SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27
1st — $20 to win on Sky ruler and Whizer
6th — $20 to win on Scottish Diamond
7th — $20 to win on Ata Benchmark; $5 exacta boxes coupling Ata Benchmark with Polish Quest and Ata Benchmark with Got Free
10th — $20 to win on Shadow Queen
FRIDAY — Minus $95 OVERALL — Minus $1,542.50 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $457.50
Bob Baffert, who trains Kentucky Derby hopeful Pioneerof the Nile, is confident the Empire Maker colt will have no problem converting to the dirt at Churchill Downs after running his first six races over synthetic tracks, including victories in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 in his 3-year-old debut.
But Bill Mott, who trained Pioneerof the Nile during his 2-year-old season, is not so sure. According to Dan Silver of the New York Racing Association, this is what Mott had to say concerning the colt adapting to dirt:
“To me, he always looked a little bit smoother going over the turf than he did on the dirt. He worked well over the dirt as well, but the surface he looked exceptionally well going over was the synthetic, even better than he looked on the turf. Just from watching him work and gallop, I would have rated him synthetic number 1, turf number 2, and dirt number 3, with more to find out on the dirt.”
Interesting stuff. Like Baffert says, there’s only one way to find out and that’s on Derby day May 2.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27
1st — $20 to win on Lady in Love; $1 early pick four, including Shebang, Jen’s New Chapter and Lady in Love in the first; Recess in the second; Figeac, Sognatore and Itsnotjustagame in the third; and Entabeni, Slammin Kat and Madeline Ruby in the fourth ($27)
4th — $20 to win on Entabeni
5th — $20 to win on Jack Flash; $1 late pick four, including Uncle Jeep and Jack Flash in the fifth; Spirit of Cochise in the sixth; Unusual Spirt in the seventh; and Well Monied, Always Auditioning, Panorama Ride and the entry of Unknown Heat and Spanish Bunny ($8)
THURSDAY — Minus $60 OVERALL — Minus $1,447.50 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $552.50
Get out your racing forms … there’s a two-day pick six carryover of $704,945.15 Thursday at Santa Anita. A 22-1 long shot, Paddlin Mud, got up on the outside for jockey Kayla Stra in Wednesday’s final race and beat 7-2 shot Miss Cherry by a nose in the last jump to ensure the big carryover.
One of the worst meets I’ve had in quite a while. If this keeps up, we’re going to need an I.O.U. from the government, and we all know how that would go. I’ve said it before, though — if you have a long-shot system in place that’s worked for more than 20 years you don’t dump it because of one bad meet. Who knows, maybe it’s the synthetics. Or maybe it’s just a poor meet. Whatever, we still have a long way to go and we press onward.
Nice pick-six carryover today at Santa Anita, and here are a few horses that I think could make a difference. Of course, the way I’m going, you might be bettter served to draw a line through them:
Taxi Fleet and Salty Humor in the third, Morton Owen in the fourth I think is a good single, If Not for You is the chalk play in the fifth, Sarah’s Melody looks solid in the sixth, and Waddup G is a good price play in the seventh.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25
1st — $20 to win on Courageous Captain
5th — $20 to win on Dana Sisstar
8th — $20 to win on Love Song Mellody and Paddlin Mud
SUNDAY — Minus $80 OVERALL — Minus $1,771.50 BANKROLL (started with $2,000) — $228.50
We’re lucky here in Southern California to be witness to three of the top female performers in the sport — jockey Chantal Sutherland and trainers Kathy Walsh and Carla Gaines.
Sutherland, whom Santa Anita marketing director Allen Gutterman claims could be the best female jockey since Julie Krone, is tied with Michael Baze for 10th in the Santa Anita jockey standings with 12 victories heading into Wednesday’s card. She’s winning at a solid 13 percent clip. Romantically linked to Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, she hopes to do well enough this meet so she can remain in Southern California and not have to return to ride at Woodbine Park in Toronto where she got her start.
Walsh doesn’t have many starters, but her win percentage is easily one of the best on the circuit each year. So far this meet, she’s saddled eight winners from 29 starters, a 28 percent success rate. She also trains Georgie Boy, one of the top sprinters in the nation who is my early pick to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. She takes her time with horses and they’re well spotted when they run. She’s one of the best in the business.
Gaines is off to her usual strong start at this Santa Anita meet, heading into today’s action with six wins from 28 starters — a 21 percent win clip. Known primarily for her strong work with Nashoba’s Key, Gaines won with 22 percent of her 193 starters in 2008 despite undergoing surgery and suffering tragedy in her personal life. Two of her main clients are Warren Williamson, one of the true gentlemen in the sport, and John Harris, acting head of the California Horse Racing Board and owner of Harris Farms.
I’ve received some inquiries the past few weeks about jockeys Patrick Valenzuela, Martin Pedroza and Omar Berrio. Where did they go, and are they still riding? Well, here’s an update on the trio:
PVal is riding fulltime in Louisiana at Louisiana Downs and the Fair Grounds after a number of suspensions stemming from substance abuse problems in California. A ruling was recently made by the CHRB that Valenzuela can’t apply for a license any more in California. Would that ruling hold up in court? Hard to tell, but it seems he had more than enough chances here. He kept throwing each one away. Currently at the Fair Grounds, PVal is 11th in the jockey standings with 23 wins in 215 mounts — a 9 percent winning clip. Those are not the type of numbers that PVal is accustomed to and I think he’s most likely on the downside of his career.
Pedroza, one of the most hustling riders around, fractured his pelvis when thrown before the last race at Santa Anita on Jan. 11. Pedroza said he’s never been in as much pain as in the days and weeks after the accident. He said things have gotten much better, but he’s still quite a long way from returning. At the time, his agent Richie Silverstein thought the best-case scenario for a return was two months. Pedroza said he initially feared he might be sidelined a year. But Silverstein says doctors say Pedroza is ahead of schedule on his rehab. Silverstein and Pedroza now are shooting for the beginning of the Hollywood Park meet on April 22 for his return and I think that’s a much more realistic target.
Berrio, mostly known as the regular rider for trainer A.C. Avila, was suspended last summer when he failed a drug test in New York. He’s just now coming back and it will take a while before he’s re-licensed. He must submit to regular drug testing and stay clean in order to stay in good standing. Berrio was always a very capable rider who could win with a live mount. I cashed on many Berrio long shots, and I hope he can get his life back in order and return to riding.
Have a question about anything regarding horse racing, whether it’s a jockey, trainer, horse or whatever? Post it on the blog or e-mail me at email@example.com and we’ll find the answer for you.
There’s a pick six carryover of more than $169,000 into Wednesday’s eight-race Santa Anita program. That was pretty much assured when Moonlit Habit, a 57-1 long shot ridden by Alonzo Quinonez, won the fifth race Sunday and returned $117. Quinonez, whose book is being handled by veteran agent Richie Silverstein, also guided 10-1 outsider Spanish Ice ($23.60) to a victory in the seventh. Silverstein is also the agent for Martin Pedroza, who is sidelined with a fractured pelvis.
The pick-six pool Wednesday could approach or exceed $1 million.