Racing at Santa Anita : No Review Has No Problem With Switch

Times Staff Writer

The way for a trainer to win scheduled grass races at Santa Anita this season might be to enter a horse who can also handle dirt, and then wait for the racing department to make the switch from the turf to the main track.

The flip-flop from grass to dirt is becoming automatic because of the rain, and Saturday, when the $136,200 San Gorgonio Handicap was moved to the main track, it was the 11th time in 12 races that a change was made.

A trainer with a two-way runner also eliminates some of his opposition. Saturday, with four horses scratched, No Review had only five rivals to beat as she accelerated in the last eighth of a mile for a half-length victory over favored Annoconnor before a crowd of 29,013.

No Review, ridden by Rafael Meza and trained by Chris Speckert, ran second, 2 lengths behind Annoconnor, in the Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita last October, but that stake was on grass. Each horse knows how to win on either surface, but going into Saturday, No Review was more consistent, having a record of 5 for 9 on the main track. Annoconnor was 5 for 12.


In the 1 1/8-mile San Gorgonio, Meza was content to sit back in fifth place as Annoconnor raced just back of the pace-setting Daloma, who was setting slow early fractions.

On the turn, No Review made her move from the outside. Daloma, who seldom runs farther than a mile, dropped back and finished fourth, and Annoconnor, who finished second behind Miesque in the Eclipse Awards voting for best female on grass in 1988, couldn’t hold off the winner. White Mischief, whose 17-race career had been entirely on grass, finished third, 3 lengths behind No Review.

The main track was fast, and No Review’s time was 1:48 4/5. Earning $79,950, No Review, the second choice in the betting, paid $8.40, $3.60 and $3.00. The other payoffs were $2.80 and $2.20 on Annoconnor and $3.40 for White Mischief.

Charlie Whittingham, who trains Daloma, was beaten by Speckert, his former assistant who became No Review’s owner and breeder, Thomas Mellon Evans, West Coast trainer 3 years ago.

Speckert planned to run No Review on grass or dirt, as long as the main track wasn’t muddy. The 4-year-old filly won 5 of 11 starts last year, establishing herself as a grass threat in June. Joining Speckert’s barn at Del Mar during the summer, she won the Del Mar Oaks, ran second to Annoconnor in the Las Palmas and was third in the Yellow Ribbon--all grass races.

“She had run well on the dirt back East,” Speckert said, “but you always had it in the back of your mind that the switch to the grass might have been the reason she improved so much in California.”

Leaving the winner’s circle, Speckert wandered over to the television monitor to watch the rerun. As the horses reached the top of the stretch and No Review made her winning move, Speckert said: “I got lucky--that Annoconnor was going with that other mare (Daloma) in the first part.”

Annoconnor has won several races for Corey Black by coming from just off the pace, but the even-money choice couldn’t hold off No Review, who at 117 pounds had a 5-pound break in the weights.

“I just ride her the way she wants to run,” Black said. “She really dug in hard, but she doesn’t accelerate on dirt the way she does on turf. When I set her down in the Las Palmas, she really exploded.”

Speckert scored his sixth stakes victory. He plans to keep No Review on dirt, running her next in the $200,000 La Canada for 4-year-old fillies Feb. 4.

He has only 10 horses for Evans, but another 4-year-old in the band is Cherokee Colony, who was considered a top Kentucky Derby candidate early last year. Cherokee Colony won the Flamingo at Hialeah in January and ran second in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March, but after finishing third, behind Private Terms and Seeking the Gold, in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April, he was sidelined for the year with a factured shin.

Cherokee Colony, who had been trained by Johnny Campo, was sent to Speckert about a month ago. The objective is the $500,000 Charles H. Strub Feb. 5, and this week Speckert must decide whether to run the colt in the $200,000 San Fernando next Sunday.

“It’s possible that I might run him in the Strub just off works,” Speckert said. Such tactics have worked for a number of trainers, including Whittingham, the one Speckert used to work for.

Horse Racing Notes

After finishing second on Annoconnor, Corey Black won the next race with Kamp Out, who paid $47.80. . . . Ray Sibille’s victory on A Penny Is a Penny in the fifth broke an 0-for-50 riding slump. . . . Two jockeys were penalized by the stewards, Alex Solis receiving a 5-day suspension, starting Wednesday, for the disqualification of his winner in Friday’s third race, and Eddie Delahoussaye getting fined $300 for failing to ride out a third-place horse to the finish line in the ninth race.

The Siegels--Mace, Jan and their daughter, Samantha--won more than $1.3 million in purses last year and Saturday their trainer, Brian Mayberry, saddled back-to-back winners in the sixth and seventh races. . . . Big Stanley won Saturday’s Tropical Park Derby at Calder by 1 3/4 lengths over Appealing Pleasure. Prized, who is half-owned by Clover Racing Stables, a California-based group, ran third. Past Ages, second to King Glorious in the Hollywood Prevue, drew the No. 12 post position in a 13-horse field for today’s California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita.