TRAINER HOPES HE HAS THE ‘WRIGHT STUFF’
HONOR A.P., MIDCOURT SET FOR SHIRREFFS
BUSY DAY LOOMS FOR MICHAEL McCARTHY
ANNEAU D’OR IN RUNHAPPY SANTA ANITA DERBY
Blaine Wright knows his way around the race track,
You might say he was born in the game.
His father, Richard, was a jockey and a trainer. His mother, Susan, was an assistant trainer, an owner and a breeder, so when Blaine sends out an outsider against two deservingly obvious favorites in a Grade I race, it should be given more than a longshot’s chance.
That’s the scenario the 46-year-old trainer will find himself in next Saturday, June 6, when he runs Anneau d’Or against undefeated Authentic and Honor A.P. in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.
As a two-year-old, a future of gold and glory seemed on the horizon after Anneau d’Or lost the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a head at 28-1 to Storm the Court, who would go on to win an Eclipse Award as outstanding two-year-old male of 2019.
That effort was followed by a neck defeat as the 6-5 favorite behind well-regarded Thousand Words in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity.
But that was then and this is now. In his two races at three, Anneau d’Or (ring of gold) was an eventful ninth in the Grade II Risen Star at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 15 and fifth of six by 9 ½ lengths in the first division of the Grade I Arkansas Derby on May 2.
Next up: the Santa Anita Derby.
“Our plans are to leave Monday morning (from Golden Gate),” said Wright by phone from the Bay Area, adding that Victor Espinoza has been engaged to ride the $480,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro owned by 85-year-old Peter Redekop, an inspirational story in his own right.
Born in a Mennonite colony in the former Soviet Union–in the area now known as the Ukraine–Redekop’s family was oppressed by Communists for their religious beliefs and displaced in Germany for two years after World War II ended.
“We basically didn’t have any food to eat,” Redekop has said. “I was 10 years old and remember it very vividly. I will never forget it.”
Following several years in The Netherlands, Redekop immigrated to Canada in 1948, landing in Winnipeg. He made his fortune in real estate, jumped into racing with both feet in 1968 and has been a prominent fixture for more than half a century.
Redekop is the perennial leader among owners and breeders in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Wright, who began training full time in 2006, is best known for developing millionaire Alert Bay into a four-time graded stakes winner including Santa Anita’s Grade II City of Hope Mile in 2015.
But back to Anneau d’Or.
“We had to use him a little more than we wanted the first part in the Arkansas Derby,” continued Wright, a native of Ogden, Utah, who has been a mainstay in Northern California and the Great Northwest, where he was leading trainer at Emerald Downs in 2016-17.
“He broke bad, but that’s no excuse. The winner (Charlatan) ran off the charts (leading throughout to post a six-length triumph). Nobody was outrunning him that day. Maybe we would have placed a bit better, but on the other hand, it had been nine weeks since he ran in the Risen Star and it was another nine weeks from the Los Al Futurity to the Risen Star.
“We had been at Santa Anita and breezed over the track for the Santa Anita Derby when it was originally to be run on April 4, but was ultimately postponed, so we came home to Golden Gate.
“Now we’re looking forward to running him back in 30 days, but make no mistake; all of what transpired is no excuse as to why he got beat. He’s got to step up his game, obviously.
“He really likes the track at Santa Anita. He breezed super over it (six furlongs in 1:13 flat March 28) when we had him there earlier and we were really looking forward to the Derby before racing was shut down.”
Now the countdown is on in earnest.
HONOR A.P. WORKS FOR SANTA ANITA DERBY
Honor A.P. had his final major breeze this morning for next Saturday’s Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, going five furlongs in 1:00.20.
Mike Smith, who has ridden the ridgling in all three of his races, was aboard for the drill.
“He looked really good,” said John Shirreffs, who trains the son of Honor Code for the C R K Stable, LLC of Lee and Susan Searing. “Mike was happy with him.”
Also working this morning for a possible start in the Santa Anita Derby was Rushie, who went five furlongs for Michael McCarthy in a snappy 59.80 under leading rider Flavien Prat.
Midcourt, also owned by C R K Stable and trained by Shirreffs, is set to work tomorrow for the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup for three-year-olds and up at a mile and one quarter on June 6.
Midcourt was third beaten less than a length as the 7-10 favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
In the Gold Cup, he will once again be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard the five-year-old gelded son of Midnight Lute in his last six races, winning four, including the restricted Comma to the Top, the Grade III Native Diver and the Grade II San Pasqual. Espinoza will be seeking his third Gold Cup win, as won it 2018 with Accelerate and in 2015 with Hard Aces.
Hard Not to Love draws the rail for the second straight race in Sunday’s Grade II Santa Maria Stakes, which could be problematic, as she lost her left eye as a youngster when kicked by another horse. While she has made great strides adapting, she can still become antsy when there’s no horse to her inside at the starting gate.
Favored at 3-5 in the Grade I Beholder Mile March 14, Hard Not to Love broke from the number one post position and ran second to Ce Ce, who has post two in the Santa Maria, just outside Hard Not to Love.
Asked how he felt about drawing the inside again with Hard Not Love, a nonplussed Shirreffs left ’em laughing with this: “That required another cocktail.”
FINISH LINES: Trainer Michael McCarthy will saddle 3-5 morning line favorite Ce Ce in Sunday’s Grade II Santa Maria Stakes and he’ll be plenty busty next Saturday as Santa Anita presents a plethora of prestigious playing possibilities, highlighted by seven stakes races. Already established as a national presence, McCarthy, a 49-year-old native of Youngstown, Ohio, could have Rushie in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby; Brown Storm in the Hollywood Gold Cup; Speech in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks; and Cono in the Crystal Water Stakes. Speech worked five furlongs this morning in 1:01.80. Also to be decided June 6 will be the Cinema Stakes, the Fran’s Valentine Stakes and the Desert Code Stakes . . . It was 2019 Juvenile Champion Storm the Court who worked five furlongs in 59.80 today for Peter Eurton, not Santa Anita Derby candidate Shooters Shoot. He will breeze on Monday…Happy 59th to trainer Richard Baltas.
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