Horse racing newsletter: Big Kentucky Derby prep at Santa Anita

A starting gate
Santa Anita will host the Kentucky Derby prep Grade 3 $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Saturday.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we preview the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and weekend action at Los Alamitos and Golden Gate Fields.

The weather has certainly caused some changes in racing. On Friday, Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Aqueduct canceled their cards. Laurel Park has already canceled its Sunday card. As always, doing the safe thing is always the best thing.

As Santa Anita awakens from its one-day delay, the all-dirt card has a very interesting race for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail, the Grade 3 $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for horses going 1 1/16 miles. Jon White did a partial preview in yesterday’s newsletter and I did a story for our web and print editions. I talked to trainer Doug O’Neill and if you want to know what he said, just click here.

So, here’s a brief look at the field. Post is around 3:37 p.m.

1. Medina Spirit (trainer Bob Baffert, jockey Abel Cedillo, morning line: 5-2). Many think this is the best Baffert horse in the race despite Spielberg’s $1-million price tag. He won his first race and finished second in the Sham to Life Is Good.


2. Rombauer (Michael McCarthy, Mike Smith, 8-1). Won his first race and later finished second in the American Pharoah and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Smith’s only previous ride on this horse was in the American Pharoah.

3. Parnelli (John Shirreffs, Umberto Rispoli, 12-1). He broke his maiden on his fourth start and finished third in the Sham. Drayden Van Dyke rode him for all his races but if off in this race.

4. Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill, Joel Rosario, 3-1). He got on everyone’s radar after finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This is his first race since then, but Rosario has been working the colt in the morning. A good sign.

5. Roman Centurian (Simon Callaghan, Juan Hernandez, 8-1). He has had two starts and broke his maiden in his second race, winning by 3 ¾. He was a $550,000 purchase so expectations are high.

6. Wasirant (John Shirreffs, Ricardo Gonzalez, 20-1). Won his second race but followed back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the American Pharoah and Sham. Rispoli got off this horse to ride Parnelli for Shirreffs.

7. Wipe the Slate (Doug O’Neill, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1). These are the I’ll Have Another and Nyquist connections. He’s coming off a win in his second maiden special race. O’Neill said he’s sharper since adding blinkers.


8. Spielberg (Bob Baffert, Flavien Prat, 7-2). This $1-million purchase won last out in the Los Alamitos Futurity after taking four shots to win his maiden. He’s only been off the board once in six starts, a fourth in the Bob Hope at Del Mar.

There you have it.

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Santa Anita preview

There are eight races beginning at 12:30 p.m., and all of them are on the dirt for obvious reasons. We’ve previewed the big Derby prep race directly above, so let’s do the other stakes race.

Grade 2 $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes: This one is for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. The favorite, at 9-5, is Idol for trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Gabriel Saez. The 4-year-old is coming off a second in the San Antonio. In four races, he has won twice and finished second twice. There are two second favorites at 2-1, so essentially you can throw a blanket over the top three. King Guillermo, once on the Kentucky Derby trail, finished fourth last out in the Cigar Mile after a second in the Arkansas Derby and a win in the Tampa Bay Derby. He runs for Juan Carlos Avila, and Abel Cedillo will ride. Express Train is also at 2-1 for John Shirreffs and Juan Hernandez. He’s coming off a second in the Malibu behind Charlatan. Post is around 2:33 p.m.

Here are the filed sizes, in order: 7, 6, 7, 6, 5, 5, 8, 12.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 3 Feeling Flush (6-1)

Feeling Flush is a debut horse for the small stable of Michael Wilson, who is winless since returning to training off a five-year break. Wilson worked under some of the best trainers both here and around the world and had a 18-19-16 record from 151 races back in 2015. Since returning, he is 0 for 7. The fact that Joel Rosario decides to ride automatically has me interested. Rosario has three rides Saturday and lands on this 6-1 value horse in the first race for this mostly unknown trainer. A sharp workout adds to the appeal.

Sunday’s Result: Tiz A Unicorn went off at 8-1 and jockey Ricardo Gonzalez sat perfectly off the 19-1 longshot horse but lost the nose bob on the line to run second. Great ride. Tiz paid $9.20 for the place.


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

Golden Gate preview

Matt Dinerman is back for another week of Golden Gate Fields racing. The genial race caller is the host for our weekly previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.

“There are eight races on Saturday and Sunday. The feature on Saturday is the seventh race, a second-level allowance for routers set to go a mile on Tapeta. Lymebird is my top pick. The last time he ran at this condition going two turns at Golden Gate, he finished second behind stakes-caliber gelding Navy Armed Guard, who broke the track record when defeating Lymebird. Catalino Martinez will ride for the first time.

“Other main contenders in Saturday’s feature include stakes-placed gelding Our Silver Oak, Southern California shipper King of Speed and Robert Dupret Derby winner American Farmer. Southern California racing fans will remember Our Silver Oak from his two-starts ago effort, when the Jonathan Wong trainee picked up a first-level allowance victory during the afternoon race meet at Los Alamitos in December. King of Speed, trained by Jeff Bonde, is the 9-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s seventh. The last time he routed at this condition, he ran fourth to Zestful at Santa Anita. American Farmer won the Robert Dupret Derby over the summer on turf at Golden Gate but has failed to win in four starts since then. Stretch-out sprinter Wine and Whisky and Jammers Justice will likely go off at a price and complete the group of a half dozen entrants.

“Two maiden special weight races on Sunday come as intriguing co-features. The fifth is for 3-year-olds, featuring 6-5 morning-line favorite It’s My House. The Florida-bred ran a much better than looked runner up finish last time out and comes in with a sharp gate work leading up to his second lifetime start. Trainer Blaine Wright saddles a pair in second-time starter Me B Bubba T, who ran at Santa Anita in a maiden special weight on turf in his career debut, and first-time starter Bodeman, a Virginia-bred son of Bodemeister who has been installed as the 9-2 third choice on the morning line. Firsters Command Sgt. Major and Hey Mate, both Kentucky-breds, also have appeal.

“The seventh on Sunday is a maiden special for 3-year-old fillies. The 9-5 morning-line favorite Mischief Free is a daughter of Into Mischief who returns to Golden Gate after a poor performance at Santa Anita against tougher. Kentucky breds Austrian Navy (trained by Steve Specht) and Byebye to Shanghai (trained by Wright) are two new shooters at this condition.”

Big races preview

A look at thoroughbred graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PST.

10:10 Gulfstream (4): Grade 3 $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Never Surprised (9-5)


10:50 Aqueduct (4): Grade 3 $150,000 Toboggan Stakes, 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Share the Ride (8-5)

11:10 Gulfstream (6): Grade 3 $100,000 Swale Stakes, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: By George (2-1)

12:46 Gulfstream (9): Grade 3 $100,000 Forward Gal Stakes, fillies, 3-year-old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Zaajel (7-5)

1:06 Oaklawn (5): $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 1 mile. Favorite: Coach (7-5)

1:18 Gulfstream (10): Grade 3 $100,000 Sweetest Charm Stakes, 3-year-olds, Del Mar 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Con Lima (5-2)

1:50 Gulfstream (11): Grade 3 $200,000 Holy Bull Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Greatest Honour (5-2)


2:33 Santa Anita (5): Grade 2 $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes, 4 and up 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Idol (9-5)

2:40 Oaklawn (8): $150,000 American Beauty Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Frank’s Rockette (2-1)

3:37 Santa Anita (7): Grade 3 $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Medina Spirit (5-2)

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only game in town at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos will reopen for outdoor daytime simulcasting beginning this morning after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide stay-at-home orders. General admission is $3 and Vessels Club admission is $10, and the dress code will be in effect. For more information, please call (714) 820-2800 or visit Live racing will continue with only essential personnel inside the facility.

“The main event on Saturday night is a $12,900 allowance for quarter horses at 350 yards. It will be headed by several runners with stakes experience including Loose On Katella, who was fourth in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity two years ago, and Fredericos Fantasy, who returns for the first time since running second to AQHA champion Tell Cartel in a trial to the El Primero Del Ano Derby last March. Fredericos Fantasy will enter this race after steady number of workouts.

“Sunday night is trials night with 35 sophomores looking to earn a final berth to the $101,250 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes to be held on Feb. 21. The trials will include full siblings to graded stakes winners Chance To Excel, Quirky, Terrific Synergy, Nomadic, and Circle City. Horses had to be maidens before Dec. 1 to be eligible for these trials. Of the 35 horses, 12 have won a race since then. Two of those winners, Republic Anne and Illushion Eagle, have won twice.


Ed Allred’s Chance It Now, a full sister to Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity winner Chance To Excel, will be in the opening trial. She’ll take on a field that includes the Jumpn JB, a colt out of the Grade 1 futurity winner Jumpn Beduino, and Nuclear Option, who is out of the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap winner Thermonucler Energy. This heat will also have Republic Anne, who broke her maiden on Dec. 11 before returning to win an allowance over a field that included Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby finalist AP A Special Takeoff on Jan. 2.

“The fourth trial will have Illushion Eagle, a maiden winner here on Dec. 18. He was also an impressive allowance winner on Jan. 10. The Jaime Gomez trainee won that allowance in a sharp time of :15.48. Three races ago, Illushion Eagle was second to two-time Grade 1 futurity finalist Counting The Ways in their trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. This trial will also have Dynastic Energy, who is a full sister to Governor’s Cup Derby winner Terrific Synergy and half-brother to major stakes winner Thermonuclear Energy and Terrific First Down and current star Terrific Temper.

“After the live racing program on Sunday, the track will be dark for live racing during Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 5-7), similarly to previous years. Los Alamitos will be open for daytime simulcasting during this week.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

SEVENTH RACE: No. 4 RMR Take Notes (9-2)

She has found trouble in many of her past races while putting together efforts that when her troubles are factored in place her as one of the top contenders in this race. In her last start, she was slightly fractious in the gate before breaking head high and outwardly to lose over a length of ground and her racing momentum. After the less-than-stellar getaway, this runner put forth a decent run past the gap followed by a solid finish on her own late to garner the superfecta placing. With hopefully a better start this evening, she should be a player for all the board placings for connection that win at a 28% rate on the drop in class.

A final thought

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

Santa Anita Entries for Saturday, January 30.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 18th day of a 81-day meet.


6 Furlongs. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Our Miss MillieMike Smith123J. Eric Kruljac5-2
2Bossy MamaJuan Hernandez123Jeff Bonde4-1
3Feeling FlushJoel Rosario123Michael S. Wilson6-1
4Our Little TigerTiago Pereira123Jerry Wallace, II6-1
5Jeanne BJose Valdivia, Jr.123Charles R. Stutts30-1
6Maddie's MojitoAbel Cedillo123Mark Glatt5-1
7Ensleys DreamFlavien Prat123Brian J. Koriner2-1


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $31,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $20,000-$18,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tiz ToffeeTyler Baze122Rosemary Trela9-520,000
2Canadian GingerMario Gutierrez124George Papaprodromou7-520,000
3SwirlingEdwin Maldonado124Antonio Gonzalez3-120,000
4Lady On IceJoel Rosario122Steve Knapp2-120,000
5Sea GlassAlexis Centeno115Santos R. Perez15-120,000
6SherilindaEmily Ellingwood110George Papaprodromou8-118,000


1 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Maiden Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1K P D DayJessica Pyfer117Alfredo P. Marquez4-120,000
2LandaaEmily Ellingwood114George Papaprodromou30-120,000
3Lucky Ryan SevenJose Valdivia, Jr.124George Papaprodromou6-120,000
4Big BillyTiago Pereira124Daniel Dunham5-120,000
5Twirling DerbyGeovanni Franco124Ruben Gomez2-120,000
6Mongol AltaiHeriberto Figueroa124Enebish Ganbat12-120,000
7Full DrawMario Gutierrez124Reed Saldana9-520,000


1 Mile. Purse: $35,000. Maiden Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Miss Mo' LiciousTyler Baze124Charles S. Treece10-1
2This TeaFlavien Prat124George Papaprodromou4-5
3LookintogetevenMike Smith124James M. Cassidy3-1
4Face Card ContessaFrancisco Amparan124Alberto Amparan20-1
5ShezaghostJose Valdivia, Jr.124Mike Puype4-1
6Awesome PamelaDrayden Van Dyke124Blake R. Heap6-1


1 1/8 Mile. Purse: $200,000. 'San Pasqual Stakes'. 4 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1TizamagicianDrayden Van Dyke120Richard E. Mandella9-2
2IdolGabriel Saez120Richard Baltas9-5
3King GuillermoAbel Cedillo122Juan Carlos Avila2-1
4Express TrainJuan Hernandez120John A. Shirreffs2-1
5ZestfulEdwin Maldonado120Mark Glatt15-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $65,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Speed PassJoel Rosario122Bob Baffert5-2
2Sparky VilleMike Smith124Jeff Bonde5-162,500
3Loud MouthAbel Cedillo124Steve Knapp9-5
4El Tigre TerribleJuan Hernandez124Peter Miller6-1
5ParsimonyMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill2-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $100,000. 'Robert B. Lewis Stakes'. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Medina SpiritAbel Cedillo120Bob Baffert5-2
2RombauerMike Smith120Michael W. McCarthy8-1
3ParnelliUmberto Rispoli120John A. Shirreffs12-1
4Hot Rod CharlieJoel Rosario120Doug F. O'Neill3-1
5Roman CenturianJuan Hernandez120Simon Callaghan8-1
6WaspirantRicardo Gonzalez120John A. Shirreffs20-1
7Wipe the SlateMario Gutierrez120Doug F. O'Neill4-1
8SpielbergFlavien Prat124Bob Baffert7-2


6 Furlongs. Purse: $35,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$45,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Crash CorriganDrayden Van Dyke119Steven Miyadi7-245,000
2Seahawk CodyFlavien Prat123Michael W. McCarthy6-150,000
3Cousin EddieJose Valdivia, Jr.123Ronald W. Ellis15-150,000
4Robin's LegacyTyler Baze119Ryan Hanson15-145,000
5Stone's RiverAbel Cedillo123Craig Anthony Lewis20-150,000
6TheluteismineJuan Hernandez119Peter Miller8-145,000
7The Roan RangerTiago Pereira119David Bernstein30-145,000
8Little MischiefEswan Flores123Daniel Dunham30-150,000
9SabudaUmberto Rispoli123Anna Meah3-150,000
10J T's WatchHeriberto Figueroa119Peter Miller8-145,000
11Careless KittenRuben Fuentes119Val Brinkerhoff30-145,000
12Gabby HayesJessica Pyfer116Steven Miyadi4-150,000