As the nation today duly honors the patriotic men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice enabling America to remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, fans at Santa Anita celebrated with a festive Memorial Day of family fun, food and world-class racing.

Beyond that lies additional attractive Thoroughbred competition next Saturday, June 2, in the Grade I Beholder Mile, expected to bring together three of the sports most productive current distaff stars, Unique Bella, Paradise Woods and Vale Dori, each conditioned by a Hall of Fame trainer and each vying for $400,000 in prize money.

One week later, on Saturday, June 9, all eyes will be on Justify and Belmont Park as the undefeated winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes seeks to become history’s 13th Triple Crown winner and the second in four years for Santa Anita-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Is this a great country, or what?

Paradise Woods, a two time Grade I winner, has not raced since March 24 but has been firing bullets during workouts in advance of the Beholder Mile. Monday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said the four-year-old daughter of Union Rags “couldn’t be better.”

Fair enough, because that could be a prerequisite facing Unique Bella, champion female sprinter of 2017 trained by yet another Hall of Fame member, Jerry Hollendorfer, who has 7,448 victories and counting in his illustrious career.

Unique Bella, a striking four-year-old gray daughter of Tapit, has seven wins and two seconds in 10 starts, with earnings of $852,400. Victory in the Beholder is worth $240,000 and would elevate her to millionaire status. She too has been posting the fastest workouts of the day during her breezes with three bullet drills on her recent work tab.

Favored in nine of her 10 races, seven times at odds-on, Unique Bella will be favored again in the Beholder, while Vale Dori will try to start a new winning streak. The six-year-old Argentine-bred mare worked five furlongs Sunday under Martin Garcia in 1:00.40. Vale Dori had a six-race winning streak before finishing second by a neck twice to champion Stellar Wind last summer.

As to the 150th edition of the final jewel in the Triple Crown, the mile and a half Belmont Stakes, another trainer who calls Santa Anita home, Doug O’Neill, hopes to pull a monumental upset of Justify with Peter Pan winner Blended Citizen.

“He’s in New York now and scheduled to work this Saturday, but there’s a lot of (inclement) weather back east right now, so we’re trying to work our way around it,” O’Neill said.

“On numbers, we look too slow (to beat Justify), but I think we’re going to jump up and run huge on Belmont day, I really do. This would be the first time we’ve run in the Belmont, and we’re excited, since our horse has already won over the track in the Peter Pan.

“That gives us some extra optimism.”

Under Kyle Frey, who will be back aboard in the Belmont, Blended Citizen won the mile and one-eighth Peter Pan by a length and a half at odds of 9-2 on May 12, earning $210,000.

With three wins from four starters Sunday, O’Neill moved into a tie with Phil D’Amato for the training lead through 26 days of the Spring portion of the current meet. Each has 18 wins.

“It’s a great team effort and I’m blessed to be surrounded with a bunch of great guys, gals and horsemen,” said O’Neill, who has won the Santa Anita title three times previously.



Trainer Brian Koriner appears to have a strong hand for next Saturday’s $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles. The race is one in the lucrative Golden State Series, restricted to horses bred in California or whose sires were bred in the state.

Both of Koriner’s runners have speed, Take the One O One and Waya Ed, and each is owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable.

Take the One O One was third to Bolt d’Oro in last year’s Grade I FrontRunner Stakes, while Waya Ed won his maiden at Golden Gate Jan. 28 before finishing third after leading in a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita April 15.

Also set for the Snow Chief, named for the Eclipse Award champion male three-year-old of 1986 trained by Mel Stute, are Continental Divide, Hit the Seam, Prince Earl and Psycho Dar.



With less than a month remaining in Santa Anita’s current Winter/Spring Meet, the track’s popular “Ship & Stay” program continues attract new horses to Southern California and generate significant bonus money for participating owners and trainers.

Beginning Dec. 26 and going through Sunday, May 27, a total of 87 racing days have resulted in 126 “new” horses, which have generated $269,536 in bonus money for their connections.

“I’ve only had two horses that have been eligible for Ship & Stay, but I’ve made about $5,000, and that money goes directly to me,” said trainer Brian Koriner, who has won with a pair of three-year-old fillies, First Dudette and Ms Peintour–both of whom had been based in Florida. “This really gives the trainer added incentive to go out of state, buy horses and bring them here. It’s not easy, but the way this program is structured, it makes it well worth the effort.”

Owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable, J. Lyons, C. Robin, J. VanDrie and L. Wagner, First Dudette won a $56,000 allowance race here on March 1 and picked up $33,600 in purse money. In her third Santa Anita start, she finished third in the $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes, earning $9,780 in purse money.

Ms Peintour, owned by Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable, finished third in her second Santa Anita start, a $56,000 allowance and earned $6,720 in purse money. She then won a $56,000 allowance here on April 21, which provided $33,600 in purse money.

Funded solely by The Stronach Group (TSG), “Ship & Stay” provides on-going bonuses to individual owners and trainers who bring horses to Santa Anita from out of state. Bonuses, which will be paid through closing day, Sunday, June 24, are paid to those connections that originally bring these horses to California for their first three starts.

The bonuses, which pay 20 percent of a horse’s first race winnings and 10 percent (or $1,000, whichever is greater) of second and third monies, is paid even if the horse is claimed.

“The Ship & Stay results continue to be very gratifying,” said Santa Stakes Coordinator Chris Merz, who devised the program. “Along with the 10 percent purse increase that will take effect this coming Friday (June 1), our horsemen are going to have a lot of money to run at over the next month and we’re certainly hopeful this will enable us to finish up strongly.”

For additional “Ship & Stay” information, horsemen are encouraged to contact the Santa Anita Racing Office at (626) 574-RACE.


            FINISH LINES: Gary Stevens, back at Santa Anita after wintering in Kentucky and Arkansas, won two races at The Great Race Place Sunday, on Meal Ticket for Matt Chew in the third race and Factorofwon for Mark Glatt in the $75,000 Black Pearl Stakes, race seven. The Hall of Fame great hasn’t lost his competitive drive or talent at the age of 55. “We’re happy to get off to a fast start,” said Stevens’ new agent, Tony Matos. “Gary is riding as well as ever and business is good.” . . . One lucky person had the winning Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot ducat yesterday, worth $217,702, purchased for a paltry $96 through . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week, resuming live racing on Friday, June 1, at 12:30 p.m., but will be open for simulcast racing Wednesday and Thursday, with free parking and free general admission. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.

(Current Through Sunday, May 27)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Flavien Prat 86 21 14 11 24% 53% $944,346
Geovanni Franco 103 18 12 11 17% 40% $636,687
Joseph Talamo 93 17 15 12 18% 47% $870,336
Mario Gutierrez 71 16 9 14 23% 55% $766,085
Asa Espinoza 92 14 12 16 15% 46% $404,676
Drayden Van Dyke 83 14 12 12 17% 46% $731,633
Tiago Pereira 92 14 9 14 15% 40% $461,087
Trainer Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Doug O’Neill 72 18 13 12 25% 60% $850,705
Philip D’Amato 66 18 9 17 27% 67% $847,658
Peter Miller 72 16 8 11 22% 49% $660,081
Vladimir Cerin 30 10 2 5 33% 57% $278,523