Horse racing newsletter: Saying goodbye to 2020

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

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we look at half of our Eclipse Award selections.

It’s about as close to the end of the year as you can get and the Eclipse Award voting deadline is almost upon us. As I’ve done in the past, I thought I would share which way I’m thinking. Since there are 17 categories, I’ve split it up into two days and today we’re going with all the human awards plus a couple involving just the horses. So, let’s get right to it.

Apprentice jockey: 1. Alexander Crispin; 2. Yarmarie Correa; 3. Charlie Marquez. We leaned toward Crispin over Correa because of a tougher circuit, Maryland as opposed to Ohio. The stats are comparable. Marquez did a good job in New York with fewer mounts. Would have loved to have voted for Jessica Pyfer, maybe next year.

Breeder: 1. Godolphin; 2. WinStar; 3. Calumet. I have to say I feel completely ill-equipped to vote in the next two categories because it’s just not where my interest lies. So, I consulted one of our newsletter experts Jon White for his thoughts. You can catch them here at Xpressbet. But I didn’t just copy them. In fact, I went with Godolphin in first because they did a lot with a smaller inventory of starts, which included at least 10 graded stakes wins (don’t have final stats yet). WinStar had more wins with more starts and Calumet blew everyone away. But, I believed Calumet’s success was just a volume play.

Owner: 1. Klaravich Stables; 2. Godolphin; 3. Gary Barber. This category is a mess because the idea of single ownership is going out the door in many cases. And, I ignored the big syndicate that is the new darling of the sport as I just don’t buy the idea that if you own a couple follicles of a horse that it makes you an owner. Sorry. So, I went with Klaravich, which had four Grade 1 wins, more than anyone else. Godolphin and Barber tied with the most graded stakes wins.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


Jockey: 1. Irad Ortiz, Jr.; 2. Joel Rosario; 3. Flavien Prat. No doubt that two-time Eclipse winner Ortiz is still at the top of all jockeys, winning more than 30 races than the nearest rival. Rosario is also at the top of his game and gets he best out of a horse every time. Tough choice for third but we went with Prat, who had a very good year, leading the country with 28 graded stakes wins, despite being on the race-starved California circuit. Could easily make a case for John Velazquez, despite riding fewer races than most at the top.

Trainer: 1. Bob Baffert; 2. Brad Cox; 3. Chad Brown. Baffert won 16 Grade 1 races including the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He wins at an astounding 29% rate with a 64% in the money number. He got stiffed when Justify won the Triple Crown and he hasn’t won this award since American Pharoah. Some will point to his medication positives as a reason to not vote for him. I’m not one of them. This is where the East vs. West bias can rear its head. Cox won four Breeders’ Cup races over two days and had a good year. Brown always has a good year.

Steeplechase: 1. Moscato; 2. Snap Decision; 3. Rashaan. This category is to the Eclipse Awards as modern pentathlon is to the Olympics. You have to figure it’s in there because it’s always been in there. All I had to go on were PPs supplied by the Daily Racing Form on four horses. Moscato won a Grade 1 and Grade 2. Snap Decision won three ungraded stakes and Rashaan won a Grade 1. There you have it.

Male turf: 1. Channel Maker; 2. Order of Australia; 3. United. You could throw a blanket over about five horses and not be wrong with any one of them. Channel Maker won the metaphorical coin toss by virtue of two Grade 1 wins and a third in Breeders’ Cup Turf behind two females. Order of Australia won the Breeders’ Cup Mile and United had four graded stakes wins.

Female Turf: 1. Rushing Fall; 2. Tarnawa; 3. Audarya. Rushing Fall had a great year with two Grade 1 wins and a Grade 3. Her only loss was a second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. You can make a strong case for Tarnawa, who won all four of her races including beating the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. But the BC Turf was her only race in the U.S. 3. Audarya won the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

Tiz the Law retired

Tiz the Law, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes, has been retired on the advice of veterinarians. No specific injury or problem was announced. The 3-year-old colt was being talked about as the next Triple Crown winner this summer and fall after convincing wins, one in Florida and two in New York. He went into the Kentucky Derby has the 7-10 favorite and finished a well-beaten second while losing to Authentic. The Southern California-based Authentic, who went onto win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was also retired this year leaving Swiss Skydiver, winner of the Preakness, as the only Triple Crown winner still running. Tiz the Law will start a career as a stallion at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky. next month. No stud fee has been announced.


Santa Anita preview

This is the only Thursday card scheduled for the entire meeting. However, it’s possible Santa Anita could add some if they get a big influx of horses from Golden Gate Fields as long as that track is closed. The situation up north is not great as long as the coronavirus is around. If trainers and owners can’t run, they’ll be looking to move their horses. Santa Anita would make too much sense. Today’s card is nine races beginning at 12:30 p.m. Five of the races are on the turf and, for the first time, two of them will be on the same day in the new chute.

The feature, the $75,000 Blue Norther, is for Cal-bred 2-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf. The favorite, at 2-1, is Pizzazz for trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Mike Smith. She has won one of the four and is coming off a fourth in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar. Javanica (Eoin Harty, Flavien Prat) and Quattroelle (Jeff Mullins, Tyler Baze) are the 5-2 second choices. Javanica was second in the Jimmy Durante and Quattroelle was third. Post is around 3:30 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 11, 6, 7, 9, 10, 6, 8, 9, 11.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 2 Navy Queen (8-1)

Navy Queen makes the first start since February for trainer John Sadler, when he claimed the horse and had to put it on the bench. Joel Rosario takes the mount and while this tandem has yet to get a win it is coming, today on this 8-1 value. There is a sharp work last week and Queen races protected Thursday, always a good sign. Sadler also adds blinkers, a move he is 27% on.

Sunday’s result: Master Ryan tracked off the pace but did not have enough down to stretch and ran fourth.

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


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 You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Thursday, December 31.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 3rd day of a 81-day meet.


6 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Florentine DiamondAlexis Centeno115Paula S. Capestro12-1
2Navy QueenJoel Rosario122John W. Sadler8-1
3La AguilillaRuben Fuentes124Jesus Ramos5-1
4Silk From HeavenJuan Hernandez124Hector O. Palma15-1
5Sofi's GoldUmberto Rispoli122Carla Gaines7-2
6HabobaneroJessica Pyfer115Reina E. Gonzalez6-1
7Sweet RafaelaEdwin Maldonado124Reed Saldana3-1
8Ballet RoyaltySantos Rivera119Javier Jose Sierra30-1
9Midnight SunriseJose Valdivia, Jr.122Andy Mathis15-1
10EnvyTyler Baze122Anthony K. Saavedra20-1
11Shylock EddieGeovanni Franco124Brian J. Koriner6-1


1 Mile. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $16,000-$12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Midnight JamboreeTiago Pereira124William Spawr3-116,000
2Lady O'PradoJuan Hernandez122Robert B. Hess, Jr.5-216,000
3Mariah Girl Jessica Pyfer117Doug F. O'Neill2-116,000
4Heart RiverHeriberto Figueroa120Jeffrey Metz10-112,500
5True MischiefAlexis Centeno117Richard Baltas7-216,000
6SamandahTyler Baze124George Papaprodromou8-116,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $36,000. Starter Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1I'm Leaving YouJoel Rosario120Vann Belvoir5-250,000
2C FallsJuan Hernandez122Shelbe Ruis4-1
3Gallant WarrenGeovanni Franco120Tim Bellasis12-1
4AntitheticalTyler Baze120Steven Miyadi4-1
5TalkingMario Gutierrez120Robert N. Falcone, Jr.3-1
6Dreamer's RealityJose Valdivia, Jr.122Mike Puype12-150,000
7Hoop DreamAbel Cedillo122David Bernstein4-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $31,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $40,000-$35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Malibu JewelAlexis Centeno115Jonathan Wong4-140,000
2VaromaJessica Pyfer115Manuel Ortiz, Sr.5-240,000
3Felicidad LegadaSantos Rivera113Lisa Bernard30-135,000
4HaynespunGeovanni Franco122Daniel Dunham20-140,000
5You're All TalkAbel Cedillo118Peter Eurton6-135,000
6Winter StarRuben Fuentes122Hector O. Palma12-140,000
7Cold Brew KellyEdwin Maldonado118Steve M. Sherman6-135,000
8Oscar NodRicardo Gonzalez122Tim Yakteen5-140,000
9MisericorsTiago Pereira122William Spawr7-240,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1SmoothlikebuttahAbel Cedillo122Steve Knapp5-1
2Warrens Candy GirlDrayden Van Dyke122Craig Anthony Lewis5-2
3She's ExpensiveGeovanni Franco122Ed Moger, Jr.15-1
4Miss Ever ReadyFlavien Prat122Brian J. Koriner4-1
5St HelenaMario Gutierrez122Mike Puype15-1
6Big AwardRicardo Gonzalez122Tim Yakteen15-1
7Bingos SystemEdwin Maldonado122Robert B. Hess, Jr.10-1
8Flag SaluteJessica Pyfer115Carla Gaines8-1
9AgataUmberto Rispoli122Carla Gaines3-1
10Mensa On TapEswan Flores122Daniel Dunham50-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $65,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1KneedeepinsnowAbel Cedillo122Shelbe Ruis7-2
2ParsimonyMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill5-1
3Leading ScoreJoel Rosario124Bob Baffert5-262,500
4ShashashakemeupFlavien Prat120Peter Miller9-5
5California StreetDrayden Van Dyke122Patrick Gallagher8-1
6King of SpeedMike Smith124Jeff Bonde5-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Blue Norther Stakes'. Fillies. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1JavanicaFlavien Prat120Eoin G. Harty5-2
2MichalskaJuan Hernandez120Alfredo P. Marquez20-1
3Carpe FortunaMario Gutierrez120Peter Eurton6-1
4Quattroelle Tyler Baze120Jeff Mullins5-2
5Derby QuestGeovanni Franco120Ruben Gomez30-1
6PizzazzMike Smith120Richard E. Mandella2-1
7Royal BlendDrayden Van Dyke120Robert B. Hess, Jr.20-1
8Absolute Scenes Joel Rosario120Richard Baltas6-1


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $20,000-$18,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1My Heart AwakensAlexis Centeno115Vann Belvoir20-118,000
2Old Indian TrickTiago Pereira124Mike Puype4-120,000
3Satchel de RitchesKent Desormeaux120Robert B. Hess, Jr.12-118,000
4AlcoolsRicardo Gonzalez122Peter Miller5-220,000
5EustaceRuben Fuentes122Ed Moger, Jr.5-120,000
6AdmirablyJessica Pyfer115Victor M. Trujillo4-120,000
7Carte BlancheJuan Hernandez124Philip D'Amato7-220,000
8My SunshineSantos Rivera115Daniel Franko20-118,000
9Cause and EffectGeovanni Franco124Daniel Azcarate12-120,000


6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Witch's VowRuben Fuentes122Hector O. Palma30-1
2Flying CharlieGeovanni Franco122Alexis Barba30-1
3Absolute UnitMario Gutierrez122Peter Eurton6-1
4Johan Zoffani Ricardo Gonzalez122Dan Blacker8-1
5Disco BallKent Desormeaux122Brian J. Koriner7-2
6HollywoodhellraisrJoel Rosario122Philip D'Amato4-1
7ExplosiveJessica Pyfer115Richard E. Mandella8-1
8Sky DinskiTiago Pereira124Arnold B. Torres30-1
9Sir OliverTyler Baze122Mike Puype10-1
10McWherterAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill5-1
11CosmoFlavien Prat122Neil D. Drysdale5-1