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Horse racing newsletter: Santa Anita delays Fall opener a week

Dynamic Duo makes a run from the back on the final stretch at Del Mar Race Track.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as Jon White gives us a look at who may be in or out of the Preakness, the final leg of the Triple Crown. (I don’t type that very often.)

We only had one late-week newsletter last week with the expectation we’d be back to four this week, but as they say, second verse, same as the first. (Play this to bring back memories, if you’re old enough.) With racing at Santa Anita postponed this week, we’ll go to the Friday only newsletter. All of which gives us a good entrée to some news while you were away.

--Santa Anita postponed the opening of its Fall (it calls it Autumn) meeting until next Friday because of the Bobcat Fire in the San Gabriel Valley. Santa Anita will be using the Del Mar model of making up the lost two days by adding races to its regular Friday through Sunday cards. For more on this, you can check out this short story in the Times. (Just click here.) And, if you want to wade into the Fall vs. Autumn debate, both are correct. According to people who study these things, Fall is the more common usage in this country, you know where Santa Anita is located, and Autumn is used more in Britain, the country we were liberated from.

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--Honor A.P., who ran an under-appreciated fourth in the Kentucky Derby after getting slammed at the break, has been retired. He strained his left front tendon in the Kentucky Derby, which, while a minor injury, has a long recovery time. So, he gets to start his stallion career at Lane’s End Farm, and, he gets the same stall as his celebrated granddad, A.P. Indy. Joe Nevills of the Paulick Report has a good story on Honor A.P.’s return to Kentucky. Just click here.

--By now, most know that jockey Vinnie Bednar is suffering paralysis below the waist after his mount, Peek It Up, suffered a fatal breakdown in a race at Los Alamitos on Aug. 22. Last week, Los Alamitos announced it was donating $50,000 to his recovery through the Sam Thompson Memorial Foundation, which helps those in need in the horse racing community. Bednar often rode for Los Alamitos owner Ed Allred, who essentially funded the donation himself. If you want to donate or check out the foundation, just click here. There is also a GoFundMe page.

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Jon White’s Preakness rankings

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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 we look toward the final stop on the Triple Crown trail, with our Preakness Stakes rankings, brought courtesy of Xpressbet.com.

“The $1 million Preakness Stakes, a 1 3/16-mile event that concludes a coronavirus-related revamped Triple Crown series, will be run at Pimlico Race Course on Oct. 3.

“On June 20, Tiz the Law won the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown, the 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Authentic then was victorious in the next leg, the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5.

“Here are some Preakness questions and answers as that race approaches:

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“Will the Preakness be a rematch between Authentic and Tiz the Law? Though Tiz the Law has not been ruled out of the Preakness, it appears unlikely that he is going to run. But I am keeping Tiz the Law on the Preakness Top 10 until it’s announced that he is not running.

Jack Knowlton, operating manager of Tiz the Law’s Sackatoga Stables, wasn’t overly optimistic when he spoke to horseracingnation.com on Thursday. ‘This isn’t a race we have to be in,’ Knowlton said. ‘It’s a race that, if everything worked out right, we’d like to be in. We just have to see. He’ll tell us if he’s ready for his top effort. If he is, we’ll go. If he’s not, he won’t.’

“How has Tiz the Law been doing since his loss in the Kentucky Derby? Evidently, not as well as trainer Barclay Tagg and assistant trainer and exercise rider Robin Smullen would like. The vibe as to Tiz the Law’s Preakness status was rather negative from what Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch reported Monday.

“Tagg said Monday that Tiz the Law has come out of most of his other races better than he came out of the Kentucky Derby. Tagg also said ‘it’s pretty obvious’ that Tiz the Law ‘doesn’t really care for’ the main track at Churchill Downs. Tiz the Law is winless in two starts on that track, six for six on other surfaces.

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“Tiz the Law ran in the Kentucky Derby four weeks after winning Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths. ‘He’s never had to come back in four weeks before,’ Tagg said. ‘Give the winner his due, he ran a great race. But you always question if (Tiz the Law) came back in four weeks at Belmont or Saratoga, tracks he’s really shown a fondness for, things would have been different [in the Kentucky Derby].’

“In Welsch’s story, Smullen did not paint a rosy picture. ‘He’s very stiff galloping right now,’ Smullen said. ‘It’s nothing to worry about. He came out of his previous race in Kentucky (the 2019 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in which he finished third) the same way, and I think that racetrack has a lot to do with it.’

“A rematch between Authentic and Tiz the Law would add considerable pizzazz to the Preakness. But more and more it appears that Tiz the Law will be given nine weeks between the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Is the filly Swiss Skydiver going to run in the Preakness? It is a possibility. Trainer Ken McPeek said Wednesday in a story posted on Pimlico’s website that ‘it’s going to depend on who shows up.’ McPeek added, ‘My strong preference would have been a 3-year-old filly Grade 1 (on dirt), but there isn’t one out there.’

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“Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee reported Wednesday that McPeek said Swiss Skydiver is ‘maybe 50-50 at this point’ to take on the boys in the Preakness.

“Swiss Skydiver faced males when she finished second to Art Collector in Keeneland’s 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass Stakes on July 11. The Kentucky-bred Daredevil filly then won Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes on Aug. 15 before finishing second to another Daredevil filly, Shedaresthedevil, in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks at Churchill on Sept. 4.

“According to McGee’s story, McPeek said his Preakness decision for Swiss Skydiver ‘hinges partly on what Barclay Tagg decides for Tiz the Law.’ In other words, there is a better chance that Swiss Skydiver will run in the Preakness if Tiz the Law doesn’t.

“Five fillies have won the Preakness: Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rine Maiden (1915), Nellie Morse (1924) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

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“What is Authentic’s Preakness status? He is definite for the race, according to trainer Bob Baffert. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt came out of his Kentucky Derby triumph ‘very, very well,’ Baffert said last Sunday. Baffert went so far as to say that Authentic ‘would have been ready to go’ if there had been only two weeks between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, as has been the case until the dates for the three Triple Crown races were shuffled this year.

“What about Thousand Words? Baffert also intends to run him in the Preakness. In the paddock before the Kentucky Derby, Thousand Words became irked when the saddling process was taking longer than he preferred. He reared, lost his balance and fell on his side, knocking Baffert’s longtime assistant, Jimmy Barnes, to the ground hard. While Thousand Words became an automatic scratch as a precaution, he ‘was OK and checked out,’ Baffert said. ‘He’s doing well.’ According to Baffert, Barnes required nine screws and a plate to repair his right wrist.

“How many times has Baffert won the Preakness? Seven. That ties him with R. Wyndham Walden for the most Preakness wins by a trainer. With Authentic, Baffert got his sixth Kentucky Derby victory, tying him with Ben Jones for most all-time.

“How have Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winners done in the Preakness? They have never lost. All five of his Derby winners--Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018—won the Preakness.

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“Baffert’s other two Preakness winners were Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010. Point Given finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Lookin At Lucky finished sixth in the Run for the Roses.

“Will Art Collector run in the Preakness after missing the Kentucky Derby? That is the plan. He was not entered in the Kentucky Derby after nicking the bulb of his left front heel with a hind hoof while galloping at Churchill Downs five days before the race. According to trainer Tommy Drury Jr., the heel issue was not major, just bad timing. The Kentucky-bred Bernardini colt worked four furlongs in :48.10 last Saturday at the Skylight Training Center in Kentucky.

“Art Collector is four for four in 2020. Two wins this year have come in 1 1/8-mile stakes. He won the Blue Grass Stakes on July 11 and the Ellis Park Derby on Aug. 9.

“What’s the situation with Finnick the Fierce, who was said to be possible for the Preakness after being withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby? The one-eyed gelding, co-owned by veterinarian Arnaldo Monge and trainer Rey Hernandez, will not be running in the Preakness.

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“On Monday, Monge said Finnick the Fierce has a minor suspensory strain that is not career-ending. The diagnosis of ‘a slightly enlarged proximal suspensory ligament with no fiber disruption’ was made by the highly respected Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

“Who are some of the other prospective Preakness starters? Ny Traffic’s Preakness status was unknown last week, but he is No. 5 on the Top 10 this week after word came from Florida that he is possible for the race. Ny Traffic raced forwardly early in the Kentucky Derby before finishing eighth.

“Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. reported that Ny Traffic ‘got a couple of cuts’ and lost his right front shoe during the Kentucky Derby. The New York-bred Cross Traffic colt lost the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational on July 18 by only a nose when he finished second to Authentic.

“Also currently considered Preakness candidates are Happy Saver, Pneumatic, Mystic Guide, Liveyourbeastlife and Mr. Big News.

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“Happy Saver is three for three. In his most recent start, he won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Pneumatic, trained by Steve Asmussen, won the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 15.

“Mystic Guide won Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy Stakes on Sept. 5 for trainer Michael Stidham. Liveyourbeastlife, trained by Jorge Abreu, ran second in the Jim Dandy.

“Mr. Big News, trained by Bret Calhoun, finished third at odds of 46-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Calhoun said Tuesday that Mr. Big News is ‘probable’ for the Preakness.

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“Is the Preakness still in play for Shirl’s Speight even though he’s entered in Saturday’s Woodbine Mile? Probably not. That’s why he exits my Preakness Top 10 this week. But don’t forget, they wanted to run him in the Kentucky Derby even though he had only raced twice. So, who knows? If he ran well against his elders in the Woodbine Mile, perhaps they would consider running him back two weeks later in the Preakness. Shirl’s Speight, who has won his two races by eight and 2 3/4 lengths, missed the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby due to a cough. He recorded sharp workouts at Woodbine on Sept. 8 and Sept. 15.

“Will someone run fast enough to break Secretariat’s Preakness record? Absolutely not. By the way, in addition to having run the fastest Preakness (1:53), Secretariat holds the stakes record in the Kentucky Derby (1:59 2/5) and Belmont (2:24). (Due to a typographical error, Secretariat’s Kentucky Derby time was mistakenly listed as 1:59 1/5 last week).

“Here are this week’s rankings for the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Authentic (1)

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2. Tiz the Law (2)

3. Art Collector (3)

4. Swiss Skydiver (NR)

5. Ny Traffic (NR)

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6. Thousand Words (5)

7. Pneumatic (6)

8. Mystic Guide (7)

9. Mr. Big News (NR)

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10. Happy Saver (10)

NOTE: Last week’s Preakness rankings in parentheses”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only track in California racing at night. So, let’s 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.

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“Aint Working and Mr Ricks return to Southern California with their eyes on the trials to the Los Alamitos Super Derby next month. The two talented runners will prepare for those trials in an attractive allowance at 330 yards on Friday night. First post is 6:15 p.m.

“Aint Working arrived after a solid campaign at Remington Park where the Favorite Cartel gelding finished second in the $233,000 Oklahoma Derby and hit the board in both of his derby trials. He was sharp at Los Alamitos before traveling to Remington Park, running second to Sass Mo Blue in the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes after winning his trial.

“Mr Ricks makes his way to Los Alamitos from Ruidoso Downs where he finished third in his All American Derby trial and was sixth to the superstar filly Hotsempting in a trial to the Rainbow Derby. Like Aint Working, Mr Ricks had some success at the Cypress oval, qualifying to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity last year. Look Of Love, second in the California Breeders Debutante Stakes, will also race here.

“Bos Time Machine and Tequila Sangria will both look for repeat victories when they headline this weekend’s stakes. Bos Time Machine will try to turn back the clock when he goes after his second win in a row in the $15,000 Catchmeinyourdreams Stakes at 330 yards on Saturday night. To be ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Paul Jones, Bos Time Machine became a stakes winner for the first time in last year’s Catchmeinyourdreams, as he finished strongly to win the 350-yard dash. That was only the beginning for the son of Bodacious Dash, as he followed it up with a victory in the Sgt Pepper Feature and then a runner-up in the Town Policy Handicap before an upset victory at 12-1 odds in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Feb. 9. The win earned Bos Time Machine a berth in this year’s Champion of Champions.

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“The Mike Casselman-trained Tequila Sangria beat older horses in last year’s Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap and is now the heavy favorite to defend her ‘Millie’ title on Sunday night. The winner will earn a spot in the Champion of Champions. Tequila Sangria has won five of her last seven starts. Her main rival figures to be Curls Happy Wagon, who arrives from Remington Park as a two-time winner of the Decketta Stakes. The 5-year-old mare has earned nearly $250,000 in her 16-race career.”

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

FOURTH RACE: No. 1 Look of Love MV (6-1)

She is as consistent as they come at this level of competition and the good looker has shown improvement on our speed charts in four straight efforts for a quality shed-row. In her most recent outing 54 nights ago, the filly got fractious in the gate prior to breaking inward to brush the side of the gate and leaving herself with almost two lengths to make up against the perfectly tripped winner All Prettied Up in the Debutante Handicap on July 25. Look of Love MV was not able to fully makeup the distance after the tough getaway, but she put forth a solid run past the gap and down the lane to finish a much better than looked second. The filly has run well from the rail before and now takes on four rivals returning to Los Alamitos with a variety of question marks as far as I am concerned. I’ll push the local runner at a nice price for a solid jockey/trainer combo.

Chris Wade’s Saturday LA pick

SEVENTH RACE: No. 3 Racie (6-1)

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She has a solid jockey/trainer combo (29%) and has shown improvement on my figures in each subsequent start of her career. In her most recent effort 22 nights ago, the filly got rambunctious prior to breaking slowly and outward losing almost two lengths of ground right from the get-go. She kept to her task from there and moved up to fifth place while racing under a hold late. If a clean trip is in the air Saturday, she should be a key player and at a nice price.

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.

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

That’s it for this week, we’ll see you next Friday.



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