- LEADING RIDER PRAT SET TO EXPAND HIS PROFILE
- TOP TRAINER O’NEILL HAS HORSES BORN TO RUN
- HORSE FOR COURSE MUCHOS BESOS WINS AGAIN
- FIRST POST WILL BE 12 NOON SATURDAY, JUNE 23
- BAFFERT, SMITH AT DODGER STADIUM ON JUNE 25
PRAT WILL TEST THE WATERS IN THE BIG APPLE
One of the nation’s leading trainers has called Flavien Prat a difference maker, as in difference maker when it comes to winning or losing a race.
That’s a supreme but deserved compliment for the 25-year-old Frenchman, currently poised to win Santa Anita’s Spring Meet riding title, as he leads co-runners-up Joe Talamo and Geovanni Franco, 30-24, with six racing days remaining.
But Prat and his agent, Derek Lawson, are not content with the status quo and envision bigger and better things in the future.
“The goal is to expand his profile, not only here, because we’re pretty well known in Southern California, obviously, but now to branch out to New York,” Lawson said. “We want the New York trainers and owners to watch the way he rides on a daily basis in their own backyard.
“That’s the reason we’ve decided to go to New York for at least two weeks. He has potential stakes mounts in New York coming up in the next 10 days.
“After that, we regroup, come back to California, possibly ride the Los Alamitos Derby if we find a horse we can ride there, then move to Del Mar and try to win the riding title again like we did last year.
“That’s our goal for the next month and a half, two months.”
O’NEILL GRATEFUL AS HE NEARS TRAINING TITLE
After a slow start at Santa Anita’s recent Winter Meet, Doug O’Neill is moving like a rolling stone going downhill during the current Spring Meet, where the 50-year-old Michigan native and two-time Kentucky Derby winner holds a 28-22 lead over runner-up Phil D’Amato for training honors.
“We’re blessed with a lot of nice babies (two-year-olds), and a lot of the bigger barns have decided to wait on their babies, so we just kind of got the jump on them,” O’Neill said in explaining one reason for the spike in victories.
“We’re very grateful for what we’ve got and hopefully we can keep it going.”
O’Neill has started 110 horses, more than any other trainer, and at 25 percent, is winning at well above average. He and his principal client, J. Paul Reddam, are not shy when it comes to entering races.
If their horse is ready, they usually find a spot for it. To wit: Pavel and Mopotism, who ran in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the Grade I Gamely, respectively, on May 26, are back in two weeks tomorrow in stakes at Churchill Downs.
Bruce Springsteen isn’t the only one who was born to run.
MUCHOS BESOS HAS LOVE AFFAIR WITH SANTA ANITA
Racing has its racing royalty, like Justify, and its court jesters, like Muchos Besos, although there’s nothing funny about a nine-year-old horse that puts his heart on the line nearly every time he runs.
The gray Macho Uno gelding trained by Javier Sierra for owner Hugo Catalan did it again Thursday at Santa Anita, leading throughout the seventh race at one mile for $20,000 claiming horses. He won by a neck under Matt Garcia, who has ridden the Kentucky bred in his last five races, winning three.
Muchos Besos (“many kisses” in Spanish) has run 39 times at Santa Anita, winning nine, with five seconds and 10 thirds. Overall, he has 11 wins from 66 starts, with eight seconds and 12 thirds, earning $286,311, an average of $4,338 per start.
“He’s a nice, honest horse,” said the 66-year-old Sierra, born in El Paso and a trainer for 45 years. “Matt understands the horse and we’ve found a niche for him. Other riders give up on him, but not Matt.”
Sierra, who grew up in Juarez where he played soccer as a kid, aspired to be a jockey but his father, a native of Mexico, had education as a priority for his 12 children. Javier aborted racing, went to school at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
Ultimately, Sierra returned to racing, where he has made his mark lo these many years, thanks to horses like Muchos Besos.
“Give a good trainer a good horse,” Garcia says, “and he’ll win.”
JUNE 23 FIRST POST 12 NOON TO ACCOMMODATE JUSTIFY
Santa Anita has announced it will go with a special early first post time of 12 noon on Saturday, June 23, in order to accommodate an on-track appearance between races by undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify, who is scheduled to return to The Great Race Place this Sunday.
A winner of the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7, the Bob Baffert-trained Justify achieved racing immortality by winning last Saturday’s Grade I Belmont Stakes as he joined the legendary Seattle Slew in becoming only the second horse in Thoroughbred history to remain undefeated through the Triple Crown.
Baffert and regular rider Mike Smith will join Justify in the Winner’s Circle, and both Hall of Famers will be available for media interviews.
Unbeaten in six starts (three of them at Santa Anita, dating back to a rousing 9 ½ length maiden win going seven furlongs on Feb. 18), Justify, a striking chestnut colt by the late Scat Daddy, out of the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic, has earnings of $3,798,000.
Although estimates vary, Justify, who is owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, LLC, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm, is thought to be worth between $75 million and $100 million as a stallion prospect, which is helping to fuel intense speculation as to when and where his next start may come.
TRAINER FANCIES CHANCES OF DOUBLE TOUCH IN SIREN LURE
Double Touch makes his first start in four months Sunday in the $80,000 Siren Lure Stakes for three-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
Dan Blacker expects a solid performance from his English-bred four-year-old.
“I always felt he’d like the hillside course and he’s proved that (winning an overnight race Feb. 23, coming from ninth at the head of the stretch to score by a half length),” the trainer said.
“He came up with some little issues since his last race, which is why he hasn’t run back, but he’s doing as well as ever right now, so I feel he’s going to run a good race.
“I wish the turf course wasn’t as speed-favoring as it is right now but what can you do? It seems like there’s some speed in the race, which should help him, and he’s doing great.”
The Siren Lure, race eight of 10: Double Touch, Gary Stevens, 6-1; Tiz a Billy, Tiago Pereira, 8-1; Comma Sister, Israel Ocampo, 50-1; Gold Rush Dancer, Evin Roman, 15-1; Acceptance, Martin Garcia, 30-1; B Squared, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; Bombard, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Perfectly Majestic, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Anatolian Heat, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Mongolian Shopper, Stewart Elliott, 20-1; and Cistron, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1.
TRIPLE CROWNERS BAFFERT & SMITH AT DODGER STADIUM JUNE 25
The Triple Crown Champion combo of Bob Baffert and Mike Smith will set their collective sights on the bright lights of Dodger Stadium on Monday, June 25, as they’ll both throw out ceremonial pitches prior to the Blue Crew facing the Chicago Cubs.
“Plenty of seats are available,” advises Dodger PR wag Steve Brener. “But whenever the Cubs are in town, you can count on a sellout, so I’d advise everyone to get their tickets as soon as possible.”
Although Baffert and Smith have thrown out a number of ceremonial first pitches at various stadiums, Baffert acknowledged a need to refine his delivery yesterday morning at Clockers’ Corner.
“I was a little high with the last one there in New York,” he said. “I need to lengthen my stride to the plate and I think that’ll help me get the ball down in the strike zone.”
With Justify returning to Santa Anita on Sunday and his next start still a matter of speculation, let there be no doubt, Baffert and Smith are committed to a 7:05 p.m. start at Dodger Stadium on June 25.
Dodger tickets can be obtained online at Dodgers.com/tickets.
FINISH LINES: There was one winning Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot ducat worth $236,857.80 yesterday, purchased for $32 at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood . . . Brother and sister trainers Craig and Michelle Dollase saddled the first and third-place finishers in Thursday’s second race, Dreams of Valor at 16-1 ridden by Edwin Maldonado and Extreme Heat at 8-1, ridden by Asa Espinosa . . . Mike Smith rides Sir Barton winner Ax Man for Bob Baffert in Saturday’s Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs . . . Agent J. R. Pegram now represents jockey Alonso Quinonez . . . The California Horse Racing Board will conduct its regular monthly meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 21, in the Pleasanton Satellite Wagering Facility at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The Board will immediately go into closed session. The public session is scheduled to reconvene at 11:15. An audio-only webcast of the public session can be heard through a link on the CHRB website (webcast). The Board meeting agenda and supporting package of materials are available on the website . . . Having withdrawn his appeal of April 21, jockey Franklin Ceballos will serve a four-day suspension from June 21 through 24.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, June 14)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||105||17||18||15||16%||48%||$1,052,300|