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Racing! Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we head into one more week before racing resumes at Santa Anita.

OK, here’s where we are on the return of Santa Anita. If all goes well, the track will reopen for racing next Friday. It closed on March 5 after a sudden spike in horse fatalities, which has reached 22.

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Since we last visited you, all the training as been safe. However, the medication proposal by Belinda Stronach of The Stronach Group was not met with universal appeal. Most of her thoughts of strengthening the medication rules were OK. But the one about race-day Lasix was not beloved.

She initially asked for a race-day ban on Lasix but through negotiations agreed to horses currently on Lasix to be grandfathered in at a lower level, from 10cc to 5cc. But, 2-year-olds next year will be under the no Lasix edict. If approved Thursday by the California Horse Racing Board, it will only apply to Santa Anita. Both Del Mar and Los Alamitos have said they will abide by the 10cc regulations.

We’ve written a lot about this. Take a look.

--Here’s how the deal came down last Saturday. Just click here.

--Here’s how the national veterinarian organization rebuked the Santa Anita Lasix deal. Just click here.

--If you’re only going to read one story, here is a excellent perspective in Q&A form with three industry experts, who go over everything that has happened, point some fingers and look to the future. Just click here.

Again, the best way to follow upcoming developments is through both the online and print editions of The Los Angeles Times.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

As a welcome relief from all the turmoil of the past week, let’s turn our attention to the Kentucky Derby. As always, we’re lucky to have the top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening there. Jon 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.

“Going into last Saturday's split Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Game Winner ranked No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, with Improbable at No. 2. But when the two Bob Baffert-trained colts both came out of the Rebel no longer undefeated, it pretty much served to jumble rather than clarify the Kentucky Derby picture.

“Game Winner was four for four and Improbable three for three prior to the Rebel. Game Winner, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male of 2018, made his 2019 debut last Saturday. The Rebel was Game Winner's first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2. Improbable went into the Rebel not having raced since taking the Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 8.

“But while Game Winner and Improbable lost last Saturday, they both ran well and therefore deserve to still rank high on any Kentucky Derby list. Game Winner lost by a scant nose to Omaha Beach. Long Range Toddy beat Improbable by only a neck.

“Of course, by virtue of winning their respective divisions of the Rebel, Long Range Toddy and Omaha Beach significantly enhanced their Kentucky Derby resumes. Long Range Toddy debuts on my Top 10 this week.

“I had Omaha Beach ranked No. 8 last week. Following the Rebel, I debated whether to keep Game Winner at No. 1 or elevate Omaha Beach to that position. My rankings are a reflection as to how I view a horse’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby. Right now, the horse I personally think has the best chance to win the roses is Omaha Beach, which is why I ultimately decided to move him up to No. 1. But let's just say Omaha Beach is in the top spot by only a nose over Game Winner.

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“There are a pair of races offering Kentucky Derby qualifying points this week. They are Saturday's Louisiana Derby (100-40-20-10) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and Sunday's Sunland Derby (50-20-10-5) at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino.

“War of Will, who is three for three when racing on dirt, is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 11 entered in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will earlier this year won the Lecomte Stakes by four lengths and Risen Star Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths in New Orleans.

“The 9-2 second choice on the Risen Star morning line is Country House, who rallied from far back to finish second in the Risen Star. Bill Mott trains Country House.

“Mucho Gusto, who hails from the powerful Baffert barn, is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 10 entered in the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby. Mucho Gusto has three wins and a second from four career starts. His lone loss came when he ran second to Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 8. In Mucho Gusto’s only start since the Los Al Futurity, he won Santa Anita's Robert B. Lewis Stakes by nearly five lengths on a sloppy track Feb. 2.

“The 3-1 second choice on the Sunland Derby morning line is Anothertwistafate. I, for one, will not be the least bit surprised if he wins the Sunland Derby. After finishing ninth on dirt at Santa Anita last Nov. 3 in his career debut, Anothertwistafate has reeled off three consecutive impressive victories on Golden Gate's synthetic surface. Most recently, he won the El Camino Derby by seven lengths on Feb. 16 for trainer Blaine Wright.

“Anothertwistafate is switching back to dirt Sunday. It’s important for him to prove that he can do well on dirt in addition to a synthetic track. He is a son of Scat Daddy, sire of Justify, who swept the Triple Crown when racing on dirt in 2018.

“Galilean has dropped off my Top 10 this week. He finished third behind Long Range Toddy and Improbable in the first division of the Rebel. But even though Galilean did not win that race, it actually was not a bad effort by him to lose by 2 1/2 lengths after failing to get away to an alert start.

“Here are this week's rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Omaha Beach (8)

2. Game Winner (1)

3. Improbable (2)

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4. War of Will (3)

5. Code of Honor (4)

6. Long Range Toddy (NR)

7. Mucho Gusto (5)

8. Bourbon War (6)

9. Roadster (7)

10. Instagrand (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.

“We’ll see how good local 3-year-old Anothertwistafate is when he runs in the Grade 3 $800,000 Sunland Derby this Sunday. He drew the two post and will have regular rider Juan Hernandez aboard. Blaine Wright trains the colt who won the El Camino Real Derby by seven lengths last month.

“’Anothertwistafate shipped to Sunland [Wednesday],” Wright said. “He’s happy and healthy. We’ve weighed him every week since his win in the El Camino Real Derby and he actually gained 11 pounds since the race. His works have been solid and he continues to do things the right way.’

“The race before the Sunland Derby, Wright sends out Anyportinastorm in the Bill Thomas Memorial Sprint. The son of City Zip makes his 2019 debut, with his most recent race a sharp looking win over Grade I placed gelding Stallkwalkin’ Dude in the Zia Park Sprint in November. Both Anothertwistafate and Anyportinastorm are owned by Peter Redekop.

“Golden Gate has its regular race card that goes through Sunday. A number of high quality races fill the Friday card. The fifth race, the last leg of the Stronach 5, has nine sprinters. The morning-line favorite is Goren, who last out was second in a March 1 allowance. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and owned by Larry Best’s OXO Equine LLC, the son of More Than Ready beat four horses in that allowance who enter right back in this spot. Manteray Island is also expected to run. The Doug O’Neill trainee broke his maiden at Golden Gate last month and has an impeccable female family in that his third dam is champion racemare Personal Ensign.

“The fourth race on Friday is a salty third-level allowance, with a half dozen older runners going six furlongs. GGF second-level allowance winner Summersimage is the 9-5 morning-line favorite, but he faces some awfully good customers that figure to make him work hard. Among his main competitors are Daddysprize, who makes his 4-year-old debut for trainer Tim McCanna. This colt was last seen running second to Take the One O One in the Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar last summer. Southern California stakes performers Tough Sunday and Grecian Fire are also in the race while Whatwasithinking, an Emerald Downs stakes winner, comes off a layoff and starts his year in this spot.

“Friday’s seventh race is an allowance sprint for 3-year-old fillies. The one to beat appears to be Sneaking Out, who broke her maiden in a California-bred maiden special weight race by more than 10 lengths at Del Mar in November and makes her first start since then for Hollendorfer and owner KMN Racing. Stakes performers Cozze Kid and Stealthediamonds are other major players in the race.

“Saturday’s card is equally as interesting with a pair of allowance races and a maiden special weight event for 3-year-old fillies. The sixth race begins the late Pick 4. Take a look at #4 A Lonna At The Top, who had a rough trip in her career debut and rallied to finish second. Second start out for the Ed Moger Jr. barn, maybe she can run a big race at what might be a decent price.

“A number of Southern California horsemen have filled the Northern California entry box. Among those are Richard Baltas, Eoin Harty, Anna Meah, Kristin Mulhall and O’Neill. Southern California jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Flavien Prat are also named on horses while Heriberto Figueroa, Ruben Fuentes and Jorge Velez, all whom have ridden races at GGF for the past eight racing days, will be back for another week.”

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.

1:34 Fair Grounds (10): Grade 2 $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, 4 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Silver Dust (7-2)

2:09 Oaklawn (7): $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes, Ark-breds 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Hoonani Road (1-1)

2:10 Fair Grounds (11): Grade 2 $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap, 4 and up, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Favorite: Bricks and Mortar (2-1)

2:37 Aqueduct (8): $100,000 Cicada Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Stonesintheroad (2-1)

2:44 Fair Grounds (12): Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Sarengeti Empress (6-5)

3:09 Oaklawn (9): $125,000 Gazebo Stakes, 3-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Gray Attempt (8-5)

3:10 Gulfstream (12): Grade 3 $100,000 Hutcheson Stakes, 3-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Federal Case (9-5)

3:13 Fair Grounds (13): Grade 2 $1 million Louisana Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: War of Will (6-5)

What’s up at Los Alamitos?

This is where we normally have Orlando Gutierrez tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. But, with no racing, we’ll just let Orlando look into his crystal ball and tell us about the future. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos Race Course is taking the week off to conduct moderate rehabilitation of the track surface. The track will remain open during the weekend for morning training at the regularly scheduled hours. Live racing will resume on Friday, March 29.

“Los Alamitos will also be open both day and night for simulcasting. Friday night’s simulcast schedule includes Australian superstar Winx going after her 32nd win in a row when she races in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Sydney. Saturday night’s simulcast program will be headed by the running of the Oklahoma Futurity at Remington Park and a full card of thoroughbred racing from Chukyo Racecourse in Nagoya, Japan. Los Alamitos will be open on Sunday night and offer wagering on a variety of harness tracks from around North America.

“Next week’s live racing action will feature three stakes races – one per racing program - plus the return to the announcer’s booth of Ed Burgart, the voice of Los Alamitos. The Friday card on March 29 will be headed by the $35,000 Moonist Handicap with multiple Grade 1 stakes winner He Looks Hot and two-time derby winner Black Fryday racing headlining the 400-yard race. The card will also feature a $9,842 Pick Six Carryover. The Grade 3, $210,000 La Primera Del Año Derby will be held on March 30 with stablemates Stel A Gambler and You Caught My Eye among the top contenders.

“The Grade 3, $211,000 El Primero Del Año Derby will see Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Powerful Favorite going after his fourth win in as many starts in 2019 when he headlines this 400-yard dash. Powerful Favorite stumbled in the trials to the El Primero, but he quickly recovered to outduel multiple Grade 1 finalist Apollitical Pence while posting the fastest qualifying time. Grade 1 stakes finalists Ali Babe Foose and Dexxter make the El Primero one of the most interesting quarter-horse stakes races so far this year.

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“The 2-year-olds have begun to work from the gate at Los Alamitos, which means that they’ll soon be ready to debut. O Yes I Can, trained by Paul Jones and owned by the Bradbury Family of Colorado, has been among the most impressive 2-year-olds to work. She had the morning’s fastest 220-yard gate work on March 16.”

Final thought

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more. Tell your friends, or even people you don’t like that much.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at johnacherwa@gmail.com. You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Thanks as always to our contributors. We’ll keep the same schedule one more week and be back next Friday, which should be the resumption of racing at Santa Anita. From there, we’ll be on our usual every racing day and one day after.

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