Horse racing newsletter: Latest on the Justify saga

Santa Anita starting gate
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as both Santa Anita and Golden Gate are on a three-day race week.

A couple of news items before we get to some of the usual features.

--An attempt to stop the Oct. 29 hearing into Justify’s positive drug test after the 2018 Santa Anita Derby failed. A high-powered group of attorneys tried to stop the hearing, but a judge refused. The positive test was for scopolamine, which is found in jimson weed. It is not considered a performance enhancer.

The charges were originally dismissed by the California Horse Racing Board, but Mick Ruis, owner and trainer of second-place finisher Bolt d’Oro, filed suit against the CHRB. As part of a settlement, in which the CHRB had to pay no money, it agreed to reopen the hearings on the drug positives.

For more on this, check out this story we wrote. Just click here.

--And speaking of the CHRB, jockey Mike Smith wrote them a letter in protest of the new jockey riding crop regulations which restricts whip use to no more than six strikes in a race and no more than two at a time. All use must be done in an underhand position.


Smith wrote: “It is contrary to our instincts and techniques, which in turn is impacting our balance and reaction time. We strongly believe that regulation is extremely hazardous and has added an even greater risk and uncertainty to our profession.”

For more on this and the complete text of the letter, catch this in the Paulick Report. Just click here.

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Santa Anita Preview

Santa Anita’s Friday card continues its trend of being less than spectacular. The eight-race card starts at 1 p.m. Half the races are on the turf and half the races are restricted to Cal-breds. The feature is the seventh for horses going six furlongs for $59,000.

Microrithms is the 6-5 favorite for Bob Baffert and Drayden Van Dyke. He has won five of eighth races, including his last three at the allowance level. Pyron is the second favorite at 4-1 for Mark Glatt and Flavien Prat. He is three-of-10 lifetime and is coming off an allowance win.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 5, 9, 6, 6, 6, 7, 8.

Frank Mirahmadi’s SA pick

FIFTH RACE: No. 4 Gypsy Spirit (3-1)

In what looks to be an extremely competitive race on paper, Gypsy Spirit has a legitimate chance to make it back-to-back wins. She has been highly regarded since just missing in her U.S. debut five months ago and put it all together last time with a well-timed stretch kick.

Monday’s result: An overlay at 5-1, Little No Way ran a good race but was unable to catch odds-on favorite Colosi, coming up a half-length short when finishing second, more than five lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

Frank Mirahmadi is the track announcer at Santa Anita Park.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick

SIXTH RACE: No. 4 Debt Monger (8-1)

Debt Monger jumps up multiple classes for trainer Steve Miyadi, first off the claim last out on the win. He does very well on this move with a big flat bet profit. Friday, he puts bug-boy Alexis Centeno on board with an 11-pound weight break. The strategy is simple to see — pop the gates and go gate-to-wire using that feathery weight break. Miyadi has quickly heated up at this meet after a slow year in SoCal. He is winning 23%, 21% first off the claim, 20% claim repeat with big in the money percentages. This is what he excels at. This horse also loves Santa Anita going 2-1 from four starts here. Toughest race on the card and I am hunting for value.

Monday’s result: Silent Mustketier settled nicely off the rally but couldn’t rally for anything better than third.

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

Golden Gate weekend preview

Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. We’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“The big story this week: mandatory payouts. On Sunday afternoon, Golden Gate Fields offers mandatory payouts in the Golden Pick Six jackpot, the Rolling Super High Five and both Pick 5’s. Heading into Friday’s eight-race program, the Pick 6 jackpot carryover is $287,833. If the Pick Six carries over until Sunday, you could be looking at a seven-figure pool to be paid out that day.

“Sunday’s premier race is the ninth, an allowance for 3-year-old fillies. Southern California shipper Woke Up to Aces (trained by Michael McCarthy) goes up against local Sadie Bluegrass (Jonathan Wong), who has terrific recent form. The eighth is also intriguing: a fun maiden special weight at 5 ½ furlongs for 12 2-year-old fillies.

“Trainer Manny Badilla may hold the aces in Friday’s featured second race, an allowance for fillies and mares at one mile on Tapeta. Badilla saddles the top two morning-line choices, Sloane Garden and Never Be Enough. Two time stakes winner Sloane Garden, the 8-5 favorite, won the Golden Poppy Stakes in June and the Luther Burbank Stakes in August. Although both races were on turf, Sloane Garden has already won twice on the main track. Aug. 28th allowance winner Never Be Enough is the 9-5 second choice and “should not be ignored,” according to Badilla. The daughter of Sir Percy has been steadily climbing up the class ladder and comes off a stellar run in which she defeated stakes placed and multiple allowance winning stablemate Ziarah.

“A strong nine-race program on Saturday begins at 1:45 p.m. (It’s a 1:15 p.m. post on Friday and Sunday.) The headliner on Saturday is the sixth, a second-level allowance that looks like a stakes on paper. The 1 1/16-mile turf race features track record holder Give Me the Lute and stakes winner American Farmer.

“Give Me the Lute, trained by Andy Mathis, broke the track record sprinting five furlongs over firm turf on June 7. That day, he stopped the clock in 55.34 seconds, winning by seven lengths. As a 3-year-old at Del Mar, he broke his maiden going two turns. His last route race, a first-level allowance at Del Mar immediately following the maiden win, resulted in a length loss while encountering traffic problems down the lane.

“American Farmer is a Steve Sherman trainee last seen finishing off-the-board in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby. Winner of the Robert Dupret Derby for 3-year-olds in August, American Farmer sports class and comes off a run in which he earned a career high Beyer speed figure (83). Recent allowance winner Fuente also figures to get play. Builder is an interesting item in the race, too: he was claimed last time out for $62,500 for trainer Ed Moger Jr. for his brother, owner Steve Moger.”

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.

“Trainer Justin Joiner returns to Los Alamitos with a trio of 2-year-old quarter horses on Friday night. The best-known is Lady La Belle, the third highest seller at $310,000 during the closing session of the 2019 Ruidoso Yearling Sale. Lady La Belle has had troubled trips in her two outings at Ruidoso Downs this summer and will look for better luck in Friday’s eighth race. Her rivals include stablemate No Emotion, who faced Grade 1 winner Cyber Monday in a trial at Ruidoso Downs, and Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity finalist Hi High Hopes, who has four second place finishes this season.

“Joiner, who has enjoyed big-time success in his late season visits to Los Alamitos, will also saddle First Painted Hero when he makes his career debut in the seventh race on Friday.

“Six trials to the richest running ever of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby will highlight the nine-race program on here on Saturday night. Forty-three sophomores will compete in the 400-yard trials with the horses with the 10 fastest times advancing to the final on Sunday, Nov. 8. The gross purse for the Los Alamitos Super Derby is $1,052,350, which is a record eclipsing the 2010 purse of $1,052,000. The purse is also up $43,000 from the prize money offered in 2019.

“The lineup of trial hopefuls on Saturday is tremendous, as it will be headed by Ed Allred’s derby winning brothers Nomadic and Circle City plus Grade 1 stakes winners Runforyourlife and Tell Cartel and Grade 2 stakes winners Inaugurator and Sass Go Blue. There will be eight other runners with career earnings of $100,000 or higher.

“The opening trial, which is scheduled as the fourth race, is one of the strongest, as it will feature Governor’s Cup Derby winner Nomadic, All American Oaks runner-up Kiss Thru Fire and the stakes experienced runners Corona Required, Invader and One Sweet Change.

“The second trial might be even stronger with Grade 2 Golden State Derby winner Circle City and two-time derby winner Tell Cartel facing the Aleman-trained Cattail Cove and returning star Southern Wagon. Cattail Cove was second in last year’s Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and sixth to Nomadic in this year’s Governor’s Cup. The Link Newcomb-owned campaigner traveled to Ruidoso Downs after the Governor’s Cup, running second in his trial to the All American Derby and then finishing third in the $100,000 All American Invitational Stakes.

“Inaugurator, winner of the Grade 2 Heritage Place Derby and runner-up in the Grade 1 All American Derby, will highlight the third trial. The gelding has won four and finished second in his other two starts of 2020. He began the year by breaking his maiden at Los Alamitos before outstanding efforts at Remington Park and Ruidoso Downs. In the later trials, top stars such as 2019 Grade 1 Golden State Futurity winner Runforyourlife, Oklahoma Derby runner-up Aint Working, John Carter Cash, who beat older horses in the Los Alamitos Championship at 440-yards on Aug. 14, and Determined One, who ran third in last year’s Grade 1 All American Futurity, will be in action.

“Sunday’s card has a full night of trials to the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity at 400 yards. Eighty-eight juveniles are expected in the trials led by Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity winner La Jaconde and Restricted Grade 1 Governor’s Cup Futurity winner Constituent. Among the top new arrivals are Oklahoma Futurity winner Aint She Working, who also finished second in the $1 million Heritage Place Futurity. Ruidoso invaders like Eastern Shore, Elmer, Bodhi and A Dash Of Sign could also star in a big way. The horses with the 10 fastest times will return for the Golden State Million final on Nov. 1.

“Fasig-Tipton will hold its California Fall Yearlings Sale, at Los Alamitos on Monday. The sale starts at noon. The 298-horse catalog is available online at or through the Equineline sales catalog app.

“Recapping last week’s Grade 1 stakes, Ed Allred’s Chocolatito outdueled the ageless champion Zoomin For Spuds by a nose to win the 60th running of the Grade 1, $125,000 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship at 440 yards on Sunday.

“Ridden by Oscar Andrade Jr. for trainer Scott Willoughby, Chocolatito caught the razor-sharp Zoomin For Spuds in the final yards after trailing by a length at the midway point of the race. Andrade, who won this race last year with BH Lisas Boy, is first jockey since Robert Adair to win this race in back-to-back years but with different horses. Adair won the 1970 running with Go Derussa Go and the 1971 edition with Kaweah Bar. Chocolatito covered the 440 yards in :21.37.

Chris Wade’s Friday LA pick

EIGHTH RACE: No. 2 Other World (7-2)

He has improved in each subsequent start while facing productive opposition while earning very competitive numbers for Friday’s endeavor. In this gelding’s last effort 27 nights ago, he bobbled and drifted inward at the gate, while losing over half a length and his early racing momentum. After the less than stellar getaway, this gelding showed a nice turn of foot past the gap prior to finishing steadily while under a slight hold nearing the wire. With a solid number that compares favorably in here and an expected step forward this evening for a strong trainer/jockey combo.

A final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, October 16.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 13th day of a 18-day meet.


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1EnvyJuan Hernandez124Anthony K. Saavedra7-2
2Spanish ChannelTiago Pereira124Javier Jose Sierra6-1
3Verry BossyAnthony Locke120Robert J. Lucas12-1
4Shez Our ArchEswan Flores120Jorge Gutierrez15-1
5Cassie BelleFlavien Prat124Sean McCarthy6-5
6ElgofrancoMario Gutierrez120Ben D. A. Cecil5-2
7Forever FreeHeriberto Figueroa120Anthony K. Saavedra15-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Capital HeatJessica Pyfer110Vann Belvoir4-150,000
2Jan Jan CanJuan Hernandez124Mike Puype5-150,000
3Adrienne's ProgenyTyler Baze120Jorge Periban12-150,000
4Little Miss EllieFlavien Prat120Vladimir Cerin4-550,000
5Rickie Nine Toe'sAlexis Centeno113Jorge Periban5-250,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Fleet RoyEswan Flores122Hector O. Palma15-1
2Whiskey VisionAbel Cedillo122Val Brinkerhoff15-1
3Lil NasFlavien Prat122Peter Eurton5-2
4That CoreyMario Gutierrez122Ben D. A. Cecil3-1
5CircleofchampionsUmberto Rispoli122Carla Gaines5-1
6By MoonlightAlexis Centeno115Steven Miyadi5-1
7The Chosen VronDrayden Van Dyke122J. Eric Kruljac6-1
8Gates of HeavenHeriberto Figueroa122Shelbe Ruis15-1
9Me LikeyJuan Hernandez122Doug F. O'Neill8-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Heart RiverJorge Velez122Jeffrey Metz3-120,000
2SherilindaEswan Flores122George Papaprodromou7-220,000
3DehydrationTyler Baze124Jeffrey Metz5-220,000
4Billy KEdwin Maldonado122Ryan Hanson10-120,000
5Don't Stop LookinAlexis Centeno115Robert A. Bean10-120,000
6Flying BusinessFlavien Prat122Mark Glatt9-520,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1TapwaterMike Smith122Richard E. Mandella4-1
2Out of BalanceAbel Cedillo122David E. Hofmans15-1
3Heathers GreyAaron Gryder122Sean McCarthy5-1
4Gypsy Spirit Flavien Prat122Leonard Powell3-1
5She's Our CharmJuan Hernandez122Ronald L. McAnally2-1
6Quick Umberto Rispoli124John W. Sadler5-2


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $35,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $32,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Truth SeekerRicardo Gonzalez122Steven Miyadi5-132,000
2Conquest CobraJessica Pyfer112Vann Belvoir3-132,000
3Justin's QuestFlavien Prat122Richard Baltas5-232,000
4Debt MongerAlexis Centeno111Steven Miyadi8-132,000
5Bold EndeavorTyler Baze122George Papaprodromou6-132,000
6Secret TouchUmberto Rispoli122Mark Glatt2-132,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1KneedeepinsnowAbel Cedillo122Shelbe Ruis8-1
2MicrorithmsDrayden Van Dyke124Bob Baffert6-562,500
3PyronFlavien Prat122Mark Glatt4-1
4Grinning TigerTyler Baze124Anthony K. Saavedra8-1
5Surfing StarUmberto Rispoli124Bruce Headley5-1
6California StreetMike Smith122Patrick Gallagher8-1
7ChampagneonmeJuan Hernandez122John W. Sadler6-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Keep DancingJose Valdivia, Jr.120Michael S. Wilson15-1
2KetchupEdwin Maldonado120Brian T. Cunningham15-1
3Buy Wave BuyTiago Pereira124Alexis Barba20-1
4New HeatAbel Cedillo120Anthony K. Saavedra8-1
5Cheerful CharmFlavien Prat124Dan Blacker5-2
6Rose's CrystalJuan Hernandez120Carla Gaines7-2
7Slew's Screen StarJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Daniel Dunham15-1
8Rockie CausewayUmberto Rispoli120Richard Baltas6-5