STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN -THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2019

  • LERNER HAS COOL RELATIONSHIP WITH NHL ACE
  • KING ABNER WORKS FOR GRADE II SAN ANTONIO
  • MIRAHMADI EXCITED TO RETURN BEHIND THE MIC
  • JOCKS READY, WILLING AND ‘ABEL’ AT SANTA ANITA
  • BEER AND CIDER FESTIVAL SET FOR OPENING DAY

FREE COVER DEBUTS FOR LERNER, JOHNSON IN GRADE I LA BREA

Trainer Andrew Lerner, at the tender age of 30 one of racing’s young lions, won his first graded stakes when Queen Bee to You captured the Grade III Bayakoa at Los Alamitos on Dec. 8 and is now being pointed to the Grade II La Canada Stakes on Jan. 11.

On opening day at Santa Anita next Thursday, Lerner hopes to add to that early milestone when he sends out longshot Free Cover in the Grade I La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

The gray daughter of Congrats was a recent private purchase by Erik Johnson, 31-year-old defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League, who campaigns as ERJ Racing, LLC. Free Cover will be making her first start on the West Coast, having campaigned mainly at Churchill Downs in her eight career starts.

She last raced on Oct. 19 at Keeneland, finishing far back in the Grade II Raven Run after showing early speed in the seven furlong race.

“Erik’s been with me since around June,” said Lerner, himself an athlete of some note, having played baseball at Agoura High School and boxed at the University of Arizona. “I played sports, but not like Erik. He runs circles around me. He has to be tougher than I am to battle in those hockey fights.”

Johnson, the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is a native of Bloomington, Minnesota, often referred to as ‘The Condor.’ “He’s a fun guy and a good owner,” Lerner said. “He does the right thing, he trusts me and he brings horses to the barn.

“We have a really good relationship and I feel fortunate to have him.”

Lerner, meanwhile, has built his stable to 40 head.

Probable for the La Brea, one of the last of three Grade I races this year, all at Santa Anita, along with the Malibu opening day and the American Oaks on Dec. 28: Bell’s the One, Bellafina, First Star, Free Cover, Hard Not to Love, Mother Mother and Motion Emotion.

KING ABNER TACKLES OPEN COMPANY IN SAN ANTONIO

With temperatures hovering in the high 30s, King Abner worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track this morning in a minute flat for the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on opening day. Tyler Baze, who was aboard for drill, rides the five-year-old California-bred son of Hansen in the San Antonio, a springboard to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.

“We gave him time off in the middle of the year (10 weeks from June 29 to Oct. 19) because he hadn’t been firing like he was earlier,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “It did him a world of good because he’s come back in top form.

“He rattled off a nice allowance win at Del Mar (scoring handily in open company by nearly three lengths on Nov. 16). He continues to improve in the mornings and I’m really happy with him right now.”

Also probable for the San Antonio are Draft Pick, Fight On and Gift Box.

MIRAHMADI EAGER TO RETURN AT SANTA ANITA

Frank Mirahmadi, fresh and fit following a brief respite after hitting a home run calling his first Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita Nov. 1 and 2, was back at The Great Race Place this morning schmoozing at Clockers’ Corner and eagerly anticipating opening day next Thursday.

“I’ve looked forward to opening day since the 1970’s but being the announcer here brings the excitement to a whole new level,” said the 52-year-old Mirahmadi.

“It felt good to relax for a week after the Breeders’ Cup because I was pretty knocked out. I enjoyed a nice freshening but now I’m pumped up for opening day, especially to be calling races like the Malibu. I remember Runhappy winning the Malibu in 2015. I spent last week in Lexington and while I was there visited with Runhappy (sponsor of this year’s Grade I Malibu).

“That was pretty special, but not as special as being back at The Great Race Place.”

CEDILLO STRENGTHENS SANTA ANITA RIDING COLONY

With world-class newcomers and Hall of Fame members in the jockey colony, riding competition figures to be keen during Santa Anita’s Winter Meet which begins Dec. 26.

Among those in the fore is Abel Cedillo, who tied with Flavien Prat for Santa Anita’s Autumn title at 21 wins each. Agent Tom Knust realized he had a star in the making when he saw Cedillo dominating at Golden Gate Fields before moving his tack south.

“I knew he was a very talented rider from watching him in the Bay Area,” Knust recalled. “I knew he could compete down here.

“I didn’t really know his work ethic, but it’s been unbelievable. He works horses every single day and doesn’t complain about anything. He just wants to ride. You can put him on any horse, and he wins with longshots.

“I’m impressed with his attitude. Competition here will be strong. To me, (Joel) Rosario is one of the best riders in the country, and Prat has already proven he’s one of the best. It will be fun because I think Abel can compete with them, but you can’t take anything away from either one of those riders.”

SANTA ANITA HOSTS CRAFT BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL OPENING DAY

In addition to world class racing and Santa Anita’s coveted traditional wall calendar on opening day, Dec. 26, fans will be treated to some of the best brews and ciders in Southern California as the track stages it’s popular Craft Beer and Cider Trackside Festival as well.

Available to those 21 and over, the Opening Day Beer and Cider Festival will provide attendees with trackside seating and mouth-watering barbeque, provided by Meathead BBQ. The following packages are available at santaanita.com:

VIP PACKAGE ($55):

–Eight (3 oz.) Beer or Cider tastings

–3 oz. Tasting Cup

–One Signature BBQ Plate from Meathead BBQ

–$5 Wagering Voucher

–Access to Special VIP Trackside Seating

–Club House Admission

–Racing Program

–Wagering Tip Sheet

–Access to Trackside and Grandstand Seating

GENERAL PACKAGE ($32):

–Eight (3 oz.) Beer or Cider Tastings

–3 oz. Tasting Cup

–$5 Wagering Voucher

–Club House Admission

–Racing Program

–Wagering Tip Sheet

–Access to Trackside and Grandstand Seating Areas

Please note, children are welcome in trackside seating areas, but you must be 21 or over to purchase the package.  Seating is not guaranteed.

For additional information regarding opening day and Santa Anita’s upcoming Winter Meet, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.

FINISH LINESPLEASE NOTE, THERE WILL BE SPECIAL EARLY FIRST POST TIME ON OPENING DAY AT 11:30 A.M. ADMISSION GATES WILL OPEN AT 9:30 A.M. . . . Trainer John Shirreffs has the Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile Jan. 4 on tap for promising two-year-old Honor A.P., winner of a one mile maiden allowance race here as the 1-2 favorite under Mike Smith by 5 ¼ lengths on Oct. 13. The ridgling bred by George Krikorian is owned by the C R K Stable. . . Racing Jeopardy answers: DetermineRound TableHillsdaleOlden Times, Native DiverBuckpasserDamascusAncient TitleSpectacular BidPrecisionistFerdinandRunhappy and Mindyourbiscuits. The question? Who were some of the outstanding winners of past Malibu Stakes.

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