AUTHENTIC WON’T ‘DUCK’ HIS FUTURE RIVALS
GOOD NEWS AT 54: SMITH TO CONTINUE RIDING
STORM THE HILL IS BACK SPRINTING SATURDAY
AUTHENTIC ‘LOOKS GOOD’ AFTER SHAM ROMP
Bob Baffert was sitting pretty Sunday morning after Authentic emerged in good order from his authoritative 7 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes, the West Coast’s first major steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 4 and beyond that the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
“He looked good this morning,” said the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer (American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify 2018). “He’d never done that, and I think it was the noise,” Baffert continued, addressing the colt’s ducking to his left in midstretch and again a sixteenth out in the one-mile Sham.
“He heard the noise, he went to the rail, and when he saw the rail, he got scared from that, so I think we’ll either use ear plugs or blinkers next time, but his competition might be a little closer to him in his next race, and that might help, too.”
While the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 7 was initially mentioned as Authentic’s next race, little if anything is written in stone when it comes to racing, particularly on Baffert’s often 11th hour agenda.
“I’m not sure right now,” he said.
RACING FAREWELL FOR OMAHA BEACH BUT NOT MIKE SMITH
Mike Smith is poised for another major conquest, this in the Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at a mile and an eighth at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25.
The 54-year-old Hall of Fame rider doesn’t have much space left on his glowing resume in a career that began in 1982 when he won 36 races and his mounts garnered $109,111.
That’s tip money in today’s inflated economy. Last year, Smith’s mounts earned just over $10 million and he hopes to get off to a rousing 2020 aboard Omaha Beach in the Pegasus.
Trained by Richard Mandella for Fox Hill Farms, the son of War Front captured the Grade I, seven furlong Runhappy Malibu Stakes on Dec. 28 at Santa Anita, but Smith sees no reason he can’t successfully negotiate the additional three furlongs.
“He won the Arkansas Derby at a mile and an eighth, and in the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile, other than getting away real bad and having a lot of kickback, he ran the mile pretty easy,” Smith said Sunday morning at Clockers’ Corner.
“His next race, a mile wasn’t going to hurt him. As a matter of fact, it probably would have helped us in that situation, so I’m not really worried about the distance . . . I’m riding for a man like Mr. Mandella, and he can get them ready for anything they have to do.”
Like Omaha Beach’s legion of fans, Smith, too, is ambivalent about the colt’s retirement to stud following the Pegasus. “He’s starting to really come around, and there’s no telling what he’s capable of achieving,” Smith gushed. “He’s got that kind of ability, but hopefully he’ll retire nice and healthy before becoming a stallion.”
While the racing career of Omaha Beach nears its end, for Mike Smith at 54 and his agent of 15 years Brad Pegram, they still see Emerald City at the end of the Yellow Brick Road.
“In a career that has its ups and downs, I’ve been extremely blessed,” Smith said. “Even my downs are pretty good, other than when I broke my back in 1998 (he suffered two broken vertebrae in an Aug. 31 spill at Saratoga and was sidelined more than five months).
“Hopefully, I can finish out my career on an upswing. I don’t think I’d ride off into the sunset. I’d still like to hang around and do some things in TV or publicity, but I plan on riding another few years.”
Amen to that.
STORM THE HILL RETURNS TO SPRINT IN LAS CIENEGAS
Storm the Hill shortens up in Saturday’s Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares, four and up, at 5 ½ furlongs on turf.
The six-year-old mare is coming off five straight races of a mile or longer, including a fifth in the Grade I Matriarch Dec. 1.
“She’s won sprint stakes twice at Santa Anita,” said trainer Phil D’Amato, alluding to the Grade III Senator Ken Maddy in 2018 and the Unzip Me in 2017. “She’s doing very well. She breezed this morning (five furlongs on the training track in 1:00.40) and should be set to go.”
Flavien Prat was aboard for the drill and rides back in the Las Cienegas.
FINISH LINES: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court worked five furlongs under Flavien Prat today in 1:01.60 for trainer Peter Eurton, who plans to attend the Eclipse Awards Dinner Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park in hopes that in a wide open division, the son of Court Vision is named two-year-old champion male of 2019. In all there were 223 recorded workouts Sunday, 31 on the training track . . . Clockers’ Corner celebrated the life of trainer Gary Sherlock this morning with friends and family enjoying a repast of delicious sandwiches and sweet pastries thanks to the efforts of Rosie Ybarra, Debbie Baltas, Aiden Butler, Nate Newby, Isabel Estrada, cooks Tony and Isaac, baker Colt and Geovanni Franco‘s agent, Jimmy Giannone. Sherlock died last Sunday at the age of 74. One of his horses, stakes winner Show It N Moe It, runs in next Sunday’s $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes with Sherlock’s long-time assistant Edwin Alvarez listed as trainer . . . Santa Anita is dark for live racing Monday through Thursday, Jan. 6 through Jan. 9, resuming live racing with first post time 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10. There will be simulcast racing Wednesday, Jan. 8, and Thursday, Jan. 9 in the Paddock Room starting at 10 a.m., with free General Admission and free parking.
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