Desormeaux Can Collect High-Fives After Last Day
Jockey Kent Desormeaux put an exclamation point to his third riding title at Santa Anita on the final day of the winter-spring meeting Monday.
Having clinched the title a couple of weeks ago, Desormeaux won five times on the 86th program, including all three stakes races.
One of the stakes wins came in tandem with trainer Neil Drysdale when 17-10 favorite Mufattish made a successful return in the $71,975 Royal Owl Handicap.
This enabled Drysdale to equal Charlie Whittingham’s single-season record of 14 stakes victories at Santa Anita, set during the 1970-71 meeting. Drysdale finished with a flourish to get the tie, winning four of the final seven stakes offered.
“It wasn’t really legitimate because a lot of [the stakes wins] were in overnight handicaps,” said Drysdale, who was an assistant to Whittingham at the time the record was set. “If you look up the ones Whittingham won, they were all proper stakes.
“But I’m thrilled to have had a great meeting [28 wins in 88 starts]. We have some really nice horses. It was great fun.”
Two races after Drysdale matched one record, Bob Baffert tied another.
When Busy Little Beaver, the trainer’s 174th and final starter here, led gate-to-wire in the ninth race, Baffert earned his 47th victory of the season, matching Gary Jones’ figure during the 1975-76 meeting. It was the second consecutive winter-spring title for Baffert and his third overall.
Returning to the main track after finishing fifth on the turf, Awesome Daze, a 9-2 shot, skimmed the rail to beat favored Men’s Exclusive by a half-length in the $106,000 Valiant Pete Handicap.
Owned by David Milch and trained by Darrell Vienna, the 6-year-old Lil Tyler gelding now has five wins in 10 starts since being claimed for $50,000 by his current connections June 28. Besides the Valiant Pete and California Cup Classic at Santa Anita, he has also won the Phil D. Shepherd at Fairplex Park and the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park for Milch and Vienna and has earned $352,322.
“This horse ran wild,” said Desormeaux after the win in 1:08 2/5 for the six furlongs. “Once the [gates] opened, there was never any doubt. I mean, he was pulling on me from the get-go. He’s just a big, strong, strapping horse and a pleasure to ride. It was just pick a path and let him roll.”
Known primarily as a two-turn specialist, Awesome Daze, who could surface next in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day (May 2), has five wins in 13 tries at Santa Anita.
Making his first start since finishing 12th in a grass stakes in Japan on Dec. 14, Men’s Exclusive, the 4-5 favorite, finished 2 1/2 lengths clear of In Excessive Bull, then came Nor’easter and Fearless Pirate.
Desormeaux’s other added-money victory was provided by Loveontheroad, who held off 2-1 second choice Holy Nola to win the $81,150 Santa Paula Stakes.
The 2-1 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Loveontheroad had four lengths with a furlong to run, weakened, but had enough to win by a length in 1:16 for the 6 1/2 furlongs. A daughter of Jahafil, she is owned by Ron Charles and Clear Valley Stables and trained by Sandy Shulman.
Desormeaux had 89 wins, 18 more than Gary Stevens, while accepting 58 more mounts (434-376). Desormeaux also had a meet-high 14 stakes victories, two more than Chris McCarron. Desormeaux’s other victories on Monday were on Mattie M in the second and Over Houston in the fifth.
Horse Racing Notes
For the first time since the 1986-87 meeting, on-track attendance was up at Santa Anita, even though there was more rain this year. The daily average on-track attendance was 12,356, compared to 12,246 in 1996-97. Total attendance was down about 3.9%, however. The daily average mutuel handle rose 6.6% from $10,921,480 last year to a record $11,646,060. . . . Santa Anita Derby winner Indian Charlie was voted horse of the meeting in balloting done by media who covered Santa Anita. Other winners were: Silver Charm (older horse), Exotic Wood (older filly or mare), Budroyale (claimer), Fiji (grass filly or mare), Hawksley Hill (grass horse), Indian Charlie (3-year-old and development), Hedonist (3-year-old filly), Bob Baffert (trainer), Kent Desormeaux (jockey), J.C. Gonzalez (apprentice jockey), Reality Road and Son Of A Pistol (sprinter), Neil Drysdale’s 14 stakes victories (achievement) and Santa Anita Derby (race). . . . Drysdale finished second in the trainer standings, and Ron McAnally was third. . . . Local thoroughbred racing will resume on Friday night when Hollywood Park begins its spring-summer season. Post time is 7 p.m. . . . Eddie Sweat, the groom for Secretariat throughout the 1973 Triple Crown winner’s career, has died of leukemia at New York. He was 58.
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The top finishers in Monday’s Boston Marathon:
No. Runner, Country: Time
1. Moses Tanui, Kenya: 2:07:34
2. Joseph Chebet, Kenya: 2:07:37
3. Gert Thys, South Africa: 2:07:52
No. Runner, Country, Time
1. Fatuma Roba, Ethiopia: 2:23:21
2. Renata Paradowska, Poland: 2:27:17
3. Anuta Catuna, Romania: 2:27:34