Horse racing newsletter: Santa Anita ready for signature season
Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we’re hoping everyone has a great Christmas or whatever holiday you were celebrating. They are all special.
We’re back. After an infinitely short break, we’re back for a new year of racing. The sport, as you know, starts its new year somewhere around the day after Christmas, and that’s today. Santa Anita, more than eight decades ago, opened on Christmas Day but now it’s settled in around the day after the holiday with a few unwanted disruptions through the years.
The Santa Anita card is so fantastic it’s worthy of the 11 a.m. start. There are six stakes, five of them graded and three Grade 1s. But, before we get to the stakes previews, there is some news you might want to hear about and few stories you might want to read.
--Los Alamitos is open for nighttime racing. For how long, we don’t know, but we expect it to be for a while. To replay what happened, Los Alamitos was applying for a year-long license a little more than a week before it was scheduled to start its new meeting. After discussion, Oscar Gonzales, California Horse Racing Board vice chairman, suggested, given the number of fatalities the track has had this year, that the license only be for six months. This caught everyone by surprise.
Los Alamitos owner Ed Allred said if that’s the case he is withdrawing his application for a license. This caught everyone by surprise. A couple of votes were taken which both ended in a tie because commissioner Alex Solis, who now works in Kentucky, was not present on the teleconference.
So, here’s where the Board could have moved on to the next item and there wouldn’t be an Orlando Gutierrez Los Alamitos preview lower in this newsletter. Another vote was taken and Gonzales’ proposal was accepted with a dissenting vote (no doubt symbolic) from chairman Greg Ferraro.
The ball was now in Allred’s court, who has asked for an appeal of the decision. In the meantime, Los Alamitos decided to draw entries and run. My email has been, oh let’s say, about 100% against the Board. It’s just worth pointing out that if the Board had not taken the third vote, obliging Allred in his decision to withdraw the application, there would be no racing.
So that’s where we are, and where we’ll probably be for a while.
Enjoying this newsletter?
--Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act passes Congress. Congress knows so much about horse racing that it thinks it’s one word, not two. But, in the end, who cares? Well, the House and Senate passed the bill as part of the omnibus spending act to keep the government open and bring COVID relief. The reality is the bill was nothing more than the kid watching the family next door packing up to go to the beach waiting longingly for an invitation. They got one along with the many other bills.
But the overall bill is now on hold as President Trump wants to up the amount of stimulus checks. The House will introduce a bill on Monday, upping the stimulus check to $2,000. Will it pass and will the Senate also pass it? Everyone will be watching next week, but be assured whatever happens to the omnibus bill that it has nothing to do about horse racing. I wrote a story about the passage when it passed with some facts and figures you may not have heard. You can read it here.
--Santa Anita’s new general manager. I did a Q&A with Nate Newby, the fourth Santa Anita boss in four years. He was appropriately guarded with any state secrets but you can get a good sense of what he’s thinking and who he is. You can read it here.
--There is also a preview of the Santa Anita meeting which I did for our online and print editions. Bob Baffert is the centerpiece of the story as he talks about this past year and gives us his thoughts on today’s opening day. You can read it here.
On to today’s card.
Santa Anita preview
It’s a great opening weekend with Saturday’s 11-race card starting at 11 a.m. There are five turf races but only one using the new chute. Let’s check on each stakes race.
Grade 2 $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile: This is for 3-year-olds going, well, you guess the distance. Smooth Like Strait is the 8-5 favorite for trainer Mike McCarthy and jockey Umberto Rispoli. He has won five-of-11 lifetime and last out was second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. In the previous race he won the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. Field Pass is the 5-2 second choice for Mike Maker and Ricardo Santana, Jr. He is six-for-15 lifetime and coming off a win in the Ontario Derby at Woodbine. (Where else would that be?) He was third in the Twilight Derby. Post is around 12:36 p.m.
Grade 2 $200,000 San Antonio Stakes: You’ve got a race for horses 3 and up going 1 1/16 miles. Mucho Gusto will easily be the favorite and might go off lower than 2-1 odds he’s at on the morning line. His fourth in the Saudi Cup and win the Pegasus World Cup might be to too much to resist. But, he’s been off since Feb. 19, so that will bring some hesitation. Bob Baffert trains and John Velazquez will be riding for the first time. Sharp Samurai is the 5-2 second choice for Mark Glatt and Flavien Prat. He is eight-of-23 lifetime and coming off a third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. However, he hasn’t won since Oct. 6, 2018. Post is set for 2:09 p.m.
Grade 1 $300,000 La Brea Stakes. This is the filly version of the Malibu as it’s for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. Shipper Finite is the 7-2 favorite for Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr. She has won six-of-11 lifetime with three seconds. Last out she won a Grade 3 at Churchill on Nov. 21. She has never run at Santa Anita. The second choice is Merneith for Bob Baffert and John Velazquez. She has won three of eight and is coming off two straight wins, but has never run in a graded stakes. Post is about 2:43 p.m.
Grade 1 $300,000 American Oaks Stakes. This one for 3-year-old fillies starts partially up the downhill turf course with a distance 1 ¼ miles. The 3-1 favorite is Sharing for Graham Motion and John Velazquez. She has won five of eight and last out was fourth in the Matriarch at Del Mar. She won the Grade 2 Edgewood at Churchill race after a second in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last year, she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita. Luck Money is the second choice for Arnaud Delacour and Ricardo Santana, Jr. She has won two in a row but neither were graded stakes. Post is listed as 3:17 p.m.
Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes. This is the big one on the card for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. Nashville is the talk of racing after his sizzling performance on the undercard of the Breeders’ Cup. Undefeated in three races he’s the 6-5 favorite for Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. But you can expect a lot of action on 9-5 second choice Charlatan for Bob Baffert and Mike Smith. Charlatan has crossed the finish line first in his three races, including the Arkansas Derby. He was later disqualified in the Arkansas Derby for a medication positive. The case is on appeal. Post is around 3:51 p.m.
$75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes. This closes the card with this race for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf. Warren’s Showtime is the 7-2 favorite for Craig Lewis and Juan Hernandez. She has won six-of-14 lifetime and has been running at a higher level than this race. She won the Grade 3 Autumn Miss two back. Miss Extra (Richard Mandella, Umberto Rispoli) and Counterparty Risk (Chad Brown, Joel Rosario) are second choices at 4-1. Last post is 4:25 p.m.
Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day
THIRD RACE: No.9 Bam Bam Again (12-1)
Bam Bam Again is trained by the small stable of Reed Saldana who also owns the horse, an angle I like for value hunting. Jessica Pyfer rides for the first time and she has won two of three races for the trainer. Reed drops the horse in class on Saturday and moves back to a route, a move he wins 27% and is a big 55% in the money. He also wins with value plays when he does this with a big ROI. When you bet this angle with this trainer you get paid. We are getting 12-1 value or more with a big weight break. Bam ran second at this level here in September.
Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.
Big races preview
A look at thoroughbred graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PST.
9:25 Laurel (1): $100,000 Heft Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Favorite: No Cents (7-5)
9:54 Laurel (2): $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes, fillies 2-years-old, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Street Lute (8-5)
10:23 Laurel (3): $100,000 Anne Arundel County Stakes, fillies 2-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: The Grass Is Blue (9-5)
10:53 Laurel (4): $100,000 Howard County Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Shackqueenking (5-2)
11:23 Laurel (5): Willa On the Moves Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Dontletsweetfoolya (2-1)
11:53 Laurel (6): $100,000 Dave’s Friend Stakes, 3 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Share the Ride (9-5)
12:23 Laurel (7): $100,000 Native Dancer Stakes, 3 and up 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Harpers First Ride (3-5)
12:36 Santa Anita (4): Grade 2 $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, 3-year-olds, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Smooth Like Strait (8-5)
12:53 Laurel (8): Grade 3 $150,000 Allaire du Pont, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Eres Tu (2-1)
2:09 Santa Anita (7): Grade 2 $200,000 San Antonio Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Mucho Gusto (2-1)
2:43 Santa Anita (8): Grade 1 $300,000 La Brea Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Finite (7-2)
3:17 Santa Anita (9); Grade 1 $300,000 American Oaks, fillies 3-years-old, 1 ¼ miles on turf. Sharing (3-1)
3:51 Santa Anita (10): Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Nashville (6-5).
Los Alamitos weekend preview
Los Alamitos is back and to take us through a preview of the nighttime racing, we’ll turn things over to Los Alamitos marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez. Orlando, the floor is yours.
“Utah Futurity winner No Hesitation and Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Strange Fellow will give trainer Jose Flores a strong 1-2 punch when they go to the starting gate for the running of the $20,000 Holiday Handicap on the first night of the new meet on Saturday. First post for the eight-race program is 6 p.m.
“With only three local starts under his belt, No Hesitation has impressed. After shining at Wyoming Downs, the Favorite Cartel gelding was great in his trial victory to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. He could not keep up with the outstanding Monopolist when fifth in the PCQHR Breeders final before returning with a solid third-place finish in his trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He has been solid throughout and is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1. The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Candy Blood, who arrived at Los Alamitos for his local debut after running fourth in the $200,000 All American Juvenile Consolation.
“Eight juveniles will get together for the final stakes event of 2020 in the $15,000 Last Chance Dash at 110 yards on Sunday night. The field is headed by The Best Feeling, who gave his sire, Docs Best Card, his first ever stakes winner in the $60,000 Far West Futurity on Nov. 9. The Best Feeling was tremendous in his two starts at Grants Pass, winning his futurity trial there by two lengths before winning the 350-yard final by ¾ lengths. The Best Feeling has always been quick from the gate, so this distance should fit his strengths nicely. Oscar Peinado will ride the Lisa Anderson-bred runner.
“La Reina Del Sur 1 has blazing fast speed as part of her arsenal and should be a top contender as well. She finished ahead of the talented Monopolist in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes on July 25 but had a troubled trip when fifth in the Corona Chick Handicap in her last start. Adan Farias, a winner of 1,085 quarter-horse races at Los Alamitos, is back training at Los Alamitos with his first starter being La Reina Del Sur 1 in the Last Dash. Juan Pablo Leon, who rode La Reina Del Sur 1 to victory in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes, is back aboard.
“Scott Willoughby won his first Los Alamitos quarter horse training title after saddling 55 winners from 287 starters during the 2019-20 meet.
“’This is my first leading trainer [award] ever anywhere.’ Willoughby said. ‘I’ve never been leading trainer. It’s special. Los Alamitos has been a great home for me. I came out here 22 years ago. I’ve trained for Doc (Ed Allred) 15 years now.’
“Willoughby is only the fifth trainer to win a meet since 1990. Jaime Gomez finished second with 46 wins and Jose Flores was third with 44. Jesus Rios Ayala won the quarter-horse riding title for the fourth consecutive year with 78 winners. Oscar Andrade, Jr. was second with 62 winners and Oscar Peinado finished third with 57 winners.
“In the thoroughbred rankings, Francisco Orduña Rojas won his first riding title with 69 wins followed by Ramon Guce (51) and Juan Sanchez (43). Sergio Morfin, an assistant trainer for John Cooper for many years, won his first training title after saddling 30 thoroughbred winners. Angela Aquino finished second with 25 wins and Brian Cunningham was third with 18. Edgar Payeras led the jockey standings with 52 wins and Jesus Uranga was the leading trainer with 14 wins.”
Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day
THIRD RACE: No. 2 Vidalia7-2)
She is as consistent as they come at this level of competition with 10 of her last 11 efforts resulting in an on-the-board finish and five of those either a first or second. The filly has been facing tougher as of late and in her most recent outing, this 4-year-old broke a tad slow at the start and was kind of one paced while wide throughout prior to leveling out nearing the wire versus quality rivals while earning a solid number for tonight’s endeavor. I see her a big player for all the top spots in this event with a typical performance on the quick turnaround for a barn that’s a solid 60% (three for five) with that move.
A final thought
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And now the star of the show, Saturday’s entries.
Santa Anita Entries for Saturday, December 26.
Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 1st day of a 81-day meet.
1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.
|1||Kookie Gal||Flavien Prat||124||Peter Miller||6-1|
|2||Sassyserb||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||122||Richard Baltas||8-1|
|3||Aunt Lubie||Victor Espinoza||124||Richard E. Mandella||7-2|
|4||Avenue de France||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Leonard Powell||8-1|
|5||Cover Version||Geovanni Franco||122||James M. Cassidy||15-1|
|6||Donut Girl||Edwin Maldonado||124||Brian T. Cunningham||12-1|
|7||Go Big Blue Nation||Tiago Pereira||120||Michael W. McCarthy||15-1|
|8||Rocking Redhead||Abel Cedillo||122||Richard Baltas||6-1|
|9||Tizno's Dilemma||Jose Valdivia, Jr.||122||Andreas Psarras||15-1|
|10||Hermaphrodite||Joel Rosario||124||John W. Sadler||3-1|
|11||Shanghai Truffles||Umberto Rispoli||122||Patrick Gallagher||4-1|
7 Furlongs. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.
|1||Barraza||John Velazquez||122||Bob Baffert||7-2|
|2||Affable||Flavien Prat||122||Mark Glatt||8-5|
|3||Racing Ace||Tyler Baze||122||Charles S. Treece||20-1|
|4||Sir Flatter||Joel Rosario||122||Richard Baltas||6-1|
|5||Deservedly||Ricardo Gonzalez||122||Mark Glatt||6-1|
|6||Wipe the Slate||Mario Gutierrez||122||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2|
|7||Man Friday||Abel Cedillo||122||Bob Baffert||12-1|
1 Mile. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$12,500.
|1||Defense Wins||Abel Cedillo||122||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2||16,000|
|2||Hapi Hapi||Tiago Pereira||122||Peter Eurton||3-1||16,000|
|3||Tromador||Edwin Maldonado||122||Richard Rosales||15-1||12,500|
|4||Alvaaro||Juan Hernandez||124||Ryan Hanson||7-2||16,000|
|5||Next Revolt||Kent Desormeaux||122||J. Keith Desormeaux||8-1||16,000|
|6||Bodega||Alexis Centeno||115||Derek Meredith||20-1||16,000|
|7||Zorich||Flavien Prat||124||Andrew Lerner||3-1||16,000|
|8||Bam Bam Again||Jessica Pyfer||115||Reed Saldana||12-1||16,000|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $200,000. 'Mathis Brothers Mile'. Stakes. 3 year olds.
|1||Whisper Not||Joel Rosario||120||Richard Baltas||5-1|
|2||Strongconstitution||Abel Cedillo||122||Doug F. O'Neill||12-1|
|3||Storm the Court||John Velazquez||120||Peter Eurton||8-1|
|4||Heywoods Beach||Juan Hernandez||120||John W. Sadler||12-1|
|5||Smooth Like Strait||Umberto Rispoli||124||Michael W. McCarthy||8-5|
|6||Field Pass||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||122||Michael J. Maker||5-2|
|7||Scarto||Flavien Prat||120||Mike Puype||4-1|
6½ Furlongs. Purse: $35,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$45,000. State bred.
|1||Big Chick||Abel Cedillo||118||Tim Yakteen||8-1||45,000|
|2||Military Princess||Francisco Amparan||122||John Cisneros||50-1||50,000|
|3||Medusa's Gaze||Ricardo Gonzalez||122||Kristin Mulhall||20-1||50,000|
|4||Esja||Jessica Pyfer||115||Carla Gaines||15-1||50,000|
|5||Half Hoping||Jose Valdivia, Jr.||122||Mike Puype||4-1||50,000|
|6||Miss Tater Tot||Edwin Maldonado||122||Jeff Bonde||8-1||50,000|
|7||Here Comes Ralphie||Geovanni Franco||118||Gary Stute||12-1||45,000|
|8||Watchful Eye||Juan Hernandez||118||Isidro Tamayo||8-1||45,000|
|9||Ms Michelle||Tiago Pereira||122||Jose Hernandez, Jr.||8-1||50,000|
|10||Great Curves||Tyler Baze||122||Rafael Becerra||4-1||50,000|
|11||Warren's Memorable||Alexis Centeno||115||Craig Anthony Lewis||7-2||50,000|
|12||Grazen Road||Santos Rivera||117||Mark Rheinford||20-1||50,000|
6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance. 3 year olds and up.
|1||Tripoli||Umberto Rispoli||122||John W. Sadler||6-1|
|2||Rayray||Flavien Prat||124||Mark Glatt||8-1|
|3||The Rule of King's||Geovanni Franco||122||Ruben Gomez||30-1|
|4||Highly Distorted||Juan Hernandez||124||Mike Puype||8-1|
|5||Appreciated||Tiago Pereira||124||Rafael Becerra||10-1|
|6||Quick Finish||John Velazquez||124||Dan Blacker||6-1|
|7||Club Aspen||Alexis Centeno||115||Craig Anthony Lewis||12-1|
|8||Preaching Trainer||Joel Rosario||124||Carla Gaines||5-1|
|9||One Flew South||Abel Cedillo||124||Doug F. O'Neill||8-1|
|10||Mecklenburg||Mario Gutierrez||122||Mike Puype||15-1|
|11||Wayne O||Ricardo Gonzalez||122||Philip D'Amato||15-1|
|12||Anaconda||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Richard E. Mandella||4-1|
|13||City Rage||Flavien Prat||124||Mark Glatt||12-1|
1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $200,000. 'San Antonio Stakes'. 3 year olds and up.
|1||Take the One O One||Jose Valdivia, Jr.||121||Brian J. Koriner||15-1|
|2||Kiss Today Goodbye||Mike Smith||119||J. Eric Kruljac||15-1|
|3||Extra Hope||Juan Hernandez||123||Richard E. Mandella||5-1|
|4||Sharp Samurai||Flavien Prat||121||Mark Glatt||5-2|
|5||Combatant||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||123||John W. Sadler||12-1|
|6||Midcourt||Victor Espinoza||123||John A. Shirreffs||5-1|
|7||Idol||Gabriel Saez||119||Richard Baltas||5-1|
|8||Mucho Gusto||John Velazquez||123||Bob Baffert||2-1|
7 Furlongs. Purse: $300,000. 'La Brea Stakes'. Fillies. 3 year olds.
|1||Princess Mo||Geovanni Franco||120||Ruben Gomez||50-1|
|2||Merneith||John Velazquez||120||Bob Baffert||4-1|
|3||Himiko||Flavien Prat||120||Bob Baffert||8-1|
|4||Secret Keeper||Abel Cedillo||120||Clifford W. Sise, Jr.||6-1|
|5||Finite||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||122||Steven M. Asmussen||7-2|
|6||Biddy Duke||Juan Hernandez||122||Doug F. O'Neill||12-1|
|7||Provocation||Joel Rosario||120||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|8||Motivated Seller||Umberto Rispoli||120||Chad C. Brown||5-1|
|9||Fair Maiden||Ricardo Gonzalez||120||Eoin G. Harty||12-1|
|10||Golden Principal||Mike Smith||120||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|11||Stellar Sound||Victor Espinoza||120||Michael W. McCarthy||5-1|
About 1¼ Mile Turf. Purse: $300,000. 'American Oaks'. Stakes. Fillies. 3 year olds.
|1||Red Lark||Drayden Van Dyke||124||Patrick Gallagher||10-1|
|2||Miss Addie Pray||Mike Smith||124||Patrick Gallagher||30-1|
|3||Capital Structure||Joel Rosario||124||Chad C. Brown||4-1|
|4||Going to Vegas||Mario Gutierrez||124||Richard Baltas||8-1|
|5||Luck Money||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||124||Arnaud Delacour||7-2|
|6||Guitty||Juan Hernandez||124||Leonard Powell||20-1|
|7||California Kook||Ricardo Gonzalez||124||Peter Miller||12-1|
|8||Duopoly||Flavien Prat||124||Chad C. Brown||4-1|
|9||Sharing||John Velazquez||124||H. Graham Motion||3-1|
|10||Neige Blanche||Umberto Rispoli||124||Leonard Powell||12-1|
7 Furlongs. Purse: $300,000. 'The RUNHAPPY Malibu Stakes'. 3 year olds.
|1||Collusion Illusion||Flavien Prat||124||Mark Glatt||8-1|
|2||Thousand Words||John Velazquez||122||Bob Baffert||8-1|
|3||Nashville||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||120||Steven M. Asmussen||6-5|
|4||Charlatan||Mike Smith||120||Bob Baffert||9-5|
|5||Express Train||Juan Hernandez||120||John A. Shirreffs||15-1|
|6||Independence Hall||Joel Rosario||120||Michael W. McCarthy||4-1|
1 Mile Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Lady Of Shamrock Stakes'. Fillies. 3 year olds.
|1||Applecross||John Velazquez||120||Richard Baltas||12-1|
|2||Miss Extra||Umberto Rispoli||124||Richard E. Mandella||4-1|
|3||Beguiled||Flavien Prat||122||Philip D'Amato||10-1|
|4||On Mars||Mike Smith||122||Philip D'Amato||6-1|
|5||Moonhall Milly||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||120||Leonard Powell||12-1|
|6||Last First Kiss||Tyler Baze||120||Gary Mandella||20-1|
|7||Nasty||Ricardo Gonzalez||122||Richard Baltas||6-1|
|8||Counterparty Risk||Joel Rosario||120||Chad C. Brown||4-1|
|9||Warren's Showtime||Juan Hernandez||124||Craig Anthony Lewis||7-2|
|10||Annangel||Abel Cedillo||120||Richard Baltas||8-1|
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