Best of Meet From a Straw Vote


Approaching the wire of Santa Anita's 59th meeting, here are one man's opinions on the bests of the season:

Older Horse--Helmsman. Although he didn't win Santa Anita's most famous race--the Big 'Cap--the 4-year-old did win two-thirds of the Strub Series and only once since he has come to this country has he failed to finish first or second.

Older Filly/Mare--Serena's Song. Beaten in her last two starts, the queen of Wayne Lukas' stable still managed to hand Exotic Wood the first loss of her career in the Santa Monica, then came back to beat Twice The Vice in the Santa Maria. If she hadn't run in the Santa Anita Handicap, the feeling is she would have won the Santa Margarita as well.

Claimer--Bit Of Petrone. Never a picture of health, the 8-year-old gelding has made only 34 starts in his career, but he has had quite a run in Arcadia. His victory in the ninth race April 13 was his fifth of the meeting, leaving him one shy of the record shared by Natural Splendor, Chief Artist, Page and Dandini.

Grass Filly/Mare--Windsharp. The mare who can run all day has made three starts so far and has wound up in the winner's circle each time. She gave a hint of things to come with an explosive score against outclassed opponents early in the meeting, then followed that with victories over the boys--and Wandesta--in the San Luis Obispo Handicap and San Luis Rey Stakes. She also deserves top achievement for becoming the first female ever to win those two marathons. Today, she'll try to become the first lady to win the San Juan Capistrano since La Zanzara in 1975.

Grass Horse--Tychonic. The reformed claimer has forgotten how to lose and one of the main reasons is Gary Stevens. The jockey rides him with complete confidence and lets the 6-year-old just do his thing. Tychonic has also shown he doesn't need to carry his turf course around with him because he has won at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park.

3-Year-Old, Development--Cavonnier. The end of the meeting was a whole lot better for the California-bred gelding than the beginning. Upset by Ready To Order in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes 3 1/2 months ago, Cavonnier concluded with an impressive victory in the Santa Anita Derby and earned himself a trip to Churchill Downs and a start in the Kentucky Derby.

3-Year-Filly--Antespend. She rattled off wins in the Santa Ysabel, Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks, although there were plenty of folks who thought her number should have come down in the latter.

Trainer--Wally Dollase. Several trainers will finish the meeting with more wins, but Dollase is winning at around a .333 clip and tops everybody with eight stakes victories. He has done wonders with Windsharp, Jewel Princess and Helmsman. Beware of Alyrob if he makes his way into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Other trainers who have had huge meetings are Bill Spawr, Richard Mandella, Bob Baffert, Ron McAnally, Mike Mitchell, Bobby Frankel and Ron Ellis.

Jockey--Corey Nakatani. Despite a whip controversy, which cast a cloud over him and the sport, and the fact he has missed some 20 days because of suspensions, Nakatani is clinging to the lead as he tries to be Santa Anita's leading rider for the first time. He has had more than 100 fewer mounts than his closest pursuer, Alex Solis.

Apprentice--Brice Blanc. He has 50 victories, the fifth-best total for an apprentice in Santa Anita history.

Sprinter--Lit De Justice. The gray failed to fire in his final two starts here, but the fact remains he won the El Conejo and Palos Verdes and no other sprinter won two stakes. Look for him to be back on top of his game at Del Mar.

Race--Santa Monica Handicap. The seven-furlong match between Serena's Song and then-unbeaten Exotic Wood lived up to advance billing. Making her first start since finishing nowhere in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Serena's Song outbattled Exotic Wood through the stretch to win by a half-length.

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