Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we welcome the 12-day meet at Los Alamitos.
Santa Anita is in the rear-view mirror, and you can see Del Mar down the road. So we are now in the midst of the 12-day Los Alamitos thoroughbred meeting. It has four more days than last year, and the post is moved up to 1 p.m.
I’ll always have a fondness for Los Alamitos. Its glory days as a quarter-horse track are gone, but they still run three nights a week. The prices are reasonable, and the Vessels Club is a nice experience. Wish there were more people, but what track can’t you say that about?
Couple of changes to the newsletter whenever we move to Los Al. Our resident handicapper, Bob Ike, takes off those weeks. This meeting, we are very excited to have Jose Contreras sitting in that seat. You might have seen him on TVG, usually during the quarter horses, but he knows his thoroughbreds too.
Rob Henie, whom I think we’ll now nickname Professor (it’s an honorary title in his case, unlike handicapper Professor Gordon Jones, who really was a professor), also takes Los Al off. But he has graciously offered to supply us a lesson each week from Belmont Park in New York.
I often get emails from our subscribers wishing we had an East Coast version of this newsletter. No plans for that, so don’t read anything into this. Now, I did have short curtain-raiser for Los Al in Thursday’s Times. You can read it here.
A lot of that information can be found below. Orlando Gutierrez, media potentate at Los Al, volunteered and penned this season preview. So, the floor is yours, Orlando.
Los Alamitos thoroughbred preview
“The first thoroughbred meet of 2018 at Los Alamitos will begin today.
“The 12-day summer thoroughbred meet will continue through Sunday, July 15, with racing — with one exception — conducted on a Thursday-Sunday basis.
“There will be holiday racing Wednesday, July 4, prior to a dark day on Thursday, July 5. Racing will resume Friday, July 6. Post time will be 1 p.m.
“The three-week season will be highlighted by a pair of graded stakes races: the Grade 2, $200,000 Great Lady M. for fillies and mares (3-year-olds and up) at 6 1/2 furlongs and the Grade 3, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.
“Expected to attract defending champion Skye Diamonds, the Great Lady M. will be run for the fifth time Saturday, July 7, while the Los Alamitos Derby, which was won by eventual 3-year-old champion West Coast in 2017, will be offered Saturday, July 14.
“Completing the stakes program is the $100,000 Bertrando Stakes for 3-year-olds and up bred or sired in California.
“Run at one mile, the Bertrando, which will be run July 4, is expected to lure 2014 winner Soi Phet. A 10-year-old gelding trained by Leonard Powell for a partnership, the son of Tizbud is a four-time stakes winner at Los Alamitos.
“The wagering menu includes the pick six, a pair of pick 4s — races 2-5 and the final four races — as well as the extremely popular players’ pick 5 — a 50-cent minimum wager with a reduced 14% takeout rate, which is offered on the first five races.
“The pick 4 is now a $1 minimum bet, making it uniform with the nighttime quarter-horse programs.
“The opening day feature — the seventh of eight races — is a $45,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares (3-year-olds and up).
“Six were entered in the race at 5 1/2 furlongs, including Los Alamitos graduate Highland Lass.
“Trained by John Sadler for breeder Michael Talla, the 3-year-old Quality Road filly was a first-out winner locally, scoring last Dec. 1.
“Out of the Hennessy mare Stockings, Highland Lass was fourth in her most recent start, finishing behind Kimberlea K and Newport Breeze, two of her Thursday opponents. From inside out, the field for Thursday’s feature: Newport Breeze, Joe Talamo rides, 120 pounds; Cioppino Pasadino, Stewart Elliott, 124; Highland Lass, Tyler Baze, 120; Love A Honeybadger, Tiago Pereira, 124; Silken Spy, Geovannni Franco, 120 and Kimberlea K, Drayden Van Dyke, 120.”
Thanks, Orlando. I’ll be doing the daily recaps and previews as usual.
Jose Contreras’ LRC pick of the day
SIXTH RACE: No. 6 Four Gaels (7-2)
He broke well, dueled early, steadied into the turn and never looked comfortable in between horses. That was his third race in about 28 days, and I have a feeling this 7-year-old needed a break. He’s now had about three weeks to recover since that effort and lands in a softer conditional field with a slight drop in claiming price. He’s got speed to go to the lead but can also stalk from behind runners. His last win came under this rider over this daytime oval.
Jose Contreras is an excellent handicapper and well known on social media and familiar to racing fans watching on TVG. You can follow him on Twitter at @losponies or check him out at his website.
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And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.