Tough Sunday is the Little Horse Who Could.

Having overcome health hurdles at birth that would have dashed the careers, yea lives, of Thoroughbreds with lesser pluck, Tough Sunday displayed an indomitable spirit that has him poised and ready for Saturday’s $150,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint, one of four stakes that day for California-bred or sired horses, with purses of $600,000, that is supported by allowance, maiden and claiming races with money supercharged by the Cal-bred race fund.

A six-year-old horse owned and bred by Nick Alexander, Tough Sunday was born deaf and blind, didn’t know how to nurse, and his mother abandoned him.

But not Alexander, a major owner, breeder and supporter of California racing going on four decades, the founder of Nick Alexander Imports auto dealership in the Wholesale District of Los Angeles, and currently Chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC).

Alexander, 75, has told the tale of Tough Sunday so many times it has become rote. It has been well-documented and goes like this:

“He was very big and got stuck during delivery, and in struggling to get out, his (umbilical) cord was severed and by the time we pulled him out he had been without oxygen for some time.

“We rushed him and his mom (Sunday Dress) to Alamo Pintado Clinic just a few minutes from our ranch in Santa Ynez. The news was bad: He was blind, deaf, had no nursing instinct, and had a heart murmur.

“Dr. Erin Burn and her staff worked around the clock to stabilize him, but he developed pneumonia. He could stand up but couldn’t lie back down. He looked like a pin cushion with so many tubes, IVs, etc.

“Because he didn’t quite know how to nurse, his mom abandoned him. About the fifth day, he wasn’t improving and I was told to make a decision whether or not to keep at it. The next morning, I went to the clinic, and as I walked up to his stall, his eyes followed me.

“That was enough progress for me, but he still was in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) almost a month before he was strong enough to bring home. We pail-fed him and eventually got his mom to accept him, although he never did learn to nurse.

“A month or so later we turned him out with other foals and mares.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

“I can tell you this; he’s paid his vet bill,” Alexander said. “It cost 40 thousand bucks to get him out of the ICU and he’s now made a quarter of a million dollars.

“He paid me back the money and he certainly gave me four years of enjoyment watching him run.”

The bay son of Grazen trained by Steve Miyadi has won four of 16 starts good for $255,838 in earnings, but he has never won a stake. He was third in the Grade III Midnight Lute on Dec. 31, 2016 and second by a neck in the race Dec. 30 of last year.

Alexander remains enamored with Tough Sunday’s mythic story, as well as the California breeding program, which is in the spotlight on Saturday.

Addressing the agenda for horses bred in the Golden State, Alexander called it, “The greatest program in the world. You get a bonus for breaking your maiden, a check every year for your broodmares, a check every year for your stallion, and a 30 percent increase in the purses when you win an open race or an overnight stake; I don’t know how you can beat it.

“I don’t know why more people aren’t on the program enthusiastically. It makes the difference for most people either losing money or breaking even, or even making a little bit.”

The Sprint field, race four of 10: Edwards Going Left, Tyler Baze, 5-2; B Squared, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Masochistic, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-5; Solid Wager, Victor Espinoza, 10-1; Tough Sunday, Joe Talamo, 7-2; and Country Road, Kyle Frey, 30-1.

In addition to the Cal Cup Sprint on Saturday, Santa Anita also will feature the $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic presented by City National Bank for older horses at 1 1/8 miles; the $150,000 guaranteed Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint for fillies and mares, four and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside course; and the $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint Stakes for three-year-olds at about 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside course.

The card also includes the following races restricted to Cal-breds: a $70,000 first-condition allowance for four-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside turf course; a $65,000 maiden special weight race for three-year-olds at a mile on turf; a $65,000 maiden special weight race for three-year-old fillies at 5 ½ furlongs; a $35,000 maiden claimer ($50,000 claiming price) for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs; and a $30,000 ($16,000 claiming price) for four-year-olds and up.

The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA) will award $200 cash to the groom who prepares the best turned out horse in each of the four stakes races Saturday.

First post time Saturday is 11:45 a.m. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.



            There is no question Evin Roman will win an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding apprentice rider of 2017 at the 47th annual awards ceremony tonight at Gulfstream Park in Florida. The lone question is, will the vote be unanimous?

“It’s exciting to have a kid come from Puerto Rico and win it,” said his agent, Tony Matos, himself a native of the Island Country. “He only won a couple races there, then went to the jockey school (at the state-run jockey academy, Escuela Vocacional Hipica), and I give all the credit to the school.

“It has developed a lot of top riders (like the brothers Ortiz, Jose and Irad Jr., the former favored to win an Eclipse Award tonight as the nation’s outstanding jockey of 2017). If both Evin and Jose win, it would be a great testimonial for the school to have developed the leading apprentice and the leading rider for an Eclipse Award.”

Through 16 days of Santa Anita’s Winter Meet, the 19-year-old Roman leads all riders with 17 wins, three in front of runner-up Rafael Bejarano.

“I couldn’t be happier the way things have gone for Evin,” Matos said. “I’m looking forward to having him as a journeyman and keep on going. It seems like he gets better and better every day.”

Roman loses his apprenticeship on March 11 and will ride as full-fledged journeyman starting March 12.



Legendary trumpeter and iconic entertainer Doc Severinsen will join forces with Santa Anita bugler Jay Cohen as they team with a call to the post this Sunday at The Great Race Place. Known to millions worldwide as bandleader on one of the greatest television shows of all-time, The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson, Severinsen, 90, continues to tour and will also be joined on-track by his partner and International Trumpet Guild President Cathy Leach.

“We are delighted to be filming a documentary on my Dad, produced by an independent film company run by Kevin S. Bright, Jeff Consiglio and Arian Garfunkel,” said Nancy Severinsen, who works in Los Angeles as Music Supervisor on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Any film on our Dad would be remiss not to include his love and history of horse racing in telling his story.”

A frequent visitor at Los Alamitos Racecourse during The Tonight Show’s heyday in the 1970s and 80s, Severinsen’s ties to horseracing run deep, as he has owned Quarter Horses, and his son, Allen, trained Thoroughbreds, primarily in the Bay Area, and currently working as a booking agent for Hubbard Van Lines in Southern California.

In addition to his musical prowess, the colorful Severinsen, who occasionally filled in for Ed McMahon as Carson’s on-set sidekick, developed an affinity for exotic clothing and was also a major comedic contributor on the show that was home to the biggest names in entertainment during its incredible run from 1962 through 1992.

“Doc is truly an amazing human being,” said Cohen, who in addition to calling the horses to the post each race day at Santa Anita, is an accomplished stand-up comedian and magician.  “Without question, Doc Severinsen is among the top 10 trumpeters who have ever lived. He’s excited to be coming out here on Sunday and I know the fans will love it.”

In addition to his on-track performance late on Sunday’s nine-race program, Santa Anita will also name the eighth race for Severinsen and honor him with a Winner’s Circle ceremony.


The 51st annual Santa Anita Jockeys vs. Holy Angels Elementary Charity Basketball Game will be played Thursday, Feb. 1 at La Salle High School in Pasadena, with proceeds to benefit Holy Angels Athletics and The Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation, which contributes to Thoroughbred racing industry charities and presents the winning rider in each year’s Kentucky Derby with the Hartack Memorial Award.

The award is named in honor of the late Hall of Fame Jockey, William Hartack, who along with Eddie Arcaro, won a record five Kentucky Derbies.

Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Mike Smith and Alex Solis will be available at center court for an autograph session beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 per person, and for every two tickets purchased, individuals will receive one free admission ticket to Santa Anita Park.

La Salle High School is located at the southwest corner of Sierra Madre Blvd. and Michillinda in Pasadena, approximately three miles from Santa Anita. Admission tickets and promotional tee shirts are on sale now at Champions! Gifts and Apparel in Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens, or through Holy Angels Elementary School in Arcadia.


FINISH LINES: Parlay vous! Starting Feb. 1, Santa Anita once again will offer Parlay Wagering . . . Multiple stakes winner Silent Bird was holding his own after suffering a leg injury Wednesday during a workout. “The horse is OK,” trainer Mark Glatt said Thursday morning. “He’s here and we’re going to give him the best shot we can (to save him).” . . . Sign on with the Los Angeles Times horse racing newsletter. Authored by John Cherwa, it offers entries, charts and more at the following link:


(Current Through Sunday, Jan. 21)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Evin Roman 100 17 13 13 17% 43% $519,694
Rafael Bejarano 65 14 7 12 22% 51% $519,022
Kent Desormeaux 66 12 10 7 18% 44% $657,887
Flavien Prat 71 10 13 7 14% 42% $574,803
Tyler Baze 85 9 15 12 11% 42% $582,824
Drayden Van Dyke 58 9 4 5 16% 31% $582,518
Joseph Talamo 66 8 8 6 12% 33% $382,407
Tiago Pereira 57 7 5 3 12% 26% $228,560
Mike Smith 33 6 6 5 18% 52% $758,338
Mario Gutierrez 41 6 2 6 15% 34% $349,296
Corey Nakatani 26 5 6 0 19% 42% $308,720
Stewart Elliott 57 4 11 3 7% 32% $230,498
Geovanni Franco 35 4 4 6 11% 40% $156,165
Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Peter Miller 45 9 11 6 20% 58% $411,544
Richard Baltas 56 7 9 8 13% 43% $484,470
Bob Baffert 32 7 3 2 22% 38% $393,273
Vladimir Cerin 23 6 8 1 26% 65% $174,315
Jerry Hollendorfer 41 6 4 8 15% 44% $392,191
Doug O’Neill 41 6 2 6 15% 34% $357,456
William E. Morey 11 6 0 2 55% 73% $163,923
Mark Glatt 31 5 6 2 16% 42% $234,700
Philip D’Amato 43 5 4 8 12% 40% $370,585
Michael McCarthy 15 4 1 1 27% 40% $268,570