Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we offer up another edition of Jon White’s Top 10
Was there really any doubt?
The Eclipse Award voters did what seemed like inevitable and made Justify the Horse of the Year. The vote over Accelerate was 191-54.
If you want a newsy look at all the winners, just click here.
I think you can make a case that the voters got it right in all but one category. Some of you get all over me when I mention the East Coast bias, and I’m not talking about a track bias. But, how
Baffert shouldn’t be penalized because he doesn’t start as many horses as some others. He had the
As for how I voted, I had all the horse winners except Female Turf, where I had Enable instead of winner Sistercharlie. And, I missed on Steeplechase (who cares?)
But, when it came to people I wasn’t very good. I voted for Baffert over Brown; WinStar Farm over John D. Gunther for breeder and
However, I did have Hronis Racing winning as top owners and Irad Ortiz, Jr. as top jockey.
Rather than me babble, here are the first-place vote totals:
Horse of the Year: Justify 194, Accelerate 54, Monomoy Girl 2, Enable 1.
2-year-old Male: Game Winner, 247; Bulletin,1; Knicks Go, 1.
2-year-old Filly: Jaywalk, 214; Newspaperofrecord (IRE), 31; Bellafina, 4.
3-year-old Male: Justify, 249.
3-year-old Filly: Monomoy Girl, 247; Magical (IRE), 1; Rushing Fall, 1.
Older Dirt Male: Accelerate, 245; Gun Runner, 2; Discreet Lover, 1; Roy H, 1.
Older Dirt Female: Unique Bella, 182; Abel Tasman, 34; Marley’s Freedom, 14; Blue Prize (ARG), 9; Wow Cat (CHI), 9.
Male Sprinter: Roy H, 234; City of Light, 9; Imperial Hint, 3; Stormy Liberal, 2; Mind Your Biscuits, 1.
Female Sprinter: Shamrock Rose, 136; Marley’s Freedom, 113.
Male Turf Horse: Stormy Liberal, 85; Expert Eye, 66 (GB); Glorious Empire (IRE), 43; Catholic Boy 14; Heart to Heart, 12; Catapult, 8; Channel Maker, 7; Raging Bull (FR), 7; Robert Bruce (CHI), 2; Funtastic, 1; Oscar Performance, 1; Yoshida (JPN) 1.
Female Turf Horse: Sistercharlie, 130; Enable, 119.
Steeplechase Horse: Zanjabeel (GB), 176; Optimus Prime (FR), 22; Jury Duty (IRE), 12; Iranistan, 4; Balance the Budget, 1.
Owner: Hronis Racing LLC, 142; Peter Brant, 27; WinStar Farm, China Horse Club Intl., Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners, 25; Calumet Farm, 8; Klaravich Stables, Inc., 8; Godolphin Racing, 6; End Zone Athletics, 5; WinStar Farm, 5; Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen, 4; Sol Kumin 3; Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group, Bethlehem Stables, 2; China Horse Club, 1; China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, 1; Juddmonte Farms, 1; Loooch Racing Stables, 1.
Breeder: John D. Gunther, 102; WinStar Farm, LLC, 68; Mike
Trainer: Chad Brown, 137; Bob Baffert, 94;
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr., 173;
Apprentice Jockey: Weston Hamilton, 115; Edgar Morales, 87; Reylu
No doubt that Joe Harper, the president and CEO of
Of course, this was in reference to Santa Anita boss Tim Ritvo firing longtime racing secretary Rick Hammerle and race caller Michael Wrona before the start of the current meet. Harper is a nice guy and I can’t believe he meant any of that in any way but good-natured. Did Ritvo take it that way, though?
If my eyes were correct, Frank Stronach and Belinda Stronach were sitting at different tables. Frank is suing his daughter in what has become an ugly fight filled with accusations of malfeasance.
And what you also didn’t see was trainer Peter Mller’s acceptance speech for Stormy Liberal winning Male Turf Horse as TVG cut to commercial. Not to mention, (but we’ll mention anyway) how TVG, running a split-screen commercial, stepped all over a brief segment from Tim Layden, one of the media Eclipse winners.
Jeanine Edwards was brilliant in taking back the host duties and got the entire event over in less than 1:40. So, next year, with a little better planning, maybe they can use the full two hours, get in all the commercials and all the speeches.
Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10
Jon White is back with the next installment of his Derby Top 10. You always learn something. So, take it away, Jon.
“Proving he can excel on a surface other than a sloppy track when racing on dirt, War of Will won the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds last Saturday while running his way onto my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. The son of War Front debuts this week at No. 5.
“In War of Will's only previous start on dirt, he splashed home a five-length winner against maidens on a sloppy strip at Churchill Downs last Nov. 24. All four starts before that had been on the grass.
“Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by
“War of Will readily took the lead turning for home, then kicked away in the stretch to win by four emphatic lengths while competing one mile and 70 yards in a commendable 1:43.44. Earlier on the card, Needs Supervision won the Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in 1:45.34.
“After the race, Gaffalione said that War of Will ‘really is special.’
“Casse has gone so far as to say he believes War of Will ‘is an absolute superstar.’ Following the Lecomte, Casse said that he had told some friends about a month ago that he felt he had ‘a big chance’ to win the Kentucky Derby this year with War of Will. The veteran trainer added that he doesn't usually ‘say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him.’
“According to Casse, the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 16 will be the next race for War of Will.
“Here are this week's rankings:
1. Game Winner (1)
2. Improbable (2)
3. Instagrand (3)
4. Maximus Mischief (4)
5. War of Will (NR)
6. Mucho (5)
7. Vekoma (6)
8. Network Effect (7)
9. Mucho Gusto (8)
10. Signalman (9)
Note: Last week's rankings in parentheses
“Oaklawn Park kicks off its 2019 racing season Friday with a nine-race card highlighted by the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile. Smarty Jones won the 2004 Arkansas Derby as a springboard to victories in the Kentucky Derby and
“Gray Attempt, conditioned by Jinks Fires, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Oaklawn's opening-day Smarty Jones. The Graydar colt will be going around two turns for the first time after a front-running one-length victory in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 22.
“Fires sent out the even-money favorite in the 2011 edition of the Smarty Jones,
“Two other contenders in this year's Smarty Jones are Long Range Toddy (4-1 morning line) and Bankit (7-2), who finished first and second, respectively, in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park on Dec. 16. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains both.
“Someone to watch out for in the Smarty Jones is Super Steed (9-2). He won a maiden race on a sloppy track by six lengths Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs, then finished a disappointing fourth as the even-money favorite in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl at the Fair Grounds. Perhaps Super Steed will rebound and prove a tough customer in the Smarty Jones. He is a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner
“Looking ahead, there will be three Feb. 2 races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. They are the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.”
Santa Anita preview
Santa Anita gets back to racing on Friday with a nine-race card starting at 12:30 p.m. In anticipation of Saturday’s Cal-bred stakes schedule, we get a preview of more Cal-breds on Friday with four races restricted to state bred or sired horses. There are four turf races, four allowance or allowance/optional claimers and four races for maidens. The average field size is about 7.3 horses a race.
In a bit of an unusual move, the feature or best race, is the first. You don’t see that often. It’s an allowance for 4-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf with a field of seven. The purse is $67,000.
The science behind where races are placed on the card is usually tied to field size, unless it’s a big stakes race. The thinking is to have the fullest fields at the back end of the card to give the Rainbow Six (pick six), late pick five and late pick four the largest fields and the most betting opportunities. The fifth race, start of the pick five and second race of the Rainbow Six, has an early scratch bringing it down to six. So, the guess here is rather than risking a scratch in the seven-horse (first) race and putting two six-horse fields in the six, five and four-horse late horizontals, they placed the race at the beginning of the program.
The racing office has to have its fair share of spidey-sense. We’ll see if it was working for Friday or a false alarm.
Don’t think I’ve written this much on an allowance for 4-year-old fillies. OK, favorite, at 2-1, is Love and Peace, for trainer Neil Drysdale and jockey Joe Talamo. She’s running only her second race in the U.S. after a career in France. She is two-of-11 lifetime and was fourth in the Lady of Shamrock Stakes last out.
The second favorite is Travieza at 5-2 for Doug O’Neill and
Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 6, 7, 8, 6, 9, 8, 7, 8.
Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day
NINTH RACE: No. 5 Rumpus Cat (3-1)
Second choice on the morning line, the Richard Baltas-trained colt is two-for-two after being claimed by this barn. He followed up his maiden claiming victory with a sharp score vs. starter allowance runners here on New Year's Day and there is no reason he can't get the hat trick as he steps up to meet first-level allowance runners.
Monday’s result: Creative Instinct didn't run to any of the angles that I listed, languishing far back early and never rallying while appearing to dislike the turf. Back to dirt for this one.
Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of Horsebills.com (here's a video) and the proprietor of BobIkePicks.com (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).
Golden Gate weekend preview
We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple of meetings, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.
“Jockey Wesley Henry made his first trip to the winner’s circle in his debut ride at Golden Gate Fields. On Monday, Henry guided Omache Kid to a victory in the first race, a 5 ½-furlong claiming sprint. Henry also rode Jump the Tracks to a second-place finish in the sixth race. Isidro Tamayo trains both horses. Folks who have followed Southern California racing surely remember Wesley: he rode there for a couple of years in the mid 2000’s.
“There were a lot of neat horses who ran last week. Fan favorite Sir Vronski won a first-level allowance on Friday. Trained by Quinn Howey, Sir Vronski has 22 wins in 39 lifetime starts. No exaggeration: this horse is definitely one of the most versatile horses I’ve ever seen. He has won at distances from five furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth, has won on synthetic, turf, and dirt and can win on the lead or rally from last. If you watch the replay from last week’s race, you’ll see Sir Vronski had plenty of ground to make up with a furlong to go. But Sir Vronski is an old pro and definitely knows where the wire is. He picked up speed in the final sixteenth and got the job done. Also on Friday, Mr. Twinery won the second race and improved his Golden Gate Fields record to eight wins from nine starts. He moved up to the Bay Area for Jerry Hollendorfer in April and has thrived since then.
“The following afternoon, the Steve Sherman-trained Hollywood Hills increased her win streak to four with another hard-knocking victory in the feature, a six-furlong allowance for 3-year-old fillies. Owned and bred by George Krikorian, the daughter of Hoorayforhollywood is now five-for-seven lifetime.
“And finally, Mugaritz has improved with age; the 4-year-old won an allowance in his second start off a 9 ½-month break on Monday. Last year, he finished second in the California Derby and was fourth in the El Camino Real Derby. Expect to see Mugartiz in a stakes race at some point if he continues to stay healthy.
“We’ve got three days of live racing this week: Friday through Sunday. First post is 12:45 p.m. The last leg of the Stronach 5 wager (Leg E) this week is the fifth race today, a mile maiden special weight on Tapeta. My top pick is Sarni, a first-time Lasix user and second-time starter for underrated trainer Jose Bautista. Last time out, he sprinted and ran a gallant second behind Unbridled’s Skye, who came back to win an allowance last week. Sarni is by Gio Ponti out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare … which screams route. This horse is also a half sibling to Tortosa, who won the Alcatraz Stakes last year.
“Side note: The Pegasus Invitational will be a fun race but I’m with a lot of people on this: Accelerate and City Of Light are in a league of their own. I have a hard time imagining any other horse finishing ahead of those two, unless one (or both) suffers a bad trip and or fails to fire his best race. The Pegasus Turf is more contentious; Yoshida is definitely the horse to beat and should run a big race, but I think Bricks and Mortar has a chance to upset second start off the layoff. He proved in the second half of 2018 he could be competitive with Yoshida, and how can you discount Chad Brown in turf races these days? Aerolithe looked great in her workout over the Gulfstream Park dirt and is the “wise guy” horse. If she ran big, I wouldn’t be surprised either.”
Los Alamitos weekend preview
This weekly segment is in the hands of Orlando Gutierrez, marketing and media maven at Los Al. So, the floor is yours, Orlando.
“Ramon Guce, the all-time leading thoroughbred rider at Los Alamitos, will make his first appearance since July 30, 2017 when he rides the Havasu Hunni in the second race on Friday night. He’ll also ride the Golden Gate shipper Hong Kong Cowboy in the third race.
“Guce was involved in a riding accident that resulted in pain around his previously fractured C2 and C7 cervical vertebrae and his T1 vertebrae located at the top of his thoracic spine.
“’I couldn’t come back to riding until I had no pain at all,’ said Guce, a 10-time leading thoroughbred rider at Los Alamitos. ‘I was feeling depressed and anxious just waiting to get healthy. It was a difficult time. After I completed therapy I was still in some pain. I started going to the chiropractor and in three months I started feeling a lot better. It’s been a big improvement. I feel no pain at all now. It took me a long time, but I am so happy to be where I am right now.
“’As soon as I started getting back on horses and back at the track I also started feeling better mentally. Just being back and around the horses has been a great medicine.’
“Guce has 1,072 thoroughbred winner and is the only jockey at Los Alamitos with more than 1,000 thoroughbred wins.
“Friday’s program also has the rescheduled $25,000 Cypress Handicap. The 350-yard stakes race was originally scheduled for Jan. 18, but the races were postponed because of an electrical issue with the racetrack lights at the clubhouse turn and backstretch. Twisted Sifter, who led the nation with eight wins in quarter-horse races in 2018, will headline the Cypress Handicap.
“On Saturday night, Dropping Fire goes in search of her first victory since debuting with a 3/4 debut win in a trial to the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity on May 26. She’ll take on a talented group of 3-year-olds in the $11,825 eighth race. First post is 6 p.m.
“Dropping Fire fared nicely in her return start last October, finishing second to Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity finalist SC Coronada in an allowance event. She completed her juvenile campaign with a fourth-place finish in a trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Nov. 25.
“As for the Los Alamitos Winter Derby trials last weekend, Governor’s Cup Futurity winner Powerful Favorite was a daylight winner and is expected to be the favorite in the Feb. 9 final. Zoomin For Spuds and He Looks Hot won their respective trials and will headline the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship final on Feb. 10. And a final note, Jesstacartel, racing for Leslie and Wally Joyner, was named the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Horse of the Year on Thursday night. Jesstacartel won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and Grade 2 Golden State Derby and was second in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions.”
Ed Burgart’s LA play of the day
SEVENTH RACE: No. 4 Royal Baby Sik (9-5)
Filly catches a soft field for the level and switches from jockey Cesar Franco to Eduardo Nicasio, last meet’s second leading rider. Filly appeared best in last neck setback when stumbling in to get bumped back at the start. Her final clocking in her last four outs is faster than any of her rivals quickest times in this maiden $4,000 claimer and she hails from high-percentage Christopher O’Dell barn.
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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.
Santa Anita Entries for Friday, January 25.
Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 19th day of a 61-day meet.
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $67,000. Allowance. Fillies. 4 year olds.
|1||Love and Peace||Joseph Talamo||120||Neil D. Drysdale||2-1|
|2||So Hi Society||Heriberto Figueroa||117||12-1|
|3||Mraseel||Tyler Baze||120||Richard Baltas||12-1|
|4||Luminoso||Geovanni Franco||122||Doug F. O'Neill||4-1|
|5||Travieza||Rafael Bejarano||120||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2|
|6||Kelly's Humor||Drayden Van Dyke||120||Peter Miller||8-1|
|7||Streak of Luck||Mike Smith||124||Matthew Chew||7-2|
6 Furlongs. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds. State bred.
|1||Silk From Heaven||Eswan Flores||122||Hector O. Palma||6-5|
|2||Tip Top Gal||Heriberto Figueroa||117||Marcia Stortz||10-1|
|3||Kitty Boom Boom||Mike Smith||122||Richard Baltas||3-1|
|4||Don't Sell||Mario Gutierrez||122||Doug F. O'Neill||2-1|
|5||Miss Omnipotent||Edgar Payeras||122||George Papaprodromou||12-1|
|6||Bluegrass Betty||Tyler Baze||122||Jeffrey Metz||10-1|
1 Mile. Purse: $16,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $6,250.
|1||Miz Tianjin||Edwin Maldonado||122||Michael Pender||7-2||6,250|
|2||Swallows Inn Gal||Heriberto Figueroa||119||Robert B. Hess, Jr.||3-1||6,250|
|3||Blooming Hannah||Brandon Boulanger||122||Robert A. Bean||6-1||6,250|
|4||Sought More Pep||Joseph Talamo||122||Dallas E. Keen||5-1||6,250|
|5||Smart Rachel||Eswan Flores||124||Hector O. Palma||8-5||6,250|
|6||Resky Business||Assael Espinoza||117||Gus Headley||10-1||6,250|
|7||Ciao Luna||Geovanni Franco||122||Gary Stute||20-1||6,250|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 4 year olds and up. State bred.
|1||Bouncing Around||Tyler Baze||124||Jack Carava||8-1|
|2||Cool Your Jets||Tiago Pereira||124||Mick Ruis||5-2|
|3||Hit the Seam||Mario Gutierrez||124||Edward R. Freeman||4-1|
|4||Ostini||Geovanni Franco||124||J. Eric Kruljac||3-1|
|5||Single Me Out||Kent Desormeaux||124||James M. Cassidy||12-1|
|6||Palermo Style||Drayden Van Dyke||124||William E. Morey||4-1|
|7||Reckless Gravity||Rafael Bejarano||124||Patrick Gallagher||6-1|
|8||Leroy Pegasus||Octavio Vergara, Jr.||124||Salvador Orozco||30-1|
6 Furlongs. Purse: $18,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.
|1||Sweetener||Tyler Baze||124||Jeff Mullins||7-2||16,000|
|2||She's No Fool||Assael Espinoza||119||Mike Puype||5-1||16,000|
|3||Purdue||Edgar Payeras||124||Eddie Truman||9-2||16,000|
|4||Crackling Bread||Angel Cruz||124||Jorge Periban||8-5||16,000|
|5||Endearment||Octavio Vergara, Jr.||124||Kelly Castaneda||10-1||16,000|
|6||Heloise||Ruben Fuentes||124||Vladimir Cerin||3-1||16,000|
1 Mile. Purse: $18,000. Maiden Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.
|1||Grazeninamerica||Tiago Pereira||124||Philip D'Amato||7-2||16,000|
|2||Sharp Ruler||Alonso Quinonez||124||Mike Harrington||20-1||16,000|
|3||Starship Chewy||Octavio Vergara, Jr.||124||Howard L. Zucker||20-1||16,000|
|4||Defense Minister||Geovanni Franco||124||Jerry Hollendorfer||5-1||16,000|
|5||Brahms Forest||Edgar Payeras||124||Richard Rosales||12-1||16,000|
|6||Salutelute||Aaron Gryder||124||Mike Puype||9-5||16,000|
|7||Santa Fe Blaze||Tyler Baze||124||Jeffrey Metz||20-1||16,000|
|8||Elevate||Mario Gutierrez||124||John A. Shirreffs||5-1||16,000|
|9||Paul's Diva||Assael Espinoza||119||Mike Puype||4-1||16,000|
About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.
|1||Charmingslew||Brice Blanc||124||Neil French||8-1|
|2||Bragging Rights||Geovanni Franco||122||Gary Sherlock||20-1|
|3||Moonshine Annie||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Mark Glatt||5-2|
|4||Scathing||Alonso Quinonez||122||Lorenzo Ruiz||6-1|
|5||Judicial||Rafael Bejarano||124||Mark Glatt||6-1|
|6||Emmy and I||Assael Espinoza||119||Vann Belvoir||8-1||20,000|
|7||Gypsy Blu||Aaron Gryder||124||Brian J. Koriner||3-1||20,000|
|8||Drop the Mic||Tyler Baze||124||Philip D'Amato||4-1|
6 Furlongs. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.
|1||Whooping Jay||Mario Gutierrez||124||Doug F. O'Neill||7-2|
|2||Mr Paytience||Rafael Bejarano||124||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2|
|3||Rickey B||Heriberto Figueroa||124||Steven Miyadi||3-1||50,000|
|4||Scouted||Joseph Talamo||124||Craig Dollase||3-1|
|5||Daddy Jones||Geovanni Franco||122||Librado Barocio||15-1|
|6||Principe Carlo||Tiago Pereira||122||Marcelo Polanco||15-1|
|7||Feeling Strong||Eswan Flores||124||Hector O. Palma||5-1|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.
|1||Souter||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Mark Glatt||5-2|
|2||Cupid's Claws||Joseph Talamo||124||Brian J. Koriner||5-1|
|3||War Chest||Heriberto Figueroa||119||Anna Meah||8-1|
|4||Via Egnatia||Geovanni Franco||124||Richard Baltas||7-2|
|5||Rumpus Cat||Andrea Atzeni||122||Richard Baltas||3-1|
|6||Tartini||Rafael Bejarano||124||Jack Carava||12-1|
|7||Zestful||Tiago Pereira||124||Doug F. O'Neill||20-1||40,000|
|8||Snazzy Dresser||Edwin Maldonado||122||George Papaprodromou||6-1|