Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we continue with Jon White’s Derby rankings.
So, did we miss anything?
Yes, there is no racing at Santa Anita, pending an investigation of the main dirt course. Here are the stats: seven deaths during racing on the dirt course, five on the turf course, nine during training.
We’ve supplied a lot of coverage on our website and print editions since that happened.
Here’s a list of stories:
How it went down that Santa Anita suspended racing. Just click here.
Then we named and looked at the 21 horses who lost their lives. Just click here.
And for the latest, just click here. Just click here.
Not sure when we’ll be back, but at least once a week. So, check us out there at latimes.com/sports.
Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings
There is no bigger expert than Jon White. He makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of Xpressbet.com.
“Game Winner, who is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, and Improbable, ranked No. 2, were supposed to meet in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. But there will be no San Felipe--or any other races--Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita. The thoroughbred competition here has been halted indefinitely following a plethora of equine fatalities since the track’s season opened on Dec. 26.
“Bob Baffert trains both Game Winner and Improbable. When the San Felipe was scrubbed, it was a whopper of a curve ball for Baffert, who suddenly is forced to come up with a Plan B for the two highly ranked colts. It appears both now will be running in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes on March 16.
“The $1 million Rebel, which will be at 1 1/16 miles, offers 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. If the Rebel is split, each division will have a purse of $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points (37.5-15-7.5-3.75) representing 75% of the original purse.
“Louis Cella, Oaklawn’s president, said in a news release: ‘Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country. From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsover. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for the top 3-year-olds trying to get to the Kentucky Derby.’
“If the Rebel is split, it will be the first time in the history of racing for a $1 million race to be run in two divisions.
“Instagrand, who is ranked No. 4 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, also had been expected to go in the San Felipe until it was announced last week that he instead would be making his 2019 debut in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Saturday’s one-mile Gotham has attracted eight entries. Instagrand has been installed as the morning-line favorite at even money. Javier Castellano rides the Into Mischief colt.
“Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Instagrand has not raced since he won the Best Pal Stakes by a little more than 10 lengths at Del Mar last Aug. 11. In his only other start, Instagrand won a maiden race at Los Alamitos by 10 lengths on June 29.
“Among those taking on Instagrand in the Gotham are Mind Control (9-2 on the morning line), Not That Brady (5-1) and Haikal (6-1). Mind Control, victorious in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last year, won the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1. Not That Brady ran second in the Withers Stakes at the Big A on Feb. 2. Haikal won the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 9.
“Baffert is represented in the Gotham by Much Better (10-1 morning line), who has made two starts at Santa Anita this year. Much Better finished third in the Jan. 5 Sham Stakes, then won an allowance/optional claiming game by 3 1/2 lengths on Feb. 9 when Mike Smith rode the colt for the first time. Smith will be back aboard the son of Pioneerof the Nile in the Gotham. Baffert won the 2015 Triple Crown with a son of Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza. Baffert and Smith collaborated to win the 2018 Triple Crown with Justify.
“The Gotham and Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs each offer 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) for the Kentucky Derby. The Tampa Bay Derby, a 1 1/16-mile affair, hs a field of 11.
“The 5-2 morning-line favorite is Win Win Win. The Florida-bred Hat Trick colt won the Jan. 19 Pasco Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths when he stepped seven furlongs in a sizzling 1:20.89 to break the track record.
“Michael Trombetta trains Win Win Win. Trombetta started the favorite in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, Sweetnorthernsaint, who finished seventh at 5-1. Barbaro won by 6 1/2 lengths at 6-1.
“The second choice on the Tampa Bay Derby morning line at 7-2 is Well Defined, with Dream Maker listed at 4-1. Well Defined, trained by Kathleen O’Connell, led all the way in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa on Feb. 9 when he wonprevailed by nearly three lengths. Dream Maker registered an 8 1/2-length triumph in an allowance/optional claiming race for trainer Mark Casse at Fair Grounds on Feb. 9. Casse also conditions War of Will, who ranks No. 3 on my Top 10. War of Will is slated to make his next start in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby at the New Orleans’ Fair Grounds on March 23.
“Eleven will be vying for 34 Kentucky Derby qualifying points (20-8-4-2) in Saturday’s Jeff Ruby Steaks, a 1 1/18-mile race that will be decided on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface. The 8-5 morning-line favorite is Somelikeithotbrown, who won Turfway’s John Battaglia Memorial by /2 lengths in his first 2019 start on Feb. 15. Trained by Michael Maker, Somelikeithotbrown is a son of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Bron.
“Code of Honor and Bourbon War finished first and second, respectively, in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles last Saturday. They are newcomers this week on my Kentucky Derby Top 10.”
“Trained by Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor won the Fountain of Youth by three-quarters of a length at 9-1. The Noble Mission colt rebounded after he had finished a disappointing fourth as a 4-5 favorite in Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 5.
“Bourbon War rallied from far back in the Fountain of Youth to finish second in a fine performance at 4-1. The Tapit colt, trained by Mark Hennig, galloped out in front after the finish.
“Vekoma ran third in the Fountain of Youth at 3-1, followed by 6-5 favorite Hidden Scroll in fourth. For Vekoma, it was his first defeat in three lifetime starts. Hidden Scroll, trained by Bill Mott, weakened a bit during the stretch run of the Fountain of Youth after running way too fast early.
“Hidden Scroll was making only his second career start after a dazzling 14-length maiden win on a sloppy track Jan. 26. Under the circumstances, Hidden Scroll certainly did not disgrace himself in the Fountain of Youth. Nevertheless, after being ranked No. 5 last week, I have dropped Hidden Scroll off my Top 10 this week.
“Mucho ranked No. 6 and Signalman was No. 7 last week. They both also now are gone from my Top 10 this week. Signalman finished seventh in the Fountain of Youth at 13-1. Mucho returned from a layoff to win a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race by 1 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream last Friday for Mott. However, Mott told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that it is ‘a fair assessment’ that Mucho is off the Derby trail. Mott said Mucho will make his next start in Aqueduct’s Bay Shore Stakes at seven furlongs on April 7.
“Roadster is another newcomer to my Top 10 this week at No. 8 to join three fellow Baffert trainees, No. 1 Game Winner, No. 2 Improbable and No. 6 Mucho Gusto. Roadster returned to competition with sparkling 2 1/2-length win in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race last Friday at Santa Anita. It was Roadster’s first start since the Quality Road colt had finished third as the 3-5 favorite in the Del Mar Futurity last Sept. 3. Roadster underwent surgery to correct a breathing problem after that loss at Del Mar. Game Winner won the Del Mar Futurity at 8-5, then also captured the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill on his way to being voted a 2018 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
“Here are this week’s rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:
1. Game Winner (1)
2. Improbable (2)
3. War of Will (3)
4. Instagrand (4)
5. Code of Honor (NR)
6. Mucho Gusto (8)
7. Bourbon War (NR)
8. Roadster (NR)
9. Omaha Beach (9)
10. Galilean (10)
NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses.
Golden Gate weekend preview
Santa Anita may not be running but Golden Gate is, so 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.
“Golden Gate Fields is on its usual four-day schedule of Thursday through Friday.
“Friday has an eight-race race program with a solid late Pick 5 sequence. The fourth race features a salty group of filly and mare sprinters while the fifth race is a 1 1/16-mile allowance event, the sixth race is another 1 1/16-mile allowance race for 3-year-old colts. The seventh race is a second-level allowance race for older colts and geldings. The eighth race is a maiden route for 3-year-olds.
“The fifth and six races on Friday are the last two legs of the Stronach 5 wager, with a $100,000 guaranteed pool. The fifth race is wide open. I give the nod to Gettin Sideways, a filly who had traffic issues in her last start. She was loaded down the stretch and just had nowhere to go, eventually checking and losing all her momentum and the chance to win the race. The sixth race, features the Northern California debut of Our Silver Oak, who has done some good work down South and should be tough to beat if he runs his best race. Also entered is The Creep, who recently finished off-the-board finish in the El Camino Real Derby.
“Speaking of the El Camino Real Derby, we’ll end this portion of the newsletter by noting that Anothertwistafate, who won the 2019 ‘Derby by a large margin, recorded his first timed workout since his race. On Saturday, the Blaine Wright-trainee worked an easy half mile in 49.40 seconds. Jockey Juan Hernandez, aboard for the work, said that Anothertwistafate ‘worked well.’ Anothertwistafate will make his next start in the Sunland Derby on March 24.”
Big races preview
I know we’re a day early, but here’s a look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PST.
12:45 Tampa Bay (8): $100,000 Challenger Stakes, 4 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Flameaway (3-2)
1:06 Aqueduct (8): Grade 3 $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap, 4 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Skyler’s Scramjet (8-5)
1:19 Tampa Bay (9): Grade 2 $225,000 Hllsborough Stakes, fillies and mares 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Rymska (5-2)
1:37 Aqueduct (9): $150,000 Stymie Stakes, 4 and up, 1 mile. Favorite: Sunny Ridge (8-5)
1:50 Tampa Bay (10): Grade 3 $200,000 Florida Oaks, fillies 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Concrete Rose (7-2)
2:09 Aqueduct (10): Grade 3 $300,000 Gotham Stakes, 3-year-olds,1 mile. Favorite: Instagrand (1-1)
2:09 Oaklawn (7): $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes, 4 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Whitmore (1-1)
2:25 Tampa Bay (11): Grade 2 $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Win Win Win (5-2)
2:40 Aqueduct (11): $250,000 Busher Invitational, fillies 3-years-old, 1 mile. Favorite: Please Flatter Me (3-1)
3:09 Oaklawn (9): Garde 3 $200,000 Honeybee Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Motion Emotion (3-1)
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.
“Multiple stakes winner Love To Reason BR will face recent Time To Leave, Denim N Diamonds Handicap winner, and four other top females in the $15,000 Danville Station Handicap at 350 yards on Friday night at Los Alamitos Race Course. Named in honor of the 1982 Anne Burnett Handicap and Vessels Maturity winning mare, the Danville Station, is the featured race of the night. First post on Fridays is now 6 p.m.
“Trained by Monty Arrossa and to be ridden by Jose Nicasio, Love To Reason BR is making her first start since running fourth to Thermonuclear Energy in the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap on Jan. 6. The 6-year-old won a pair of stakes races at Los Alamitos last year, including the Grade 3 Las Damas Handicap. She has won five of her last 10 races.
“Time To Leave outdueled a quality field of mares that included Thermonuclear Energy to win the Denim N Diamonds at 350 yards on Feb. 16. The victory was Time To Leave’s second in a row following her allowance win on Dec. 30
“Saturday night, Favorite Wise Lady, Terrific First Down and You Caught My Eye, a trio of stakes placed fillies in major Los Alamitos races, headline a pair of trials to the $210,000 La Primera Del Ano Derby. A total of 17 fillies will compete in the La Primera trials at 400 yards. The horses with the 10 fastest times will return for the final on March 30. First post on Saturday is 6:05 p.m. with the Derby trials slated as races seven and eight.
“Favorite Wise Lady will start from the one in the opening La Primera trial. She’s a half-sister to AQHA champion 3-year-old filly A Political Lady, the winner of the La Primera last year. Favorite Wise Lady finished second to the outstanding Powerful Favorite in the Governor’s Cup Futurity last year.
“Starting in 2020, the La Primera will be renamed the Los Alamitos Oaks for sophomore fillies with a projected $400,000 purse.
“The sixth race on Saturday is the anticipated 550-yard debut of the Champion of Champions finalist Yanque in a $12,000 allowance event. Trained by Matt Fales, Yanque is famous for his incredible late runs and he figures to relish this distance. He’ll face a cast headed by Well Good, the winner of the Cypress Handicap at 350 yards. The Kiddy Up gelding has finished in the money in 21 of 26 lifetime races.
“Quarter horse racing’s top sophomore males will run Sunday night in the trials to the $211,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby. Powerful Favorite, winner of the Grade 1 Winter Derby, Ali Babe Foose, California’s champion 2-year-old colt, and Apollitical Pence, who qualified to all three of Los Alamitos’ million dollar futurities in 2018, will headline the El Primero trials. Twenty five runners will compete with the 10 fastest times moving on to the final on March 31.”
Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day
RACE 3: No. 2 MoveOver Rover (5-1)
He just crushed a strong and productive group of maidens over a wet fast track on Feb. 14 in which fourth-place finisher Cheyenne Dancer has since returned to win by five lengths last Saturday. For the Charles Treece-trained Move Over Rover, he returned off a long 111-night layoff, while making his first local start after racing at Zia Park. With an “off” track expected for which this gelding is well proven over, let’s push this big bodied quarter horse to break on the lead and hopefully hold them all off down the lane at a medium mutual price.
(Chris Wade has been the racing analyst and host of the Los Alamitos night simulcast broadcast for nearly two decades. While Ed Burgart is on vacation, Chris also fills in as the nighttime morning-line maker.)
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Where did our stars of the show go? I guess, the stars have already entered the building with Jon, Matt and Orlando. Thanks, guys. Not sure when we’ll be back, but maybe next Friday.