Even Bobby Frankel, who trained the 2007 Eclipse Award-winning filly Ginger Punch, couldn’t believe she received two votes for the 2008 top older female after losing to eventual winner Zenyatta by a combined 15 1/2 lengths in their two meetings — one on dirt and the other on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface.
“That don’t make any sense,” he said Saturday in the winner’s circle after Ventura returned to the races following a 14-week layoff to win the $300,000 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita. Ventura was racing for the first time since her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint victory.
Frankel didn’t have a problem with Indian Blessing winning the Eclipse as top female sprinter, even after Ventura ran her down in the Breeders’ Cup.
“I was disappointed with myself because I didn’t run Country Star against Indian Blessing in the La Brea,” he said. “If she had beat her, maybe I would have had a chance. But going in and talking to the press, (Indian Blessing) had a whole year and a lot of good races.”
On Curlin winning the Horse of the Year vote over the unbeaten Zenyatta, Frankel said: “That was OK. You could have gone either way.”
SATURDAY, JANUARY 31
4th — $20 to win on The Legal Blonde at 5-1 or higher
5th — $20 to win on Valkyrie Missile at 5-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Soda Pop Kid at 5-1 or higher
9th — $20 to win on Brinson
FRIDAY — Plus $42 OVERALL — Minus $770 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,230
With Indian Blessing a no-go in Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Monica Handicap for older fillies and mares, Ventura looks like she’s got too much class for this field that will travel 7 furlongs on Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
The 5-year-old Chester House mare beat Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Indian Blessing by four lengths last October in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and there are no Indian Blessings in this field. Not even close.
Ventura has won four of seven in the U.S. since debuting in this country with a two-length allowance victory at Santa Anita last March 6. She hasn’t been off the board in this country and jockey Garrett Gomez, who’s ridden Ventura in all of her U.S. races, thinks she could be undefeated here with a little more racing luck. Trainer Bobby Frankel says she doesn’t have to run as well as she did on Breeders’ Cup Day to beat this bunch.
A look back at her scintillating Breeders’ Cup victory:
FRIDAY, JANUARY 30
1st — $20 to win on Warren’s Peanut at 20-1 or higher; $2 exacta boxes keying Warren’s Peanut to Defying Logic and Capt. Pike
3rd — $20 to win on Snow Fighter at 5-1 or higher
4th — $40 to win on Wild Apart at 3-1 or higher
5th — $20 to win on You Is What You Is at 5-1 or higher
7th — $20 to win on Barber and Talk of a Cat at 20-1 or higher
8th — $20 to win on Solo Performance; $5 exacta box coupling Solo Performance and Army Officer
THURSDAY — Minus $80 OVERALL — Minus $812 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,188
Santa Anita’s Web site had the carryover as $155,407 minutes after the final race ended but it’s been corrected to show the correct amount. Still, not a bad chunk of change to shoot for on Free Fridays.
Jesus Rios, 26-year-old jockey from Puerto Rico, scored his first career victory at Santa Anita on Thursday when he rode 24-1 long shot Seven Below to a victory in the sixth race. The horse returned $51.20. Rios is represented by Tony Matos, who has been the agent for many top Southland jockeys over the years, including the legendary Laffit Pincay, Jr.
The jockey race has turned into a three-way free-for-all between leader Rafael Bejarano (31 wins), who’s shooting for his sixth consecutive SoCal riding title, and Joel Rosario (30) and Garrett Gomez (29). I think that’s going to be a battle we’re all going to want to watch the rest of the way. My money is still on Bejarano.
There’s a $155,407 pick six carryover Friday — the fifth Free Friday’s program of the 84-day meet. So far they’ve been well-received.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 29
1st — $20 to win on Righteously at 5-1 or higher
4th — $20 to win on Love Our Grandkids and White Angel at 10-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Stray Cat at 5-1 or higher
7th — $20 to win on Poker Dave at 5-1 or higher
8th — $20 to win on Grey Babe at 20-1 or higher
WEDNESDAY — Minus $120 OVERALL — Minus $732 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,268
I spoke with an industry official this week who has serious questions whether Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface will hold up during the course of an 84-day meet.
“Everyone loves the Pro-Ride for 12 weeks,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized by the track to speak on the subject. “They’re good tracks for 12 weeks.
“The thing is, you gallop 1,000 horses on it every day, after a few weeks it’s going to get firm. You get half a ton horse going over it, it’s going to get firm. Surprise, surprise. But (Ian Pearse) doesn’t like them to work it, so the next question is why doesn’t he like them to work it? Because everytime you work it, it just falls apart.
“This track will fall apart before April. I don’t think it will last to the Breeders’ Cup because the stuff they put in doesn’t tolerate sun. After 500 hours of sun, it changes. After 1,000 hours of sun, it’s just not there. It all evaporates.”
Interesting stuff from a guy who does know what he’s talking about. If he’s right, Santa Anita could be in a jam come the next two or three months.
Quite a few bets today at Santa Anita, and some have great long-shot capabilities. We’ll see if we can keep our recent winning ways going after a terrible start.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28
1st — $20 to win on Crazy Wager at 5-1 or higher
2nd — $20 to win on Opal Haze and Super Nana at 5-1 or higher
3rd — $20 to win on Only Be Cause at 3-1 or higher
4th — $20 to win on A Sassy Fusaichi
5th — $20 to win Ice Veins at 5-1 or higher; $20 to win on Abstract Fact at 20-1 or higher
6th — $20 to win on Bright Abyss and Glow Girl Go
SUNDAY — Plus $86 OVERALL — Minus $612 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $1,388
I thought overall the voters — comprised of members of the Daily Racing Form, National Turf Writers Association and National Thoroughbred Racing Association — did a fine job selecting the various winners, though I disagreed with a couple of the choices:
(1) As mentioned before, I’d have gone with Zenyatta as Horse of the Year over Curlin, who lost twice in 2008, because the filly was unbeaten and dominated her division more than any other racehorse during the year. I think the majority of voters gave Curlin the nod because he was undefeated on dirt. That’s not right.
(2) I thought Midnight Lute’s victory — while his only win of the year — in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint trumped anything Benny the Bull accomplished in 2008. Midnight Lute’s win was so powerful and made him the first back to back winner of the Sprint. If there was a category for best one-race training job, Bob Baffert would have won it hands down.
(3) IEAH Stables should have been named Owner of the Year rather than Stronach Stables. IEAH won a nation-high 11 Grade I races and had two Eclipse winners — Big Brown and Benny the Bull. Stronach Stables had no Eclipse winners. Bad choice.
I saved the best for last. Zenyatta’s choice as Top Older Female was expected to be unanimous, but two voters — TWO!! — cast their ballots for Ginger Punch, the defending champion who met Zenyatta on the track twice in 2008 and was soundly beaten by the John Shirreffs-trained daughter of Street Cry both times. Just incredibel. You sometimes wonder what goes through the minds of some people.
Overall, a good show, although some of the speeches ran a little long and that meant the ceremony went about 30 minutes long. It’s back in Beverly Hills in 2010.