Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as the racing season is finally in deep stretch.
The final full meeting of the year starts today at Los Alamitos. It’s only two weeks, which is eight days in the racing world, before we mercifully get a nine-day break … before starting the endless Winter/Spring meeting at Santa Anita.
This is the best meet for Los Alamitos because it has two Grade 1s, although one of them, the Los Alamitos Futurity, is being downgraded next year to a Grade 2, probably because it’s not in Kentucky, New York or at Del Mar. (Sarcasm alert.)
Bob Baffert has won the Futurity, which will be run Saturday along with the Starlet for 2-year-old fillies, 10 times, including all four that have been run at Los Alamitos. It was previously at Hollywood Park until the track closed in 2013.
I remember last year when the “other Baffert,” Solomini, crossed the finish line first ahead of McKinzie. But the stewards said that Solomini interfered with Instilled Regard and was moved to third and McKinzie was elevated to first.
Well, the family of Brad McKinzie, for whom the horse was named, was there and was ready for the winner’s circle picture, but there was no McKinzie. He was already on his way back to the barn. Bob was mad, real mad. Now, I’m not a mind reader, so I might be wrong, but here’s guessing he was mostly upset because the McKinzie family didn’t get a chance to be in a big-time winner’s circle picture. Bob and Brad were very close.
Earlier this year, McKinzie was on the other end of a DQ, when Bolt d’Oro was moved to first after it was ruled that McKinzie interfered with Bolt. Bob was even more mad that day, but it was in the San Felipe, the last major prep before the Santa Anita Derby. It was McKinzie’s last race before he was pulled from the track for half a year because of an injury.
If you need more on this Los Alamitos meeting, here’s a story on the upcoming meeting I wrote for the web and print. Just click here.
Odds and ends
-- Several readers wondered why trainer Brian Koriner was not mentioned in the Del Mar ruling that resulted in the disqualification of Mr. Vargas and the owner and jockey being forced to return the purse money after a positive drug test. Mike Marten, the media answer man at the California Horse Racing Board, said that no purse money was distributed to Koriner, so there was nothing to return.
An action like this usually leads to a hearing and possible sanctions against a trainer, based on the rule that the trainer is responsible for everything that happens in their barn, regardless of if they were personally at fault. Marten, without speaking specifically about this case, said disqualifications often precede hearings against a trainer as CHRB investigators take more time to pull together their case. He said cases like this almost always get a longer look by the stewards.
So, we’ll let you know when and if something happens on this.
-- On Monday, we went through which races and tracks got good news or bad about the grading of some of their best races. A reader wondered what the mention of a Black Type race was all about.
Well, certain ungraded races are viewed a cut above other non-graded stakes. They are called Black Type races because eventually in the sales catalogue that race win is displayed in black or bolded type. It makes it stand out and, in theory, gives buyers a hint that this might indicate a higher quality stallion or mare. So, there you have it.
Who goofed, I’ve got to know?
OK, here’s what happened. In Sunday’s stewards’ rulings, I listed jockey agent Nelson Arroyo as being fined for misleading an owner about who would ride a horse. The stewards’ minutes did not identify the jockey, so I went to Arroyo’s Twitter page and it listed the two jockeys he represented. Wrong. He no longer represents them and instead represents Heriberto Figueroa and Stewart Elliott. So, there you have it. Another screwup. Did I mention I can’t wait for the break coming up?
Los Alamitos preview
It’s your typical weekday card at Los Alamitos starting at 1 p.m. But, there are pretty decent field sizes, with an average of 8.6, so that’s a good thing. Six of the eight races are 5½ furlongs and, of course, there is no turf course at the track. The feature is the seventh race, a six-furlong allowance/optional claimer going for a purse of $45,000.
The favorite, at 5-2, is Microrithms for Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. The colt won his first race, a maiden special, and then finished third and second in his next two starts in allowance races. The second favorite is Montmartre, at 7-2, for Jerry Hollendorfer and Mike Smith. It took him three tries to break his maiden and he finished fifth in his only allowance, a race in which Microrithms finished second. For what it’s worth, it’s the only race that Smith is riding today.
Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 8, 8, 7, 10, 10, 10, 9.
Jose Contreras LRC play of the day
SIXTH RACE: No. 2 Red Wine and Dine (5-1)
He narrowly missed second by a head against two of the top 870-yard runners over the night oval. He had a good summer picking up back-to-back wins over this track during the September season, and I think he’s going to be sharp off of that third-place finish last time out. I expect him to try to clear his rival along the inside and to try to steal this race on the front end.
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.
Golden Gate preview
We are back with our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. Race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman is our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.
“Four more live race days at Golden Gate Fields before the end of our fall meet. So, let’s get to it.
“There is an eight-race card on Thursday and a nine-race program on Friday, with two legs of the Stronach 5, races three and four. Race three is the third leg of the wager and is an 11-horse sprint for maiden claimers. It looks like it could be a pretty formful race, though you could make a strong case for the top three choices on the morning line. Plenty of people will single #7 Preacher’s Bluff (in the fourth race, the last leg) of the wager. Preacher’s Bluff’s best race will make him awfully tough to beat, but #9 You Play The Bench is a possible upsetter to consider from the Rene Amescua barn. This horse has done good work over this track in the past and comes off a layoff for Amescua, who wins at 20% with runners making their first start off a layoff longer than 180 days. He has enough works in the mornings so he should be fit enough. Maybe take a stab with this guy if you’re looking for a price.
“There is a 12-race card with an early post of 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, with a stakes tripleheader. A full field of 18 entered to contest 1 1/16 miles on turf in the $50,000 Miss America Stakes for older fillies and mares. Racing secretary Patrick Mackey opted to split the race into two divisions, with nine runners each. There are a number of Southern California shippers, including stakes performers Bernina Star, Birdie Gold, Pantsonfire and Sweet Charity. The Bear Fan Stakes, a $75,000 Cal-bred sprint also for fillies and mares, drew a field of 11, with a number of local entrants along with Southern California shippers Helen’s Tiger (trained by Doug O’Neill and Queen Be To You (Mike Pender).
“Mandatory payouts highlight the closing day card on Sunday, which will also have a post of 11:45 a.m. The 20 cent Golden Pick Six has a carryover of $37,029 heading into Thursday’s card. If that pool continues to carry, we’re looking at a solid carryover on Sunday and at least a few hundred grand of new money on closing day. The Rolling Super High Five wager is also a mandatory payout. In fact, we have a carryover of $8,256 heading into the first race this afternoon. The Rolling Super High Five wager only happens if a race has seven or more starters. If there are fewer due to a late scratch, the wager is canceled for that race. The pick 5’s and 4’s, of course, also have mandatory payouts on Sunday.
“Live racing will resume the day after Dec. 26, just like Santa Anita. Last week, the CHRB approved dates for the winter/spring meet, which runs through Sunday, June 9. From all of us at Golden Gate Fields, have a wonderful holiday season and we’ll see you for more live racing on the 26th.”
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And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.