• UNIQUE BELLA IN SMART BREEZE FOR GRADE I LA BREA
• BOWIES HERO REMAINS ON TURF FOR MATHIS BROTHERS
• SANTA ANITA’S STELLAR SIMULCAST TEAM READY TO GO
• POPULAR WALL CALENDAR FREE TO FANS OPENING DAY
UNIQUE BELLA IN ‘EASY’ DRILL FOR LA BREA
Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella, who has been firing bullets since her disappointing showing in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 4, worked four furlongs in 48.60 on a brisk Thursday morning for the Grade I La Brea Stakes, one of four graded races on Santa Anita’s traditional day-after-Christmas opener next Tuesday.
“It looked pretty easy to me,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer when asked about the drill. “Some horses broke off in front of her and she let them go, then caught them and galloped out way in front of them at the wire, so it was a very good work. Her final eighth was very quick.”
Not prone to make excuses, Hollendorfer did reflect on Unique Bella’s seventh-place finish as the 11-10 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint after leading the first half mile of the seven furlong event.
“I felt she went too fast in the beginning,” the Hall of Fame member said, alluding to a quarter-mile clocking of 21.80 and a half in 44.20. “That’s not to be critical of Mike (Smith), but we both felt the horse went too fast.
“She should be plenty fit enough to run in this race. She’s been training beautifully and can run short or long, and a lot of good horses can’t do that.”
A $400,000 gray daughter of Tapit, Unique Bella has three bullet works at Santa Anita since her Breeders’ Cup race, and has five wins from seven career starts with earnings of $412,400. She has been the favorite in six of those races, five times at odds-on.
La Brea contender Faypien, winner of the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita last June, worked four furlongs in company Thursday with Native Diver runner-up Irish Freedom.
“They went nice,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “They cruised around there together.” Drayden Van Dyke, who rides Faypien in the La Brea, was aboard for the workout.
Later that morning, Baffert sent McKinzie four furlongs in 47.60. It was the colt’s first breeze since being moved up from second to first via disqualification in the Grade I Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on Dec. 9.
Baffert revealed no immediate race for McKinzie, saying he would go “work by work.”
BOWIES HERO REMAINS ON GRASS FOR D’AMATO
Turf specialist Bowies Hero, who worked five furlongs on the dirt training track Wednesday in 1:05.40, will make his 11th start on grass in the Grade II Mathis Brothers Mile opening day. The son of Artie Schiller has never run on any surface but turf.
“He only got beat 2 ½ lengths in the (Grade I) Hollywood Derby at Del Mar (Nov. 25) and I thought it was a creditable race,” said Phil D’Amato, who trains the three-year-old colt for owner Agave Racing Stable.
“A couple horses that finished in front of him in the Hollywood Derby aren’t running (in the Mathis Brothers), so he’s a legit contender in there.”
As for an overview for his stable this meet, D’Amato said, “I’ve got a lot of young maidens instead of claiming horses, so I’ll be debuting nice, promising two-year-olds or turning three-year-olds (come Jan. 1), and developing them, rather than winning a lot of races with hard-knocking claimers.”
SANTA ANITA’S STELLAR SIMULCAST TEAM SET FOR OPENING DAY
Beginning opening day, Santa Anita will be represented by a stellar simulcast broadcast team, headed by Michelle Yu, Megan Devine and Peter Lurie. The threesome, each of whom brings varied backgrounds and areas of expertise, will handle pre-race seminars, race-by-race handicapping and analysis, as well as selected pre and post-race interviews.
A member of Santa Anita’s broadcast team as recently as two years ago, Yu, who is married to trainer Ryan Hanson and is the mother of their 22-month-old daughter, Olivia, also includes high-profile broadcast stints with Fox Sports, TVG and HRTV in her extensive resume.
“It’s exciting to be able to return to doing what I really love, on-air television for Santa Anita,” said Yu, who is a native of Walnut, CA, where she began riding at the age of three. “I’ve been raising my daughter for the past couple of years and Ryan and I both thought this would be a great time to get back to the place that gave me a great opportunity a few years back.
“There’s nothing in the whole world like Santa Anita the day after Christmas and I’m looking forward to being a part of that magical scene. We’ll have great racing all day and it’s very exciting to be able to handicap these races and interact with everyone, the jockeys, trainers and owners, who put on the show.”
An honors graduate of the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program, where she was the Equestrian team captain, Devine worked as a production assistant at NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) while in college and took her first broadcast position as simulcast analyst for Ellis Park in July, 2016. A member of Santa Anita’s simulcast team since September 2016, Devine has also worked this year as on-air talent at TVG.
“I’m appreciative of the investment that The Stronach Group has made in our simulcast show,” said Devine. “The experience, insights and personalities of Michelle and Peter will be great additions to our team and I think the fans, bettors and horsemen will be pleased with the product we’re creating as we work to provide coverage of the best horses in the country. We’re going to have some fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
An actor by trade and longtime voiceover artist in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, Lurie, who is a licensed Thoroughbred owner in California, has also worked on Santa Anita’s simulcast team, and like Yu, has extensive broadcast experience on TVG and HRTV.
“Santa Anita has always been home to me,” said Lurie. “I grew up at this track, and I can’t think of another place I’d rather be. It’s called The Great Race Place for good reason. It’s a classic venue unequaled in this country and I’m excited to be back on the team here.”
With the eyes of the racing world on The Great Race Place the day after Christmas, Santa Anita’s simulcast team of Yu, Devine and Lurie will be entertaining fans nationwide throughout an action-packed nine-race card that will include the Grade I Malibu Stakes and the Grade I La Brea Stakes as well as a pair of Grade II events, the Mathis Brothers Mile (turf) and the San Antonio Stakes, which will serve as a prep for the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.
For more information, please visit santaanita.com.
FREE WALL CALENDAR AT SANTA ANITA ON OPENING DAY
One of Santa Anita’s most popular giveaways, its colorful and composite Wall Calendar, will be given free to all fans with paid admission opening day at Santa Anita while supplies last.
The 2018 calendar, themed “Our Horses, Our Passion,” features artfully presented photographs of Thoroughbreds in a variety of eye-catching stages, including maintenance, training and running at The Great Race Place.
FINISH LINES: Bill Spawr has bargain claim Skye Diamonds ticketed for the Grade III Las Flores Stakes at six furlongs on Feb. 18, a race he hopes will lead to the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs on March 24 . . . Jockey Santiago Gonzalez and agent Tony Matos have parted company. Tommy Ball now represents the 34-year-old native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, who is attending night school four times a week to improve his English . . . Santa Anita simulcast host and analyst Michelle Yu will be Tom Quigley’s guest opening day at 10:50 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . First post time at Santa Anita opening day will be 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. Santa Anita will be dark Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 27 and 28, and resume live racing Friday Dec. 29 at 12:30 p.m. through New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. Santa Anita will be dark Jan. 2, 3 and 4, and begin live racing again on Friday, Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. Admission gates open that day at 11 a.m. Santa Anita offers simulcast wagering on Gulfstream Park and tracks across North America in the Paddock Room today through Saturday, Dec. 23. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.