- POSTER SIGNING BRINGS OUT LONGEST LINE
- FIRST-TIME FANS ENJOY JUSTIFY EXPERIENCE
- LEADING RIDER PRAT PLANS TO STAY ON TOP
- BELLA LUMA IS ‘DOING GREAT’ FOR WILSHIRE
- PICK SIX CARRYOVER COULD EXCEED $750,000
‘LONGEST LINE’ FOR JUSTIFY TRIPLE CROWN POSTER
Five minutes after Santa Anita’s admission gates opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, a line estimated at more than 3,000 people had formed as racing devotees flocked to get a quick word with Justify’s Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith as he signed Triple Crown posters adjacent to the Kingsbury Fountain in the West Paddock Gardens.
“We’ve never seen anything close to this kind of response for an autographed item,” said Santa Anita Vice President, Marketing Nate Newby. “We easily had 3,000 people to start and even though we’ve encouraged about 500 of the folks at the rear to take a poster and try to get it autographed later, we’ve still got thousands of people waiting to see Mike. We printed 4,000 posters (free, with paid admission) and we’re going to run out before the first race.
“The poster is first class and so is everything about this Triple Crown story. For this horse to start out here on Feb. 18 and win the Belmont 111 days later is an achievement that’ll likely stand for all-time.
“We’re looking forward to something really special this afternoon when Justify comes out after the fourth race, and if this poster signing is any indication, we’re going to have a massive turnout for Justify himself.”
MEMORABLE SANTA ANITA EXPERIENCE FOR FIRST-TIME FANS
The buzz was louder than usual at Santa Anita’s popular gathering spot, Clockers’ Corner, Saturday morning, in anticipation of Justify going center stage in a few hours.
After all, it’s not often fans can see an undefeated Triple Crown winner up close and personal at his home track.
Two new faces among the crowd were a husband and wife from La Palma, which borders Orange County and Los Angeles County, some 32 miles and 36 minutes from Arcadia.
It was their first visit to a race track, and they came to see Justify. The man, who happened to be an amputee, was in a wheelchair, while the woman sat at a table nearby, both like children on Christmas morning, absorbing Santa Anita’s singular atmosphere in wide-eyed wonderment.
When Justify’s trainer, the readily recognizable Bob Baffert, happened to appear, the man asked if he would join them for a photo. Baffert complied. The couple was overjoyed.
Thanks to Baffert’s act of kindness, the two first-time race trackers are likely to return again and again, and at a time when racing needs all the good will and live bodies it can get, it was a gesture that serves the game well.
PRAT FARES WELL IN DEEP JOCKEY COLONY
With only two racing days left in Santa Anita’s Spring Meet and Flavien Prat holding a
35-28 over Geovanni Franco, the 25-year-old Frenchman appears well on his way to winning the riding title, although agent Derek Lawson won’t bask in the glory until the result is official.
“Everything went well this meet,” Lawson said. “The opportunity to ride again in both the
Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby was outstanding. We’re just going to continue what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years, and that’s trying to find the best horses and riding for trainers who want us.
“We’ll try and stay on top if we possibly can, but it’s always a struggle, because this riding colony, even though people say it’s not that deep, it’s very deep.”
In the trainers’ race, Doug O’Neill holds a 31-26 lead over Phil D’Amato in quest of his fourth Santa Anita crown, winning at a creditable 23 percent clip even though he has started more horses, 132, than any other trainer. Peter Miller is second with 114 starters.
Favorites have been winning 36.57 percent of the time (132 out of 361), with an even greater propensity on dirt, 40.67 percent (85 of 209). The number falls noticeably on turf, to 30.92 percent (47 of 152).
BAY AREA INVADER ‘DOING GREAT’ FOR WILSHIRE
Bella Luma arrived at Santa Anita in good order from the Bay Area for Sunday’s $100,000 Wilshire Stakes, in which the four-year-old California-bred filly takes on open company in quest of her fourth straight victory.
Ed Moger Jr. hopes she’s up to the task.
“She’s doing great,” said the 62-year-old the trainer, a mainstay in California for years. “It’s a tough race but she’s as good as she can be right now, so if she’s going to do it, it’s now.”
A chestnut daughter of Ministers Wild Cat, Bella Luma won the Golden Poppy at 1 1/16 miles on grass at Golden Gate May 12. She finished fifth in two previous turf races at Santa Anita early in 2017.
The Grade III Wilshire, race nine of 11: Beau Recall, Joe Talamo, 7-2; Sassy Little Lila, Mike Smith, 6-1; Shehastheritestuff, Edwin Maldonado, 30-1; Miss Julia Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-1; Sophie P, Kent Desormeaux, 3-1; Cordiality, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Storm the Hill, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Bella Luma, Gary Stevens, 15-1; and Ancient Secret, Flavien Prat, 7-2.
FINISH LINES: There is a two-day Pick Six carryover today of $160,472, with the mutuel pool expected to exceed $750,000 . . . With exercise rider Freddie Rodriguez aboard early Saturday morning, female Eclipse Award sprint champion of 2017 Unique Bella worked five furlongs in 1:00.80, breezing, for Jerry Hollendorfer . . . Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup winner Accelerate went four furlongs for trainer John Sadler in 48.60, while multiple Grade I winner City of Light went the same distance in 48.40 for Michael McCarthy . . . With agent Patty Sterling calling the shots, Tiago Pereira has enjoyed a successful Santa Anita campaign, currently in fifth place with 21 victories. The 41-year-old native of Brazil miraculously escaped injury in a spill during the stretch run of the Snow Chief Stakes on June 2. “We’re very thankful for the meet we’ve had, and for escaping injury in the spill,” said Pereira, looking forward to ongoing success at Los Alamitos and then Del Mar. “We already have a place to stay in Del Mar, right off the beach, so I’m excited about that. Everything is working out fine so far.” . . . Speedy recovery from reconstructive surgery to repair a broken left ankle to veteran turf writer Art Wilson of the Southern California News Group . . . Santa Anita’s jockeys will participate in a moment of silence following today’s sixth race to mark the passing of Kentucky-based Corey Laneri’s wife Shantel, 42, who died unexpectedly yesterday in Louisville. Lanerie, winner of the 2014 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, is a 15-time leading rider at Churchill Downs. He and Shantel have a 10-year-old daughter, Brittlyn.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Friday, June 22)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||116||20||20||16||17%||48%||$1,160,040|