Newsletter: Racing! The big day is here. Buckle up and enjoy


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as I can’t wait for the Santa Anita Derby.

The big day is finally here. Three of the final four major preps are on Saturday, with the centerpiece being the $1-million Santa Anita Derby. NBCSN has TV coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. PDT.

The matchup between Bolt d’Oro and Justify is certainly intriguing. Our own Jon White, the morning-line maker, made Justify the 4-5 favorite, with Bolt at 6-5. Want to know what trainers Bob Baffert and Mick Ruis have to say about the race and their horses? We have it for you. (Just click here.)


If you are looking for Southern California-based horses at the other two preps, keep reading. In the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, you’ve got Phil D’Amato’s Heartfullofstars (20-1) and Baffert’s Restoring Hope (4-1). At the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Doug O’Neill has Blended Citizen (15-1) and Arawak (30-1), while Jerry Hollendorfer sends out Kanthaka (10-1).

Our handicapping lesson

Here’s our weekly contribution from Rob Henie of the WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report) and the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report). The thinking is if you can know and understand the strategies, it will make you a better handicapper.

Today’s lesson is from Saturday’s 12th race at Santa Anita.

“This is an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. When runners are entered over this longer distance, there’s usually two scenarios leading up to the placement — either looking to accentuate good current form, or looking for a spark by trying something new. Top selection is THE TULIP (#7). On Jan. 1, she ran evenly down the lane, coming up a bit short, but in her next start Paddy Gallagher moved longer. It didn’t work out, so they returned to a mile, and got a nice win on Feb. 18th, bringing us to this next start. So, the question is, do they return to the winning flat mile distance? Nope, they send 1 1/8 again, seemingly convinced she wants longer, thus trying to capitalize on the win last time out by accentuating the good current form with the longer distance in place. PANTSONFIRE (#2) is healthy. That’s huge, stringing six races together following multiple interruptions over the past 18 months. Rajiv Maragh has suddenly emerged as the ‘go-to rider’ on the turf for Richard Baltas, and this one is pretty easy to find, versatile, able to stop and start easily, always a useful asset on the turf where the fields can be bunched, especially turning for home.

“Hot / Cold Race Trends: none

“Win Contenders (order of preference): 7-2

“X Out Runners (eliminating on the win end): none

“Negative Notes:

“1 Laseen - Will take money based on the graded stakes races she’s run in over the past year, but remember — exiting those types of races is not a license to run well against seemingly lesser. We’re looking to beat.

“6 Dalsaros - A big, strong mare, but not convinced she’s the right type for the sod, needing a while to get going, thus, if forced to stop, will she get going again? We’ll look to beat.

“TOP PICK: THE TULIP (#7 4-1 Van Dyke)


The West Coast Handicapping Report can be found at It has been endorsed by leading trainers, handicappers and industry sources.

Santa Anita review

Probably the best jockey to not catch a break at Santa Anita this meeting has been Maragh, who relocated here from the East Coast, where he was pretty successful. On Friday, he announced that after Sunday, he is taking his stuff and going back to New York. He’s a really good rider but just couldn’t get the quality and quantity of mounts he needed in this very competitive jockey colony.

He did put an exclamation point on his pending exit on Friday by winning the $56,000 allowance feature down the hillside turf course at 6 1/2 furlongs with Restrainedvengence. It was a blanket finish, but he got up by a head over Axelrod, who nosed out Cono.

Restrainedvengence, running for Val Brinkerhoff, paid $13.60, $7.00 and $5.20.

“I was excited to ride him today,” Maragh told Mike Willman of Santa Anita. “He showed he was a good horse last year, and he’s backed that up with how he’s trained in the morning. It was nice to see him run like we felt he could.”

Santa Anita preview

Huge day with seven stakes (although one is for Arabians) on a 13-race card starting at 11:30 a.m. I’ll just go through some quick looks at those races.

1:15 p.m.: It’s the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt for 3-year-old Cal-bred fillies. Show It N Moe It, for Gary Sherlock and ridden by Mike Smith is the 9-5 favorite. She’s won her last two races, although neither were stakes. This will be Smith’s first time aboard. One Fast Broad, who gets the services of Javier Castellano and is trained by Ruis, is the 5-2 second choice.

1:50 p.m.: This is the 38th running of the Grade 3 $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Paved, coming off a win in the El Camino Real Stakes at Golden Gate, is the 2-1 favorite. In four races, she has won twice and finished third twice. Simon Callaghan is the trainer and Drayden Van Dyke is aboard. Ms Bad Behavoir is the second choice at 5-2. Her last race was a win in the China Doll Stakes.

2:25 p.m.: This is the other Cal-bred stakes, the Echo Eddie for 3-year-old colts and geldings going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Heck Yeah is at 7-5 and Take The One O One is 8-5. Heck Yeah won his first three races before finishing fifth in the Pasadena Stakes for Baffert and Smith. Take the One O One has won two of five races, but ran third in the FrontRunner to Bolt d’Oro and Solomini. Brian Koriner is the trainer and Joe Talamo the jockey.

4:12 p.m.: It’s why you showed up for this day. The 81st running of the $1-million Santa Anita Derby is the centerpiece of the day. If you forgot already, there’s a preview. Just click here.

4:50 p.m.: This is the 20th running of the Grade 2 $200,000 Royal Heroine for older fillies and mares going a mile on the turf. The cleverly named Enola Gray is the lukewarm 3-1 favorite. She won the Grade 3 Wilshire Stakes in her last race. She’s won seven of 11 lifetime. D’Amato is the trainer, and Tyler Baze gets the ride. Madam Stripes, for Neil Drysdale and Kent Desormeaux, is at 7-2. She has four wins and seven seconds in 18 lifetime races.

5:22 p.m.: This is the other reason to come to the track, the Grade 1 $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. The winner will advance to the Kentucky Oaks if they choose. Midnight Bisou, after finishing second by a nose in her first two races, has won her last two. Bill Spawr is the conditioner and Smith is aboard the 6-5 favorite. Spectator, for D’Amato and Castellano, is the second choice at 3-1.

6:20 p.m.: For those hearty souls still around, there is a $100,000 Arabian race. You’re on your own for this one.

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PDT.

12:38 Aqueduct: Grade 2 $300,000 Gazelle Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Midnight Disguise (8-5)

1:00 Keeneland: Grade 3 $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes, 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Limousine Liberal (6-5)

1:11 Aqueduct: Grade 3 $150,000 Excelsior Stakes, 4 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Control Group (2-1)

1:15 Santa Anita: $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes, Cal-breds, fillies 3 years old, 6 1/2 furlongs. Favorite: Show It N Moe It (9-5)

1:35 Keeneland: Grade 2 $200,000 Shakertown Stakes, 3 and up, 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Favorite: Disco Partner (5-2)

1:44 Aqueduct: Grade 1 $400,000 Carter Handicap, 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Army Mule (5-2)

1:50 Santa Anita: Grade 3 $150,000 Providencia Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Favorite: Paved (2-1)

2:09 Oaklawn: $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes, Ark-bred 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Glacken’s Ghost (5-2)

2:10 Keeneland: Grade 1 $300,000 Madison Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Lewis Bay (7-2)

2:17 Aqueduct: Grade 3 $250,000 Bay Shore Stakes, 3 year olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: National Flag (7-5)

2:25 Santa Anita: $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes, Cal-breds, 3 years old, 6 1/2 furlongs. Favorite: Heck Yeah (7-5)

2:45 Keeneland: Grade 1 $500,000 Ashland Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Monomoy Girl (4-5)

2:55 Aqueduct: Grade 2 $750,000 Wood Memorial, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Enticed (6-5)

3:09 Oaklawn: $150,000 Carousel Handicap, fillies and mares 4 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Vertical Oak (9-5)

3:23 Keeneland: Grade 2 $1-million Blue Grass Stakes, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Good Magic (2-1)

4:12 Santa Anita: Grade 1 $1-million Santa Anita Derby, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Justify (4-5)

4:50 Santa Anita: Grade 2 $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Enola Gray (3-1)

5:22 Santa Anita: Grade 1 $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Midnight Bisou (6-5)

Bob Ike’s SA play of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 5 For Him (8-1)

Sophomore from Mike Pender’s barn hasn’t been close lately, but this might be a much more favorable spot. He goes back to dirt, appears to be the clear speed in the race and gets in with a feather (108 pounds) under apprentice rider Asa Espinoza. He should take them a long way at a square price.

Friday Result: Move Over (6-1) fired a good shot but came up a head short when the wire came up in the third race.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Ed Burgart’s LA play of the day

FOURTH RACE: No. 1 Big Energy (3-1)

He wasn’t able to establish early prominence in last third-place try vs. a stronger 870-yard field after breaking off balance with his head in the air. He used his speed to control the pace in an 870-yard victory last November and should get a nice stalking trip behind expected pacesetter Cal Cal Li Gowchis. The latter figures to get overbet after last easy win when unpressured on the lead and seldom runs two races alike.

Final thought

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And now the stars of the show, Friday’s results and Saturday’s entries.