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SANTA ANITA : Intriguing Name Is Talented Colt’s Second-Best Trait

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After buying a Crusader’s Sword colt at the 1993 Florida breeders’ sale in Miami, owners Mike Pegram and Terry Henn and trainer Bob Baffert had to come up with a name for the 2-year-old.

Never shy about being unconventional--Letthebighossroll and Letthebiggatorout are a couple of their selections--the trio came up with a provocative choice.

Surprisingly, the conservative Jockey Club approved Isitingood.

“We wanted something to go with Crusader’s Sword and with a sword you can say, ‘Is it in good?’ ” said Baffert.

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"(The Jockey Club) might have thought the name was I-sit-in-good. The double meaning is why we used it and it’s become very popular.”

However, Isitingood is more than just a suggestive name. The 4-year-old has overcome a series of injuries to develop into a talented sprinter and will make his stakes debut in Saturday’s $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap.

A winner in three of five starts, Isitingood is one of two horses Baffert will run in the six-furlong Palos Verdes. Baffert, who leads Santa Anita trainers with 13 victories through the first 23 days, will also send out Gundaghia.

Successful in two consecutive allowance races, Isitingood has finished second in both of his defeats, losing to Malibu Stakes and San Carlos Handicap runner-up Ferrara.

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That he is running at all is something of a minor miracle, and it is even more unlikely that he is running for Pegram, Henn and Baffert.

Impressed with the colt at the Florida sale, Baffert found that Isitingood had already been checked by a veterinarian.

“The vet said the only place he hadn’t been X-rayed was in his back ankles,” said Baffert. “He looked fine to me, so we got him and flew him back to California.

“When he got back here, he started favoring his right hind ankle. We X-rayed and found that his sesamoids were broken in two different pieces.”

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Apparently, Isitingood had been injured when he was younger and the problem went undiscovered. Because Pegram and Henn had already paid for the horse, the deal couldn’t be voided, so he was turned out to pasture for six months.

Isitingood finally made his debut on Dec. 28, 1993, won impressively, then went right back to the sidelines because of a knee chip, which was surgically removed. Then he broke his right shoulder shortly after he was returned to training.

“Everything that could go wrong with him has gone wrong with him,” said Baffert. “If we had X-rayed his hind ankles, we never would have bought him and we’d be saying right now, ‘Look at that son of a gun run.’ ”

All is well with the horse these days, and now the question is whether he is up to handling 1993 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Cardmania, the vastly improved Rotsaluck, D’hallevant, Individual Style and Concept Win, among others.

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“The race sets up well for him,” said Baffert. “There’s a lot of speed in there. He’s trained OK in the mud, and those Florida-breds will run on anything.”

All of Baffert’s horses have been doing just fine in the first quarter of a rainy Santa Anita season. Besides his 13 victories from 36 starters, Baffert has 10 seconds and three thirds, meaning his starters have been in the money more than 71% of the time.

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Strodes Creek, fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 14, worked six furlongs in 1:17 before Thursday’s first race, preparing for the $500,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 5.

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With regular rider Eddie Delahoussaye aboard, the 4-year-old went his first quarter in 25 1/5, the half-mile in 51 and five furlongs in 1:04 1/5 on the muddy track.

“Because of the weather, we haven’t been able to jog and gallop him every day, but he should be fit enough (for the Strub),” trainer Charlie Whittingham said.

Wekiva Springs, Dramatic Gold and Dare And Go, the first three finishers in the San Fernando, are all due back in the Strub, but Dare And Go will need a new rider. Gary Stevens, who has ridden Dare And Go in all three of his California races, is leaving next week to ride in Hong Kong for the next four months.

“I haven’t figured out who it will be yet,” trainer Richard Mandella said.

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Dramatic Gold is scheduled to work seven furlongs this morning and Wekiva Springs, who has won five in a row after losing his debut, will go six furlongs Sunday morning.

Horse Racing Notes

Jockey Fernando Valenzuela, injured in a spill in the first race of the meeting on Dec. 26, had his back brace removed Wednesday and should be able to begin galloping horses in two weeks, according to his agent, Ray Kravagna. . . . Valid Wagers, who defeated El Camino Real Derby winner Jumron in the earlier California Juvenile Stakes at Bay Meadows, is among seven 3-year-olds scheduled to run Saturday in the $75,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park near Miami. Martin Pedroza will ride the colt for trainer Mike Mollica. Others scheduled to run are Wild Syn, Western Echo, Mr. Greeley, Bet Your Bucks, Gold Miner and Don Juan A. The seven-furlong Hutcheson is a prep for the Florida Derby on March 11.


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