of money, so we’re going to take a shot,” Becerra said. “Her last race was against much cheaper but she didn’t run bad, and she’s doing well, so why not take a chance?
“The main thing is, when they’re doing well, you have to take a shot.”
The Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf field, race nine: Bella Luma, Geovanni Franco, 8-1; Pulpit Rider, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Halo Darlin, Brice Blanc, 20-1; Fiery Lady, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Cordiality, Drayden Van Dyke, 3-1; S Y Sky, Joe Talamo, 9-5; Queen Bee to You, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; and Barbara Beatrice, Tiago Pereira, 6-1.
THREE SIBLINGS TO RENDEZVOUS AT STARTING GATE SATURDAY
Jon White, who is in his 11th year as Santa Anita’s morning line oddsmaker, has observed something highly unusual regarding Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.
“If all three of them start, there will be three siblings next to each other when they break from the starting gate,” White said. “Pulpit Rider,Halo Darlinand Fiery Ladyall have the same dam, Lady Railrider.Pulpit Rider breaks from post two, Halo Darlin from post three and Fiery Lady from post four. In more than half a century of going to the races, this is something I have never seen before.”
Pulpit Rider and Halo Darlin are both by Lucky Pulpit, sire of California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner who was voted Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Fiery Lady is by one of the all-time great California sires, Unusual Heat. The richest race on Saturday’s 11-race card is named in honor of Unusual Heat.
Unusually Green, entered in the Unusual Heat Turf Classic, is a son of Unusual Heat and Lady Evergreen.
“Lady Evergreen is the dam of Lady Railrider,” White noted. “And Lady Railrider once ran in a Sunshine Millions race herself. Back in the day, Lady Railrider, finished second to Leah’s Secret in the Sunshine Millions Distaff (at Santa Anita in 2009).”
Trained by Steve Specht, Lady Railrider amassed earnings of $603,041 from an overall record of 35-9-12-5.
$2 MILLION GUARANTEED IN 20 CENT SINGLE TICKET RAINBOW PICK SIX JACKPOT
Live racing resumes today with a nine-race card and fans will be greeted with another $2 million guaranteed Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot, which begins with race four.
With $419,616 in “new” money wagered Monday, the Rainbow Six live money pool swelled to $1,558,942. Although there were no single ticket winners, there were 98 consolation tickets with six winners, each worth $2,299.
Fans are again advised that Santa Anita will guarantee a $2 million Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot each racing day until a mandatory payout (pending CHRB approval) on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Approximate post time for Friday’s fourth race is at 2 p.m. PT. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
‘PHENOM’ JUAN LEYVA HAS TRAINING ON THE HORIZON
(From Gulfstream Park Publicity)
Since riding in his last race in 2017 at Gulfstream Park, Juan Leyva has made a
quick and successful transition from jockey to assistant trainer in Southern California.
“I call him ‘The Phenom,'” said Leyva’s boss, John Sadler, who “recruited” the native of Mexico City for his assistant’s position. “He’s going to be a really good trainer. We have a succession plan. When I retire, he’s going to take over.”
The 34-year-old former jockey, who made a name for himself in South Florida as the regular rider of champion Musical Romance, has returned to Gulfstream Park with Team Accelerate for Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
“It’s really rewarding being a part of that kind of horse,” said Leyva, who has been aboard the 9-5 morning-line favorite in workouts along with his other responsibilities as Sadler’s assistant. “It’s pretty special.”
Leyva has had a long association with Sadler, who has been instrumental in both his riding career and his transition into training.
“I knew him when he was riding in California. I was the one who told him to get out of there and try a different colony. He made a good career here [in Florida],” Sadler said. “He beat me in the Breeders’ Cup one year, so I make it hard on him all the time.”
Leyva, who rode 803 winners between 2000 and 2017, was aboard Musical Romance for her victory at Churchill Downs in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, in which she finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Sadler-trained runner-up Switch. He also rode the Bill Kaplan-trained Musical Romance for wins in the 2011 Presque Isle Masters, as well as the 2012 Princess Rooney and Inside Information at Gulfstream.
Hronis Racing LLC’s Accelerate has certainly made his transition to the training side of the business an exciting one.
“He’s just an amazing animal, full of power and class. He’s just a spectacular horse,” Leyva said. “Sometimes you just end up getting lucky. I got lucky ending up in the right barn and the right people around me. I have to thank Mr. (Kosta) Hronis and his wife (Stephanie) and brother, Pete, for allowing me to become part of the team.
“John recruited me. I couldn’t be happier.”
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FINISH LINES: Multiple graded stakes winner My Boy Jack, fifth as the second choice to Justify in last year’s Kentucky Derby, returned to Santa Anita Monday from Peacefield Farm in Temecula, “but is two or three months from running,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “We took a chip out of an ankle but he’s recovered well and ready to go.” . . . Mark Glatt reports multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Samurai is back in training after recovering from a throat infection, “but as far as a race schedule, I’m a bit up in the air due to the recent wet weather. He’s back at the track and I expect him to run sometime this spring.” . . . Jockey Andrea Atzeni, who maintains a world-class presence despite being winless in 12 attempts during his first-ever run at Santa Anita, will remain at The Great Race Place under the tutelage of agent Matt Nakatani until March 1 before returning across the pond to ride in England when that season begins in earnest. “I’ll try to come back here next year,” said the 27-year-old native of Sardinia, a beautiful island in the Mediterranean near Italy.