CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ IN 145TH KENTUCKY DERBY
TALAMO LIKES ZATTER’S STYLE FOR KONA GOLD
YOUNG CERIN TREATS HORSES WITH EQUINE SPA
‘SANTA ANITA SUPERFECTA’ HEADS FOR KENTUCKY DERBY
Omaha Beach, Roadster, Game Winner, Improbable: Santa Anita’s Fab Four, all based
at The Great Race Place, all in primary pouncing position to win the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
Omaha Beach moved to the head of the pack thanks to his one-length victory over Improbable in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. After that, it’s anybody choice as to which of the remaining three might pose the strongest threat to capture the 145th Run for the Roses.
But there’s no question Richard Mandella, trainer of Omaha Beach, and Bob Baffert, conditioner of the other threesome, are sitting pretty in quest of giving California its sixth Kentucky Derby winner in the last eight years, joining I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016) and Justify (2018).
Mandella, seeking his initial win in the first leg of the Triple Crown in what would be his seventh attempt, was understandably proud of the unflappable triumph by Omaha Beach.
“This horse is a fighter and has shown a new dimension. He just gets better and better,” the Hall of Fame trainer said by phone from Arkansas Sunday morning. “He came out of the race great. He’ll remain at Oaklawn for a couple days before shipping to Louisville.”
Seems apropos that Omaha Beach is a warrior. The son of War Front is named for Omaha Beach, the second beach from the west among the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of World War II.
It was assaulted on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) by units of the U.S. 29th and 1st infantry divisions, many of whose soldiers were drowned during the approach from ships offshore or killed by defending fire from German troops placed on heights surrounding the beach.
Asked if he felt Mike Smith might have moved too soon nearing the half-mile point in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, Mandella wasn’t about to second-guess one of the greatest riders of his generation, who swept the Triple Crown for Baffert last year on Horse of the Year Justify.
“I’m just happy with what happened,” Mandella said in typical understated fashion.
Baffert, seeking his sixth Kentucky Derby victory, took Improbable’s gritty setback in relative stride, focusing on the positive.
“I was very happy with his race,” Baffert said on a spectacular Sunday morning at Santa
Anita. “I had some really anxious moments when Improbable acted up in the gate. He started thrashing in there a little, and then they backed him out and back in, so I was a little nervous.
“They take forever to load there putting the horses in one at a time. I really wish they wouldn’t keep them in the gate that long, just for safety reasons, especially in big races.
“But he got away well from the one hole and Jose Ortiz rode a great race. We just came up second-best . . . I had some anxious moments, but was pretty relieved that we ran second, got in the Derby (with ample qualifying points) and learned some things about the horse.
“He does have gears, took dirt for the first time and hung in there after getting upset in the gate. I’m not sure if it was the blinkers, because I noticed in the post parade he was rubbing his head, just being a little anxious.
“But he was fresh, because I’ve just been running him into shape. I haven’t really tightened the screws. I wanted the races to do that, and he got beat by a very good horse.
“But here’s what I’m proud about: at Santa Anita, we’ve gotten all this bad publicity, and these horses have been training on this surface, and look at them. They’re going into the Derby as the top four favorites, so I don’t want to hear any more about how bad it is in California.”
STYLISH ZATTER WORKS FOR GRADE II KONA GOLD
Zatter seeks his first stakes victory this Saturday in the Grade II Kona Gold Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Joe Talamo feels the four-year-old Midnight Lute colt trained by Bob Baffert for Zayat Stables LLC can get the job done.
“He ran really well when I won on him (March 3, getting up by a half-length),” said Talamo, who has the mount in the Kona Gold. “He has a good style. He kind of sits back and makes a nice run the last part.
“Six-and-a-half to seven furlongs is a good distance for him–anywhere from six to seven, actually. He’s a late-running sprinter.”
Zatter worked four furlongs in company Sunday in a bullet 47.40 with Talamo aboard. Stablemate Hot Sean was clocked in 47.80.
WATER THERAPY PROVING EFFECTIVE AT SANTA ANITA
With equine medicine more readily embracing holistic treatments and procedures, Tyler Cerin, 31, son of veteran trainer Vladimir Cerin, is treating dozens of horses per week at Santa Anita with a Jacuzzi-like machine called an Equine Spa, which employs ice-cold salt water.
“It’s made in England and we use it as preventative maintenance and also to treat soft tissue that may have become stressed or inflamed,” said Cerin, who has treated horses nationwide as a highly sought-after Equine Massage Therapist. “With each horse, we school them first in order to get them comfortable, because they’re going to be standing in a confined space when treated.
“So, we walk each one through and then we stand them, similar to what you would do with a horse who was just getting familiarized with the starting gate. With some horses, if we see they’re getting stressed, we stop the process and bring them back in a day or two to make sure they’re comfortable with it.”
Once each horse is secured in the spa, the process of loading the salt water is initiated.
“It takes five minutes to get the water up over their knees and above their hocks,” said Cerin. “The water temperature is very consistent, at about 35 to 36 degrees, so we don’t want the level to get any higher, because if their belly was submerged, it’s pretty cold for them just to be standing there.
“Once the water has reached the proper level, we turn on the jets and it’s very similar to a human sitting in a Jacuzzi. It’s very soothing for the horses and once the water is circulating, this process lasts no longer than 10 minutes. So, with another five minutes required to drain the water, each horse is in and out within 20 minutes, maximum.”
When asked by XBTV’s Zoe Cadman if he’d ever been in the Equi-Spa himself, Cerin replied, “Yes, anything I do with the horses, I try it myself first . . . For me, it’s a blessing working as a team with each trainer and their staff as we try to help each of these horses reach their maximum potential.”
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FINISH LINES: Omaha Beach earned a 101 Beyer Figure for his Arkansas Derby victory, while runner-up Improbable got a 100 . . . Fans can watch and wager during the biggest Derby party west of Kentucky May 4 at Santa Anita. In addition to live racing, music and food trucks, hat contests will also be on the gala agenda. For tickets and reservations, please visit santaanita.com. . . . Kanthaka, working for the Kona Gold, went five furlongs on the training track in 1:02, while monster mare Vasilika, prepping for the Grade I Gamely on May 27, went four furlongs on the training track in 53 flat, both for Jerry Hollendorfer. Paradise Woods, bound for the Grade II Santa Margarita Stakes on April 27, went five furlongs on the main track in a bullet 1:01 for John Shirreffs. In all, there were 180 recorded drills Sunday morning . . . The California Horse Racing Board has its regular monthly meeting 9:30 a.m. Thursday, April 18, at Santa Anita. The Medication, Safety and Welfare Committee will meet a day earlier on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend both meetings. An audio-only webcast of only the Thursday meeting can be heard through a link on the CHRB website ( webcast). The agenda and package of materials for the Board meeting as well as the agenda and package for the committee meeting also are on the website . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday, with live action resuming at 1 p.m. Friday, April 19. Simulcast racing will be offered Thursday with free general admission and free parking. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. . . . Old agents never die; they just fade away: R Cha Cha and Bistraya, who finished a head apart in Saturday’s fifth race to form an $86.10 exacta, were ridden by Eswan Flores and Edwin Maldonado, respectively. The former is represented by 86-year-old agent Vince DeGregory, the latter by Vic Lipton, who admits to being 77. Yeah, and Jack Benny is 39.