Horse racing newsletter: Another hair-pulling CHRB meeting

Horses run in the second race at Santa Anita Park to empty stands Saturday, March 14, 2020.
Horses run at Santa Anita Park to empty stands in March.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome to our horse racing newsletter, as we dig down with Jon White’s Belmont Stakes rankings.

Well, it was another rollicking California Horse Racing Board teleconference Thursday, and if I had one takeaway, it’s that California racing is not all on the same page.

There was plenty of the usual animal rights folks versus horse racing during the meeting. But this time there was infighting between the fairs and the Stronach Group (it got worked out), and then a spirited square-off between Del Mar and the California Thoroughbred Trainers (to be continued). And finally, infighting on the CHRB.

I had a couple of thoughts from the 415-minute meeting. (I wanted to leave before the 30-minute final comment period because I needed to shave again. But I stayed because chairman Greg Ferraro passed the baton to Scott Chaney, the new executive director, rather than Oscar Gonzales, the vice-chairman. Curious.)

One of the big takeaways, I think, was that Chaney apparently wants to play a bigger role on the board as if he were a member, giving his opinion at various times, especially when it came to the whip rule. This was not the way former exec Rick Baedeker did it. Not saying that’s good or bad, just different.

Now, one thing I am sure of is that Amanda Drummond, manager of policy and regulations for the CHRB, overstepped her bounds big time when she brought up the politics of the board pleasing Sacramento (i.e. Gov. Gavin Newsom.)

The news from the meeting was that Golden Gate Fields will keep its track open in the summer for training and in exchange it will get a few more weeks of racing that normally go to the fairs. Pleasanton will get six weeks, under two different authorities, and Golden Gate will get additional weeks.


The other is that a whip rule was passed ... sorta, kinda. This issue divided the board where Gonzales, the vice-chair, wanted to delay any decision hoping for a little more time and Ferarro, the chair, wanted the agenda item to be adopted. The vote ended up in a tie. Then the CHRB lawyer had no idea what that meant and after going to other items decided that if it didn’t pass then it would have to go back to square one. So, Gonzalez switched his vote in the hopes that the process won’t be delayed. However, this rule can be amended.

The way it reads now is that jockeys can use the whip no more than six times and must do it in an underhand motion while holding the reins or the neck of the horse. You can strike a horse only twice in a row before giving them a chance to respond. Again, work in progress? The rule could be in place by Oct. 1 or, then again, maybe Jan. 1. Or, then again, even later.

Agree or disagree with the commissioners, I always like to point out they are working a lot of hours for essentially nothing. This is one of those compliments, followed by the always telling “but.” But, chairman Ferraro has to take better control of the meeting, and I mean that from both sides of the issues.

Public comment on agenda items is often off topic, and I believe it’s a rule that if you are making a point that has already been made you can gong it. On the item about racing secretaries being able to write races with medication restrictions, I don’t think one comment was on topic.

Ferraro tried to clarify that rule in the riding crop discussion, or in this case, we’ll call it hour four.

As I’ve said before, public comment is vital in a democracy, but I was hearing the same things in early agenda items as I was in later agenda items. There were no new thoughts. And again, that’s from both sides. As for the open public comment at the end, no rules, go for it. But during the agenda items, let’s stick to the issue at hand.


OK, let’s not make his item longer than the meeting.

Jon White’s Belmont Stakes rankings

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Triple Crown trail. 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 Belmont Stakes rankings, brought courtesy of

“The June 20 Belmont Stakes, which for the first time in history will kick off this country’s Triple Crown series, has been ravaged by three recent important defections.

“First it was Nadal. I had the Bob Baffert-trained Blame colt ranked No. 1 for the Belmont Stakes until it was announced that he had been retired after he emerged from a :48.80 four-furlong workout at Santa Anita on May 28 with a condylar fracture in his left foreleg.

“With Nadal out of the Belmont, Charlatan ascended to the top in my Belmont Stakes rankings. But it was announced last Saturday that the Baffert-trained Speightstown colt would not only miss the Belmont, he also would miss the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby because of an ankle injury. Baffert said the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes is a longshot possibility, the BloodHorse reported.

“Maxfield was No. 3 in my Belmont Stakes rankings last week. But the Belmont then was dealt another blow when trainer Brendan Walsh said that Maxfield would skip the Belmont to run instead in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on July 11.

“And it turns out that Maxfield will not be running in the Blue Grass either. It was revealed on Wednesday that Maxfield not only would miss the Blue Grass, he also has been declared out of the Kentucky Derby. Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee reported that Maxfield emerged from a :49.00 four-furlong workout Wednesday at Keeneland with a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone.

“Gouverneur Morris was No. 9 in my Belmont Stakes rankings last week. After it became known that Maxfield would not be running in the Blue Grass, the decision was made to run Gouverneur Morris in the Blue Grass rather than the Belmont. ‘That race [the Blue Grass] is now winnable, and we think it would pick that horse’s head up to have a win,’ Barry Irwin said to Daily Racing Form’s David Grening. Irwin is president of Team Valor International, which co-owns Gouverneur Morris with WinStar Farm.

“With Nadal, Charlatan and Maxfield all out of the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes, it appears that Tiz The Law now will be an odds-on favorite. He has risen to the top spot in my rankings.

“Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz The Law has never been beaten when racing on a fast track. His only defeat in five career starts came when he had a troubled trip and finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last year. He’s two for two this year. The New York-bred Constitution colt won the Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 1 and Florida Derby on March 28, both at Gulfstream Park.

“With jockey Manny Franco in the saddle, Tiz The Law looked terrific when he worked five furlongs in 1:00.53 Monday on Belmont Park’s main track. According to Grening, Tiz The Law covered the last quarter of his five-furlong drill in :24.32 before going on out six furlongs in 1:12.86, seven furlongs in 1:25.38 and one mile in 1:41.00.

“Tap It To Win debuts on my Belmont Stakes rankings this week all the way up at No. 2. Highly regarded last year by trainer Mark Casse, Tap It To Win was victorious in only one of four 2019 starts. But he’s two for two this year.

“At Belmont on June 4, Tap It To Win blazed home a five-length winner in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race. His final time of 1:39.22 was only .54 off the track record.

“Casse intends to run Tap It To Win in the Belmont Stakes even though it will be a relatively short period of time, 16 days, after the colt’s June 4 victory. Keep in mind what Casse did last year at Saratoga. The Casse-trained Got Stormy took Saratoga’s De La Rose Stakes against fillies and mares on Aug. 3. And then, just seven days later, Got Stormy won Saratoga’s Fourstardave Handicap in a brilliant performance against males when she won by 2 1/2 lengths and completed one mile in 1:32.00 to break the grass course record.

“If Tap It To Win captures the Belmont, he will extend Casse’s winning streak in Triple Crown races to three. Casse won last year’s Preakness Stakes with War Of Will and Belmont Stakes with Sir Winston.

“Sole Volante will go into the Belmont with even less time between races than Tap It To Win. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Sole Volante rallied from last in a field of six to win a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race Wednesday at Gulfstream. Off at odds of 2-1, Sole Volante won by three-quarters of a length. Finishing fourth as the 7-10 favorite was the Biancone-trained Ete Indien.

“Earlier this year, Sole Volante won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 8. The Kentucky-bred Karakontie gelding then finished second to King Guillermo in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 7.

“After Sole Volante’s victory Wednesday, he will be racing again 10 days later in the Belmont if he does indeed start.

“Dr Post looks like he might be capable of making some noise in the Belmont Stakes. He won a seven-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream on May 29, then overcame a troubled trip to take Gulfstream’s 1 1/16-mile Unbridled Stakes on April 25.

Todd Pletcher trains Dr Post. Pletcher also is expected to be represented in the Belmont by Farmington Road, who rallied to finish fourth in a division of the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby won by Nadal at Oaklawn Park on May 2.

“Trainer John Shirreffs originally had hoped to run Honor A.P. in the Belmont Stakes. But when the Santa Anita Derby was moved from April 4 to June 6 and the Belmont shifted from June 6 to June 20, Shirreffs felt he had to chose one or the other. Shirreffs opted to keep Honor A.P. home to run in the Santa Anita Derby.

“And Honor A.P. rewarded his trainer’s decision by winning last Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby going away and rather authoritatively by 2 3/4 lengths at odds of 2-1. Authentic, the 1-2 favorite, finished second.

“The Santa Anita Derby was Honor A.P.’s first stakes victory and establishes him as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. By virtue of his win last Saturday, he collected 100 points toward a starting berth in the Run for the Roses. Honor A.P. raised his total to 120 points. Tiz The Law is the leader with 122 points. The others in training with more than 50 points are Authentic (100), King Guillermo (90), Ete Indien (74), Modernist (70) and Ny Traffic (70).

“In the upcoming Belmont Stakes, the first four finishers will be rewarded with 150-60-30-15 Kentucky Derby points.

“When Authentic did not get the job done last Saturday, Baffert was denied in his bid for a 10th Santa Anita Derby victory. Nevertheless, earlier on the Santa Anita Derby card, Baffert unveiled the highly regarded Cezanne, who won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths. A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Curlin colt, Cezanne sold for $3.65 million at public auction in 2019. He’s owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Michael B. Smith and St. Elias Stable.

“Considering Cezanne weighs 1,258 pounds, it’s to his credit that he was quick enough to attend a quick pace last Saturday before kicking clear in the lane. To put his weight into some context, Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. weighs 1,143 pounds. Improbable, a 4-year-old who won last Saturday’s Hollywood Gold Cup, weighs 1,098 pounds.

“As of Thursday, Belmont Park listed eight horses as probable and Pneumatic as possible for the Belmont Stakes

“Here are this week’s rankings for the June 20 Belmont Stakes, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Tiz The Law (2)

2. Tap It To Win (NR)

3. Sole Volante (4)

4. Dr Post (5)

5. Basin (6)

6. Modernist (7)

7. Max Player (8)

8 Pneumatic (NR)

9. Farmington Road (9)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

Santa Anita goes to its new 1 p.m. post on Friday’s eight-race card. It’s not a great card in that three races have just five starters. There are two allowance/optional claimers and half the card is on the turf.

The feature is likely the seventh race, an allowance for fillies and mares going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Great Return is the 8-5 favorite for trainer Richard Mandella and Drayden Van Dyke. The lightly raced 5-year-old mare has won two of six lifetime races. She was fourth last out at a mile. Three back she won at a mile.

There are two horses in the five-horse race at 5-2. Querelle, coming off a win at 5 ½ furlongs, runs for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. She has won three of 16 lifetime. Sold It, running for Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez, has won two of 13 lifetime. She hasn’t won since April 27, 2019 when she won the California Oaks at Golden Gate.

Since we’ve mentioned more than half the field, let’s also mention that there is also Gypsy Blu (4-1) and Mischiffie (8-1) filling out the race.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 5, 8, 5, 9 (1 also eligible), 7, 5, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick

RACE EIGHT: No. 6 Suezaaana (12-1)

Suezaaana was a value play for me back on Jan. 19 going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. The race prior this horse ran at Friday’s distance and led till deep stretch before getting caught and running second. Suezaaana has the top back speed in this race and is the best value on today’s card at 12-1.

Sunday’s result: Sapori Girl went off at 12-1 and tracked nicely in third into the stretch. There was no catching the winner but it looked like we would run second before getting caught on the line to finish in third.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to preview the only nighttime racing in the area 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.

“Top older quarter horses will be in the spotlight on Sunday night at Los Alamitos, as 19 runners will compete in the 400-yard trials to the Grade 1, $157,400 Vessels Maturity. The horses with the 10 fastest times will earn starting berths to Vessels final to be held \uly 5. In addition to the $66,108 first-place share of the Vessels purse, the winner will also earn a provisional berth to Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions to be held here Dec. 12.

“Three trials will be contested Sunday with Grade II winner Cole Man 47 taking on multiple stakes winners Yanque and Chocolatito. Yanque has become a 550-yard specialist of sorts, having won stakes at that distance in each of his last three starts. Chocolatito won the Kaweah Bar Handicap on May 2 and was a stakes winner last year as well. Both Yanque and Chocolatito figure to provide the late fireworks in this trial.

“Rosenthal Ranch was named the AQHA champion owners in 2019 thanks to the outstanding performances of Grade 1 stakes winners Powerful Favorite and Runforyourlife. Powerful Favorite won three derbies and seven of eight races last year but has finished second and third in his two outings this year. He still looks like the horse to beat in the second Vessels trial, while facing a field that includes All American Derby runner-up Jess Macho Corona. The final trial will be headed by Mister Appolitical, winner of the Grade 2 Southern California Derby last closing weekend. The son of Apollitical Jess is making his 2020 debut Sunday.

“The racing weekend at Los Alamitos will get started Friday with a 10-horse field with a 6 p.m. post. The early Pick Four pool last Friday was $269,226 and with a 10-horse field kicking off this sequence the wagering should be strong. The eight-race card will also feature a pair of events for 2-year-olds with fields of eight and seven horses.

“On Saturday night, 9-year-old Rule He Will makes his 25th career start when he takes on his old rival Hardcore Troubador and the Kentucky-bred Treasure Hunter in the featured 1,000-yard, $15,000 allowance event. Trained by Jerry Wallace, Rule He Will began his 2020 campaign with a pair of outstanding daylight victories. The most impressive of those wins was a 3½-length romp in the Wheatland Handicap when he outdueled a field that included Hardcore Troubador. Those two victories came at 870 yards. His most recent start was a third-place finish when making his first start at the 1,000-yard distance on May 16.

“The Tribal Rule gelding chased Hardcore Troubador early but neither could hold off the late run of Rinse And Repeat, who is a two-time winner at this distance and track record holder. While Rule He Will and Hardcore Troubador are very familiar with each other, Treasure Hunter will be making his first night outing.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick

RACE FIVE: No. 5 Tenga’s Gold (5-1)

He faced repeat winner Jazzie Cat when finishing a solid fourth in last outing for shed row that is enjoying a strong meet with a 33%-win ratio. In that March 28 event, Tengas Gold broke slow and inward to lose multiple lengths right from the start. After the less-than-stellar getaway, this entrant put forth a nice run down the backstretch to get into contention before finishing evenly nearing the wire, followed by a solid gallop out past the wire. When calculating my figures, that effort puts this runner in the mix for this race. He is also making his first start since being gelded. I believe he’s a player for all the upper board placings.

A final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, June 12.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 56th day of a 60-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $80,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Harvest MoonAbel Cedillo120Simon Callaghan8-1
2Avenue de France Drayden Van Dyke122Leonard Powell5-2
3Shines Her Light Victor Espinoza122John W. Sadler2-1
4Lucia's DesignJorge Velez122Craig Anthony Lewis15-180,000
5AffiancedFlavien Prat122Richard E. Mandella5-2
6Over AttractedMike Smith122Carla Gaines7-2


1 Mile. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Uncle ChuckMike Smith120Bob Baffert9-5
2Big MelAbel Cedillo120Bob Baffert2-1
3PerseveranceTiago Pereira120James M. Cassidy10-1
4Big CheddarAgapito Delgadillo126Doug F. O'Neill5-1
5Uncle AddoumaFlavien Prat120Michael W. McCarthy2-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $40,000. Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Too Much HeavenAssael Espinoza122Peter Eurton8-150,000
2Madame BourbonEvin Roman122Mark Glatt6-150,000
3A Thousand DreamsAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill5-150,000
4Savvy GalHeriberto Figueroa122Richard Baltas5-150,000
5Flying BusinessJorge Velez122Matthew Chew20-150,000
6Lovely LiliaTiago Pereira122Vladimir Cerin3-150,000
7White VelvetJ.C. Diaz, Jr.122Hector O. Palma12-150,000
8Going to VegasFlavien Prat124Peter Miller9-550,000


1 1/8 Mile. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Camino de EstrellaJorge Velez124Steve Knapp2-120,000
2Conquest CobraFlavien Prat126Vann Belvoir6-520,000
3Blame It On KittyAbel Cedillo124Craig Dollase8-120,000
4Incredible LuckBrice Blanc124Jack Carava3-120,000
5Uno DancerJose Valdivia, Jr.124Patrick Gallagher8-120,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ArimonyMario Gutierrez126Simon Callaghan12-1
2Table for TenAbel Cedillo126Philip D'Amato12-1
3Rawhide RawlinsTiago Pereira120Steven Miyadi4-1
4Jungle RoarEswan Flores120Jeff Mullins12-1
5FoothillAaron Gryder120Sean McCarthy5-1
6Summer FunGeovanni Franco126Carla Gaines20-1
7Unusually HandsomeFlavien Prat126Peter Miller5-2
8GambiniAgapito Delgadillo120Jeff Mullins6-1
9Tropical TerrorMike Smith120James M. Cassidy3-1
Also Eligible
10FravelDrayden Van Dyke126Richard E. Mandella8-1


1 Mile. Purse: $15,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Go for a RideEdwin Maldonado126Ryan Hanson3-112,500
2Abusive GaryEvin Roman126Philip D'Amato8-512,500
3King ParkerJorge Velez126Craig Anthony Lewis10-112,500
4Lucky PatrickHeriberto Figueroa126Anthony K. Saavedra20-112,500
5Knifes EdgeMario Gutierrez120George Papaprodromou4-112,500
6All I Can SayAbel Cedillo126Val Brinkerhoff3-112,500
7Super ClassicGeovanni Franco126Ruben Gomez12-112,500


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $53,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Gypsy BluAbel Cedillo126Mark Glatt4-1
2Mischiffie Ruben Fuentes124Philip D'Amato8-1
3QuerelleFlavien Prat126Peter Miller5-2
4Great ReturnDrayden Van Dyke124Richard E. Mandella8-5
5Sold ItMario Gutierrez124Doug F. O'Neill5-2


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kirsch TruffleAssael Espinoza126Peter Miller5-220,000
2Marci the GreatEdwin Maldonado120James M. Cassidy15-120,000
3Tenga's JubileeJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Edward R. Freeman15-120,000
4ElementalRuben Fuentes126Bruce Headley5-120,000
5Csaba MommaJorge Velez126Peter Miller6-120,000
6SuezaaanaHeriberto Figueroa126Duff Shidaker12-120,000
7Full EclipseVictor Flores119John E. Cortez7-220,000
8Polar RouteMario Gutierrez120Matthew Chew15-120,000
9Reds Tribal HeartAgapito Delgadillo120Lisa Bernard30-120,000
10Daddys Real DivaTiago Pereira126Lisa Bernard4-120,000