- ROMAN POISED TO MAKE SANTA ANITA HISTORY
- MILLER TIME AT SANTA ANITA, FOR PETE’S SAKE
- STEVENS AND OM HOPE TO CELEBRATE JULY 4
- PAUL LoDUCA LEAVES TVG FOR THE BIG APPLE
‘ROMAN’ HOLIDAY IMMINENT AT SANTA ANITA
In the rich history of Santa Anita Park that emerged from racing’s womb on Dec. 25, 1934, only one apprentice jockey has ever been leading rider at any previous meet, covering a span of more than eight decades. That was Gordon Glisson, who won 57 races in 1948-49.
That could change tomorrow.
Evin Roman, a 19-year-old apprentice rider from Puerto Rico, holds a 40-38 lead over previous frontrunner Flavien Prat with two racing days left in the Spring segment of Santa Anita’s current meet.
Roman, who won four races Sunday to take command, is named on 12 horses in those two days, seven today and five on Tuesday. Prat is named on 11, five today and six tomorrow.
While leaving the magic number up to the mathematicians, the odds would seem to favor Roman (pronounced ro-MON) adding his name among journeymen legends such as John Longden, Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux and Rafael Bejarano, all past riding champions at The Great Race Place.
As an apprentice, or ‘bug’ rider, Roman now receives a five-pound weight advantage over journeymen, who must carry the full complement of assigned weight. The word ‘bug’ emanates from the asterisk-like insignia that resembles a bug listed next to the weight in a program, designating an apprentice rider. Roman loses his apprenticeship next March.
The kid became an overnight sensation, thanks in no small part to veteran agent Tony Matos, like Roman a native of Puerto Rico.
“When I first brought him here, I knew he had a lot of ability,” Matos said between rounds Monday morning. “A friend of mine from Puerto Rico gave me a choice between two or three bug boys, and I liked Evin, even with his raw ability.
“But when I first brought him here, I threw too much at him at the beginning. I put him on horses running down the hillside turf course and they ducked in on him, and he had never ridden but one race on the grass before.
“But he adjusted. He got set down (suspended) three times, which might have done him some good, because he got a chance to settle down and look at films of his races. A lot of jockeys here helped, like Santiago Gonzalez, Gary Stevens, Corey Nakatani, Mike Smith and others. They went out of their way to give him some pointers.
“Even (fellow Puerto Rican) Irad Ortiz (Jr.), when he came here, gave him some good advice. It’s important to remember than Evin has only been riding since the middle of January. Even though he went to jockey school (in Puerto Rico), this advice has opened up his eyes, he developed quickly, and I think the best is yet to come.
“He’s getting better and better every day. He still has a couple of things he has to adjust to, but right now horses run for him, he wins races, and he’s very good out of the gate. Even on a slow horse, he breaks in front out of the gate.
“I’m really excited about him. I never would have dreamed about being leading rider, or even close to leading rider. If it happens, it happens, but I’m happy to be in this position.
“I’ve been doing this for 54 years. I hate to tell you how old I am. I had Laffit for 10 years, I had (Angel) Cordero (Jr.) for 11 years, Victor (Espinoza) for 15 years, Kent Desormeaux. I’ve been blessed to have some great riders and they’re all my good friends.
“I’m glad at this stage of my career I wound up with a kid who could be a superstar.”
That may be putting the cart before the horse, although one trainer did call Roman “the best rider here.”
But former exercise rider and current assistant starter Huey Barnes, who knows where all the bodies are buried at the age of 83 and seven decades on the race track, rendered this sage advice:
“Learn what you can while you’ve got the bug, ’cause when you lose your bug, you lose your best friend.”
MILLER LARGE & IN CHARGE IN TRAINERS’ RACE
Easily confused as a jockey in his younger years, Peter Miller, at age 50, looms large these days at Santa Anita, as he steams into closing day tomorrow with a commanding 35-24 advantage in the Spring Meet trainer standings. With his second Spring Meet title clinched (the first coming in 2015), Miller can now lay claim to eight overall Southern California training crowns.
Fresh off a three-win afternoon on Sunday, highlighted by Surrender Now’s eight length triumph in the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Miller attributes his stable’s success to running in the right races with the right horses.
“I’m an aggressive guy and so are my owners,” said Miller, who has also had several well documented dust-ups with track stewards of late. “I’ve got guys like Gary Barber and Gary Hartunian and others who like to win. They let me place horses where they can be competitive and they don’t mind if we lose some horses (via the claim box) to win races.
“It’s great when you can train for guys who like action . . . Mike Mitchell told me a long time ago, ‘If you’re double digits (odds), you’re in the wrong race. Most guys (trainers) are afraid to lose horses, or, they over-value their horses. My average win price is like six dollars. I think if you look at Baffert, he’s winning all the time and he’s usually 6-5.”
Based at San Luis Rey Downs Training Center, Miller is heavily dependent on his staff, as he also maintains a smaller barn at Santa Anita.
“It takes a team effort,” he said. “I’ve got a lotta good people and Ruben Alvarado does a tremendous job for us with the horses at Santa Anita. It’s been a dream come true to have a meet like this. Ever since last Del Mar (Crosby Meet, which ended Dec. 4), it’s been an incredible run. I feel like if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere because I think this is the toughest circuit in the world.”
So, with three horses entered and placed aggressively in races two, three and seven, what does he think of Calculator, a Grade I stakes placed runner who comes off a pair of sub par races, in today’s third, a tough classified allowance at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course?
“He trains good. He’s sound, but he might’ve lost his edge,” said Miller regarding the five-year-old Florida-bred son of In Summation who was second, beaten a head in last year’s Grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. “Hopefully, he’ll run his race. If he does, he wins.”
And, at 5-2 on the morning line, there you have it.
STEVENS EYES HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY ABOARD OM
Gary Stevens hopes to celebrate the Fourth of July with a bang, the noise being generated by Om in Tuesday’s American Stakes for three-year-olds and up a mile on turf.
A five-year-old son of Munnings trained by Dan Hendricks for the Sareen Family Trust, the consistent chestnut will be making his first start since last Nov. 26 when he finished third by a half length in Del Mar’s Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Stevens has ridden Om in his last 10 races, winning three, and is looking forward to reuniting with the speedy and consistent campaigner, who has a 5-4-4 record from 16 starts.
“I haven’t been on him in the mornings, but I’ve been watching him train all winter,” Stevens said.
“He’s training lights out, he looks great and I’m looking forward to being back on board. I think he’s using me as the fuse to light the firecrackers.”
The field for the Grade III, $100,000 American, race six of 10 with a first post of 1 p.m.: Hunt, Mike Smith, 6-1; Kenjisstorm, Flavien Prat, 12-1; Om, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Alert Bay, Tyler Baze, 3-1; Patentar, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; Si Sage, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Flamboyant, Brice Blanc, 6-1; and Pee Wee Reese, Joe Talamo, 4-1.
Smokey Image was scratched.
Santa Anita races through tomorrow, July 4, when the Spring portion of the
current meet ends. Tuesday is DOLLAR DAY, with beer, hot dogs and soda on sale for a buck apiece. Santa Anita’s Autumn meet will start on Sept. 28.
FINISH LINES: Paul LoDuca, who made the successful transition from one sport to another, parted company with the TVG racing network effective Sunday to pursue new horizons in New York. “I never thought I’d be in horse racing,” said the former Major League catcher, a popular and well informed fixture with TVG for the past eight years. A four-time National League All-Star, LoDuca played 17 years in the Big Dance, two with the New York Mets. “I’ll miss everyone in Southern California and am grateful for the experience,” LoDuca said, “but I’m looking forward to the many opportunities that await in New York. Added TVG analyst Kurt Hoover, one of game’s most knowledgeable talents: “Paul and I got to work together a lot more the past few months and even managed to cash a few tickets. I’ll miss sitting next to him.” . . . There will be mandatory payouts for the Pick Six, Pick Five and Super High Five at Santa Anita tomorrow, closing day . . . Royal F J, a 10-year-old Royal Academy gelding trained by Jack Carava, makes his 99th career start in today’s seventh race at about 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course . . . Zuzu’s Petals, 6-5 morning line favorite in today’s eighth race, has been claimed five times in her last six races, the last three in a row . . . Santa Anita’s single ticket Pick Six Jackpot stands at $383,870.90 going into Monday . . . Versatile graded stakes winner Illuminant is being pointed to the Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar Aug. 5, trainer Michael McCarthy said . . . Talented apprentices Evin Roman and Laura Werner finished a nose apart in yesterday’s eighth race, as Roman got the best of it with Lambo Luxx over Werner’s Alex Rossi. The one dollar “bug” exacta paid $196.60 . . . Bob Baffert, asked if he was concerned how much weight Arrogate would be assigned for the San Diego Handicap: “I could go in the Whitney.”
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, July 2)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||80||11||11||14||14%||45%||$728,379|
|John W. Sadler||70||11||13||13||16%||53%||$750,138|