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Horse racing newsletter: Los Alamitos returns Friday

Horses and jockeys charge down the track at Los Alamitos.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter, as Jon White gives us his Kentucky Derby rankings and Tiz The Law is not at No. 1.

Well, here we are, time for the seven-day Los Alamitos meeting. This is the lost soul of the Southern California racing circuit. It seems to get the crumbs that Santa Anita and Del Mar don’t want. But always remember, it was Ed Allred, with help from the late Brad McKinzie, who stepped up big after Hollywood Park closed to fill in the gaps in the schedule.

The meeting is Friday through Sunday this week and Thursday through Sunday next week. And here’s a stat for you. When was the last time there was racing on a Thursday in Southern California? Think, think, think. It was Dec. 12 of last year at Los Alamitos. Santa Anita didn’t have one Thursday card, and when Del Mar rolls around, it won’t have one card on a Thursday.

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So, next Thursday will be somewhat historic in the most inconsequential of ways.

There are three stakes races during the meeting. July 4 is the big day with the Grade 2 $200,000 Great Lady M. Stakes for fillies and mares 3 and up and the Grade 3 $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby, a Kentucky Derby prep race, for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles.

In addition, on Saturday will be the $100,000 Soi Phet Stakes, for Cal-bred going a mile.

OK, on to some news.

— Santa Anita had 17 COVID-19 positives during the meeting. It included one trainer, a jockey who never made it on the grounds, and someone in the racing office. More details can be found in a story I helped with Tuesday. Just click here.

— Churchill Downs says it will have spectators. Jon White has more about it below.

— Roy H, a two-time Breeders’ Cup sprint winner, is retired, but it’s not the last you will hear from him. Here’s a statement from trainer Peter Miller.

“It is with some sadness but also great joy that we announce the retirement of Roy H from racing,” Miller said. “What can you say about a horse like this who has given us so many thrilling moments? He is the embodiment of class and we will definitely miss seeing him compete. Fortunately, we will not have to miss him for long as he will be retired as a barn pony and remain a very important part of our team. He is a ‘favorite son’ among our staff and the feeling seems to be mutual as Roy H loves to be around the other horses and loves to train.”

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On to the good stuff.

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Jon White’s Kentucky Derby 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 preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of Xpressbet.com.

“Tiz the time to switch back to Kentucky Derby rankings this week following Tiz The Law’s emphatic victory in last Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

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“For the first time in history, the Belmont kicked off this country’s Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Belmont was moved from June 4 to June 20 and shortened considerably from its traditional 1 1/2-mile distance.

“Next in the Triple Crown series is the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, which will be run at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 instead of its original date of May 2. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes, originally slated for May 16, will be Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

“I wrote last week that I believed Tiz The Law’s odds in the Belmont would be 4-5 or lower at post time. Sent away as the 4-5 favorite, he began beautifully, then sat close up in third through the early furlongs while on the outside and in the clear. When jockey Manny Franco pushed the button, Tiz The Law responded readily to take over coming into the stretch and went on to prevail by 3 3/4 lengths.

Barclay Tagg trains Tiz The Law, a New York-bred Constitution colt.

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“Tagg, 82, became the oldest trainer to win the Belmont Stakes. Winning this coveted New York event for the first time meant a lot to Tagg, a longtime trainer at New York tracks. But even though he finally achieved this goal, Tagg displayed his usual calm demeanor after the race when he said to Britney Eurton on the NBC telecast: ‘Yeah, I wanted to have a Belmont victory before I gave it up or died or something like that.’

“Tiz The Law became the first New York-bred to win the Belmont Stakes in 138 years. The Belmont has been run 152 times. Only four New York-breds have won it — Ruthless in 1867, Fenian in 1869, Forester in 1882 and now Tiz TheLaw in 2020.

“Sackatoga Stable owns Tiz The Law. Sackatoga and Tagg collaborated to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide in 2003. However, Funny Cide, a New York-bred gelding, had his bid for a Triple Crown sweep thwarted when he finished third behind Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted in the Belmont.

“Tiz The Law has lost only once in six career starts. He has never been defeated when racing on a fast track. Next up for him is the 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8, followed by the Kentucky Derby.

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“Due to restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the attendance at this year’s Belmont Stakes was 0. It looks like it will be much more than that at the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs announced Thursday that after consultation with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and local public health officials, the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 will occur with customers allowed under strict guidelines.

“Among the protocols, ‘guests will be consistently and frequently encouraged to wear a mask at all times, unless seated in their reserved seat or venue’ and ‘guests will be encouraged to socially distance themselves from others when possible’ while attending the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks card or the Kentucky Derby program the following day. Churchill will provide more detailed and additional information regarding the protocols in coming days.

“In terms of points, Tiz The Law has safely secured a spot in the new 20-horse starting gate that will be utilized for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Tiz The Law got 150 Kentucky Derby points for his Belmont Stakes triumph, raising his total to 272, which makes him the leader by a large margin.

“Others currently in training who have more than 70 points are Honor A.P. (120), Authentic (100), King Guillermo (90) and Ete Indien (74).

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“There are 10 remaining races in this country offering points to the first four finishers. They are:

“— Ohio Derby (20-8-4-2) at Thistledown on Saturday.

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

“— Indiana Derby (20-8-4-2) at Indiana Grand on July 8.

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“— Blue Grass Stakes (100-40-20-10) at Keeneland on July 11.

“— Peter Pan Stakes (50-20-10-5) at Saratoga on July 16.

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

“— Shared Belief Stakes (50-20-10-5) at Del Mar on Aug. 1.

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“— Travers Stakes (100-40-20-10) at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

“— Ellis Park Derby (50-20-10-5) at Ellis Park on Aug. 9.

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

“It appears that Cafe Pharoah, an undefeated American-bred colt based in Japan, might run in the Kentucky Derby. A number of races in Japan offer points toward the Kentucky Derby. One spot in the Run for the Roses is reserved, if wanted, for the horse in Japan who collects the most Kentucky Derby points.

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“Three horses based in Japan have competed in the Kentucky Derby — Ski Captain (who finished 14th in 1995), Lani (who finished ninth in 2016) and Master Fencer (who finished seventh and was elevated to sixth via the DQ of Maximum Security in 2019). Master Fencer was the first to go into the Kentucky Derby by utilizing the spot in the gate reserved for the horse with the most points earned in Japan.

“Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported Wednesday that Churchill Downs officials have received encouraging feedback from Cafe Pharoah’s connections regarding a potential start in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

“A $475,000 purchase at a Florida auction last year, Cafe Pharoah is three for three after winning last Sunday’s Unicorn Stakes by five lengths at Tokyo Racecourse. His sire is American Pharoah, who in 2015 swept the Triple Crown.

“Cafe Pharoah is No. 9 in my Kentucky Derby rankings this week.

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“I hit the pause button early this year with respect to my Kentucky Derby rankings when the race was moved from the spring to early September. I switched to rankings for the Belmont Stakes following the announcement that it would be the first of this year’s Triple Crown events to be run.

“With the Belmont Stakes in the rearview mirror, my Kentucky Derby rankings resume this week. And following Tiz The Law’s dominant win in the Belmont, you might assume he is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby rankings. But as I see right now, I believe Honor A.P. has a slightly better chance of winning this year’s Kentucky Derby than Tiz The Law. Consequently, it’s Honor A.P. who occupies the top spot on this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings.

“As expected, Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. is headed to Del Mar’s Shared Belief Stakes for his next start. Trained by John Shirreffs, the Kentucky-bred Honor Code ridgling recorded a terrific four-furlong workout Wednesday in 47.20 at Sana Anita.

“Honor A.P. worked by himself while wearing a shadow roll. Turning for home, without missing a beat, he effortlessly moved around another horse who was traveling next to the inside rail. The long-striding Honor A.P. then bounded down the lane enthusiastically without being asked at all by the rider. This drill suggests Honor A.P. has never been better.

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“Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic, who is No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby rankings, has Monmouth Park’s July 18 Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on his agenda. The Kentucky-bred colt, who has won three of four career starts, took the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 7. Honor A.P. ran second in the San Felipe.

Bob Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby five times and the Triple Crown twice, trains Authentic. At Santa Anita on Monday, Authentic worked four furlongs in 49.00.

“Authentic’s sire is Into Mischief. Speaking of that sire, the exciting Into Mischief filly Gamine won last Saturday’s Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. Trained by Baffert and now three for three, Gamine won the Acorn by a stakes-record 18 3/4 lengths while competing at one mile around one turn in a stakes-record 1:32.55. That clocking was only .31 of a second off the 17-year-old track record held by Najran.

“Baffert quickly took the wind out of the sails among those hoping that perhaps Gamine would run in the Kentucky Derby saying she will be aimed for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks, with one start before then. As for the Oct. 3 Preakness, it could be a possibility for the 3-year-old filly, according to Baffert.

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“If Baffert had said the Kentucky Derby was under consideration for Gamine, I would have put her right at the top of this week’s rankings.

“Southern California-based Storm The Court is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Ohio Derby, which has drawn a bulky field of 15, including one horse on the also-eligible list.

“Trained by Peter Eurton, Storm The Court topped my initial 2020 Kentucky Derby rankings in early January. Storm The Court was voted the 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, but he’s winless in three starts this year. In his most recent start, the Kentucky-bred Court Vision colt finished sixth in a division of the Arkansas Derby won by Nadal on May 2.

Flavien Prat, who won the jockey title at the recently concluded Santa Anita meet, rides Storm The Court in the Ohio Derby. In all but one of Storm The Court’s starts, he has been ridden by Prat. Joel Rosario was aboard when Storm The Court finished third behind Authentic and Honor A.P. in the San Felipe. Prat and Storm The Court teamed to win last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 45-1.

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

1. Honor A.P. (NR)

2. Tiz The Law (1)

3. Authentic (NR)

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4. Dr Post (4)

5. Uncle Chuck (NR)

6. Cezanne (NR)

7. Max Player (7)

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8 Art Director (NR)

9. Cafe Pharoah (NR)

10. Rushie (NR)

NOTE: Last week’s Belmont Stakes rankings in parentheses

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Los Alamitos preview

It’s an eight-race card starting at 1 p.m. It’s not much of a card unless you are a fan of claiming races, which make up seven of the races. Four of those claimers are for maidens. The feature is $40,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-olds going five furlongs.

Schnell is the favorite at 2-1 for trainer Simon Callaghan and jockey Ruben Fuentes. This is his first start and he is coming off a bullet work at three furlongs. He hasn’t worked at more than four furlongs.

The second favorite, at 5-2, is Dyn O Mite for Keith Desormeaux and Jose Valdivia Jr. He has one start, a second at Santa Anita on May 25. Prat rode him in his only start but he’s taking a few days off before riding in the Ohio Derby on Saturday.

The field sizes are pretty good. Here they are, in order: 7, 8, 8, 7, 8, 9, 8, 10 (2 also eligible).

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Ciaran Thornton’s Lrc pick

RACE FIVE: No. 5 Cognac Cat (15-1)

Cognac Cat is at 15-1 morning line for trainer David Hofmans. This trainer is having a stellar year with his small stable winning 21% and 45% in the money. In maiden claimer debut races, he is winning 24% and 43% in the money for a profit. Jockey J.C Diaz Jr. has already won for Hofmans. Dam has two winners from four starters. On paper this debut horse looks as good as the 5-2 debut favorite.

My Los Alamitos FULL CARDS are free for the entire meet for L.A. Times readers. Just click on this link daily.

Sunday’s Santa Anita result: Yes I Am Free broke nicely and tracked in third but there was no catching the gate-to-wire winner and the horse finished fourth.

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Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, 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 the second-half of the Los Alamitos doubleheader 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.

“It’s doubleheader time at Los Alamitos Race Course, as the night program will follow the daytime thoroughbred action Friday, through Sunday this week. The weekend’s feature is the $25,000 Vandy’s Flash Handicap at 400 yards on Sunday night featuring Cattail Cove, who returns for the first time since running second in the Grade 1, $1.9-million Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Dec. 15. The Favorite Cartel gelding worked 220 yards in :12.40 in preparation for this race on June 13 and could be a medium price as he’ll face 2020 stakes winners John Carter Cash and Up And Coming.

“John Carter Cash will be one of the favorites in the Vandy’s Flash after a length victory in the Dillingham Handicap on May 16. He flew out of the gate from post four and relished the 400-yard distance for his fourth career victory. He’ll start from the four this Sunday and he’ll be unbeatable if he repeats his Dillingham effort. The Chris O’Dell-trained Up And Coming is the other top contender following his third-place finish in the Dillingham and his solid third-to-first win in the James Smith Handicap on April 15. He also raced in the Two Million last year, running ninth to Cartel Jess Rockin on that night.

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”Following Chance To Excel’s impressive victory in last Sunday’s Ed Burke Million Futurity, trainer Monty Arrossa was asked to name some of his other top 2-year-olds. Aint She Tempting, the impressive Oklahoma Futurity winner, was among those, as was sharp maiden winner Apollitical Patty.

“’She’s a half-sister to champion Zoomin For Spuds,’ Arrossa said. ‘And she’s pretty good.’

“Apollitical Patty won her May 24 debut by 1 3/4 lengths at Los Alamitos. She covered 300 yards in 15.479 seconds, among the fastest by a 2-year-old this season. Apollitical Patty will return for her second career start when she heads an $11,825 conditioned allowance event on Friday. College Scandal, who won a trial to the (GII) Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity, is among the chief rivals in the sixth race.

“Seven runners will be in the fifth race for 2-year-olds at 300 yards. Bob E McGee, who ran a solid third in his Kindergarten trial before a rough start took him out of contention in the final, is the one to beat.

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“Saturday night, Ms Racy Eagle, an $85,000 yearling purchase at the Ruidoso Sale, will look to break her maiden when she heads a field of seven in the $9,000 seventh race at 300 yards.

“Ms Racy Eagle is by the champion One Famous Eagle and out of the unraced mare First Down Racy. Her granddam is the outstanding Miss Racy Vike, a multiple graded stakes winner of $263,661 and the dam of top runners like AQHA champion Miss Racy Jess and top California-based stallion Kiddy Up.

“Ms Racy Eagle, who will start from the one, finished second to Sassies Blues Girl when debuting May 2 before running fifth in her trial for the Ed Burke Million Futurity on June 7. She will look to improve under the guidance of leading jockey Oscar Peinado.

Chris Wade’s LA pick

RACE TWO: No. 3 Bonmont (4-1)

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He just finished a solid second in a much-needed return effort off the long 279-night layoff and he did it against a solid cast of rivals for the level. Bonmont broke on the lead and dueled between runners on the way to holding on gamely for the runner-up position while earning a quality figure that compares favorably against this pack Friday. With a nice number going in along with an expected step forward in his second start back this evening, this gelding should be a contender at decent odds for a jockey/trainer combo looking to heat up.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

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

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

Los Alamitos Race Course Entries for Friday, June 26.

Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos, California. 1st day of a 7-day meet.

FIRST RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kaely's CandyRicardo Gonzalez123Peter Miller3-130,000
2Clearly ClassyVictor Flores116Neil A. Koch20-130,000
3Sapphire SilkEdwin Maldonado123Steve Knapp5-130,000
4Our Bonnie LassDrayden Van Dyke123Thomas Ray Bell, II5-130,000
5Chromes Lil SisEdgar Payeras123Vernon E. Aguayo10-130,000
6Canadian GingerMario Gutierrez123George Papaprodromou10-130,000
7TrouvilleEswan Flores123Leonard Powell6-530,000

SECOND RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $12,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $6,250.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1WinsinfashionEdwin Maldonado124George Papaprodromou7-26,250
2DurgaJuan Sanchez124Brian T. Cunningham6-16,250
3Blooming HannahVictor Flores117Robert A. Bean6-16,250
4Copper CowgirlChristian Aragon124Patricia Harrington7-26,250
5Coalinga HillsEvin Roman124Martin F. Jones2-16,250
6Night of IdiotsFrancisco Orduna-Rojas124Brian T. Cunningham12-16,250
7Stellar WayEdgar Payeras124John Cisneros20-16,250
8Madame MousseFernandez Rojas124Salvador Naranjo10-16,250

THIRD RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Bit of CactusChristian Aragon123Angela Maria Aquino20-130,000
2Wild ArchAustin Solis123Anthony K. Saavedra6-130,000
3Stormy SunAssael Espinoza123Marcia Stortz8-130,000
4Big Game PlanRamon Guce123Art Sherman15-130,000
5I'm So AdorableTiago Pereira123Daniel Dunham6-130,000
6Queen VerrazanoFrancisco Orduna-Rojas123Jose Antonio Flores9-230,000
7FlatterwithjewelsJ.C. Diaz, Jr.123David E. Hofmans5-130,000
8Enriched by DebJuan Hernandez123Richard Baltas7-530,000

FOURTH RACE.

5 Furlongs. Purse: $40,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Brony BoyAaron Gryder122Luis Mendez3-1
2Gone RogueAssael Espinoza122Dan Blacker8-1
3Falcons FuryJuan Hernandez122Reed Saldana12-1
4Dyn O MiteJose Valdivia, Jr.122J. Keith Desormeaux5-2
5FoxboroughJorge Velez122Ryan Hanson5-1
6Jeanne BCarlos Lopez, Jr.119Charles R. Stutts20-1
7SchnellRuben Fuentes122Simon Callaghan2-1

FIFTH RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Calder ValeCarlos Lopez, Jr.124Ricardo Zamora6-150,000
2Jay BoyFernandez Rojas120Jesus Nunez20-150,000
3SynskyEswan Flores120Hector O. Palma5-250,000
4Wicked BlueEdgar Payeras120Vernon E. Aguayo6-150,000
5Cognac CatJ.C. Diaz, Jr.124David E. Hofmans15-150,000
6Tiger's SongRuben Fuentes120Andrew Lerner9-250,000
7Tough to BreakVinnie Bednar124Scott Willoughby4-150,000
8Shark CatTiago Pereira120Dean Greenman7-250,000

SIXTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $15,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $20,000-$18,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Derby StarGeovanni Franco124Ruben Gomez15-120,000
2Endless TaleEdwin Maldonado124Javier Jose Sierra4-120,000
3My SunshineRuben Fuentes120Patrick Gallagher7-220,000
4Master RecoveryEswan Flores120Hector O. Palma5-220,000
5Four O'FiveVictor Flores113Richard Baltas12-120,000
6Fort DodgeJorge Velez122Martin Valenzuela, III10-118,000
7Prince RickyHeriberto Figueroa120Craig Anthony Lewis6-120,000
8BodegaJuan Hernandez120Rene Amescua9-220,000
9Zees EmpireJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Mike Harrington30-120,000

SEVENTH RACE.

1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $17,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$14,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Taste's LegendJuan Hernandez124Jonathan Wong5-216,000
2GryffindorJorge Velez119Ryan Hanson6-114,000
3Stay GoldenJohnny Allen121Oscar Heredia20-116,000
4KidmonAssael Espinoza121Steve Knapp4-116,000
5Super ClassicGeovanni Franco119Ruben Gomez6-114,000
6Big ImpressionCarlos Lopez, Jr.119Rafael Becerra20-114,000
7Blame It On KittyEdwin Maldonado121Craig Dollase2-116,000
8LinfieldTiago Pereira115Eoin G. Harty10-114,000

EIGHTH RACE.

5 Furlongs. Purse: $15,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Kirsch TruffleAssael Espinoza124Peter Miller7-220,000
2Lucky DaughterVictor Flores113Rafael DeLeon3-120,000
3ElementalVinnie Bednar124Keith E. Craigmyle8-120,000
4CasillalaterHenry Lopez117Felix L. Gonzalez6-120,000
5Gemma RoyalAlexis Centeno114Javier Jose Sierra20-120,000
6Bluegrass BoogieTiago Pereira120Jose G. Hernandez, Sr.12-120,000
7Arrivederci AmoreFernandez Rojas124Sally Rivera30-120,000
8Enchanting MoonRamon Guce120Hector O. Palma9-220,000
9Final DemandJuan Hernandez120Tim Yakteen6-120,000
10Kuda HuraaEdwin Maldonado120George Papaprodromou10-120,000
Also Eligible
11Autumn IsabellaEswan Flores124Felimon Alvarado30-120,000
12Gem of a TigerEdgar Payeras120Steve Martinez15-120,000

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