BAFFERT OK WITH POST POSITIONS ON OPENING WEEKEND
RAIL IS NOT IDEAL FOR HIGHER POWER IN AWESOME AGAIN
LONGSHOTS REPRESENT TEAM O’NEILL IN THE CHANDELIER
ESPINOZA SEEKS TO CARRY MOMENTUM AT SANTA ANITA
VAN DYKE FRESH, FIT AND READY TO GO AFTER ACCIDENT
JOY SCOTT HONORED WITH MOONEY AWARD FOR COURAGE
STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD IS UNVEILED TOMORROW
BAFFERT FAVORITES READY TO GO AS SANTA ANITA OPENS
Relatively speaking, Bob Baffert is satisfied with post positions his three favorites have
drawn as Santa Anita begins its world-class 23-day meet tomorrow which features seven graded stakes through Sunday, four of them Grade I’s, and five of them Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races, giving the winner a fees-paid berth to their respective Breeders’ Cup events, which Santa Anita hosts Nov. 1 and 2 for a record 10th time.
Eight Rings, 9-5 morning line favorite for tomorrow’s Grade I, “Win and You’re In” American Pharoah Stakes, drew post three in a field of nine; 3-5 Bast will start from post four in a field of six in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Chandelier Stakes; and 4-5 McKinzie is in a similar spot, four of six in Saturday’s Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Awesome Again Stakes.
“I would have liked to seen Eight Rings a little further out,” said Baffert, who trained 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah for whom the race is named. “But all the horses are doing well and we’ll see what happens.
“You’ve got to break from the gate and get into it. The American Pharoah is a really competitive race, probably as competitive as I’ve ever seen it.”
The American Pharoah, which goes as race eight on an impressive nine-race program: American Theorum, Tiago Periera, 5-1; Fore Left, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Eight Rings, John Velazquez, 9-5; Express Train, Mike Smith, 4-1; Storm the Court, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Defense Wins, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Shoplifted, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Nucky, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 10-1; and Collusion Illusion, Joe Talamo, 5-1.
First post time opening day is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.
HIGHER POWER DRAWS INSIDE POST FOR AWESOME AGAIN
Higher Power won a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita June 14 from the rail, and on
Saturday, the Pacific Classic winner will have to overcome the inside post to win the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes for three-year-olds and up on the main track, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event at 1 1/8 miles that gives the winner a fees-paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
“At a mile and an eighth, you have time to work out a trip,” said John Sadler, who trains the four-year-old Medaglio d’Oro colt for principal owners Kosta and Peter Hronis. “I mean, I wouldn’t pick the one, it’s not good, but it is what it is and our horse is ready to go.”
The Awesome Again: Higher Power, Flavien Prat, 2-1; Draft Pick, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Seeking the Soul, Brian Hernandez Jr., 4-1; McKinzie, Mike Smith, 4-5; Mongolian Groom, Abel Cedillo, 15-1;and Isotherm, Geovanni Franco, 30-1.
BUSY OPENING FOR TEAM O’NEILL ON FRIDAY
With 10 horses entered in Friday’s nine races on opening day, including two in the Chandelier Stakes, Team O’Neill will have a busy afternoon.
Take it from trainer Doug O’Neill’s trusted assistant of 19 years, Leandro Mora, who says Comical and Buyer’s Remorse have a longshot’s chance in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
“I was happy with how she ran,” Mora said referring to the second by Buyer’s Remorse in her debut race Aug.18. “She worked really awesome here so Doug and Mr. Reddam (owner Paul) decided to enter and see what happens.
“Comical was well beaten at Del Mar (sixth in the Grade II Sorrento and third in the Grade I Debutante), but it might have been due to the climate down there or whatever. She seems to like it here where she broke her maiden last May before going to Saratoga and winning the Grade III Schuylerville in July. And she can route, too. The way she’s been training, I believe she can go more than a mile.”
Entering 10 horses in one day at one track is not a record for O’Neill, according to Mora, whose extensive resume includes eight years with David Bernstein and 14 with the late Brian Mayberry, in addition to tours with Gary Jones and Tim Pinfield.
“We had 12 entered one day on a Cal-bred program,” Mora said.
The Chandelier, race five: Been Studying, Mike Smith, 9-2; K P Dreamin, Ruben Fuentes, 6-1; Comical, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; Bast, John Velazquez, 3-5; Buyer’s Remorse, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; and Leucothea, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 5-1.
ESPINOZA HOPES TO KEEP ROLLING WITH TRIBALIST IN EDDIE D
Victor Espinoza is back doing what comes naturally, the worst experience of his career well behind him.
The 47-year-old Triple Crown winner and Hall of Fame member has recovered 100 percent from serious injuries suffered in a training mishap at Del Mar 14 months ago and is doing what he loves best–riding–and winning.
“We were on a roll coming out of the Santa Anita meet in July and it carried over to Del Mar,” said his agent, Brian Beach. “He especially had a good last couple weeks, winning the Del Mar Derby and the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf on Yesterdayoncemore, a real nice Irish-bred filly from Europe, so things finished up well and we’re ready go for this meet.
“Hopefully, the momentum will carry over.”
For the 11th time in 13 races, Espinoza rides Tribalist for trainer Blake Heap in Friday’s Grade II Eddie D Stakes for three-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf.
An eight-year-old Tribal Rule gelding, Tribalist has made fewer appearances at the race track than a member of GA, only 12 starts over a span of seven years, from his first race on Aug.18, 2013, to his most recent, on July 24, 2019.
Out of the money only twice, Tribalist has a 4-4-2 record with earnings of $290,915.
“He always feels great and when he’s ready he tries hard,” Espinoza said. “He’s an honest horse who still gives his best. It’s a tough race, but anything can happen and he’s got a good outside draw.”
As to strategy, Espinoza said, “I’ll see how the race sets up, but plan to let him cruise early and ride him down the stretch. He always runs his race. When he comes on the track now, he’s jumping up and down, so it means he’s ready.”
Meanwhile, Pee Wee Reese returns in the Eddie D after an absence of six months.
“He’s training really well,” said Phil D’Amato, trainer of the six-year-old full horse of owner/breeder Nick Alexander, who named the son of Tribal Rule for the late, great Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Harold (Pee Wee) Reese.
“I almost had him ready to run in the Green Flash at Del Mar (won by Mr Vargas on Aug. 17) but I thought I was a workout short, so we’ve just been saving him for this race. His works indicate he’s ready to go.”
The Eddie D, race six: Eddie Haskell, Joel Rosario, 3-1; Pee Wee Reese, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Lombo, Geovanni Franco, 30-1; Boa Nova, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Stormy Liberal, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 4-1; Mr Vargas, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Double Touch, John Velazquez, 12-1; and Tribalist, Victor Espinoza, 5-1.
VAN DYKE RESUMES RIDING TOMORROW
Drayden Van Dyke returns to action tomorrow after recovering from an injury when unseated by Eight Rings following a bumping incident early in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 2.
The 25-year-old Louisville native suffered a “crush injury” near the wrist on his right forearm, which still shows a bump, but he’s ready to go.
“It was really deeply bruised and really swollen,” Van Dyke said. “It took time and minor therapy. I iced it and did everything I could to help the swelling go down and I’m looking forward to coming back big time.”
JOY SCOTT EARNS MOONEY AWARD FOR COURAGE
The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters will present Joy Scott, a lifelong horsewoman who battled back from multiple serious injuries during her career as a jockey, with the Bill Mooney Award for displaying courage in the face of tremendous adversity.
Scott launched her career as a jockey in 1981 and won 537 races riding in Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian and Mixed Breed events. She suffered severe injuries to her right leg in a five-horse accident at Los Alamitos in 2001 but returned to ride races 14 months later. “I’m a winner again,” said Scott, who continues to battle back from injuries suffered in a training accident in March, 2013. “What an honor; I’m thrilled and overwhelmed.”
Scott joins three prior Mooney winners – the award’s namesake who died after a long battle with cancer in 2017: retired jockey and owner Rene Douglas, and last year’s winner, horsewoman Martine Bellocq.
“She is the walking (miraculously) embodiment of what the Mooney Award has come to represent,” Eclipse Award-winning Turf writer Jay Hovdey said in his endorsement of Scott this spring. “Her desire to remain a viable part of the sport kept her competing until it was no longer possible, and her nightmare struggles with recovery from serious injury is, sadly, more typical of others in her situation than we would like to believe.
“Yet she has soldiered on, raised a fine son as a single parent, and presents herself to the racing family with a positive outlook that is almost incomprehensible to those of us who have never faced such adversity.”
Scott will be honored along with the NTWAB’s other four award winners at the organization’s 60th annual Awards Dinner at The Derby in Arcadia, California, on Wednesday, Oct. 30. The NTWAB will honor the late Rick Violette (Joe Palmer Award), Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas (Mr. Fitz Award), Caton Bredar (Jim McKay Award) and Tim Wilkin (Walter Haight Award), along with other writing award winners announced that evening.
The NTWAB Awards Dinner is traditionally held during Breeders’ Cup week and is the organization’s only fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds from the event are used toward scholarships for prospective Thoroughbred racing journalists and to support Thoroughbred industry charities.
NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita has installed a new state-of-the-art LED Infield video board, which will offer viewers dramatically improved brightness and visual clarity beginning on opening day.
Manufactured and installed by Daktronics, America’s leading manufacturer of outdoor LED (light-emitting diode) boards, this new 30′ x 54′ display contains 648,000 total 15 mm pixels, the optimum size for a board of this scope, ensuring an improved view of the races and all video content throughout the race day.
Due to the breadth of this project, the previous board was removed in August and the new board was installed last month while the Santa Anita stable area was closed.
Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics employs 2,500 people and parts are made in the USA. Daktronics is the preferred vendor for 21 of 31 NFL stadiums and 22 of 30 Major League Baseball parks throughout the United States.
Santa Anita, which hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2, will also be offering fans other major new amenities, such as its Stretch Run Suites and Trackside Terrace Dining and Seating, at a cost of more than $5 million.
(Santa Anita was the first racetrack in America to install an Infield video board in 2001).
FINISH LINES: Saturday’s Late Pick 4 pool will be guaranteed at $500,000 . . . Bolo, who worked five furlongs on the main track Wednesday in 1:02.60, will use the Grade II City of Hope Mile Oct. 5 to prep for the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2, trainer Carla Gaines said. Bolo already has a fees-paid berth to the race thanks to his upset victory in the Shoemaker Mile last May 27 . . . Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who ships in on opening day to ride Bast (3-5) in the Grade I Chandelier, Double Touch (12-1) in the Grade II Eddie D and Eight Rings (9-5) in the Grade I American Pharoah, will enter the day tied with fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, each having 660 graded stakes wins and thus looms a heavy favorite to become North America’s all-time leading graded stakes winning jock . . . Question posed in the September-October issue of Midwest Gaming Magazine: What is the percentage of American adults who have gambled at least once in the past year? Answer: 65 percent.
LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:
Nolde (Sherriffs) 9/25/19
Mongolian Groom (Ganbat) 9/22/19
Neptune’s Storm (Outside) (Baltas) 9/22/19