Newsletter: Racing! Hoping it’s not the last we’ll see locally of Justify and Bolt d’Oro


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we catch up with the connections from Saturday’s big day at Santa Anita.

Saturday was a great day at Santa Anita with all the potential superstars in the making. Even the infield music was a hit, a 180-degree shift from the San Felipe Stakes, when the hip-hop lyrics may not have been in sync with the usual Santa Anita crowd.

But sadly, Saturday may have been the last chance we’ll get to see Justify and Bolt d’Oro run in Southern California. That is, unless they come back at 4 years old. Remember, American Pharoah, even though he called Santa Anita his home, only raced there once.


The reason is that after the Santa Anita Derby, there really aren’t any marquee races for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita or Del Mar. Generally, after the Triple Crown, races with those conditions are all back East. There is the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, but that tends to be populated by older horses.

Too bad. Justify, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie have been the fabric of this local Triple Crown run, but like a kid going off to college, you hope they come home a lot but there is no guarantee.

Still, racing fans should consider them as locals. Santa Anita, no doubt, will have a smart promotion on Kentucky Derby day on how the best place to watch the race is at the local track. Trust me when I say the worst place to watch the Kentucky Derby is at Churchill Downs, because of the absolute crush of people, most of whom know little about horse racing. I’ll be there, but I’m guessing Arcadia will be a lot more fun.

Follow up SA Derby and Oaks

Credit the ever-vigilant Ed Golden of Santa Anita for all the second-day updates after the Santa Anita Derby and Oaks. Here’s what Ed reports:

Bob Baffert on Justify, winner of the Santa Anita Derby and presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite: “He looks good. The track was really deep and loose [Saturday] and I was worried about that because he could have gotten really tired, but he acted like he wasn’t, and he handled it well. He’s still learning how to run, still a little green. He was out there by himself, looking at everything, taking it all in, but I like the way he responded when Bolt made that run at him [in mid-stretch].


“Those two beat the rest of that field by a wide margin (9 1/2 lengths), so they’re serious horses. You just need racing luck. … Justify and Bolt are the two best horses, and you have to give credit to Bolt. He doesn’t quit. He’s right there every time.”

Ed asked Bob about a Triple Crown sweep by Justify: “That’s a long way off.”

Mick Ruis on Bolt d’Oro, second in the Santa Anita Derby: “After the race there was a little blood by his front quarter on the right side. We washed it off and checked it out. It was like getting a splinter. No flesh came off, nothing like that. It just opened up a bit and in three days you won’t even know it’s there.”

Part-owner Jeff Bloom on Midnight Bisou, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks: “She’s bright-eyed, cheery, happy and ate up all her food, so we’re happy. It’s on to Kentucky. The flight is booked. Actually, the flight’s been booked, but now it’s really booked. She’s just such a wonderful filly to be around, but the way she won yesterday just gives you goose bumps. I’ve talked to so many horsemen who have been in this game a long time, and they said the same thing. They’re fans who saw what she did. It’s remarkable.”

What’s up with Lassen?

You don’t see it often, but in Saturday’s 12th race, Lassen refused to run. This comes after her refusal to run on March 18. Now horses, for whatever reason, sometimes just don’t feel like doing what they were bred to do. (Not that we’ve ever seen a human worker decide not to show up.) But, it’s incredibly rare to see it happen twice in a row in a stakes horse that had run 34 races.

Kent Desormeaux was in the saddle when Lassen broke out of the gate in March, but then the horse didn’t run. Trainer James Cassidy switched back to her former jockey Victor Espinoza to ride her on Saturday. Now, these guys are Hall of Famers and this is a veteran stakes runner. Again, she broke but then packed her bags.


She worked on March 25 but not from the gate. Remember, she broke from the gate both times, but it was after the break that she didn’t run. She has now been ruled off by the stewards at Santa Anita, not being allowed to race there anymore. The guess is she’ll probably be sent to the breeding shed.

Last year, Thunder Snow refused to run after breaking in the Kentucky Derby. This year, Thunder Snow won the $10-million Dubai World Cup.

Newsletter update

Don’t panic when the newsletter doesn’t hit your inbox on Thursday morning; we haven’t gone away. But for the next two weekends, after Sunday’s conclusion of the Santa Anita Winter meet, the track goes to three-day weeks. In case you missed it a sentence ago, it’s only for two weeks. Same for Golden Gate. So, Friday, with Jon White’s eagerly awaited Top 10, Golden Gate preview, Los Alamitos preview and other stuff, the newsletter will rival a Russian novel for length.

Santa Anita review

Everyone likes a nice stroll in the fresh air on a Sunday afternoon, and that’s exactly what Hoppertunity did to his overmatched rivals in winning the Grade 3 $100,000 Tokyo City Cup. The race is the rare 1 1/2 miles on the dirt. Hoppertunity, with Flavien Prat aboard for Baffert, hung around near the back for the first half of the race until he decided to pick things up and romped to a 6 1/2-length win.


“I knew they were going pretty quick, but I just rode my race,” Prat told Mike Willman of Santa Anita. “When we turned down the backside, he grabbed the bit and wanted to go. He’s a cool horse. He can run any distance, he’s just a pro.”

Hoppertunity paid $2.40, $2.20 and $2.10. Twentytwentyvision was second and Moonman was third.

Hoppertunity’s performance was dominating but so was Ax Man’s romp in a $56,000 allowance race. He ran the 1-mile race by 8 1/2 lengths. Drayden Van Dyke was aboard for the Baffert (who else?) colt. Ax Man was once on the periphery of the Derby trail before falling off after getting caught up in a speed duel leading to a poor performance. We wrote about his owner Hal Earnhardt back then. If you’re interested just click here.

Big races review

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Sunday.

Keeneland: Grade 3 $150,000 Beaumont Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 7 furlongs. Winner: Gas Station Sushi ($6.20 to win)

Santa Anita: Grade 3 $100,000 Tokyo City Cup, 4 and up, 1 1/2 miles. Winner: Hoppertunity ($2.40)


Keeneland: Grade 2 $200,000 Appalachian Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 mile on turf. Winner: Rushing Fall ($3.00)

Aqueduct: $100,000 Danger’s Hour Stakes, 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Winner: Fire Away ($14.20)

Final thought

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Now, here is the star of the show, Sunday’s results. We’ll be back on Friday. You can chill on Thursday.