Racing! A stewards’ ruling you’ll wonder about

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for a wet weekend at Santa Anita.

We’re going to start with the stewards’ rulings and lead with one that no doubt will be great water cooler discussion. (Does that exist anymore, or is it a relic of the past?) If you just look at the ruling, you’ve got no idea of the backstory. That’s why you get this newsletter.

--Groom Martin Espinoza was fined $200 for disorderly conduct (aggressive behavior) based on an incident at San Luis Rey Downs on July 8. He’s also to be evaluated for anger management and sign a testing agreement with the Winners’ Circle. That’s what the ruling says.

It seems that Espinoza was arrested by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department for assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly attempted to stab groom Jehobany Alvarez with a pitchfork outside a tack room at San Luis Rey. On Oct. 2, he plead guilty to the felony charge.

This from the stewards’ minutes: “Groom Alvarez reported that the 51-year-old Espinoza appeared at his tack room, drunk, on the evening of July 8. He was upset because a trainer fired him and subsequently hired Mr. Alvarez. He stated he pushed Espinoza to the ground after he appeared. Espinoza then grabbed a pitchfork, but did not attempt to stab him with it, before the incident was broken up by a San Luis Rey security guard. Neither party was injured.”

So, you ask, is $200 the appropriate penalty? First, the CHRB investigation also brought additional charges, including suspension of the license. They were not mentioned in the ruling. Also, in the actual ruling, the stewards listed Espinoza as a “foreman.” We have no idea what that’s about.

We’ve asked the CHRB for a little more clarity on this ruling and we’ll probably get it tomorrow. Not saying anything is amiss, it’s just I’ve never typed the words “attempted to stab … with a pitchfork” before.

--Farrier Augustine Munoz had his license taken away after he cashed checks that, according to stewards, he knew had stop payments on them. He will not regain his license until he has made restitution or reached a financial settlement on the $4,300 in question.

--Exercise rider Corey Alan Black was suspended for failure to appear at a hearing for an alleged use of drugs. He is barred from the track at least until he communicates with the stewards. Because he did not appear, there is no other information.

--Jockey Heriberto Figueroa was fined $200 for missing his mount in the first race on Jan. 19. He said he got caught in traffic after working horses at San Luis Rey Downs and could not make it back in time for the noon race. Sunset Seven was ridden by Joe Talamo and finished 10th and last in the race.

--Jockey John Jude was fined $100 for using his riding crop more than three times without giving his mount a chance to respond. He was riding Casual Reply, who finished sixth in the eight-horse race. Jude admitted he was “overzealous.”

Stewards v. Santa Anita

The following is not a ruling but I found it interesting as to what happens when the racing office and the stewards have different views on a subject. I’m just going to run the stewards’ comments, although I’ve changed some of the words and phrases for clarity:

“It was brought to the attention of the stewards Jan. 19 that there was a possibility that the horse FIERY LADY trained by Anna Meah might not be eligible for the 10th race on Jan. 20. A conversation with Steve Lym (VP of racing/racing secretary) took place on Jan. 19 but it was decided a final decision would be made Jan. 20 after another meeting.

“In attendance before the stewards were, Lym. Daniel Eidson (SA racing director) and David Meah, (trainer’s husband, exercise rider). As listed in the Santa Anita condition book under Eligibility and Allowances: ‘Wins in the first condition allowance race in Northern California will not be considered when determine eligibility purposes in non-state bred restricted allowance races. Horses who have won the first conditioned allowance in Northern California shall remain eligible for the open first conditioned allowance race, provided that horse does not win a race other than claiming or starter allowance following that win.’

“The horse in question had won back-to-back first allowance condition races in Northern California at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Rosa. The representatives for Santa Anita were firm in their beliefs that the horse was eligible. Following the meeting, the participants were informed that the horse would not be allowed to run due to not being eligible.”

Not exactly sure why I found this interesting, except it does show the independence of the stewards, who, of course work for the state not the track. The question remains, are the rules and rulings in the best interest of racing?

SA’s flexible racing office

The racing office continues to be on its “A” game by completely revamping the Saturday card because of the expected 1-2 inches of rain. For starters, they’ve taken all the races off the turf—well ahead of time—and replaced them with dirt races. And the scheduled Grade 2 $200,000 San Marcos Stakes on the turf has been postponed and moved to the following weekend. In addition, the ungraded Baffle Stakes on Sunday has also been moved a week.

I’ve said it before but getting ahead of the game, instead of a wait-and-see philosophy, is so smart and fair to both the horsemen and bettors, and not necessarily in that order. In addition, Saturday is the scheduled pay out of the Rainbow Six. Currently, Santa Anita has full fields in all those races, which, of course, makes the potential handle even greater.

Santa Anita preview

Gotta say, but Thursday’s card is really good for a weekday. There are three allowance/optional claimers and two maiden specials. And, again, it’s a Thursday. There is an eight-race card starting at 12:30 p.m.

It’s tough to figure out which is the feature, especially since there are two allowance races worth $59,000 and the third is $57,000. And, there are two MSW’s worth $55,000. Half the card is on the turf. So, we’ll look at the big races with broad strokes.

The sixth race is six furlongs for older horses. Distinctive V, along with me, is eligible for an AARP card as a 7-year-old gelding (that’s not me). Trainer Peter Miller and jockey Drayden Van Dyke thought a lot about him having entered him in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in which he finished seventh. He hasn’t won since Aug. 26 at Del Mar. He’s 5-2.

In the sixth race, for 3-year-olds going 1 1/4 miles on the turf, the favorite is Acker at 3-1. Miller is trainer and Rafael Bejarano is the jockey. He’s five-of-16 lifetime and won his last three races, two of them at the allowance level.

Now, we never like to tout any horses since I specialize in “Who goofed, I’ve got to know?” corrections. But, and take it for what it’s worth, we’re hearing some backstretch buzz in the seventh race for Big Scott Daddy, who is at 7-2. (Again, warning, I’m just passing on what I’m hearing and you know how that can work out.) Mike Smith rides the Mike Puype colt after a half-length win in his debut. Kingly, for Bob Baffert and Van Dyke, is the 9-5 favorite. Extra Hope is the second favorite at 5-2 and Gray Magician is 3-1.

Bob Ike’s SA pick of the day

FOURTH RACE: No. 6 Captain Scotty (3-1)

With the projected rain figuring to move all four scheduled turf races to the main track, let's stay away from those. We'll go to this hard-knocking horse from the Peter Miller barn that is fast early, drawn well outside and is likely to catch a sealed wet-fast track that promotes front runners. He's been second in three straight but looks overdue to beat these for top connections.

Sunday’s result: Mongolian Window was where we wanted her to be early but was empty turning for home and faded badly in a very sub-par effort.

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

Golden Gate weekend preview

We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple 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.

“On Thursday, Golden Gate Fields offers a $32,723 carryover in the late Pick 5. The late Pick 5, a $0.50 minimum bet, goes as races 3-7 on the seven-race program. The third race should go about 1:45 p.m. Track officials expect there to be at least $150,000 in new money in the late Pick 5 pool. However, with major tracks such as Aqueduct and Laurel Park canceling due to poor weather, new money could be much greater.

“Golden Gate also offers a super high-five carryover in the third race of $3,993. The bet will only remain on the wagering menu if there are seven starters. If there is a scratch, then the wager (and carryover) moves to the fifth race.

“Meanwhile, the Golden Pick Six jackpot pool continues to increase and the pool sits at $77,127.

“The El Camino Real Derby will be run on Saturday, Feb. 16. Some contenders who worked this week include Anothertwistafate (59.40 for 5 furlongs for trainer Blaine Wright), Magnificent McCool (6F in 1:14.80 for Doug O’Neill) and King of Speed (6F in 1:16.80 for Jeff Bonde). Jonathan Wong, leading trainer at Golden Gate, confirmed that 2018 Gold Rush Stakes third-place finisher Mayor Cobb is pointing towards the El Camino Real Derby. Nominations for the El Camino Real Derby close Thursday, Feb. 7. This year the winner of the 2019 El Camino Real Derby will earn a free berth to the Preakness Stakes, but the horse must be Triple Crown nominated.

“This week, the Thursday, Friday and Saturday cards will have a first post time of 12:45 p.m. while our Sunday card will begin about 11:15 a.m. because of the Super Bowl. Saturday will have a 10-race card.

“Side note: I’m picking the Patriots to win the big game on Sunday. Part of that has to do with the fact that my entire family is from Massachusetts, which means if I don’t want to get shunned from the family for the day, I need to root for them. In all seriousness, though, the Patriots are an amazing team, Bill Belichick is one of the best to ever coach and Tom Brady is one of the best to ever play.”

(Note: The newsletter is not responsible for the contents or opinions of Matt Dinerman’s delusional views of the New England Patriots. Although, he’s probably right.)

Final thought

Always looking to jump the circulation of this newsletter. Can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, then you’re probably not reading this. Either way, send to a friend and just have them click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more.

If you have any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, January 31.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 22nd day of a 61-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $36,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Ice KatJoel Rosario124Richard Baltas7-240,000
2FalconeKent Desormeaux124J. Keith Desormeaux5-140,000
3BellerinGeovanni Franco124Carla Gaines4-140,000
4The Rule of King'sTiago Pereira124Ruben Gomez6-140,000
5Fortune of War Agapito Delgadillo124Nestor M. Capitaine10-140,000
6Point GuardRuben Fuentes124Reed Saldana10-140,000
7East RandDrayden Van Dyke124Tim Yakteen2-140,000
8Hot AmericanTyler Baze124Ryan Hanson8-140,000


1 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Platinum EquityRuben Fuentes122Andrew Lerner3-114,000
2RontonDiego Sanchez122Jeffrey Metz6-114,000
3Odyssey ExplorerEswan Flores124Hector O. Palma4-116,000
4Gain GroundEvin Roman124Robert B. Hess, Jr.4-116,000
5Elwood JTyler Baze124Jeffrey Metz6-116,000
6Spa ShackalackaHeriberto Figueroa117Philip D'Amato9-514,000


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Big BuzzJoel Rosario124Tim Yakteen7-2
2Dimkar Flavien Prat124Philip D'Amato6-1
3LomuAndrea Atzeni124Neil D. Drysdale4-1
4ImpeachableoffenseDrayden Van Dyke124Scott Hansen8-1
5Raging TigerTyler Baze124Jeff Bonde3-1
6PointedRuben Fuentes124Marsha D. Schwizer6-1
7DubnationHeriberto Figueroa119Philip D'Amato5-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ZulfikharJoseph Talamo122Bob Baffert4-1
2GraycasterGeovanni Franco122Jerry Hollendorfer6-1
3Distinctive BDrayden Van Dyke122Peter Miller5-2
4The Hardest WayJoel Rosario122Ronald W. Ellis4-1
5MicrorithmsMike Smith122Bob Baffert4-1
6Captain ScottyFlavien Prat122Peter Miller3-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Lucky Brite EyeDiego Sanchez122Martine Bellocq20-130,000
2Discrete Stevie BTiago Pereira122Marcelo Polanco5-130,000
3Depende de TiOctavio Vergara, Jr.122Antonio Garcia12-130,000
4ChoiMario Gutierrez122Ben D. A. Cecil5-230,000
5West Stowey LassAlonso Quinonez122Neil D. Drysdale12-130,000
6Point ReceivedEdgar Payeras122Ruben Gomez20-130,000
7West Way DreamsEswan Flores122Walther Solis20-130,000
8Tick TockHeriberto Figueroa117William E. Morey3-130,000
9Perfect Ice StormEdwin Maldonado122Peter Eurton7-230,000
10Tizbuds PrincessRuben Fuentes122Steve Knapp8-130,000


1¼ Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1AckerRafael Bejarano122Peter Miller3-162,500
2Ya Gotta WannaJoel Rosario122Philip D'Amato7-2
3Maestro DearteGeovanni Franco122Peter Eurton4-1
4Risky PropositionJoseph Talamo122William Spawr6-1
5KershawHeriberto Figueroa117Philip D'Amato4-1
6Starting BlocDrayden Van Dyke122Alfredo Marquez12-1
7EncumberedMario Gutierrez122Kristin Mulhall15-1
8Magic MusketierKent Desormeaux122Jerry Hollendorfer12-1
9Fight OnFlavien Prat122Doug F. O'Neill6-1


1 Mile. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Swamp SouffleGeovanni Franco122George Papaprodromou20-180,000
2PalladiumHeriberto Figueroa117Doug F. O'Neill12-1
3Gray MagicianJoel Rosario122Peter Miller3-1
4Manhattan UpTiago Pereira122Philip A. Oviedo12-1
5Big Scott DaddyMike Smith122Mike Puype7-2
6KinglyDrayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert9-5
7Extra HopeFlavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella5-2


About 6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Abusive GaryTiago Pereira122Philip D'Amato8-1
2Go Like the WindAlonso Quinonez122Paulo H. Lobo6-1
3BrixHeriberto Figueroa117Richard Baltas3-1
4Loud MouthTyler Baze122Michael Machowsky8-1
5Derby StormEdgar Payeras122Ruben Gomez30-1
6Nice HaircutMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill15-1
7Preaching TrainerAssael Espinoza117Carla Gaines4-1
8He Be Mojo RisinRafael Bejarano122Richard Baltas8-1
9FlicflacOctavio Vergara, Jr.122Howard L. Zucker15-1
10Play MoneyJoseph Talamo122David E. Hofmans5-2
Also Eligible
11King LebronEvin Roman122Doug F. O'Neill8-1
12MobouMike Smith122John A. Shirreffs2-1
13Street DemandEswan Flores122Robert A. Bean20-1
14Derby StarBrandon Boulanger122Ruben Gomez20-1