Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we welcome back Michael Wrona to race calling in Southern California.
Los Alamitos is back and running Friday in a short seven-day thoroughbred meeting. This week is Friday through Sunday and next week is Thursday through Sunday. Weekday posts are 1 p.m. with 12:30 p.m. on the weekends.
Next year during this timeframe it will be a three-week meeting run under the auspices of the L.A. County Fair. It will be the first time in more than 70 years that this meeting will not be run in September.
Los Al was a casualty in the California Horse Racing Board’s attempt to reduce racing dates in California. It is going from eight weeks to five. Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but it is in the financial interest of the state to have as much racing at the big tracks as it can. It just generates more money for everyone. And, that’s a good thing. So, intellectually you can understand why Los Al gets screwed.
But those of us with a memory will remember how Los Alamitos stepped up big after Hollywood Park closed. The local racing calendar was in tatters. Santa Anita and Del Mar took more dates but there were stll gaps. That when Ed Allred and the late Brad McKinzie engineered a plan to expand the track to a mile. Let’s face it, Doc Allred’s first love is the quarters but he did what was best for racing in Southern California.
Given what’s happened I think it’s apropos to bring up one of my favorite expressions and I think it applies here to Doc Allred. “Other than that one thing, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?”
I know I just argued both sides. And it could have been worse, Los Al was originally cut to four weeks but Santa Anita’s Aidan Butler, the acting executive director for California racing for the Stronach Group (maybe we should just use AEDCRTSG as his title?) stepped up and surrendered a week costing TSG about a million bucks. The track wasn’t going to race then but it owned the simulcast signal that week.
Now, I’m sure I’ll be cursing that decision when I don’t get a week off before Christmas next year. Oh, well, Allred deserved a “W.”
Back to this year. Saturday is a really big day with the Grade 1 Starlet and Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity. Now, we know the fields have been small for the Futurity—in fact, this year it is four—but some mighty fine horses have come out of that race dating back to Hollywood Park. We’ll talk more about those races on Saturday. But, if you plan to go one day this meeting, make it Saturday.
Finally, we welcome back the popular Michael Wrona to his new gig at Los Alamitos. He’ll be calling the thoughbreds for two weeks and starting Dec. 27 will also be calling the nighttime races after the legendary Ed Burgart retires.
Michael, as you remember, was calling at Santa Anita when then boss Tim Ritvo sent him, and subsequently racing secretary Rick Hammerle, packing. Wrona has been doing some short meets around the country including Kentucky Downs.
Wrona was replaced by Frank Mirahamadi, who by everyone’s opinion, did a fantastic job at Santa Anita. The racing office hasn’t been as smooth a transition.
Now there is no doubt that Wrona will do an equally exceptional job at Los Alamitos. Think about it, we’ve got Burgart, for a few more days, Mirahamadi and Wrona. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Anywhere.
Change in our email
You might notice a familiar but different email on this newsletter as we’ve switched back to the latimes.com address. I’m not going to bore you with why, but we’re hoping the change will provide more reliability with the newsletter getting to its intended destination.
Los Alamitos preview
Not surprisingly, it’s not a card that has the big “wow factor,” but the field size is pretty decent. There are eight races, starting at 1 p.m. Of course, there are no turf races because there is no turf course. Five are claiming races and a starter allowance basically makes it six.
The feature is an allowance optional claimer for fillies and mares going six furlongs for a purse of $45,000. Tijori is the 5-2 favorite for trainer Simon Callaghan and jockey Flavien Prat. She’s only one-for-four lifetime, including a fourth at the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park. But what gives her some street cred is that Kaleem Shah paid $525,000 for her at a 2-year-old sale.
The second favorite, at 3-1, is a Love a Honeybadger for Peter Miller and Abel Cedillo. She is five-for-14 lifetime. Like Tijori, she also won her first race and has been running mostly at the allowance level. One big difference is Love a Honeybadger was purchased for $10,000. Post is around 3:30 p.m.
Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 6, 6, 10, 9, 7, 10, 10.
Ciaran Thornton’s Lrc picks of the day
Race Three: No. 3 Rineshaft (12-1)
Race Four: No. 3 Buster Douglas (10-1)
Rineshaft won at this distance in October for trainer Hector Palma with Tiago Pereira riding. Next out at Del Mar in a jump to an allowance race the horse ran 11th. Win jockey Tiago hops back on and they dropped the horse into this claimer for the paycheck. 12-1 morning line is great value with Tiago returning. Has the top speed in this race as well.
Buster Douglas makes his first start since last year and tries dirt for the first time and takes a huge plunge in class for a winless small trainer. The 57-second claim bait workout last week and a sharp work prior for a small stable intrigues me. I hope we get 12-1 but watch the early money here, if there is a drop in odds the horse is live. The class towers above the rest of these so why not swing in this low-level claimer. I am going two deep in my value plays today because these are it on the card. Let’s also try a small daily double using these two plus the favorites in each race.
Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.
Golden Gate weekend preview
Here’s our weekly look at the best racing going on at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last meeting, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. So, take it away, Matt.
“We’ll start with a quick update: Mugaritz won the marquee race of the Golden Gate fall meet, the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap, by a decisive 3 ½ lengths. His trainer, Jonathan Wong, confirmed Mugaritz exited Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile contest in good order. His next start is undetermined.
“’More likely than not, his next race will be in 2020,’ Wong said. ‘We’re leaving all options on the table at this point. We want to continue to run him in graded stakes races. We’re even thinking of sending him over to Dubai for a race. We’ll see.’
“This week, our feature race comes on Saturday with the $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes for 2-year-olds. A full field of 10 is entered and one also eligible looks for a single defection: #11 Ajourneyofreedom, the half sibling to El Camino Real Derby winner Anothertwistafate. He showed promise in a better-than-looked runner up finish last time out.
“Golden Nugget Stakes winner Bettor Trip Nick makes his route debut for trainer Bill Delia and is certainly the local contender with the most class. The son of first-crop stallion Boat Trip sports a three for four sprint record heading into the Gold Rush. Recent maiden winners Final Final, Indian Peak and Sacred Rider may also get play.
“From Southern California, trainer Andrew Lerner sends up Rager and Absolute Weapon. Rager, to be ridden by Luis Reyes, broke his maiden at first asking in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita before finishing fourth in his most recent start, The Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Absolute Weapon, with Southern California jockey Aaron Gryder set to navigate, raced two-turns for the first time on Oct. 31 in a starter optional claiming race at Santa Anita and won by more than six lengths.
“Post time for the Gold Rush is about 4:15 p.m. and goes as the eighth race in a 10-race card on Saturday.
“Lastly, we wish Golden Gate Fields based 2-year-old Anneau D’Or the very best in his third lifetime start, the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on Saturday. He drew the rail with regular rider Juan Hernandez slated to ride. Most recently, Anneau D’Or finished second behind Storm the Court in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“’After the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he came back to the barn and was tearing the place down,’ joked trainer Blaine Wright. “He was full of energy and bounced out of [the race] in great shape. He’s worked three times since the Juvenile and every time he worked well. His blood count is good, his weight is good and we’re looking at a pretty happy and healthy horse heading into the Los Al’ Futurity.’”
Los Alamitos weekend preview
It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.
“Doubleheaders are back at Los Alamitos Race Course, as nighttime action follows the daytime thoroughbred racing program. Friday’s eight-race program will start at 7 p.m., while Saturday’s card is set for 6 p.m. Sunday’s first post at night will be about 5:30 p.m.
“It’s been a solid 2019 season for owner Martha Wells. The accomplished quarter-horse owner has enjoyed stakes wins with Yanque and has been a part of graded stakes finals with runners such as Tell Cartel, Red Hawk Cartel, Chicks Fayvorite and Fire By Night.
“Wells enjoyed a runner-up effort by Tell Cartel in the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity, while Red Hawk Cartel was second as well in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and will next race in the Grade 2 Southern California Derby next Friday night. Yanque has won a pair of 550-yard stakes, while Chicks Fayvorite is a multiple winner at the Orange County track.
“It’s now Fire By Night’s turn as he’ll be one of the favorites in the seventh on Friday night. Fire By Night will be hoping for a better result than his last start when he was disqualified from second and placed fifth for interference in a trial to the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity. While still a maiden after seven career starts, Fire By Night showed his promise by finishing second in a trial that featured the outstanding filly Geothermal, third place finisher in the Ed Burke Million Futurity earlier this year. Ruben Lozano retains the mount aboard Fire By Night for Friday’s event at 330 yards.
“Jest Famous, who was so impressive when winning the Town Policy Handicap against 3-year-olds on Nov. 9, will make his final tune-up before the trials to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship when he faces six in the First Down Dash Handicap for 3-year-olds and up Saturday night.
“Trained by Chris O’Dell and ridden by Cody Jensen, Jest Famous was outstanding in his first local start, as he won the Town Policy by a half-length as the even-money favorite. Jest Famous had excellent freshman campaign, winning the Southwest Juvenile Championship last year after running third in the $1 million Ruidoso Futurity. Bred by Jon and Donna McPherson, the Louisiana-bred son of Mr Jess Perry will enter with seven wins in 12 starts.
“Los Alamitos will have a special post-position draw about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11 for the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and Grade 1 Champion of Champions. The draw will take place in the Finish Line Room at Los Alamitos and will be televised by TVG.
“Everyone is invited to attend the draw. Los Alamitos track announcer Ed Burgart will also announce the morning line for the Dec. 14 Champion of Champions and Dec. 15 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Burgart will call both races for a final time before retiring from the announcer’s booth on closing night, Dec. 15.”
Ed Burgart’s LA pick of the day
EIGHTH RACE: No. 2 Alamode (3-1)
Entered not to be claimed after 18 months on the sidelines, this 4-year-old gelding was ultra impressive in beating a $12,500 claiming field by a neck five weeks ago despite missing the break by nearly one length. I loved his acceleration midway and trainer John Cooper shows confidence by raising him to the $16,000 claiming level. He broke super in his final two 2018 outings.
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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.
Los Alamitos Race Course Entries for Friday, December 6.
Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos, California. 1st day of a 8-day meet.
1 Mile. Purse: $16,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $12,500-$10,500.
|1||Fast as Cass||Assael Espinoza||124||Steve Knapp||7-5||12,500|
|2||R B Eye||Evin Roman||117||Vann Belvoir||6-1||10,500|
|3||Big Bad Gary||Heriberto Figueroa||121||Ruben Gomez||15-1||12,500|
|4||Dr. Bagley||Abel Cedillo||119||Jonathan Wong||2-1||12,500|
|5||Lake Show||Frank Johnson||117||Robert A. Bean||30-1||10,500|
|6||Big Barrel||Jorge Velez||116||Gary Stute||5-2||12,500|
5½ Furlongs. Purse: $21,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Prices $50,000-$40,000. State bred.
|1||Kristi's Tiger||Brice Blanc||122||Thomas Ray Bell, II||5-1||50,000|
|2||Slewbury Park||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||113||Edward R. Freeman||5-2||40,000|
|3||Chromes Lil Sis||Edgar Payeras||122||Vernon E. Aguayo||20-1||50,000|
|4||Awesome Alessandra||Evin Roman||122||Marcia Stortz||7-2||50,000|
|5||Aurora Night||Tiago Pereira||118||Rafael Becerra||4-1||40,000|
|6||Bayonce||Abel Cedillo||118||Peter Eurton||2-1||40,000|
5½ Furlongs. Purse: $17,000. Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Prices $12,500-$10,500.
|1||Savagery||Flavien Prat||120||Peter Miller||2-1||12,500|
|2||Mo Dinero||Mario Gutierrez||120||Steve Knapp||3-1||12,500|
|3||Rineshaft||Tiago Pereira||120||Hector O. Palma||12-1||12,500|
|4||Two Fifty Coup||Abel Cedillo||120||Doug F. O'Neill||5-2||12,500|
|5||Grab the Munny||Geovanni Franco||120||John W. Sadler||3-1||12,500|
|6||Docktarri||Francisco Orduna-Rojas||118||Roddina A. Barrett||10-1||10,500|
5 Furlongs. Purse: $15,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $10,000-$9,000.
|1||Kenny Benny||Christian Aragon||122||Jesus Mendoza||12-1||9,000|
|2||Burn Me Twice||Tiago Pereira||122||William Spawr||7-2||9,000|
|3||Buster Douglas||Assael Espinoza||122||Milton G. Pineda||10-1||9,000|
|4||Chrisiscookin||Francisco Orduna-Rojas||124||Kelly Castaneda||12-1||10,000|
|5||Desert General||Jorge Velez||119||Jonathan Wong||5-2||10,000|
|6||Royal Seeker||Juan Ochoa||122||Marcelo Polanco||6-1||9,000|
|7||Tiz Love||Geovanni Franco||124||Patricia Harrington||8-1||10,000|
|8||Short of Ez||Heriberto Figueroa||124||Anna Meah||6-1||10,000|
|9||Ps Bettin On You||Ramon Guce||122||Jesus J. Uranga||8-1||9,000|
|10||Nova||Edgar Payeras||122||Rafael DeLeon||20-1||9,000|
5½ Furlongs. Purse: $25,000. Starter Allowance. 3 year olds and up.
|1||Great Blake||Francisco Arrieta||124||Kerri Raven||20-1|
|2||Midnight Special||Assael Espinoza||122||Victor L. Garcia||12-1|
|3||Heartfullofstars||Geovanni Franco||124||Gary Sherlock||3-1|
|4||Saratoga Morning||Evin Roman||124||Doug F. O'Neill||12-1|
|5||Conquest Cobra||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||119||Vann Belvoir||12-1|
|6||Portando||Aaron Gryder||124||Mary Rowan||12-1|
|7||Oil Can Knight||Abel Cedillo||122||Steve Knapp||4-1|
|8||Hardcore Troubador||Tiago Pereira||124||Edward R. Freeman||7-2|
|9||Italiano||Flavien Prat||124||Vann Belvoir||5-2|
6 Furlongs. Purse: $45,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.
|1||Tijori||Flavien Prat||120||Simon Callaghan||5-2|
|2||Love a Honeybadger||Abel Cedillo||122||Peter Miller||3-1||40,000|
|3||Time for Ebby||Assael Espinoza||122||Steve Knapp||15-1||40,000|
|4||Donut Girl||Eswan Flores||122||Matthew Chew||6-1||40,000|
|5||Silken Spy||Efrain Hernandez||122||J. Eric Kruljac||5-1||40,000|
|6||Edna||Jorge Velez||115||Steven Miyadi||6-1||40,000|
|7||Miss Fia||Agapito Delgadillo||120||David E. Hofmans||7-2|
1 Mile. Purse: $40,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.
|1||Prance||Jorge Velez||117||Neil D. Drysdale||12-1|
|2||Cover Version||Abel Cedillo||124||James M. Cassidy||8-1|
|3||Vegas Palm||Flavien Prat||124||Gary Mandella||4-1|
|4||Saving Sophie||Drayden Van Dyke||122||Ronald W. Ellis||3-1|
|5||Lily's Storm||Brice Blanc||122||Thomas M. Dubaele||20-1|
|6||Paige Runner||Heriberto Figueroa||122||Gary Mandella||12-1|
|7||Sunriser||Efrain Hernandez||124||J. Eric Kruljac||12-1|
|8||Visual Magic||Geovanni Franco||122||Carla Gaines||7-2|
|9||Catch the Eye||Aaron Gryder||122||David E. Hofmans||20-1|
|10||Unicorn||Mario Gutierrez||122||Richard Baltas||4-1|
5½ Furlongs. Purse: $15,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.
|1||Harliss||Jorge Velez||119||Val Brinkerhoff||2-1||20,000|
|2||Ziyanair||Heriberto Figueroa||124||Javier Jose Sierra||10-1||20,000|
|3||Ridgeway||Francisco Arrieta||122||Kerri Raven||5-2||20,000|
|4||Artcrilic||Francisco Orduna-Rojas||122||Milton G. Pineda||20-1||20,000|
|5||Acclamation King||David Mussad||112||Ruben Gomez||30-1||20,000|
|6||U S Hero||J.C. Diaz, Jr.||117||Gary Sherlock||4-1||20,000|
|7||Wild Cat Canyon||Fernandez Rojas||122||Jesus Mendoza||6-1||20,000|
|8||Son of a Queen||Efrain Hernandez||122||Ricardo Zamora||20-1||20,000|
|9||L'Engineer||Assael Espinoza||122||Milton G. Pineda||15-1||20,000|
|10||Bob Again||Edgar Payeras||122||Elena Andrade||15-1||20,000|