Racing! Santa Anita is back racing


Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we hope everyone had the best holiday season.

We’ve got lots to get to today on in our return edition. While I was sorry Santa Anita postponed its opener two days, it did give me enough time to finish “The Irishman.”

The big news while we were away was the release of the report by Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. In short, it found Santa Anita conducted no criminal activity, and that includes the trainers, owners and jockeys. It also didn’t find any causes of the breakdown despite concentrating on four areas.


Here’s what I wrote about it the day the investigation was announced. Just click here.

Now, we are ready to start the marathon Santa Anita meeting. Saturday’s opening day card is nothing short of spectacular. First post is 11 a.m., so don’t sleep in this Saturday.

Here’s what I wrote about the opener, although most of it is observations from Craig Fravel, the chief executive of racing for The Stronach Group. He pretty much said there would be no racing on sealed surfaces, although there is the tiniest bit of a hedge on that. But he made his thoughts pretty clear. You can read the story. Just click here.

OK, let’s get going with today’s card.

Santa Anita preview

As we mentioned, there are 11 races starting at 11 a.m. There are seven stakes race, six of the graded. So, here they are, in chronological order.

$75,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes: This one is early in the card as the second race for 3-year-old fillies going a mile. We’re going to go quickly on this one. Keeper Ofthe Stars is the favorite at 5-2 for trainer Jonathan Wong and jockey Abel Cedillo. Brill is second favorite at 3-1 for Don Chatios and Flavien Prat.

Grade 2 $200,000 San Antonio Stakes: It’s for older horses going 1 1/16 miles and has Gift Box, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, as the 9-5 favorite for John Sadler and Joel Rosario. He won this race last year over the late Battle of Midway. He is five-of-17 lifetime and two-for-three at Santa Anita. His last race was a fourth in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.


Midcourt is the second favorite at 2-1 for John Shirreffs and Victor Espinoza. He is four for five this year and is coming off a win in the Native Diver at Del Mar. He has won four in a row. Post is at 1:08 p.m.

Grade 1 $300,000 American Oaks: There are eight 3-year-old fillies going 1 ¼ miles on the turf. It starts partway up the hillside course, which has been closed to sprints. Lady Prancealot is the 2-1 favorite for Richard Baltas and Joe Bravo. She is three for seven this year and is coming off a Grade 3 win at Keeneland.

Vibrance is the second choice at 3-1 for Michael McCarthy and Cedillo. She hasn’t won since she broke her maiden at Del Mar on Aug. 29, 2018. She was third last out in the Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar. Post is 1:44 p.m..

Grade 1 $300,000 La Brea: This one is for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs. Bellafina is the 9-5 favorite for Simon Callaghan and Prat. She has impressive credentials with three Grade 1 wins. She is six-of-12 lifetime and coming off a second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Bell’s the One is the second favorite at 7-2 for Neil Pessin and Javier Castellano, who will be riding her for the first time. She is five-of-nine lifetime and coming off a Grade 2 win at Keeneland, her only graded stakes win. Post is 2:15 p.m.

Grade 3 $100,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes: Older fillies and mares will be going 1 1/8 miles on the turf in this race. Mirth is 5-2 favorite for Phil D’Amato and Mike Smith. She has won five-of-17 lifetime and was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She led going into the stretch in 1 1/4-mile race. This shorter distance should benefit her. She won the Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita this year.

Excellent Sunset is the second choice at 7-2 for Baltas and Rosario. She is only two-for-15 lifetime and is coming off a second in an allowance race. Prior she was third in the Kathryn Crosby, a race she won last year. Post is 2:51 p.m.


Grade 1 $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes: It only has five horses going seven furlongs but they are a good group of horses. The favorite at 4-5 is Omaha Beach for Richard Mandella and Smith. As you remember, he was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby before scratching a few days before the race with a throat issue. He took awhile to return but won his first race back at Santa Anita and then finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Roadster, who was the early “A” Derby horse in Bob Baffert’s barn is the second favorite at 3-1. He will be ridden by Rosario. Roadster won the Santa Anita Derby but performed poorly in the Kentucky Derby. He hasn’t won since the Santa Anita Derby. Post is 3:26 p.m.

Grade 2 $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile: This race is for 3-year-olds going, you guessed it, on the turf. Mo Forza is the 9-5 favorite for Peter Miller and Rosario. He’s coming off wins in the Hollywood Turf Cup and the Twilight Derby. He has won three of eight this year.

Neptune’s Storm is the 3-1 second choice for Baltas and Cedillo. He has won four of 10 this year and was second in the Hollywood Turf Cup and third in the Twilight Derby. Post is 4:00 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 7, 8, 9, 11, 7, 8, 9, 8, 5, 11, 10. A very good card all around.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA picks of the day


RACE FOUR: No. 9 No Parking Here (8-1)

RACE 10: No. 2 Originaire (15-1)

I give you two value plays Saturday to start the winter meet with a common theme — a new jockey set to make some noise at the Great Race Place. Jockey Umberto Rispoli rides both my value plays Saturday. He is a jockey everyone needs to watch, a champion Italian jockey who has been racing in Hong Kong over the last few years and will do very well at Santa Anita starting with a debut win for us today in race four.

No Parking Here ships down from Golden Gate for trainer Steven Miyadi off two straight second-place finishes. The horse has two seconds and a third from four starts at this distance. Top last race best and an excellent closing kick we are getting great value at 8-1. Miyadi is 25% shipping and 64% in the money.

In race 10, Originaire from trainer Jeff Mullins is a big price closer in a very wide-open race that has a vulnerable 9-5 favorite. We have a major jockey upgrade today for Originare, who has a devastating late kick that has been wasted numerous times by late jockey moves. A 15-1 morning line and likely higher come post time this is a must use value play for us.

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

Golden Gate weekend preview

Matt Dinerman, the race caller at Golden Gate, is back with his weekly look at what’s happening at Golden Gate Fields. Matt’s boundless enthusiasm can be heard in his calls and seen in his writing. Take it away, Matt.


“We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Two days down, 95 more to go in the Golden Gate Fields winter-spring meet. Yes, the meet began the day after Christmas and so far, there has been plenty of competitive races and close finishes. First post, unless noted, is 12:45 p.m. each race day. Closing day of the meet is June 14, so we’ve got lots of racing and a long (but fun and hopefully profitable) meet ahead of us.

“A couple of dates to jot down: Saturday, Feb. 16 is the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby for 3-year-olds. Once again, the El Camino Real Derby offers 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner. For the second straight season, this race also gives the winner an all-expenses paid berth to the Preakness.

“On April 25-26 is the second annual Gold Rush Weekend. It is comprised of eight stakes races in 48 hours, combining top-class racing, good-sized betting pools and Bay Area culture and on-track festivities. Last year’s Gold Rush Weekend Saturday broke the record for most live handle in a Golden Gate Fields race card while Sunday offered more large pools and an on-track Dollar Day crowd.

“Here’s the stakes schedule:


“--$250,000 San Francisco Mile for 3-year-olds and up on turf (which this time, gives the winner a free berth into the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico.)

“--$100,000 California Derby for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles.

“--$75,000 Lost In The Fog Stakes for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs.

“--$75,000 California Oaks for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles.

“--$75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes for fillies and mares going 1 1/1 miles on turf.

“--$75,000 Camilla Urso for fillies and mares going five furlongs on the turf.



“--$100,000 Silky Sullivan Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

“--$100,000 Campanile Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

“To end, here are two day-makers this weekend at Golden Gate:

“--Saturday: In Race 7, No. 5 Crazy Sexy Munny (5-1) proved she loved routing last time out. Although she got a clear lead in her last start, she has proven the ability to rate in the past sprinting and I believe is versatile enough to relax off a pacesetter if she needs to while routing. She loves this track, with four wins and two seconds from six starts on Tapeta, and has posted a sharp workout since her last victory.

“--Sunday: In Race 7, No. 9 Awesome Summer (4-1) makes his career debut at this California-bred maiden special weight level. He is a half sibling to stakes winning sprinter Summerismage and sports a pair of bullet workouts for good horseman Bob Hess. Sr. leading up to this run.”

Big races preview

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

10:22 Laurel (3): $100,000 Dave’s Friend Stakes, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Threefiveindia (4-5)

10:30 Gulfstream (4): $100,000 Janus Stakes, 3 and up, 5 furlongs on turf. Favorite: Extravagant Kid (5-2)

10:54 Aqueduct (4): $100,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes, NY-breds 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Mr. Buff (3-5)


11:18 Laurel (5): $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes, fillies 2-years-old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Cofactor (7-2)

11:30 Gulfstream (6): $100,000 Abundantia Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 5 furlongs on turf. Favorite: Girls Know Best (8-5)

11:51 Laurel (6): $100,000 Native Dancer Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Monongahela (8-5)

12:20 Laurel (7): $100,000 Heft Stakes, 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Monday Morning Qb (5-2)

12:49 Laurel (8): $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Baby Boss (2-1)

1:08 Santa Anita (5): Grade 2 $200,000 San Antonio Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Gift Box (9-5)


1:44 Santa Anita (6): Grade 1 $300,000 American Oaks, fillies 3-years-old, 1 ¼ miles on turf. Favorite: Lady Prancealot (2-1)

2:00 Gulfstream (11): $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, 3 and up, 2 miles on turf. Favorite: Salute the Colonel (2-1)

2:18 Santa Anita (7): Grade 1 $300,000 La Brea Stakes, fillies 3-years-old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Bellafina (9-5)

2:50 Sunland (9): $100,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap, NM-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 5 ½ furlongs. Favorite: Waltzing Attila (5-2)

2:51 Santa Anita (8): Grade 3 $100,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Favorite: Mirth (5-2)

3:26 Santa Anita (9): Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Omaha Beach (4-5)


4:00 Santa Anita (10): Grade 2 $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Mo Forza (9-5)

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos Race Course is already up and running for its 70th year of racing in Orange County. The track opened on Friday night and continues with racing Saturday and Sunday night. Live night racing will be held here through Dec. 20, 2020. The only weekend off during this span will be during Super Bowl weekend on Jan. 30 through Feb. 2. The track will host a stakes program worth approximately $10 million in 2020. Michael Wrona will be in the announcer’s booth, as he takes over as the track’s full-time announcer following the retirement of Ed Burgart. Burgart will still be a part of the Los Alamitos racing program as the morning line maker.

“Saturday’s seventh is a 300-yard dash for 2-year-old maidens, but a lot of them have shown promise in stakes trials and allowance events. Among the eight will be Erik Flores’ Royaltys Molly, a filly who is eligible for the trials to the $400,000 Los Alamitos Oaks to be held on March 7. For Royaltys Molly, this race could be key to her continued progress towards the Oaks trials. The filly has made only two career starts and has finished out of the top three both times. She did show promise running fourth in her career debut. Her dam is the outstanding champion-aged mare Five Bar Molly. Having rested since running in the trials to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Nov. 24, Royaltys Molly could be sitting on a big upcoming effort. Ed Allred’s Sounds Good, fourth in her Two Million trial, and recent allowance runner-up Separate Delight are among the others in this field.

“The 2019 racing season at Los Alamitos concluded on Dec. 15 with a few new leaders. Chris O’Dell, who had Grade 1 winners Powerful Favorite, Thermonuclear Energy, Runforyourlife and more, won his first ever quarter-horse training title with 70 wins, while ending Paul Jones’ streak of eight straight. Jesus Rios Ayala won his third consecutive quarter-horse jockey title with 75 wins with Vinnie Bednar finishing second with 71 wins. Allred was the leading owner with 78 quarter-horse wins. Edgar Payeras cruised to his first leading thoroughbred jockey title with 66 wins – 20 more than runner-up Ramon Guce, while trainer Angela Aquino won her second thoroughbred training title with 32 wins. Jesus Nunez, the breed’s leading trainer the past two years, finished second with 29. Ashley Garcia finished as the leading thoroughbred owner with 13 victories.

“Allred’s He Looks Hot, winner of the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions, climbed to the top spot in the latest American Quarter Horse Assn. National Poll for older horses. With Bednar up for trainer Scott Willoughby, the 7-year-old also equaled Rylees Boy as the oldest horses to win the Champion of Champions. In the 2-year-old poll, All American Futurity winner Mr Jess Jenkins remains at the top. The biggest mover was Ron Hartley’s Cartel Jess Rockin, who debuted in fourth following her victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on closing night. The John Cooper trainee’s victory was the final race called by Burgart before his retirement. The final polls for 2019 will be released in early January. The biggest race left the national calendar is the Grade 1 $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park on Sunday afternoon.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day


RACE FIVE: No. 1 RF Gonna Thunder (3-1)

He can be trouble prone, but should be much better than he appears on paper based on everything factored in (trouble plus track variant). Gray gelding comes in with a super jockey/trainer (29%) combo that wins at a 29% clip and his late running ability makes him one to watch at a good price.

Final thought

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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, Saturday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Saturday, December 28.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 3rd day of a 60-day meet.


6 Furlongs. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Moon MischiefTyler Baze122John W. Sadler3-1
2My SunshineJose Valdivia, Jr.122Patrick Gallagher20-1
3Candy FuryJoseph Talamo122Victor L. Garcia8-1
4ProvostJoel Rosario122John W. Sadler5-2
5Devil Made Me DoitMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill4-1
6GarthDrayden Van Dyke122Bob Baffert2-1
7RailsplitterAbel Cedillo122Doug F. O'Neill12-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $75,000. 'Lady Of Shamrock Stakes'. Fillies. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Keeper Ofthe StarsAbel Cedillo124Jonathan Wong5-2
2BrillFlavien Prat120Don Chatlos3-1
3Bodhicitta Rafael Bejarano120Richard Baltas8-1
4Mischiffie Drayden Van Dyke120Philip D'Amato6-1
5Angel AlessandraJoel Rosario120Richard Baltas6-1
6Lucky PeridotJavier Castellano122Peter Miller4-1
7Sold ItMario Gutierrez124Doug F. O'Neill10-1
8LakerballJoseph Talamo124Doug F. O'Neill12-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Queen AryaJoe Bravo122Richard Baltas8-130,000
2Kuda HuraaMario Gutierrez122George Papaprodromou15-130,000
3Swift SocksAgapito Delgadillo122William Spawr6-130,000
4La Rosa DriveJoseph Talamo122David E. Hofmans8-130,000
5Rickie Nine Toe'sTiago Pereira122Brian J. Koriner9-530,000
6Golden MelodieJorge Velez117Craig Anthony Lewis12-130,000
7TacocatJose Valdivia, Jr.122J. Keith Desormeaux4-130,000
8Cowboys DaughterBrice Blanc122Thomas Ray Bell, II20-130,000
9It's a RiddleAbel Cedillo122Robert B. Hess, Jr.4-130,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $34,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Fivestar Lynch Flavien Prat122Richard Baltas5-262,500
2TromadorTiago Pereira122Brian J. Koriner10-162,500
3Turn the SwitchEdwin Maldonado122Peter Eurton6-162,500
4Gold N GrandVictor Espinoza122James M. Cassidy20-162,500
5Camps BayJoel Rosario124John W. Sadler5-162,500
6SpeakerofthehouseTyler Baze122Ian Kruljac8-162,500
7Montana MoonRuben Fuentes122Shelbe Ruis10-162,500
8MuskokaRafael Bejarano122J. Keith Desormeaux6-162,500
9No Parking HereUmberto Rispoli122Steven Miyadi8-162,500
10RightfulJ.C. Diaz, Jr.117Vladimir Cerin30-162,500
11Friendly OutthedorAbel Cedillo124Peter Eurton10-162,500


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $200,000. 'San Antonio Stakes'. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Gray MagicianJavier Castellano119Peter Miller4-1
2Gift BoxJoel Rosario123John W. Sadler9-5
3King AbnerTyler Baze121Philip D'Amato10-1
4Draft PickJoseph Talamo121Peter Eurton9-2
5MugaritzRicardo Gonzalez123Jonathan Wong10-1
6MidcourtVictor Espinoza123John A. Shirreffs2-1
7Fight OnAbel Cedillo121Doug F. O'Neill20-1


About 1¼ Mile Turf. Purse: $300,000. 'American Oaks'. Stakes. Fillies. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1So Much HappyTiago Pereira124George Papaprodromou30-1
2Apache PrincessJavier Castellano124J. Keith Desormeaux5-1
3Mucho UnusualJoel Rosario124Tim Yakteen4-1
4K P SlickemJorge Velez124Jeff Mullins15-1
5Lady Prancealot Joe Bravo124Richard Baltas2-1
6Pretty PointMike Smith124Patrick Gallagher30-1
7Giza GoddessVictor Espinoza124John A. Shirreffs7-2
8VibranceAbel Cedillo124Michael W. McCarthy3-1


7 Furlongs. Purse: $300,000. 'La Brea Stakes'. Fillies. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1First StarDrayden Van Dyke120Ronald W. Ellis4-1
2Del Mar MayJoe Bravo120Richard Baltas12-1
3Free CoverAbel Cedillo120Andrew Lerner15-1
4StirredGeovanni Franco120Michael W. McCarthy20-1
5BellafinaFlavien Prat122Simon Callaghan9-5
6Bell's the OneJavier Castellano122Neil L. Pessin7-2
7Hard Not to LoveMike Smith120John A. Shirreffs6-1
8Motion EmotionMario Gutierrez120Richard Baltas15-1
9Mother MotherJoel Rosario120Bob Baffert6-1


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $100,000. 'Robert J. Frankel Stakes'. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Tiny TinaFlavien Prat121Philip D'Amato6-1
2Excellent Sunset Joel Rosario121Richard Baltas7-2
3Don't Blame JudyVictor Espinoza121J. Eric Kruljac5-1
4Streak of LuckJose Valdivia, Jr.121Matthew Chew5-1
5Curlin's JourneyRuben Fuentes121Dallas E. Keen6-1
6HarmlessAbel Cedillo119Robert B. Hess, Jr.6-1
7MirthMike Smith125Philip D'Amato5-2
8Ms PeintourBrice Blanc121Brian J. Koriner20-1


7 Furlongs. Purse: $300,000. 'Malibu Stakes'. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Much BetterFlavien Prat120Bob Baffert12-1
2ComplexityJavier Castellano120Chad C. Brown5-2
3Manny WahChanning Hill120Bob Baffert8-1
4RoadsterJoel Rosario122Bob Baffert3-1
5Omaha BeachMike Smith124Richard E. Mandella4-5


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $200,000. 'Mathis Brothers Mile'. Stakes. 3 year olds.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Sash Drayden Van Dyke120Mark Glatt12-1
2Originaire Umberto Rispoli120Jeff Mullins15-1
3Ocean FuryFlavien Prat120Doug F. O'Neill12-1
4Never EasyRafael Bejarano120Richard E. Mandella15-1
5Mo ForzaJoel Rosario124Peter Miller9-5
6Neptune's StormAbel Cedillo124Richard Baltas3-1
7KinglyMario Gutierrez122Bob Baffert6-1
8Proud Pedro Tyler Baze120Leonard Powell15-1
9Barristan The Bold Javier Castellano120Mark Glatt12-1
10Loafers BoyTiago Pereira120Andrew Lerner50-1
11Bob and JackieHeriberto Figueroa122Richard Baltas6-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $32,000. Maiden Claiming. 2 year olds. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Include the TaxJoel Rosario122Michael W. McCarthy4-150,000
2Champs SuccessAbel Cedillo122Jeff Bonde6-150,000
3Sierra MelodyEvin Roman122Marcia Stortz20-150,000
4Tiger the ManBrice Blanc122Brian J. Koriner6-150,000
5Beyond PrecherTyler Baze122Jorge Periban12-150,000
6Ridge RouteJoseph Talamo122Tim Yakteen20-150,000
7Papa TonyTiago Pereira122George Papaprodromou6-150,000
8Jungle BoyJorge Velez117Steven Miyadi5-150,000
9Wicked BlueEswan Flores122Vernon E. Aguayo12-150,000
10Totally TigerHeriberto Figueroa122Andrew Lerner5-250,000