McKINZIE AMONG STARS ON DISPLAY AT SANTA ANITA
PAIR OF GRADE I EVENTS HIGHLIGHT FRIDAY OPENER
BAFFERT TWO-YEAR-OLDS EYE OPENING DAY STAKES
CEDILLO SHOWS HE’S MORE THAN ABLE IN BIG TIME
POPULAR CLAIMING HORSE MUCHOS BESOS RETIRED
STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD DEBUTS OPENING DAY
TALAMO SEVEN VICTORIES FROM 2,000 IN HIS CAREER
TEAM BAFFERT KEEN ON McKINZIE FOR AWESOME AGAIN
Santa Anita Park, whose bucolic beauty has stood the test of time for more than eight decades, adds another seed to its verdant garden when it launches an Autumn Meet of 23 days a week from today, Sept. 27, featuring three Grade I stakes opening weekend and five “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races, in advance of hosting the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 and 2 for a record 10th time.
One of the marquee horses scheduled to run Saturday Sept. 28 is McKinzie, who would enhance his resume for Horse of the Year laurels with a victory in the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles.
“He’s always been extremely talented and he’s been running well,” said his regular pilot, Hall of Fame member Mike Smith, before departing for Parx where he has stakes engagements on Saturday. “He’s just getting older and stronger. His last race was impressive. The horses he beat all came back and ran really well.
“Next out, one of them won a Grade I, so it’s a good sign when you’re beating Grade I horses. So far, so good.” McKinzie worked five furlongs Monday in a bullet 59.80, fastest of 69 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.75.
Smith fancies McKinzie’s multi-faceted talent, always a welcome commodity.
“He’s come from last, he’s won on the lead,” Smith said. “He’s pretty much done it all. It just depends on how far you’re going and how fast you’re going early.”
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman and trained by Bob Baffert, McKinzie is a four-year-old Street Sense colt who verified his versatility by winning the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs last Dec. 26 and capturing the Grade I Whitney Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 3.
The most recent Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings had McKinzie in the top spot with 287 votes, more than 100 points ahead of two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow at 183.
Also showcased at Santa Anita opening weekend will be the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Grade I Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, both on Friday; the Awesome Again; the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares three and older at 1 ¼ miles on turf; and the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship for three-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles on turf, all on Saturday.
The American Pharoah, the Chandelier and the Rodeo Drive are “Win and You’re In” events, giving the winner a fees-paid berth to their respective Breeders’ Cup races.
Sunday’s feature is the Grade II, $200,000 Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. It also is a “Win and You’re In” event.
First post time on opening day is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.
TWO GRADE I STAKES FEATURED ON OPENING DAY NEXT FRIDAY
A first in Santa Anita’s storied history will take place opening day, Friday, Sept. 27, when The Great Race Place offers three graded stakes, two–the $300,000 American Pharoah and the $300,000 Chandelier–Grade I Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events, and the other the Grade II, $200,000 Eddie D Stakes for three-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf.
“We’re excited to get the meet started with these two outstanding Grade I races on opening day,” said Santa Anita Vice President, Racing and Racing Secretary Steve Lym. “The Eddie D has been upgraded to a Grade II and we’ve also doubled the purse on it (to $200,000), so we’re expecting an outstanding field.”
The American Pharoah is a prep for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1, and the Chandelier is a prep for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies the same day.
Although it is not a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier, the Eddie D serves as a prep for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 1.
The 23-day meet which concludes on Nov. 3 will offer 43 graded stakes, 18 of which are Grade I events. Santa Anita’s complete 2019 Autumn meet stakes schedule is available at santaanita.com/stakes-schedule.
BAFFERT JUVENILES EYE AMERICAN PHAROAH, CHANDELIER STAKES
Bob Baffert expects to start Eight Rings and Bast in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes and the Grade I Chandelier Stakes, respectively, on opening day a week from today.
“We’ll work them one more time, but so far that’s the plan,” Baffert said this morning.
The American Pharoah is for two-year-olds, while the Chandelier is for two-year-old fillies, each a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race.
After an impressive maiden win by 6 ¼ lengths, Eight Rings lost the rider soon after the start in the Del Mar Futurity, while Bast, a filly by Uncle Mo, won the Del Mar Debutante by nearly nine lengths after running second in her debut.
NEWCOMER CEDILLO THREAT TO WIN SANTA ANITA CROWN
Tom Knust knows a good thing when he sees it.
The veteran race tracker has served the game in several capacities, most recently as a jockey’s agent, currently representing Martin Garcia and Abel Cedillo.
Knust had his eye on Cedillo when he was winning races in bunches at Golden Gate Fields earlier this year, with the intention of bringing him to Del Mar and then Santa Anita.
The plan has come to fruition. A 30-year-old native of Guatemala, Cedillo finished third in the standings at Del Mar with 25 victories, behind Flavien Prat and Drayden Van Dyke, and looms a serious threat to capture the title at Santa Anita.
“I knew he could ride, I knew he had the ability, but you never know until they show it here,” Knust said. “Sometimes it takes them longer to get going, but he had the support of a lot of trainers down here, and (trainer) Jonathan Wong deserves credit for putting him on good horses in the Bay Area and giving him the chance to succeed and be where he’s at right now.
“Our relationship with Doug O’Neill has been great and helped tremendously. He’s been very supportive, as has Phil D’Amato, Peter Miller, Richard Baltas, Mark Glatt and others.
“I think Abel is a very strong rider. He reminds me a lot of Joel Rosario, and trainers have told me the same thing, so that’s high praise. Abel will ride eight a day if he can and he’ll work 10 horses in the mornings, then fly somewhere and ride a stake the next day.
“He’s very motivated and committed to Southern California. You need to have the horses and the opportunities to win a riding title, along with a little luck, but Abel has the talent and work ethic to be a leading rider.”
Added O’Neill, fresh from winning the Del Mar title with 24 wins: “We watched him on TV for months up north putting up great ride after great ride. He showed right away at Del Mar that he fits in Southern California. He’s got a tremendous work ethic and to me he rides very much like Joel Rosario.
“He’s so good at putting horses in position to win and he’s one of the strongest finishers I’ve seen in a long time. He’s a great addition to this colony.”
OLD WAR HORSE MUCHOS BESOS RETIRED AT THE AGE OF 10
Muchos Besos, one of the most popular and successful claiming horses ever to run at Santa Anita, has been retired at the ripe old age of 10.
“He was sound, but a group of racing officials felt it was time for him to retire,” said Javier Jose Sierra, who trained the Kentucky-bred son of Macho Uno for Hugo Catalan. “But he was 100 percent sound.”
Winner of 12 of 79 career starts, 10 of 46 at Santa Anita where he also had six seconds, 11 thirds and earnings of $242,636, Muchos Besos (“many kisses” in Spanish) ran third in his final race on June 29 at Los Alamitos.
The gray gelding made his first start on Sept. 2, 2011. Overall, he earned $335,236.
Sierra, who trained Muchos Besos for six years, winning six races, said he was purchased privately for $15,000 and turned out at the buyer’s home in Rancho Santa Fe. “The gentleman has three horses there, but they aren’t ridden or worked,” Sierra said. “He puts the horses on trails, so Muchos Besos should retire in comfort.”
NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita has installed a new state-of-the-art LED Infield video board, which will offer viewers dramatically improved brightness and visual clarity beginning on opening day.
Manufactured and installed by Daktronics, America’s leading manufacturer of outdoor LED (light-emitting diode) boards, this new 30′ x 54′ display contains 648,000 total 15 mm pixels, the optimum size for a board of this scope, ensuring an improved view of the races and all video content throughout the race day.
Due to the breadth of this project, the previous board was removed in August and the new board was installed last month while the Santa Anita stable area was closed.
Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics employs 2,500 people and parts are made in the USA. Daktronics is the preferred vendor for 21 of 31 NFL stadiums and 22 of 30 Major League Baseball parks throughout the United States.
Santa Anita, which hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2, will also be offering fans other major new amenities, such as its Stretch Run Suites and Trackside Terrace Dining and Seating, at a cost of more than $5 million.
(Santa Anita was the first racetrack in America to install an Infield video board in 2001).
For additional information on Santa Anita’s 2019 Autumn Meet and two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
FINISH LINES: Joe Talamo is zeroing in on his 2,000th career win, only seven from that milestone according to his agent, Scotty McClellen, a fastidious figure filbert who has represented the Louisiana native since he came to California at 18. He’s now 29, so it’s a span of some 10 years. “I haven’t really thought about it too much,” Talamo said Friday morning of the impending mark. “I hadn’t paid attention but Scotty told me last week. It’s pretty cool.” . . . Come-backing three-year-old stalwart Omaha Beach worked seven furlongs this morning in 1:27.20 for Richard Mandella on Santa Anita’s fast main track . . . Fasig-Tipton presents its California Fall Yearling sale at Fairplex Park in Pomona this Thursday, Sept. 26 at 12 noon. “We have 285 up for auction,” pointed out former trainer Mike Machowsky, now Fasig-Tipton’s California representative and account executive. For additional information please visit email@example.com/fasigtipton.com . . . Congrats to apprentice J.C. Diaz Jr. who celebrates his 19th birthday today . . . Old school: Assistant starter Huey Barnes is back on the beat at Santa Anita. Barnes, who turns 87 on Oct. 3, first came to Santa Anita in 1954 under the auspices of Charlie Whittingham. But Ron McAnally has a seniority edge. The Hall of Fame trainer of John Henry and other champs, already 87, came to The Great Race Place in 1948 when a mere lad of 16, mucking stalls for his uncle, Reggie Cornell, trainer of the legendary Silky Sullivan, whose scintillating stretch runs made him a household name a decade later.
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