Horse racing newsletter: Santa Anita to reopen to fans

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 see where Concert Tour lands in Jon White’s latest Kentucky Derby rankings.

As expected, Santa Anita announced that it will reopen to a limited number of fans on April 2, the day before the Santa Anita Derby. The date is really just a coincidence as it is more inline with restrictions that are being lessened at theme parks and other sporting events.

Given the cavernous nature of the track, after the first couple of weeks, it’s expected that most who want to go to the track can do so. But, don’t show up without a ticket. You need to signup for a Santa Anita newsletter at for details on how to get tickets.

The track did not announce what the reduced capacity controls are going to be but it’s likely to be in the 15-20% range in a facility that can house around 70,000 people.

The track has been closed to fans since March 27 of last year.

Now let’s get to the main event.

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Jon White’s Kentucky Derby rankings

Jon White is back with his Triple Crown rankings. Jon is one of the foremost historians on horse racing as well as being the morning-line maker at Santa Anita and Del Mar. He even has done stints as a steward. He does it all. So, let’s get right to it with his Kentucky Derby rankings and there are some changes. It’s brought to you courtesy of Take it away, Jon.

“Following Concert Tour’s stellar performance in last Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, he leaps all the way up to No. 3 in this newsletter’s rankings for the 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1.

“How impressive was Concert Tour in the Rebel? In a post-race report written by Robert Yates and posted on Oaklawn’s website, trainer Bob Baffert was quoted as saying: ‘To me, it was kind of an American Pharoah-type run. He was doing it with ease, with plenty left.’

“American Pharaoh, also trained by Baffert, won the Rebel in his 2015 debut before going on to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

“Caddo River, who was coming off back-to-back wins by 9 1/2 and 10 1/4 lengths, was sent away as the 6-5 favorite in the Rebel. Concert Tour left the gate as the 8-5 second favorite. Keepmeinmind was 9-2. Everyone else in the field of eight was 14-1 or higher.

Florent Geroux rode Caddo River, who began from post 1. Joel Rosario piloted Concert Tour, who broke from post 7.

“Concert Tour dashed to the front. Geroux moved Caddo River off the rail and to the outside of Concert Tour going into the first turn. Concert Tour, rating kindly and gliding along like an ice skater, set the pace while posting fractions of :23.42, :47.53 and 1:12.00 for six furlongs.


“Caddo River was difficult to handle when headstrong through the early stages while racing just off Concert Tour. Turning for home, it became clear that Caddo River was in deep water. While Rosario was sitting chilly on Concert Tour, Geroux was pumping away on Caddo River and not getting much response.

“In upper stretch, while Caddo River was retreating, Concert Tour drew away. Even though he still was not being asked for run, Concert Tour increased his lead to four lengths at the eighth pole. He then sauntered home to prevail by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:43.18. Hozier, another who hails from the powerful Baffert barn, finished second at odds of 18-1 while making his stakes debut. Big Lake, who also was sent off at 18-1, ended up third.

“To this point, Concert Tour has had a career that eerily mirrors that of the Baffert-trained Nadal.

“Just like Nadal last year, Concert Tour won a Santa Anita maiden race as a 3-year-old at first asking in January, then won Santa Anita’s seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, then got the job done in the Rebel.

“After Nadal’s Rebel victory, he won a division of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on May 2. Unfortunately, he would never race again. Nadal was retired from racing after emerging from a four-furlong workout in :48.80 at Santa Anita on May 28 with a condylar fracture in his left front leg.

“Daily Racing Form lists the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby on April 10 as the next likely start for Concert Tour, whose sire, Street Sense, won the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby in 2007.


“Concert Tour provided Baffert with his eighth Rebel victory, following Lookin At Lucky (2010), The Factor (2011), Secret Circle (2012), Hoppertunity (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Cupid (2016) and Nadal (2020).

“Caddo River exits this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby Top 10 after finishing fifth in the Rebel.

“Meanwhile, Saturday’s 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby is the first race this year to have 170 points up for grabs toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. The Louisiana Derby offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.

“Historically, it has taken an average of at least 26 points to get into the Kentucky Derby. Greatest Honour and Life Is Good currently top the points leaderboard with 60 apiece.

“This year’s Louisiana Derby has attracted a field of eight. Three of the eight are on this newsletter’s Kentucky Derby Top 10. Mandaloun is No. 5, Hot Rod Charlie is No. 7 and Proxy debuts this week at No. 10.

“Fair Grounds oddsmaker Mike Dilliberto installed Mandaloun as the Louisiana Derby morning-line favorite at 8-5. Hot Rod Charlie is listed at 3-1. Proxy is 7-2. Midnight Bourbon is 5-1. All others are 12-1 or higher.


“Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun finished third as a 4-5 favorite in Fair Grounds’ 1 1/16-mile Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 16. Midnight Bourbon won the Lecomte, while Proxy finished second.

“Mandaloun then added blinkers and won Fair Grounds’ 1 1/8-mile Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 13. In the Risen Star, the Kentucky-bred colt by Into Mischief (sire of 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic) was able to turn the tables on Midnight Bourbon and Proxy.

“After being the runner-up in both the Lecomte and Risen Star, Proxy races with blinkers for the first time in the Louisiana Derby. Michael Stidham trains the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt.

Steve Asmussen is the trainer of Midnight Bourbon, who finished third in the Risen Star. Midnight Bourbon’s sire is Tiznow, the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Hot Rod Charlie, who resides at trainer Doug O’Neill’s Santa Anita barn, concluded his 2-year-old campaign by finishing second at the gigantic odds of 94-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. That race was won by Essential Quality, who subsequently was voted a 2020 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“In his 2021 debut on Jan. 30 at Santa Anita, Hot Rod Charlie finished third in Santa Anita’s 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes, which he lost by only a neck.

“Here are this week’s Kentucky Derby rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Life Is Good (1)

2. Essential Quality (2)

3. Concert Tour (6)

4. Greatest Honour (3)

5. Mandaloun (5)

6. Medina Spirit (6)

7. Hot Rod Charlie (7)

8. Spielberg (8)

9. Keepmeinmind (9)

10. Proxy (NR)

NOTE: Last week’s rankings in parentheses”

Santa Anita preview

Today starts the later first post of 1 p.m. There are eight races, three are allowance and four are for Cal-breds. Half of the races are on the turf, but not in the usual even-odd configuration (it’s 1, 4, 6, 8). The feature is an allowance/optional claimer for older horses going 6 ½ furlongs on the turf. The favorite, at 2-1, is Thanks Mr. Eidson for trainer Jeff Bonde and jockey Edwin Maldonado. He has won two-of-13 lifetime and finished third last out in the Clockers’ Corner. The second favorite is Commander at 5-2 for Peter Miller and Umberto Rispoli. He is four-of-12 lifetime and has won his last two races, both at the claiming level, so, he’s moving up in class. Post is around 2:43 p.m.


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

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

SEVENTH RACE: No. 1 Autisms World (8-1)

Autisms World has won two in a row, the last one after a three-month break. Juan Hernandez rides for trainer Isidro Tamayo who ships the horse down from Golden Gate Fields and races protected. When I see Juan jump on a shipper from his old track, I pay attention. This trainer is winning 27% going from all-weather to dirt races. 8-1 is great value for this race.

Sunday’s result: Purda Vita led gate to mid-stretch then faded badly to finish off the board. Claim bait happens.

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

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.

“Nine of the quickest horses at Los Alamitos will get together for Friday night in the $20,000 Cypress Speed Stakes at 110 yards. The seven-race program will also feature the first races for juveniles this season with six 2-year-olds debuting in the fourth race at 220 yards and another six in the sixth race.

“La Reina Del Sur 1 and The Best Feeling will each be looking to become multiple stakes winners when they head the Cypress Speed. La Reina Del Sur 1 won the Freshman Stakes for fillies last year and an allowance winner at this distance in her last start. The Best Feeling won the Far West Futurity at Grants Pass on Nov. 9 and was second in 110 yards stakes event on Dec. 27.

“The juvenile races will have the first starters by the stallion Fly Thru The Fire in Ed Allred’s Watch Out, a half-brother to 2019 World Champion He Looks Hot, in the fourth and Allred’s New And Better and Not This World in the sixth. If you’re looking for a preview, you can catch videos of gate works at the Los Alamitos website.


“A strong collection of seven older horses will be in the $20,000 First Day Of Spring Handicap at 350 yards on Saturday. Included are Grade 1 winner Runforyourlife, Grade 1 runner-up Mental Error and graded stakes placed runners Old School Icon and Dr Tool. The field will be completed by Cypress Handicap winner Stolen Lives, California Breeders Debutante winner All Prettied Up and multiple allowance winner Cartel Rocks, who has a second-place finish in the AQRA Turf Paradise Derby.

“Runforyourlife is the 2-1 morning-line favorite while looking for first win since Sept. 12. Always racing at the top level, he won the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity in 2019 and was fourth in the Grade 2 Southern California Derby in his most recent stakes race. He was third in his trial to the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Jan. 24.

“Mental Error was second to AQHA 3-year-old champion Tell Cartel in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby last year. He was a troubled sixth in his Brad McKinzie trial. In between those starts, he went wire-to-wire in a derby trial win.

“Saturday’s card has three races for 2-year-olds, all at 220 yards. FG Jess Seis is among the first time starters and he’s coming off one of the most eye-catching morning works of the season. FG Jess Seis, who runs in the fifth, posted the drill on March 2 when working in between horses as part of a three-horse set. He leaves the gate slow and gets bumped from behind by his outside workmate. At that point, the jockey on FG Jess Seis loses his right iron, but the rider continues to hustle the colt as he trails his inside rival by a half-length.

“FG Jess Seis responds and starts to catch the horse to his inside. Amid all of this, the jockey reaches with his hand to grab his iron and helps to get his boot back in place. FG Jess Seis goes on to win the work by a head and then displays a terrific gallop out. The final time of the work is just a :12.9, but the way he did it with the help of his quick-thinking exercise rider made this a morning workout to remember.

“On Sunday night, there will be another race for 2-year-olds plus the $10,000 Pick Six Promo will continue to be offered if there is no carryover going into Sunday’s program. Last Sunday’s a total pool in the Pick Six was more than $78,000, which is the highest so far on a Pick 6 promo night.”


Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

SECOND RACE: No. 6 Remember To Bid (6-1)

She has improved with each start and her last effort was her best yet when finishing a better than looked fourth to a runner that cruised to victory. On that night, Remember To Bid broke with the leaders and was second while running in between horses until backing out of tight quarters into the turn. She lost ground and racing momentum but still finished evenly for the superfecta placing. With a competitive figure in her holster, the nice outside draw and another step forward Friday evening, she figures to be a nice-priced contender.

A final thought

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And now here’s the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, March 19.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 39th day of a 81-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ArmaveerEswan Flores123Sam J. Scolamieri20-1
2Catfish CharlieGeovanni Franco123Brian T. Cunningham30-1
3BukayoTyler Baze123Carla Gaines9-2
4Hail FreedomAbel Cedillo123Leandro Mora3-1
5CargoFlavien Prat123Philip D'Amato4-5
6Whiskey TalkJessica Pyfer116Brian J. Koriner12-1
7Big CoupeDrayden Van Dyke123Leonard Powell5-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $24,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $12,500-$10,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Super ClassicGeovanni Franco122Ruben Gomez20-112,500
2Conquest CobraFlavien Prat122Vann Belvoir7-512,500
3ImpressionAbel Cedillo122Kristin Mulhall5-212,500
4LeprinoJessica Pyfer113Reed Saldana6-110,500
5FabozziJuan Hernandez122Kristin Mulhall8-512,500


1 Mile. Purse: $25,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $30,000-$28,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Stone's RiverAbel Cedillo121Craig Anthony Lewis12-128,000
2Sky NavigatorTiago Pereira123Dean Pederson7-230,000
3Hard MetalUmberto Rispoli123Sal Gonzalez4-130,000
4Short RibJessica Pyfer114Leandro Mora5-128,000
5Racing AceTyler Baze123Charles S. Treece20-130,000
6Best DanceEswan Flores123Daniel Dunham30-130,000
7Simmer DownEdwin Maldonado118Ryan Hanson3-130,000
8Royal OrbGeovanni Franco123Ruben Gomez4-130,000
9Sleep OverAlexis Centeno114Andreas Psarras8-128,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Chasin MunnyJuan Hernandez122Mark Glatt5-1
2Restiany Jose Valdivia, Jr.122John W. Sadler10-1
3Ghoul Flavien Prat124Peter Miller3-162,500
4Thanks Mr. EidsonEdwin Maldonado122Jeff Bonde2-1
5Sash Abel Cedillo124Mark Glatt5-1
6Commander Umberto Rispoli122Peter Miller5-2


6½ Furlongs. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1StressedMario Gutierrez123Leandro Mora4-1
2SharapovaUmberto Rispoli123Peter Eurton8-1
3AssignationDrayden Van Dyke123George Papaprodromou20-1
4American HeightsVictor Espinoza123Carla Gaines12-1
5Just DistortedRicardo Gonzalez123Jonathan Wong5-2
6CaparegimeJuan Hernandez123Vladimir Cerin5-1
7Lady AcesFlavien Prat123Peter Eurton7-2
8Stella NoirEdwin Maldonado123J. Keith Desormeaux4-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Big StretchUmberto Rispoli123Philip D'Amato6-1
2Disko FeverMario Gutierrez123Richard Baltas2-1
3St HelenaAbel Cedillo123Mike Puype8-1
4MichalskaJuan Hernandez123Alfredo P. Marquez5-1
5Big BeautyFlavien Prat123Clifford W. Sise, Jr.5-2
6Super GameKent Desormeaux123Brian J. Koriner3-1


1 Mile. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Autisms WorldJuan Hernandez126Isidro Tamayo8-1
2Gov From AboveAlexis Centeno119Art Sherman6-1
3Coalinga RoadUmberto Rispoli126Carla Gaines7-5
4Clayton DelaneyAbel Cedillo126Philip D'Amato8-5
5Lightning FastTiago Pereira126William Spawr5-1
6Hapi HapiKent Desormeaux126Daniel Azcarate12-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Blue StarFlavien Prat123Leandro Mora6-1
2Big FlintRuben Fuentes123Peter Eurton3-1
3Alexander's DreamEdwin Maldonado123Jeff Bonde8-1
4Gordy's BoyTiago Pereira123Alexis Barba20-1
5CircleofchampionsUmberto Rispoli123Carla Gaines4-1
6Warrens Candy ManJuan Hernandez123Craig Anthony Lewis3-1
7Standing OJessica Pyfer116Philip D'Amato5-2