Horse racing newsletter: Santa Anita returns Friday

Santa Anita Park will be back in business this weekend.
(David McNew / Getty Images)

There is only one story on the radar for Friday, and that is Santa Anita returning to live racing. The track still sits in a cone of silence as far as the outside world is concerned, and it’s likely it will be spectator-less racing until the season ends June 21

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we wonder if there is more anticipation for Friday’s reopening than there was on opening day.

If Santa Anita can recover from these past two years, then there is reason to believe the track will live forever. Last year, this marathon meeting was interrupted because of a spike in horse deaths during racing and training. Safety initiatives were introduced and Santa Anita looked as if it was slightly righting the ship.


The fall meeting was highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup, which ran flawlessly until the last 100 yards of the last race of the second and final day. That’s when Mongolian Groom broke down and was euthanized in the Classic.

This year was delayed a few days because of weather and the track was having trouble filling fields and had switched mostly to three-day racing instead of four. Some trainers and owners sent horses to Kentucky and Arkansas because of the lack of racing opportunities.

And then the coronavirus hit.

So, here we are about two months since the last live racing was held at Santa Anita. Will it be the positive turning point for California racing, or another bumpy road with an uncertain ending? When we know, you’ll know.

Before we get to the good stuff, a couple of newsletter notes. We will be back on our schedule of Friday through Monday newsletters. At least we think we will. And, Ron Flatter’s popular column is moving back to its Saturday home starting tomorrow.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Kentucky Derby trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here are his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of, or is it 1/ST BET?

“Undefeated Authentic had a useful workout for trainer Bob Baffert last Sunday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on June 6.

“The first four finishers in the Santa Anita Derby will be rewarded with 170 points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale.


“Nadal is the current leader in Kentucky Derby points with 150. The others with 50 or more points are Tiz The Law (122), Wells Bayou (104), Charlatan (100), King Guillermo (90), Ete Indien (74), Modernist (70), Authentic (60) and Mr. Monomoy (52).

“Baffert trains both Nadal and Charlatan.

“Churchill Downs on Tuesday released a preliminary updated list of races that will offer points toward starting eligibility in the $3-million Kentucky Derby. The updated list is subject to change.

“This year’s Kentucky Derby has been moved from May 2 to Sept. 5. The other two legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, have yet to be rescheduled. Should the Preakness and/or Belmont be held in advance of the Kentucky Derby, the first four finishers will earn 150-60-30-15 points toward the 1 1/4-mile Run for the Roses.


“The rescheduled date for this year’s Preakness will be announced Saturday. Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of the Stronach Group, and Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, will reveal the new date during a one-hour program Saturday on NBC beginning at 2 p.m. PDT that will take a look back at Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s 2015 Preakness victory.

“The Blue Grass Stakes, like the Santa Anita Derby, remains a race worth 100-40-20-10 points. The race does not yet have an announced summer date at Keeneland.

“The May 23 Matt Winn Stakes is one of several stakes races to offer points for the first time this year. Points for the Matt Winn have been increased to 50-20-10-5 from the previously announced 10-4-2-1.

“Maxfield, who is ranked No. 6 on my Kentucky Derby top 10, is expected to make his 2020 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn. Unbeaten in two career starts, Maxfield has not started since winning last year’s Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5.


“Also offering Kentucky Derby points for the first time this year are the:

“— Los Alamitos Derby (20-8-4-2) at Los Alamitos on July 4.

“— Haskell Invitational (100-40-20-10) at Monmouth Park on July 18.

“— Pegasus Stakes (20-8-4-2) at Monmouth Park on Aug. 15.


“— Indiana Derby (20-8-4-2) at Indiana Grand, date TBA.

“— Shared Belief Stakes (50-20-10-5) at Del Mar, date TBA.

“— Ellis Park Derby (50-20-10-5) at Ellis Park, date TBA.

“Authentic worked last Sunday without any company, seemingly to keep him from getting too stirred up and going too fast. Without ever being asked for run, Authentic nevertheless showed some pep in the lane en route to a 1:28.00 clocking for the seven-furlong drill.


“On Mike Willman’s radio program ‘Thoroughbred Los Angeles,’ XBTV’s Millie Ball said Sunday of Authentic: ‘He is just a very efficient mover. So he always looks like he’s going slower than he is.’

“Authentic’s workout last Sunday came eight days after Nadal and Charlatan won the two divisions of the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

“Nadal, Charlatan and Authentic currently rank 1-2-4, respectively, on my Kentucky Derby top 10. They are a combined 10 for 10.

“Prior to the Arkansas Derby, Nadal took Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes and Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes. The Kentucky-bred Blame colt is four for four. Charlatan is three for three. The Arkansas Derby was the stakes debut for Charlatan, a Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt.


“Authentic, who is three for three, is projected to be the Santa Anita Derby favorite. He registered a 7 3/4-length victory in Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes on Jan. 4. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt then won Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths when Honor A.P. finished second.

“Honor A.P., trained by John Shirreffs, also has designs on the Santa Anita Derby. Honor A.P. recorded a sharp seven-furlong workout Thursday in 1:26.60 at Santa Anita.

“Shirreffs won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo.

“Another Santa Anita Derby candidate is Tizamagician. He won a maiden race at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day, then finished fourth in Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 1. Trained by Richard Mandella, Tizamagician was supposed to have run in the $2-million UAE Derby in Dubai on March 28, but that race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.


“It appears that Tizamagician has been training well at Santa Anita. That suggests he might give a good account of himself in the Santa Anita Derby. The Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt worked three furlongs Thursday in a sprightly :37.20 at Santa Anita.

“Tizamagician’s sire won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2000 and 2001. Tiznow is the only horse to have won that race twice.

“Cezanne, who debuted on my Kentucky Derby top 10 last week even though he has not yet raced, looked terrific Thursday morning at Santa Anita. He zipped five furlongs from the gate in a bullet :59.00 drill for Baffert. It was the fastest of 26 works at the distance. The average five-furlong clocking Thursday morning at Santa Anita was 1:04.40.

“Coolmore and partners purchased Cezanne for $3.65 million at a 2-year-old sale in Florida last year. Baffert has said he feels the Kentucky-bred Curlin colt has the potential to possibly have a strong second half of the year similar to Arrogate in 2016 and West Coast in 2017.


“Here are this week’s rankings for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Nadal (1)

2. Charlatan (2)

3. Tiz The Law (3)


4. Authentic (4)

5. Honor A.P. (5)

6. Maxfield (6)

7. King Guilleremo (7)


8. Sole Volante (8)

9. Ete Indien (9)

10. Cezanne (10)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”


Santa Anita preview

Friday’s nine-race card is without a doubt the best in a couple of months. OK, couldn’t resist it. Actually, it is pretty good with a first post of 12:30 p.m. for all simulcast players. There are three turf races, two at a mile and one at 5 ½ furlongs. There are four allowance/optional claimers, each worth $51,000 in purse money.

Purses will be down because of the lack of revenue the track has had the past two months. In fact, the national stakes committee has lowered minimums for Grade 1s from $300,000 to $250,000 and Grade 2s are now $150,000 instead of $200,000.

We’re not going to pick a featured race Friday since you can’t split the difference in the allowances. But the thing that really stands out are the field sizes. The smallest field is the third, which has eight starters. (It was nine before a scratch.) So, the presumption is that owners and trainers will no longer be looking for the perfect spot to run their horse but instead any spot to run their horse.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 10, 12 (2 also eligible), 8, 10, 10, 9, 10, 11, 11.


Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick

RACE ONE: No.4 Party Town (12-1)

Party Town was an off-the-layoff longshot play for John’s newsletter back in Oct. at five furlongs on turf and won for us at a great 14-1 price. Friday, jockey Edwin Madonado gets the mount for trainer Val Brinkerhoff. Val wins on prices, which is why I bet him! They thought enough of Party Town to try a Grade 2 race last out on dirt but the horse misfired and was eased. Dropping in class today but racing protected, we see sharp workouts. The horse was also recently gelded and horses tend to outperform off this. The presence of this jockey means the strategy is easy — pop the gates and go gate-to-wire like the win in October. This is a wide-open race so this 12-1 is excellent value!

Weekend result: Moving from stakes races back East was the ticket as Jeeker Joe got the job done to win. A lower price than I wanted, but a win is a win.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day. (Of course, that’s when there is racing.)


Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to preview things at the only track in the state that never stopped racing, and for that we turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Friday’s eight-race program at Los Alamitos will include a Pick Six carryover of $18,560. With the new money to be wagered, the total pool in the Pick Six should be around $80,000. The sequence will begin in the third race at around 6:56 p.m. First post is 6 p.m.

“The third race is 1,000 yards and will be headed by Tromador, who finished nicely when second at this distance on April 24. He will face War Watch and the Sean McCarthy-trained Delta Forum, a pair of runners with local wins last month.

“On Saturday night, Grade 1 stakes finalists Up And Coming and Circle City are among the nine runners in the 400-yard, $25,000 Dillingham Handicap for 3-year-olds. Nine races are on tap with first post at 6 p.m.


“Up And Coming qualified to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity last year and is already a stakes winner in 2020 after winning the James Smith Handicap on April 5. Circle City qualified to the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity last year and posted a sparkling trial win to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. After running sixth in the Winter Derby final, the gray by Favorite Cartel finished third in a speed-sharpening effort at 110 yards on March 21. The Dillingham field will also include El Primero Del Año Derby runner-up Old School Icon, recent allowance winner Diamond Rock plus five other top sophomores.

“On Sunday, trainer Jaime Gomez will go after a stakes record eighth victory in the Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity when he sends out a strong trio of juveniles in the $270,900 futurity.

“Gomez’s standouts will be headed by La Jaconde, who posted the fastest qualifying time of :15.483 on trials night April 17. The Favorite Cartel filly won her trial by daylight even after drifting out during the early stages of the race. She will be ridden by Oscar Peinado, who has been outstanding this season riding 2-year-olds. Peinado has won 10 races from 27 mounts on 2-year-olds this year. La Jaconde came into this race after running second to Kindergarten finalist Jet Wings One in their first outing on April 17.

“’She just did not leave the gate in her first out,’ Gomez said. ‘In one of her drills she did the same thing. That filly can run. I loved her first work. She was awesome that morning and she did so while under wraps.’


“Gomez won the Kindergarten in 1996 and his most recent win came in 2009. Other top contenders include the unbeaten Jet Wings One and the regally bred Fly The Coup, a $250,000 purchase at the Ruidoso Yearling Sale last year.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick

RACE SIX: No. 7 Favorite Five (10-1)

He had a better-than-looked effort when finishing sixth in a much-troubled debut 14 nights ago versus a solid and what I believe will be a very productive cast of rivals. A half-brother to Grade 1 futurity winner Five Bar Cartel, Favorite Five was crossed by quicker rivals to lose his path while behind the early leaders. He still finished well from far back followed by a good gallop out past the wire. Prior to the troubled debut, Favorite Five had prepped well in the mornings and figures to improve at a nice price.

A final thought

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


Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, May 15.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 43rd day of a 60-day meet.


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1K P IndyAbel Cedillo122Jeff Mullins5-1
2KanderelJorge Velez122Richard E. Mandella6-1
3RagerDrayden Van Dyke122Andrew Lerner7-2
4Party TownEdwin Maldonado122Val Brinkerhoff12-1
5Drop the ChalupaJose Valdivia, Jr.122Ronald W. Ellis4-1
6She's So SpecialFlavien Prat117Peter Miller5-180,000
7Commander Assael Espinoza122Peter Miller10-180,000
8Shootin MoneyTiago Pereira120Philip A. Oviedo15-1
9GovernanceUmberto Rispoli122Manuel F. Marques8-1
10Thanks Mr. EidsonGeovanni Franco120Jeff Bonde12-1


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Run Like KonaJose Valdivia, Jr.120Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-150,000
2CurvaceousVictor Espinoza120Adam Kitchingman8-150,000
3Flying BusinessJorge Velez120Matthew Chew6-150,000
4Miss RyleighAssael Espinoza120Peter Miller7-250,000
5TaliaAbel Cedillo126Philip D'Amato6-150,000
6Sweet HonorGeovanni Franco120Ian Kruljac4-150,000
7Gem of a TigerVictor Flores113Steve Martinez30-150,000
8QueensbeccaandjaneEswan Flores120Gary Stute8-150,000
9Some RoyaltyCarlos Lopez, Jr.126Javier Jose Sierra30-150,000
10Reds Tribal HeartAgapito Delgadillo120Lisa Bernard30-150,000
11InstastoryRuben Fuentes120Jeff Bonde8-150,000
12SpreckelsTiago Pereira126Steve Knapp10-150,000
Also Eligible
13Awesome AlessandraEdwin Maldonado120Marcia Stortz4-150,000
14Lucky DaughterVictor Flores113Rafael DeLeon6-150,000


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Silken PrinceJose Valdivia, Jr.126Matthew Chew6-1
2Jan's ReserveAgapito Delgadillo126Mike Puype6-1
3GalileanFlavien Prat126John W. Sadler2-1
4KneedeepinsnowRuben Fuentes126Shelbe Ruis12-1
5Strictly BizUmberto Rispoli126Brian J. Koriner12-1
6Oil Can KnightEdwin Maldonado126Steve Knapp10-1
7AppreciatedTiago Pereira126Rafael Becerra15-1
8Tale of the UnionDrayden Van Dyke126Bob Baffert8-5


6 Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Stick UpHeriberto Figueroa126Philip D'Amato3-120,000
2Pammi DearestJorge Velez126Gary Mandella6-120,000
3Christmas PicklesGeovanni Franco120Michael W. McCarthy10-120,000
4DabzillaEdwin Maldonado120Bruce Headley20-120,000
5Our Bonnie LassDrayden Van Dyke120Thomas Ray Bell, II15-120,000
6Kirsch TruffleAssael Espinoza126Peter Miller7-220,000
7It's a RiddleAbel Cedillo120Robert B. Hess, Jr.6-120,000
8Don't Stop LookinVictor Flores113Robert A. Bean12-120,000
9Polar RouteJose Valdivia, Jr.120Matthew Chew12-120,000
10ElementalRuben Fuentes126Bruce Headley4-120,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Heathers GreyAaron Gryder124Sean McCarthy8-1
2LostintranzlationBrice Blanc126Manuel F. Marques5-140,000
3Ellie ArrowayVictor Espinoza126John W. Sadler6-1
4Arctic Roll Drayden Van Dyke126Andrew Lerner4-1
5Hollywood GirlMike Smith126John A. Shirreffs6-1
6Pretty PointJose Valdivia, Jr.126Patrick Gallagher8-1
7Lucia's DesignJorge Velez120Craig Anthony Lewis30-1
8QuinnieGeovanni Franco126Carla Gaines15-1
9Kookie GalAbel Cedillo126Peter Miller8-1
10Gypsy Spirit Flavien Prat124Leonard Powell7-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $29,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Original IntentGeovanni Franco124Dean Greenman30-125,000
2EroticUmberto Rispoli124Jack Carava6-125,000
3C DubRuben Fuentes124George Papaprodromou12-125,000
4Treasure HunterAbel Cedillo124Mark Glatt7-225,000
5Black StormEswan Flores124Jeff Mullins5-125,000
6R Cha ChaMario Gutierrez124George Papaprodromou20-125,000
7Buster Douglas Jorge Velez124Milton G. Pineda8-125,000
8Oh Marvelous MeFlavien Prat124Mark Glatt5-125,000
9Adens DreamCerapio Figueroa124John W. Sadler9-525,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Csaba MommaAbel Cedillo126Peter Miller5-120,000
2Golden MelodieHeriberto Figueroa120Craig Anthony Lewis8-120,000
3Kuda HuraaUmberto Rispoli120George Papaprodromou15-120,000
4Kayla's CowgirlMario Gutierrez120Jonathan Wong4-120,000
5Civil SuitAssael Espinoza126Dan Blacker3-120,000
6La SabaleraCarlos Lopez, Jr.126Javier Jose Sierra12-120,000
7ProbableTiago Pereira126Matthew Chew20-120,000
8Tenga's JubileeJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Edward R. Freeman8-120,000
9Caught in a TrappeJorge Velez126Val Brinkerhoff7-220,000
10Secret of WarEswan Flores126Bruce Headley15-120,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Quick Umberto Rispoli126John W. Sadler5-2
2Catch the EyeAaron Gryder126David E. Hofmans15-1
3Fashion Royalty Brice Blanc120Patrick Gallagher15-1
4Legend Emma Ruben Fuentes126Manuel F. Marques10-1
5Lavender Eswan Flores124Matthew Chew6-1
6Teachers Big DreamTiago Pereira120Eddie Truman15-1
7Avalon RideJorge Velez126Craig Anthony Lewis12-1
8Madame BourbonDrayden Van Dyke118Mark Glatt15-1
9Muchly Flavien Prat126Simon Callaghan4-1
10Dupioni Jose Valdivia, Jr.124Patrick Gallagher4-1
11Tap Into BeautyAbel Cedillo124Jeff Mullins15-1


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1GoboldlyEdwin Maldonado126Andrew Lerner12-1
2Canadian LuckVictor Espinoza126James M. Cassidy15-1
3Ka'nahMike Smith126Ryan Hanson6-1
4Big MelJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Bob Baffert4-1
5RayrayAbel Cedillo126Mark Glatt20-1
6American CodeDrayden Van Dyke120Bob Baffert5-2
7NewellAaron Gryder120George Papaprodromou30-1
8ValuationUmberto Rispoli120Simon Callaghan8-1
9Twirling DerbyGeovanni Franco120Ruben Gomez50-1
10Lane WayFlavien Prat120Richard E. Mandella4-1
11Candy FuryJorge Velez120Victor L. Garcia6-1