Horse racing newsletter: Catching up on the news

ARCADIA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 23: A starting gate stands outside the track on the final day.
(Getty Images)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we begin the final countdown.

When you’re away for a few days, there is always news to catch up on. So, let’s get to it.

--The buzz started to grow when Bloomberg wrote on Tuesday that The Stronach Group was getting ready to sell some of its assets. That started up the rumor, yet once again, that TSG was going to sell Santa Anita and it would be turned a real estate purchase. I was able to reach Aidan Butler, chief operating officer of TSG’s racing division on Wednesday morning and he was very unequivocal. The race tracks are not for sale, he said. Now, this isn’t a forever declaration but where things stand now. And I believe Aidan when he says this. He actually had more to say, which I wrote about in The Times. Just click here. So, breathe easy for now, until the rumor starts circulating again.

--The latest legal wrangling over the positive test by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit advanced a baby step Wednesday. It was the expected move, for sure, but is one kick to the can as it works its way down the road. Frank Angst of the Bloodhorse had a brilliant lede (first paragraph), which I will just cut and paste: “In a decision Thomas Wingate likely never imagined in law school, the Franklin (Ky.) Circuit Court Judge outlined plans [Wednesday] for several adults to travel with a urine sample collected from a Kentucky Derby winner on a flight to a New York lab.” (I tend to keep my urine samples in my bladder when I fly, but that’s just me.) The strategy for the Medina Sprit team is to, first, prove that betamethasone was administered to Medina Spirit by a topical ointment and not by injection. And, secondly, that the rule was intended to cover only interarticular injections. You can read Frank’s full story. Just click here.

--Most interesting in Wednesday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting was how the Board was not satisfied with Santa Anita’s reason for not being compliant on fire prevention methods (i.e. sprinklers) at San Luis Rey Downs. Santa Anita’s GM, Nate Newby, explained that because of COVID the repairs were way behind schedule. The Board didn’t rubber stamp the extension and expects a more detailed report next meeting.


The other big issue was the continual lack of a contract between the big tracks, in this case Del Mar, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). There hasn’t been a signed new contract for a couple of years and in every case the details of the previous contract were instituted. That benefits the CTT. At issue is the track’s ability to rule trainers off with or without due process, such as Santa Anita did to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in 2019. (Depositions are currently being taken in that case.) Commissioner Wendy Mitchell has been the bulldog on tracks seeking licenses without having everything signed and in place. I applaud her for that. It would be interesting if the Board were to say there has to be a new contract between all tracks and the CTT and nothing gets grandfathered in. We would get to see who blinks first. We’re guessing the tracks.

--The Breeders’ Cup announced that all seating capacity will be used for their Nov. 5-6 event at Del Mar and it is holding out hope that general admission may also be added to the lineup closer to the actual event. Tickets to the seats will be available on July 16 at 9 a.m. PDT on the website. There will be no dollar beer promotions those days. Premium dining for two days will cost you between $775 and $1,875 a seat. Box seats will go from $375 to $975 a seat either in a one or two-day option. And reserved seating, either one or two days, will go from between $100 and $475 a seat.

Newsletter information

On Monday, I announced that this week would be the last for the four-plus-year publication. I was blown away by the notes of support from all of you. Thank you very much. I apologize for not getting back to most of you. Just know I appreciate the gesture of you taking time out to write the email and lie your tail ends off. There were a couple of folks who were unclear about who made the decision to end the newsletter. It was not me or my immediate bosses. In fairness, there are 33 newsletters done by the L.A. Times. This one is 29th in number of subscribers but second in open rate, the metric that determines how many people actually open the email and read it. That is a testament to you, a very loyal group of subscribers. Thank you for wanting to read it most days. (OK, there are some days I wouldn’t want to read it and certainly not write it. But those days were few.) Again, if you have an opinion on this or any other decision the Los Angeles Times makes about its coverage, you are welcome to contact our readers’ representative. They can be reached here.

Santa Anita preview

You’ve got to give Santa Anita credit for trying not to leave a horse that wants to race behind. There are 11 races on Friday and Saturday and nine on closing day, all with a 1 p.m. start. Eleven races on a Friday? When does that happen? So, how do you find the feature? (Three questions in a row, that’s just bad journalism.) The answer: look for the smallest field size. Ouch. The feature on Friday is a $70,000 allowance for horses going a mile for a high purse of $70,000. The field size is listed as five, but don’t be surprised if the favorite, at 7-5, Ax Man, is scratched. (I could be wrong on this, but don’t think so.)

The second favorite is Midcourt at 9-5 for trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Edwin Maldonado. Midcourt’s last 10 races have been graded stakes, so an allowance is a step down. Reason might be that he’s been off since Dec. 26, when he was fifth in the San Antonio. Last year he was third in the Pacific Classic (won by Maximum Security) and the Awesome Again (won by Improbable), so he’s used to running in rarefied air. Post is around 5:36 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 9, 8, 12, 5, 8, 5, 10, 8, 8, 5, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

TENTH RACE: No. 4 Cupid’s Claw (6-1)

Cupid’s Claw is my 6-1 upset special in this race with Flavien Prat jumping back on. Last September here under Prat in a Grade 3, Cupid won by seven lengths. Shipped to a Grade 3 at Keeneland in November the horse misfired badly forcing a six-month benching. With a prep race last out now under the belt, Cupid is dropping in class today making the second start off the layoff, a move trainer Craig Dollase has s 19% win rate for a profit. The two Bob Baffert horses will likely take a lot of money but in a race that has been won by horses over 5-1 a whopping 45% we are ripe for a value upset Friday. My full card is Free for all L.A Times Newsletter readers today. Simply click over here


Sunday’s result: Hapi Hapi did exactly as I anticipated under a great ride by Tiago Pereira. The added distance was the difference maker with Hapi almost running into trouble at the top of the stretch but this time around had more yardage to correct and surge late. Hapi Hapi paid $14.20 for the win.

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.

“Owned and bred by M&G Farms, fastest qualifier Golden Boi will headline a terrific field of 10 juveniles in the running of Sunday’s Grade 1 $1,150,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity, which is the first million-dollar race this meeting. Golden Boi won his trial by a half-length thanks to a good start and a blazing finish in the 350-yard race. The effort earned the son of Favorite Cartel a time of :17.627, good enough to edge Black Coffeee’s second fastest qualifying time of :17.640. Ridden by Ruben Lozano for trainer Valentin Zamudio, Golden Boi also showed a powerful knockout punch in the final stages of his racing debut, when he posted a neck victory after trailing early on. In between his two victories, he finished fourth when facing winners in an allowance.

“ ’The horse has always shown us talent,’ Zamudio said. ‘He did well in his workouts and fortunately has done great in his races. He had some trouble in his second outing, but he still ran a very good race. I felt he was coming into the [Ed Burke trials] feeling good and a lot more focused. He can still improve in the gates. He is still getting better leaving there and fortunately, he is still improving that aspect of his game.’

“Trainer Jose Flores has four aces going into the Ed Burke, qualifying trial winners Black Coffeee, Eye On The Sky, Chizum, and Sweet Dasha Fire. They have combined to win seven of eight career starts with Sweet Dasha Fire’s runner-up finish by a nose the only blemish. Eye On The Sky has been the most impressive of the four, as he debuted with a 3 ½ length victory on April 24 before winning his Burke trial by daylight even after getting bumped at the start.

“Black Coffeee figures to be percolating in the starting gate, as he showed tremendous quickness in his trial victory. He had a 1 ¼ length lead at the start and cruised to win by 1 ½ lengths. Chizum and Sweet Dasha Fire are both well bred with Chizum coming from the family of All American Futurity winner AB What A Runner and Sweet Dasha Fire being a full-sister to 2015 AQHA World Champion Heza Dasha Fire, who won the Ed Burke in 2014.


“Among the rest of the field, Run By Your Cartel is unbeaten in two starts and Docs Fast Lane will be making his second appearance in a futurity after running fourth in the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity.

“On Saturday night, Los Alamitos remembers the late Fred Scane, a highly respected quarter-horse owner, breeder, and stallion manager, with the running of a stakes race for 2-year-old fillies named in his honor. The Fred Scane Memorial Handicap will have a $25,000 purse and will be run at 350 yards. The field will be headed by Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity finalists Val Frida and La Blue Amore plus unbeaten filly Hitters Count. Eight fillies will face the starter for this race.

“Scane was involved in quarter-horse racing for more than 40 years as he owned Scane Ranch in Chino, where leading stallion Merridoc stood. Scane was the breeder of the three-time national champion Griswold, who is best remembered for taking on the thoroughbred Valiant Pete in a thrilling $100,000 winner-take-all match race at Santa Anita in 1991.

“Things kick off Friday with an eight-race program starting at 6:35 p.m. A Dash Of Sign, who finished second by a nose in the Adequan California Derby Challenge, now takes on a group of sharp runners in the $13,000 allowance feature.

“Upcoming at Los Alamitos next week, three stakes highlight the Summer Thoroughbred Festival. The seven-day season will begin Friday, June 25 and continue through Monday, July 5. Racing will be Friday-Sunday the first week and Friday-Monday the final four days. Post time will be 1 p.m.

“The Grade 3 $150,000-guaranteed Los Alamitos Derby will be held on July 3rd, while the main event on closing day is the Grade II, $200,000 Great Lady M. Stakes on July 5. The meet will have a handicapping contest on July 4 featuring a cash prize and a pair of berths to the 2022 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Contest rules are available at


“This being the final edition of the Los Alamitos weekend preview as part of this newsletter, thank you John Cherwa and the Los Angeles Times for providing me the opportunity to be a part of this newsletter. I will miss reading it each racing morning.”

And thank you for your contributions, Orlando.

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 1 Vastly Deep (4-1)

He should be a menacing contender down the backstretch. In his most recent outing three weeks ago, the gelding leaned back at the start to lose over two lengths of ground and had to race five wide down the backside and through the turn prior to finishing well for a tremendous third-place finish. The number earned on my charts gives this runner a big look to sit a nice stalking trip and then hopefully pounce on what could be a several tiring speedsters in the late going. Runner is trouble prone early, but he’s got the late kick to make up for it.

A final thought

As we head toward the final newsletter, remember you can always voice your concerns or praise about anything in the Los Angeles Times by contacting our reader’ representative. They can be reached here. After the newsletter goes away, make sure and check my twitter account for stories I might have written. So, follow me at @jcherwa.

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

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, June 18.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 77th day of a 81-day meet.


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Oviatt ClassKent Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux4-1
2Lookout PointFlavien Prat122Peter Miller7-2
3Miss BellatrixUmberto Rispoli119Doug F. O'Neill8-1
4Il CapitanoTyler Baze122Andrew Lerner6-1
5I'm WinningJuan Hernandez122Adam Kitchingman6-1
6AloisTrevor McCarthy122Michael W. McCarthy8-1
7Agador SpartacusEdwin Maldonado122Val Brinkerhoff10-1
8Mashhad FlatsEmily Ellingwood115Ryan Hanson8-1
9Flash of GeniusAbel Cedillo122Peter Miller5-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Class CodeGeovanni Franco120Carla Gaines6-120,000
2Mamas Got CashEswan Flores126Joe Herrick12-120,000
3Pancakes and BeerAbel Cedillo120Anthony K. Saavedra6-120,000
4Medusa's GazeMario Gutierrez120Steve Knapp4-120,000
5Summer RoseRicardo Gonzalez126Philip D'Amato8-520,000
6Circle of HonorTyler Baze120Steve Knapp3-120,000
7Slewpys Last SongTiago Pereira126Javier Jose Sierra30-120,000
8Queen of LoveJessica Pyfer115Jeff Mullins12-120,000


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Auspicious StyleKent Desormeaux120Dan Blacker15-1
2Harbor SkyCesar Ortega113Sean McCarthy30-1
3Really Big NewsUmberto Rispoli120Tim Yakteen7-2
4Hot SpotJose Valdivia, Jr.120Kristin Mulhall12-1
5Wilder Than MostTyler Baze126Carla Gaines5-1
6Just About EnoughJuan Hernandez120Mark Glatt8-1
7SurplusTrevor McCarthy120Peter Miller6-1
8Gone SomewhereFlavien Prat120Sean McCarthy12-1
9Sleight of HoofRicardo Gonzalez126Philip D'Amato8-1
10Donner LakeMario Gutierrez120Richard Baltas10-1
11TalklessworkmoreJessica Pyfer115Shelbe Ruis15-1
12Constant ConflictAbel Cedillo120Peter Eurton5-1


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

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Dr. SchivelFlavien Prat120Mark Glatt8-5
2Fight OnUmberto Rispoli126John W. Sadler6-162,500
3Liam's PrideVictor Espinoza126Doug F. O'Neill8-1
4Canadian PrideAbel Cedillo126Peter Eurton9-5
5Speed PassEdwin Maldonado126Bob Baffert5-2


6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $36,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Little Bird Jessica Pyfer117Richard Baltas8-122,500
2A New PeaceJose Valdivia, Jr.124Steve Knapp3-125,000
3Miss Lucy Juan Espinoza117Peter Miller4-125,000
4Loud Loud MusicAbel Cedillo124Steven Miyadi7-225,000
5Lavender Trevor McCarthy124James W. Glenn, Jr.5-125,000
6Invincibella Flavien Prat124Peter Miller7-225,000
7Madame BarbarianUmberto Rispoli122Jeff Mullins8-122,500
8ConvinceTyler Baze122Bruce Dillenbeck50-122,500


1 Mile. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Over AttractedUmberto Rispoli124John W. Sadler6-1
2She's a DimeAlexis Centeno119Doug F. O'Neill9-5
3ShezaghostFlavien Prat124Mike Puype8-5
4Ole SilverJessica Pyfer121Philip D'Amato5-2
5Last First KissJuan Hernandez126Gary Mandella8-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 to u year olds. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Sugar KissesEdwin Maldonado120Carla Gaines20-125,000
2Listen to BlueGeovanni Franco126James M. Cassidy6-125,000
3KatlaAbel Cedillo126Carla Gaines20-125,000
4Brittle and YooUmberto Rispoli126John W. Sadler3-125,000
5Predictable Tully Tiago Pereira126Jeff Mullins5-125,000
6Buy Wave BuyTyler Baze126Alexis Barba6-125,000
7Starship SkyJuan Hernandez126Robert B. Hess, Jr.15-125,000
8Bluegrass SkyFlavien Prat126Dan Blacker7-225,000
9Northern GemDiego Herrera113Librado Barocio30-125,000
10Peace PipeJessica Pyfer120Richard Baltas4-122,500


5½ Furlongs. Purse: $36,000. Starter Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1MulliganRicardo Gonzalez126Richard Baltas6-1
2LivingmybestlifeJuan Hernandez120John W. Sadler3-1
3Sweet SoulmateEdwin Maldonado120George Papaprodromou15-1
4Dancing DanaAbel Cedillo120Craig Anthony Lewis12-1
5Flat Out JoyJose Valdivia, Jr.126Ronald W. Ellis5-2
6AgreetodisagreeJessica Pyfer115Peter Eurton7-2
7Saturday HeistTyler Baze120Val Brinkerhoff15-1
8Taming the TigressFlavien Prat120Peter Miller4-1


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $100,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Hudson RidgeAbel Cedillo124Bob Baffert5-2
2AirmanJuan Hernandez124John A. Shirreffs4-1
3Vantage PointUmberto Rispoli122Clifford W. Sise, Jr.6-1
4BarrazaKent Desormeaux122Vladimir Cerin6-1
5The BeatMario Gutierrez122Reed Saldana20-1100,000
6Man FridayJessica Pyfer119Doug F. O'Neill8-1100,000
7FlashiestFlavien Prat122Leonard Powell3-1
8Law ProfessorTrevor McCarthy124Michael W. McCarthy8-1


1 Mile. Purse: $70,000. Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Manhattan UpTiago Pereira124Philip A. Oviedo12-1
2Ax ManMike Smith126Bob Baffert7-5
3MasteringJuan Hernandez124Bob Baffert5-2
4Cupid's ClawsFlavien Prat126Craig Dollase6-1
5MidcourtEdwin Maldonado126John A. Shirreffs9-5


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1La Gioiosa Umberto Rispoli120Patrick Gallagher5-1
2Brooklyns BestJoe Bravo120Richard Baltas8-1
3Norma Jean B.Kent Desormeaux126Vladimir Cerin7-2
4LookintogetevenFlavien Prat126Philip D'Amato3-1
5Cider Apple Juan Hernandez120Jeff Mullins6-1
6UndisturbedAbel Cedillo126Dean Pederson12-1
7Cielo d'OroTrevor McCarthy120John W. Sadler12-1
8AssignationJessica Pyfer115George Papaprodromou30-1
9Rhythm and GraceMario Gutierrez120John A. Shirreffs4-1
10Ruby's OrchidTyler Baze120George Papaprodromou30-1