- TEAM PRAT SUCCEEDS WITH A TEAM EFFORT
- TWO WINS GIVE MILLER THE TRAINING CROWN
- BALTAS EYES THE FUTURE AFTER ‘GOOD MEET’
- $5 MILLION RAINBOW JACKPOT COULD BE UP FOR GRABS
RIDING KING PRAT, AGENT FOCUSED ON WINNING
Congratulations to Flavien Prat on winning Santa Anita’s riding title in a landslide. With only today’s 12 races remaining, the final numbers are a mere formality as Prat had an insurmountable 89-61 lead over runner-up Abel Cedillo going into Sunday, winning five races yesterday.
He has no chance of breaking Laffit Pincay’s record of 138 victories at a Santa Anita meet, set in 1970-71, but the 27-year-old Frenchman’s achievement was a virtual fait accompli throughout the undulating “Races Without Faces” meet, especially after he won six races on the card May 17.
It’s been a team effort.
Due to the pandemic, there were starts, stops and intermissions at the current campaign, so with regard to specific numbers such as wins, mounts and days raced at past meets, this was similar to the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges.
But considering the circumstances, Derek Lawson will take it.
“I don’t know how Pincay won 138, even though he probably rode in more races and on more days,” said Lawson, agent six years now for reigning Kentucky Derby winner Prat. “As for us, it wasn’t just what we endured, because the entire country endured a shutdown.
“Both Flavien and I stayed focused by watching races that were available to us, and physically, he trained as hard as he possibly could.
“He didn’t slow down; just kept training and working out, riding the stationary bicycle in his garage 21 miles a day, swimming and using weights he purchased and had in his home.
“He also watched whatever old races that were available and kept his mind in the game. It was the same with me. We focused on one topic, and it was racing.
“I also maintained contact with trainers who were keeping their horses sharp, and one was Peter Miller at San Luis Rey. With guys like him, Richie Baltas, Richard Mandella and others, we had some good business when we came back. It was fun.
“Even so, I never thought we’d be riding at this level as far as win percentage (27), but one day led to another and it kept going on and on and on and it worked out really well.”
When it comes to deciding which horse to ride, both agent and rider put their heads together, for the most part.
“We talk about all the horses all the time,” Lawson said. “When it comes to the stakes races, there’s greater discussion and a lot of communication between the two of us. It’s not just me. I need help to choose in certain situations. It’s not cut and dried.
“I’ll tell him we have two horses here, what do we do in this situation? Sometimes he leaves it up to me, sometimes he says ‘I’ve got no idea.’ There’s a lot of communication between the two of us. We have a common goal, to try and win racing titles from the beginning of the year.
“It’s really a team effort.”
The team includes Santa Anita’s racing department.
“They kept us informed,” Lawson said. “Chris Merz (Racing Director for Santa Anita’s Vice President of Racing and Racing Secretary Steve Lym and his diligent staff) stayed in touch with me. We knew they were at the mercy of the (Los Angeles County) Health Department, but we appreciated that they kept us informed on a regular basis.
“Every week or two I would get in touch with them, knowing things were starting to loosen up a little bit. They did a great job having the condition book ready when we were able to get started again.
“It was a matter of extensive communication and making sure everyone was on the right page.
“It worked out great.”
BALTAS REFLECTS ON SOLID SANTA ANITA MEET
Third in the standings with 30 victories (four coming in stakes) and one racing day left, Richard Baltas sees the glass as half full when reflecting on how Santa Anita’s topsy-turvy Winter/Spring meet unfolded.
“We ran a lot of horses (162, second to Doug O’Neill’s 175) and we had a good meet, even though we’re not leading trainer,” said the 59-year-old native of Gary, Indiana, a halcyon steel town which produced the “Man of Steel,” two-time middleweight boxing champion in the 1940’s, Tony Zale, as well NFL Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram.
“Basically, we’re just trying to develop the horses, keep them sound, keep them good,” Baltas said. “We’ve got 20 two-year-olds, probably my best crop of two-year-olds, so that helps.
“After this meet we’re looking at Del Mar and other spots across the country and trying to move forward.”
20 CENT ‘MANDATORY’ RAINBOW SIX JACKPOT COULD REACH $5 MILLION TODAY
With a mandatory payout component that will sure fuel the pari-mutuel fires, Santa Anita officials project Sunday’s 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot pool could approach $5 million.
With a Jackpot carryover from Saturday of $1,089,836 to get the party started, Sunday’s Rainbow Six will begin with race seven and conclude with the day’s 12th and final race.
Field size over the six-race sequence stands at 9.1 runners per race and race seven is the $150,000 Melair Stakes for California-bred or sired fillies and mares at a mile and one sixteenth.
Perhaps the best betting race on the entire program, the Grade III, $100,000 American Stakes, which offers players a field of 10 three year olds and up at one mile on turf, has been carded as Sunday’s 10th race, leg four in the Rainbow Six.
First post time tomorrow is at 12:30 p.m., with approximate post time for race seven at 3:33 p.m. PT.
In addition to the Melair Stakes and the American Stakes, Santa Anita will also present the track’s traditional closing day feature, the Grade III, $100,000 San Juan Capistrano at a mile and three quarters on turf (R6), the $150,000 Melair Stakes (R7) and the $75,000 Siren Lure (R1).
FINISH LINES: Mark Glatt reports that his Collusion Illusion, who earned a 91 Beyer Speed figure in winning Saturday’s Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes, will likely be pointed to the Grade I Allen Jerkens Stakes at seven furlongs on Aug. 1 at Saratoga…Posting two victories Saturday, Peter Miller clinched leading trainer honors with 32, two more than Bob Baffert. Miller has four horses entered today and Baffert two, but both of the latter’s are in the same race, the 11th. Baffert has to be more than pleased winning the purse money crown this meet by $837,388 over runner-up Richard Baltas. Toss in Baffert trainee Gamine‘s 18 3/4-length triumph in yesterday’s Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park which earned her a jaw-dropping 110 Beyer figure, and it was quite a day for the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer. Gamine, a $1.8 million daughter of Into Mischief, broke the stakes record for a mile by a full second in 1:32.55 and is being pointed to the Grade I Kentucky Oaks Sept. 4. . .Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale had a huge bicoastal Saturday, as Toinette was an impressive winner of the Grade III Wilshire Stakes here and less than an hour later, his Oleksandra took Belmont Park’s Grade I Jaipur… Mike Smith and Flavien Prat tied for most stakes wins this meet at 14 each . . . No rest for the king: Prat makes his first-ever visit to Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio next Saturday to ride 2019 two-year-old male champion Storm the Court for Peter Eurton in the Grade III, $500,000 Ohio Derby at 1 1/8 miles. The JACK Thistledown Casino is 10 miles northwest of Cleveland. On July 4, Prat pilots 2019 Santa Anita Oaks winner Bellafina at Los Alamitos Race Course for Simon Callaghan in the Grade II Great Lady M Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs . . . With a 61-64-57 mark from a meet-leading 407 mounts through Saturday, Abel Cedillo was a gem of consistency in pursuit of runaway champion Prat . . . Chalk players had a field day yesterday as favorites won seven of the 12 races and only one winner paid more than double digits, that being Undeniable Proof who won the fifth race by a nose at $24.40 under Ruben Fuentes for trainer Vann Belvoir. None of the others paid more than $8.60 and three of them were odds-on.
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