If Monday’s Grade III Megahertz Stakes were run on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, Lady Valeur and her trainer, Paddy Gallagher, would be natural hunch plays. Both are Irish-breds.

That said, the five-year-old Multiplex mare would appear to have her work cut out for her in the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature as she seeks her first graded stakes victory.

“A mile, a mile and an eighth seems to suit her,” Gallagher said of the bay owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, third in her last two races, both at Golden Gate Fields.

“It’s probably a tougher bunch here, but she seems well and happy at the moment.”

Lady Valeur’s best performance came in the Grade I American Oaks on a “good” turf course at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, 2016, beaten only a half-length at 17-1 under Rafael Bejarano, who is back aboard Monday.

In 21 lifetime starts, Lady Valeur has five wins, four seconds, three thirds and earnings of $300,923.

Meanwhile, upstart Chocolate Coated also seeks her first stakes score in the Megahertz, named for the diminutive, late-running stakes winner trained by the late Bobby Frankel.

            Trained by Neil French for owners Barry and Judith Becker, Chocolate Coated is a

lightly raced four-year-old Candy Ride filly coming off a solid second in the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes at a mile on turf Oct. 29.

She appears on the improve for veteran French, evidenced by the fact she’ll be ridden for the first time by “Big Money” Mike Smith, as her regular pilot, Gary Stevens, has shifted his tack to Oaklawn Park.

Bred in Kentucky by her owners, Chocolate Coated has a 6-2-2-1 record and will be trying graded stakes completion for the second time. Mid-pack early in the Autumn Miss, it would appear race shape will likely determine her trip in the Megahertz.

The field for the Megahertz, race seven of nine: Do the Dance, Evin Roman, 20-1; Laseen, Victor Espinoza, 5-1; Madame Stripes, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2; Insta Irma, Corey Nakatani, 2-1; Thundering Sky, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Bombilate, Stewart Elliott, 20-1; Lady Valeur, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; and Chocolate Coated, Mike Smith, 6-1.



Drayden Van Dyke won two races Friday, not surprising to most observers, and least of all former jockey Octavio Vergara, who, in an unsolicited testimonial Saturday morning while schmoozing at Clockers’ Corner, called the 23-year-old rider “the next Bill Shoemaker.”

In racing parlance, that’s somewhat akin to labeling an up and coming baseball player “the next Babe Ruth,” but Vergara is firm in his conviction.

“He’s got a good clock in his head, never gets excited, has good hands to relax a horse, and always make his move at the right time,” Vergara said of the 23-year-old Van Dyke, winner of an Eclipse Award in 2014 as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey.

Van Dyke, represented by Brad Pegram, who also calls the shots for the King Midas of riders, Mike Smith, moved to third in Santa Anita’s Winter Meet standings with Friday’s two wins. He now has eight from 42 mounts, a highly respectable 19 percent.

Vergara is a native of Santiago, Chile, who rode for 40 years and now at 62 has established himself as one of racing’s most likeable and colorful characters. “I like to come to Santa Anita and enjoy the races,” said Vergara, who is not focused on any particular vocation at the moment, although “one day I might become an agent.”

One rider he might represent is his 29-year-old son, Octavio Vergara Jr., currently riding in Saudi Arabia but due to ply his trade at Santa Anita in about two weeks.



Two lifelong race trackers who share a passion for the sport, a love of language and a gift for storytelling have pooled their talents to produce a newly released audio book called Half A Chance that is now available at and on

Half A Chance is the third of four books for author/screenwriter John Perrotta. who has enlisted the talents of his old friend and famed racing announcer Tom Durkin to bring this novel to life,

“John Perrotta has crafted a brisk, fast-paced book that covers several genres,” Durkin said. “It is a complex caper story, a tale of loyalty and betrayal and yes, a love story. It is populated with every manner of character that one could conjure up; gamblers, bumbling bankers, cops, floozies and goons. And, good guys, a kaleidoscope of colorful racetrack characters.”

Perrotta, who was recently named Vice President, Operations at Santa Anita, needed only to draw on his experience in racing to create the collection of players for this novel. Except for attending the University of Miami where he “majored in tanning but settled for a degree in philosophy” and a brief career as a newspaper reporter, Perrotta always gravitated back to the track and has worked as a hot walker, mutuel clerk, jockey agent, owner, breeder and stable manager. Perrotta is also a writer, and collaborated on the HBO television series “Luck.” He has authored four books: Racetracker: Life with Grifters and Gamblers, If Wishes Were Horses,  Out of Luck and Half A Chance, which is the first to become an audio book.

Says Perrotta: “Half A Chance is where love and greed hit head-on.”

Durkin retired in 2014 after a 24-year stint as the New York Racing Association’s announcer at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. From announcing races at fairs and smaller tracks, Durkin worked his way to the big leagues, first at Hialeah Park in Florida and then to New York. His broad, well-crafted style made him a fan favorite, and he called more than 80,000 races all over the world. Working with NBC and ESPN, Durkin was the longtime voice of America’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races.

A veteran of film and theater, Durkin got another chance to flex is acting muscles by giving voice(s) to Half A Chance.

“As a narrator, this was a gold mine,” Durkin said. “I think I’ve got 15 or so different voices. Most of all, it is all about the racetrack with all the fun and drama that comes with it. I had a ball with this project!”

The audio version of Half A Chance may be purchased at or

About John Perrotta: Recently named Vice President, Operations at Santa Anita, Perrotta has worked in the Thoroughbred racing industry for most of his life. In 2012, famed television writer/producer David Milch enlisted Perrotta as a contributing writer and consultant for his racetrack-themed drama “LUCK” for HBO. The pilot was directed by Michael Mann and its heavyweight cast included Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, the late Dennis Farina and even jockeys Gary Stevens and Chantal Sutherland. When the show was canceled, Perrotta continued to write. He is the author of four books and the father of four children, He resides in California, Florida and Ireland, where he is involved in the Irish Thoroughbred breeding industry, His website is www,

About Tom Durkin: Tom Durkin is best known as the voice of horse racing’s Breeders’ Cup, Triple Crown and as the announcer for the New York Racing Association tracks at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga. A trained actor, Durkin has had several voice-over roles in movies such as Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite”, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” and in 2014 “St. Vincent” with Bill Murray. In demand as a public speaker and emcee, and respected  for his philanthropic endeavors, Durkin is a representative of  the Saratoga Springs, NY-based West Point Thoroughbreds, and has launched his own sound recording business at


FINISH LINES: There is a Pick Six Jackpot pool carryover today of $275,490, in addition to a guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool of $500,000 . . .This Monday is Dollar Day at Santa Anita as one dollar beers and sodas will be on sale. First post time is 12:30 p.m. and admission gates open at 10:30 a.m. Santa Anita will be dark for live racing next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but will return with live racing on Friday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m. Admission gates open that day at 11 a.m. Santa Anita will offer simulcast wagering next Wednesday and Thursday, with free general admission and free parking . . . Through 10 racing days, favorites are winning at 29.07 percent, some four points below the national average, and even lower on dirt, 27.27 percent, according to Santa Anita statistician Jason Hom. Winning odds-on favorites have captured seven of 11 races, 63.64 percent, while bridge jumpers are in the chips, as in the money odds-on favorites have been successful in all 11 of their races . . . Om, trainer Dan Hendricks‘ current major bread winner with $941,645, could attain millionaire status should he win his next objective, the $100,000, Grade III Thunder Road Stakes at a mile on grass Feb. 10. A successful venture could lead to the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 10.

(Current Through Friday, Jan. 12)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Evin Roman 62 12 10 5 19% 44% $365,094
Rafael Bejarano 47 10 5 10 21% 53% $352,422
Drayden Van Dyke 42 8 2 3 19% 31% $483,113
Kent Desormeaux 42 7 5 3 17% 36% $397,373
Joseph Talamo 44 5 6 3 11% 32% $276,622
Mike Smith 23 5 2 5 22% 52% $670,303
Tiago Pereira 32 5 2 1 16% 25% $133,740
Flavien Prat 43 4 9 3 9% 37% $333,690
Tyler Baze 52 4 7 8 8% 37% $365,399
Brice Blanc 14 3 1 2 21% 43% $167,230
Trainer Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Peter Miller 31 6 7 4 19% 55% $289,990
Mark Glatt 25 5 5 2 20% 48% $226,240
Vladimir Cerin 16 5 5 0 31% 63% $134,575
Philip D’Amato 26 5 3 3 19% 42% $314,935
Jerry Hollendorfer 29 4 4 4 14% 41% $317,781
Michael McCarthy 12 4 1 1 33% 50% $267,300
William E. Morey 7 4 0 1 57% 71% $76,290
Richard Baltas 32 3 5 5 9% 41% $271,740
Mike Puype 12 3 2 2 25% 58% $144,785
Bob Baffert 19 3 1 2 16% 32% $216,993
William Spawr 7 3 1 1 43% 71% $177,610
Jeff Mullins 16 3 0 3 19% 38% $199,375