- PRAT SET FOR OPENING BY THE DOZEN
- LUIS SAEZ IS BACK ON MAXIMUM SECURITY
- UNITED EYES BETTER LUCK IN JOHN HENRY
- CHEWS CHOOSE ‘SPECIAL’ NEW ENDEAVOR
- BAFFERT, O’NEILL DOMINATE NOMINATIONS
TEAM PRAT FOCUSED ON ANOTHER TITLE
Flavien Prat, one of the most popular imports on American menus since French fried potatoes, hopes to continue his prevalence when Santa Anita begins its 15-day Autumn Meet with a plethora of prestigious stakes this weekend, 12 overall, seven of them Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races giving the winner a fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup championships at Keeneland Nov. 6 and 7.
More than $2 million in purse money is up for grabs in the 12 races. Call it a Breeders’ Cup weekend in miniature, if you will.
Santa Anita starts Friday with an added money doubleheader featuring the inaugural Grade III Chillingworth Stakes for fillies and mares three and up at 6 ½ furlongs and the Grade II Eddie D Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 5 ½ furlongs on turf.
First post time Friday is 12:30 p.m.
The 28-year-old Prat is fresh from capturing Del Mar’s riding title that wasn’t decided until the final race of the campaign, 50-49, after a nip-and-tuck battle with Umberto Rispoli, a two-time champion in his native Italy.
Perhaps even more importantly, Prat led Rispoli in purse money won $2,968,918 to $2,325,254, a difference of $642,664. In addition, Prat set a single season Del Mar record for stakes wins with 15.
At the conclusion of Santa Anita’s marathon winter/spring meet that ran from Dec. 26, 2019 to June 21, Prat was the runaway champion, outdistancing runner-up Abel Cedillo, 90-61, winning with 27 percent of his mounts which earned $4,601,148.
“We always go into a meeting trying to accomplish two things, win the rider’s title and earn the most money,” said Prat’s bilingual agent, Derek Lawson. “I looked in the Del Mar press guide after last year’s meet and saw we won 10 stakes races and thought, ‘breaking that record is doable, if a few things fall the right way.’
“Going into Del Mar this meet one goal was to go after (Rafael) Bejarano’s stakes record (of 13 set in 2012), and we enjoyed a lot of success early on towards achieving that.
“We had a bit of a lull midway through the meet and didn’t win with United in the Del Mar Handicap, which I was counting on (United lost by a head to Rispoli and Red King in the Aug. 22 race), but we dead-heated for first in the Tranquility Lakes so that was a plus.
“There were positive aspects to chasing a record and it worked out really well for us. We’re very happy.
“The victory on Dr. Schivel in the Del Mar Futurity closing day clinched the title, and it was the first Grade I win for trainer Luis Mendez, something we were extremely proud to help him achieve.
“The head to head competition throughout the meet between Flavien and Umberto, two outstanding riders from Europe, was an exciting show.
“It’s just unfortunate there were no fans on hand to see it in person.”
C’est la vie.
Prat is scheduled to be back aboard United in the Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship at a mile and a quarter this Saturday, one of a dozen stakes Santa Anita presents opening weekend. He’ll also be aboard Dr. Shivel as he transitions to turf in Saturday’s $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes for new trainer Peter Miller at 5 ½ furlongs.
There will be five Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ races on Saturday: the Grade I American Pharoah for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Grade I Awesome Again for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles; the Grade I Rodeo Drive for fillies and mares three and up at 1 ¼ miles on turf; the Grade II Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes for two-year-olds at 5 ½ furlongs on turf.
Also Saturday is the $75,000 Unzip Me Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 5 ½ furlongs on turf.
Two additional Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races will be decided Sunday, the Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs and the Grade II Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/16 miles.
Capping Sunday’s card is the Tokyo City Cup, a Grade III main track marathon for four-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles.
Prat also rides Superman Shaq for Peter Miller in the American Pharoah. Prat guided the son of Shackleford to a 3 ¾-length maiden victory at 5 ½ furlongs as the 19-10 favorite at Del Mar on Sept. 6.
LUIS SAEZ BACK ON MAXIMUM SECURITY IN AWESOME AGAIN
Luis Saez returns on Maximum Security in Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes, Bob Baffert confirmed via text.
Saez, a 28-year-old native of Panama City, has ridden the four-year-old son of New Year’s Day in seven of his 12 career races, crossing the wire first six times and second in the Pegasus at Monmouth in June 2019.
Abel Cedillo had ridden Maximum Security in his last two races, winning both, the San Diego Handicap and the Grade I Pacific Classic.
Star-crossed Maximum Security, who with Saez aboard, was disqualified from victory in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and whose win in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29 remains on hold due to a continuing investigation of his trainer at that time, Jason Servis, and others in the United States, with be making his third start for Baffert on Saturday.
Saez also will ride the maiden Spielberg in the American Pharoah Stakes for Baffert. Saez is fourth nationally in purse earnings this year with more than $10 million and second to Irad Ortiz Jr. in victories, 234 to 202.
UNITED SEEKS TO MAKE AMENDS IN JOHN HENRY
United, third by a length and three quarters as the 2-1 favorite in last year’s John Henry Stakes, is out to make amends in this year’s Grade II turf marathon on Saturday.
The five-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway was second by a head as the odds-on favorite in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 22.
“He’s doing really well,” said Richard Mandella, who trains the stretch-running chestnut for LNJ Foxwoods. “We just hope for better luck this time.”
LNJ Foxwoods is the nom de course of owners Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth, a parents-daughter team that jumped into Thoroughbred ownership in 2012. Larry made his fortune as a principle of eyewear company Marchon and Jaime runs the family stable.
Mandella was weighing options for turf sprint specialist Jolie Olimpica, winner of the Grade II Monrovia and the Grade III Las Cienegas, each at 5 ½ furlongs on grass. The four-year-old Brazilian-bred filly was second twice, however, when stretching out on turf in the Grade II Buena Vista at a mile and the Grade I Jenny Wiley at 1 1/16 miles.
“She came down with a fever recently, so we have no plans for her next race at this time,” Mandella said of the four-year-old daughter of Drosselmeyer owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms. “She’s just starting back to the track.”
Mandella entered Amuse in Friday’s Chillingworth Stakes. The five-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was second in the Grade III Rancho Bernardo Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 21 under Drayden Van Dyke, who retains the mount.
GREENER PASTURES SOUGHT BY RETIRED MATT CHEW
Matt Chew, a third-generation horseman, bid goodbye to more than four decades as a trainer on Labor Day.
The 60-year-old grew up in the shadow of storied Santa Anita, where his father, Richard, earned his spurs. Grandfather William trained primarily in New York. Chew took out his trainer’s license in 1982 on his 18th birthday and trained primarily in the Bay Area early in his career.
Now Matt hopes the future has something perhaps even more fulfilling than conditioning a Thoroughbred to win a race: helping those with special needs through programs he plans to develop.
One of countless everyday trainers who are the backbone of racing, not with abundant stakes winners but with mid-level campaigners, Chew never waivered in his philosophy: do what’s right by the horse.
Matt and his wife of 35 years, Candace, purchased a home on 18 acres in Idaho north of Coeur d’Alene, about seven years ago. It has been a work in progress, and after the completion of the barn and indoor ring this fall, they will relocate their five OTTBs (off the track Thoroughbreds) and three Weimaraners to the new location overlooking Hayden Lake.
Matt’s game plan is to have a safe haven for those with special needs who can benefit from the emotionally therapeutic environment the horses provide those with whom they’re in contact. Additionally, there will be room for a few more retired racehorses to thrive.
One local episode graphically reveals such a healing process.
Matt tells the tale: “Pete Siberell (Director of Special Services and Community Projects) arranged for a group from Pasadena called Ability First that aided the developmentally disabled to come visit Santa Anita.
“Candie and I brought the park’s mascot, Fred (one of the equine stand-ins for Seabiscuit in the movie of the same name) to the paddock one morning and we saw this young boy, maybe 11 or 12, looking at him real hard.
“I went over and handed him the shank. He took it and started walking with the horse, talking to him, telling him how pretty he was and what a great horse he was; he was having a conversation with him.
“Candie meanwhile looks over and sees three adults in the middle of the walking ring and their jaws are dropped; they look almost horrified. She realizes they are with the boy and begins to apologize.
“‘I’m sorry,’ she says. “My husband does these kinds of things. We really should have asked permission before he gave him the horse.’
“One of the women–it turned out to be the boy’s mother–was sobbing. She finally told Candie that Austin (her son) doesn’t talk. He was technically what they call non-verbal autistic.
“He had been through a traumatic incident several years back and since had not said a word–until that day.
“So winning races is great, of course, but witnessing something like this is beyond special.”
Candie is Santa Anita’s dedicated and gifted Director of Print and Graphics. Both she and The Great Race Place have flourished under her astute guidance now going on three decades. Her most popular creation is the Wall Calendar, a traditional staple given to fans every Dec. 26.
The good news is, while Matt is retiring, Candie is not. “I will be working for Santa Anita as long as they will have me,” she says, “partially from Idaho, but at Santa Anita as much as I need to be.”
Candie also is President of the Board for CARMA (California Retirement Management Account), a program that has facilitated the successful efforts of the state to retrain and retire thousands of race horses in new homes. “I’m going to continue working at Santa Anita, but Matt will spearhead the operation in Idaho,” she said.
“He is excited about it. We have been planning this for a while, but it got moved up when it seemed the right time was sooner rather than later.
“Matt has a lot more experience with special needs kids than I do. He volunteered for a group in the Bay Area that had a riding program (Hippotherapy) for kids with cerebral palsy and that was a game changer.
“It gave him a new perspective and led us to eventually having a means of ‘giving back.’ Our plan is to have retired Thoroughbreds, with a program for PTSD-stricken vets to start, then explore what the community needs for other groups seeking equine-assisted therapy.
“It will require a lot of research and development, but it seems like the right thing to do.”
FINISH LINES: They came to play: Bob Baffert had nine of the 19 horses nominated to Friday’s Chillingworth Stakes while Doug O’Neill had six of the 19 horses nominated to Saturday’s Speakeasy Stakes . . . Sorry to report that longtime Southern California-based Jockeys’ Room valet and exercise rider, David Rushlow, passed away early Sunday morning as a result of fall at his home in Chula Vista on Saturday. A former jockey, Rushlow was born on Sept. 17, 1936 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts and he broke his maiden at age 19 at Scarborough Downs, in Maine. Rushlow would ride throughout New England and North America, including at Agua Caliente, south of San Diego. A beloved Jocks’ Room prankster, Rushlow was an everyday regular at any Race Horse Rummy game, which often included the likes of Bill Shoemaker, Eddie Delahoussaye, Ray Sibille, Fernando Toro and others. Highly sought after as a valet, he worked for many riders over the years, including Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron and Pat Valenzuela. David Rushlow is survived by his wife Twyla, their four daughters, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild. Funeral services are pending.
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