Santa Anita Racing — 1/01/2009

Eclatante finished fourth as a decent price long shot in the sixth on Wednesday, but we didn’t get 20-1 or more on either of our horses in the nightcap. We lost $4 there when our $2 exacta box coupling Fortunate Victory and Kerzner failed to click. There are better days ahead.

1st — $20 to win on Kneeling’s Pride
4th — $20 to win on Parko
5th — $20 to win on Winning Vow
6th — $20 to win on Joan Kardoo
7th — $40 to win on Regal Coyote at 5-2 or higher
8th — $20 to win on Meetingwithdestiny
9th — $20 to win on Shermeen
10th — $20 to win on Bonita Birdie

WEDNESDAY — Minus $24
OVERALL — Minus $56
BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,944

Good luck today!!

Gomez comes up short of Bailey

It wasn’t from a lack of a great effort, but Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez fell $10,610 shy of breaking Jerry Bailey’s single-season earnings record.

Gomez, who was involved in a scary spill last Saturday at Santa Anita, surprisingly returned to ride Monday after missing only one day of action, riding two winners and finishing fourth wth another mount to pull within $79,082 of Bailey’s record $23,354,960 established in 2003.

Three horses that Gomez was scheduled to ride won Sunday, meaning the record likely would be his now if he hadn’t been injured in the Eddie Logan Stakes.

On Wednesday, Gomez won with his first three mounts and would have broken Bailey’s record anyway with a victory in the $70,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap. But his mount Baroness Thatcher finished third and Gomez wound up the season with $23,344,351.

It was a game effort. Gomez, who lost three front teeth in the accident, said he didn’t return so quickly just so he could break Bailey’s record.

“Winning period is a motivation,” Gomez said. “It was the start of a brand new meet, and the record is still attainable if we get lucky enough. More important, I wanted to continue, because out of sight is out of mind. I wanted to get back into action. Thursday is a brand new year and I didn’t want to miss any time if I didn’t have to, money record or no.”

Gomez 2 for 2 today at Santa Anita

Garrett Gomez, in pursuit of Jerry Bailey’s single-season earnings mark, has won with both his mounts Wednesday at Santa Anita and can still catch Bailey. He needs to win with his final two mounts — the featured Kalookan Queen Handicap aboard Baroness Thatcher, and with his mount in the sixth race. If anyone can do it, he can.

Santa Anita Racing — 12/31/2008

Our Storm got us off to a good start in Monday’s second race, rallying from far back under Alonzo Quinonez and winning to return $7.40. But our next four wagers blanked, including Flashing Forward, who was leading before she broke down approaching the far turn and had to be euthanized. Let’s end the year on a high note today.

6th — $20 to win on Eclatante
8th — $20 to win on Fortunate Victory, Kerzner and Olympic Stripes at 20-1 or higher. A $2 exacta box including Fortunate Victory, Kerzner and Olympic Stripes no matter what the odds.

MONDAY — Minus $26
OVERALL — Minus $32
BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,968

Good luck today!!

Breakdowns concern Santa Anita’s Charles

Four horses have broken down on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in the first four days of Santa Anita’s 2008-09 meet, and two had to be euthanized. Santa Anita president Ron Charles told The Thoroughbred Times this week he is very concerned about the matter, so much so that the surface was power harrowed by workers Tuesday and tests were run on the track.

“We did some work on the track this morning, and it’s something we’re taking seriously,” Charles told The Thoroughbred Times. “We’re looking for consistency–power harrowing it to see exactly how tight it is. They’re doing a lot of tests.

“Most of the riders say it’s a very forgiving surface and the track seems to have a good bounce to it, so we’re not exactly sure why this is happening. We went almost a month without picking one horse up in the morning, literally thousands of horses working. The confidence level was extremely high coming into the meet.”

To me, it’s just more evidence that horses are going to break down no matter what type of surface. You have these big, strong animals running on those spindly legs, and when they come down wrong, well, bad things are going to happen.

Time for some early Derby talk

So who’s going to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby, huh? I know, silly question considering the winner may not have even made his or her first career start. But hey, it’s never too early to speculate, right?

You can start right here at home when talking about some of the contenders. Bob Baffert is mighty high on CashCall Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, and rightfully so. Ron Ellis, who’s never won a Derby, has a couple of nice 2-year-olds in Believe in Hope and Rail Trip. Doug O’Neill has Square Eddie, who ran well on Breeders’ Cup day.

Then, of course, there’s Vineyard Haven — a lot of folks’ top pick for next May’s Run for the Roses after victories in the Champagne and Hopeful stakes back east. He’s now in Dubai, property of Godolphin Stable. Midshipman, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, is also in Dubai.

So who do you like? Who’s your early Derby pick? I’d pick Midshipman if he wasn’t going to try to win the Derby by prepping in Dubai. I don’t like that route. My opinion is that the Derby winner isn’t even on the radar yet. Remember Big Brown? Last year at this time few knew about the future Derby and Preakness winner.

Gomez faces uphill battle for record

Amazingly, Garrett Gomez returned to action Monday, less than 48 hours after that scary spill he was involved in Saturday during the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita. He rode four horses, earning $29,560 for two wins, a fourth and a last-place finish. His fifth scheduled mount in the seventh race was scratched.

He goes into Wednesday’s final card of 2008 just $79,454 shy of Jerry Bailey’s North American record for single-season earnings. Problem is, he’s got only four mounts to pick up the necessary purse money. In order to pass Bailey, he needs to win the $70,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap aboard Baroness Thatcher and a $56,000 allowance race in which he rides Kyniska. He then must finish at least second in a $25,000 starter allowance or third in the starter allowance and at least second in the $10,000 claimer he’ll ride in. Not impossible, and the courageous manner in which Gomez came back so soon after a scary fall makes you want to root for him to do it.

I think he’ll come up short, but all bets are off for 2009. With a little luck, he’ll be back threatening the record again and just might get it.

It looks like Gomez may ride Monday

Ron Anderson, Garrett Gomez’s agent, told me Saturday night that his client was pretty banged up after a serious spill earlier in the day and that he figured Gomez would have to take a couple of days off. Well, after taking Sunday off, Gomez was still listed on all five of his scheduled mounts for Monday.

“Garrett told me not to turn anything (potential mounts) loose,” Anderson told Santa Anita official Ed Golden on Sunday morning. “I feel very optimistic. There’s better than a good chance he could ride (Monday). Amazing as it seems, there was even a small chance he could have ridden (Sunday). He’s tougher than I don’t-know-what.”

Gomez was injured in Saturday’s seventh race, the Eddie Logan Stakes, when his mount, Back At You, veered in during the stretch run and unseated the jockey, who turns 37 on New Year’s Day. Taken to Arcadia Methodist Hospital, he had only a swollen left hand, a gash on his left knee and three missing front teeth. He was very, very fortunate.

There’s still an outside chance Gomez could break Jerry Bailey’s North American record for single-season earnings. He’s $109,014 shy of the mark, set in 2003 when Anderson was Bailey’s agent. He could get there, but even if he returns today, he’s got only two days (Wednesday is the final racing day of 2008) to surpass Bailey’s record of $23,354,960.

“In the realm of everything,” Anderson said, “at this point, who cares (about the record)? I think we dodged a bullet and I feel very fortunate that Garrett’s going to be OK.”

Santa Anita Racing — 12/29/2008

We broke out of our mini-drought Sunday, collecting $194 for a $20 win bet on Wild Diplomat in the sixth race. He returned $19.40 for substitute jockey Joe Talamo. We dropped $40 on Raise the River, who threatened at the head of the stretch but lacked the needed closing punch in the last eighth of a mile.

2nd — $20 to win on Our Storm
4th — $20 to win on Sovine
6th — $20 to win on Candy’s Pride
7th — $20 to win on Flashing Forward
9th — $20 to win on Warren’s Adventure

SUNDAY — Plus $134
OVERALL — Minus $6
BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,994

Good luck today!!

Nelson best long-shot handicapper in the business

Our very own Ray Nelson, whose picks appear daily on our horse-racing page, tabbed the late pick four cold Sunday, correctly selecting Wild Diplomat ($19.40), Unusual Spirit ($15.20), Proudinsky ($4.60) and Dolly Daggers ($8.60) on top in the final four races for a payoff of $860.10. He also had the next-to-last pick three and the final pick three of the afternoon with $1 tickets, returning $142.70 and $88.80, respectively. So, for a $3 investment, you’d have made a $1,091.57 proft by following Nelson’s picks.

Ray, in my opinion, is the best long-shot handicapper in the business. Last year during the Santa Anita winter-spring meet, he captured the money-won portion of the Allan Malamud public handicappers’ contest and showed a flat-bet profit of about $100, which is extremely difficult to do when you’re forced to pick winners in every race, even if you don’t like the race that much. He won a similar contest at the 2007 Oak Tree meet.

Through the first three days of this 84-day Santa Anita meet, Nelson’s eight wins have totaled $62.20 — an average of $7.76. He’s showing a flat-bet profit of $8.20 so far. The way he selects long-shot winners, I’m guessing the average will be closer to $10 by season’s end. If you’re at the track and see one of Nelson’s top selections at 10-1 or higher, put some money on it. He goes out on a limb, and often times the bettors are rewarded.