A pretty sweet day for 3-year-olds at Hollypark

It was Candy Ride day at Hollywood Park on Saturday, with both Grade 2 stakes races — the $284,000 Swaps and $150,000 A Gleam Handicap — being won by offspring of the 2003 Pacific Classic winner.

Misremembered helped trainer Bob Baffert forget about the disappointing career-ending injury to Pioneerof the Nile, if just for a few moments, by going gate to wire in the Swaps, giving Baffert a record-tying fourth win in the race (D. Wayne Lukas also has four). Baffert also won with Captain Steve (2000), Congaree (2001) and During (2003).

“It’s exciting to have a horse like this,” Baffert said of Misremembered, who has won three of five and gave the trainer his first victory as a breeder. “It looks like distance is not a problem, and he’s getting better. Hopefully, we’ll keep him healthy and he’ll get better with age.”

Baffert, who says he’s had terrible luck as a breeder, doesn’t know what’s next for the talented colt who is co-owned by his wife, Jill. He joked that he was in shock and had no definitive plans for the horse.

“You don’t know how much money I’ve wasted, how many hundered of thousands of dollars (in breeding),” he said. “I’ve never bred a horse like this (Misremembered). All our horses are terrible.”

Baffert said his exceptional sprinter Zensational could race next in the $300,000 Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 8 if his workouts indicate he likes the Polytrack surface. The $300,000 Grade I Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 6 is also a possibility as he points the colt to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. Baffert has won the past two Breeders’ Cup Sprints with Midnight Lute.

Trainer John Sadler was pleased with Evita Argentina’s come-from-behind victory in the seven-furlong A Gleam, seeing as though she trailed the field early on before unleashing the usual closing kick she shows in sprints. She’s now three for six at seven furlongs.

“Keeneland (seven-furlong Beaumont Stakes on April 8) didn’t work out for her too well, but she came out of that race with a bruised foot, so she had an excuse,” said Sadler, who will finish the meet second, well behind Doug O’Neill in the race for top trainer, but won his meet-high seventh stakes.

He said Evita Argentina will probably go next in the 6 1/2-furlong Rancho Bernardo Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar on Sept. 4, saying, “We’ll see how that track plays down there. If it plays for closers, that will help her.”

“I’m hoping she’ll be nice and strong by the fall for the Breeders’ Cup (Filly and Mare Sprint),” Sadler said.

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Let’s make a little cash tonight at Hollypark

Here’s who I like tonight, the final Friday night program of the meet at Hollywood Park:

1st — Apache Annie had a wide trip last out, drops a peg to $16,000 and gets the services of talented apprentice Christian Santiago. I think he’s a good single in the early double, pick three, and pick four.

2nd — Walther Solis is enjoying a strong meet, winning with 19 percent of 47 starters. He sends out Chatty Lula here, who is showing gradual improvement and appears ready to graduate in this $40,000 state-bred maiden claimer. Martin Garcia stays aboard.

4th — Christy’s Bullet raced four-wide into the stretch last time, losing by only 3 1/4 lengths for the same price as tonight. She’s gone postward at 2-1, 3-2, 3-2 and 5-2 in her past four, and you might get better here.

7th — Trainer Brian Koriner uses Joe Talamo on many of his live horses, and “Smokin’ Joe” will be aboard Onefunsonofagun in this $25,000 optional claimer on the grass. It’s her second race back after a long layoff and she should be ready to fire here.

Good luck tonight!!

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This doctor has just the cure for what ails you

Spend 30 or 45 minutes talking to Dr. Jack Robbins, president and founding director of the Oak Tree Racing Association, and you’ll come away with a ton of stories and memories of what it was like on the backsides of Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar during the good old days.

Robbins, one of the most respected men who ever worked in the horse racing industry and one of its best veterinarians until his retirement 25 years ago, has a ton of stories about the all-time great horses he cared for, all the legendary trainers he came in contact with during his career and the memorable jockeys during the golden era.

He remembers gelding the great Native Diver and Ancient Title, recalls working for John Longden when the Hall of Fame jockey trained 1969 Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince. Recalls Robbins: “I had a great time with (Longden and Majestic Prince). I was supposed to go back to the Derby with him, but I had a previous engagement. I wish I could have gone back.”

He vividly recalls arguably the most popular gelding of the past 50 years, John Henry, although he didn’t make much money caring for the cantankerous champion.

“John Henry was a horse where, and I’ve been quoted before saying this, if you had a barn full of John Henrys, (a vet) would starve to death,” Robbins said. “He was sound almost all of his life except for an occasion or two.”

He also has fond memories of Calumet Farms, which campaigned in the West in the late ’40s and early ’50s.

“When I took care of Citation out here (1950) and Calumet (Farms) was on the West Coast, Citation had a low bow (tendon) they had to play with pretty carefully. He was never the same horse while he was out here when Noor was beating him as he was when he was a 3-year-old.

“Calumet, when they had their string out here, it was something to behold. I mean, they had 40 horses and the first three were all champions in their own right. It was kind of a pleasure to be around those horses.”

Of the great Charlie Whittingham, Robbins said: “He was a very good, dedicated kind of a horseman. Every evening he’d go down with his hands and examine each of his horses, see which ones ached and which ones were slow eating and things of that sort. He was a very thorough horseman.”

Robbins also dabbled in ownership for a while, co-owning a horse named Most Host, who upset the great Damascus in the 1968 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.

“It was a muddy race track and we just got lucky,” he said. “The horse loved that kind of a track and he came on and beat Damascus by a nose. I’ll never forget that day because Bob Strub (Santa Anita president) had the Damascus family in the winner’s circle — they were pretty ancient and couldn’t move around very fast — and they were in the winner’s circle before the race. It was a little embarrassing.”

Robbins also co-owned a filly named Honeys Gem, who he said they bought for a song before she went on to win the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Bevery D Stakes at Arlington Park in 1959. She was eventually sold for what at the time was a world record price for a broodmare — $137,000.

“She’d bring back millions of dollars today,” he said. “I think the Arabs have stimulated the prices a whole lot, plus some of these ego-maniac owners.”

Perhaps some of those same owners whom his son, trainer Jay Robbins, has parted ways with in the past.

“Jay’s only problem is he can’t take owners that tell him what to do,” Jack Robbins said. “He’s fired more good opportunities than he’s preserved over the years.”

Maybe so, but Jay’s dad has more than made up for it by preserving so many golden memories.

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Jockeys set for second season on Animal Planet

Good news for those who enjoyed the premiere season of the docu-drama “Jockeys” — the second season will debut on Aug. 21 with two new riders — two-time Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez and Corey Nakatani — joining the original six of Mike Smith, Alex Solis, Joe Talamo, Aaron Gryder, Chantal Sutherland and Kayla Stra.

The show will increase from 30 minutes to an hour this season and include new storylines outlined by Animal Planet:

Gomez — Viewers discover how well-respected this guy is because of the way he’s battled back from the depths of despair to the pinnacle of the profession. He’s first class all the way.

Nakatani — Known for his short fuse and fierce competitiveness, he’s featuerd prominently on the first episode, which airs at 10 p.m.

Smith — We’ll learn more about his exploits aboard the super mare Zenyatta and also find out how his girlfriend’s (Sutherland) decision to move back to Woodbine Park in Toronto affects their relationship.

Solis — The roller-coaster ride that was The Pamplemousse’s 3-year-old season is showcased as the veteran native of Panama hopes to ride his first Kentucky Derby winner.

Talamo — Only 19 and already approaching the top of his profession, “Smokin’ Joe” hopes that I Want Revenge can lead him to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.

Gryder — Always in search of his signature mount, Gryder travels across the globe to ride Well Armed in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Finally, he’s found that horse he hopes puts him on the map as a rider.

Sutherland — The best female jockey since Julie Krone wants to win the Kentucky Derby and ride some live Breeders’ Cup horses. Will her decision to return to Woodbine Park in search of those goals adversely affect her relationship with Smith?

Stra — The Australian native continues to get precious few mounts, most of which go postward at boxcar odds. Is she tough enough, possess the needed patience to stick it out?

The first season was very enjoyable, and we can only hope the encore is as good if not better. We’ll find out beginning Aug. 21.

Proposed sale of Santa Anita may have hit road block

The proposed sale of Santa Anita has run into a road block because of the economic climate, according to an industry source who didn’t want to be indentified because he is not authorized to speak on the subject.

“I’m hearing that guys are dropping out because they can’t get financing,” the industry insider said. “I hear that (Frank) Stronach will get it back.”

Santa Anita’s parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March after defaulting on conditions of a bank loan. In May, a Delaware bankruptcy judge gave Magna the go-ahead to sell Santa Anita, its most valuable asset, in order to help pay down debt.

The decision by the federal judge outlined that potential buyers for Santa Anita and other Magna race tracks — Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Thistledown in Ohio, Portland Meadows in Oregon and Magna’s interest in Lone Star Park near Dallas — had to declare their interest by May 27 and officially submit bids by July 31. The new owners are scheduled to be selected in an auction in New York on Sept. 8.

Santa Anita president Ron Charles has met with potential buyers, one of whom reportedly is a Chinese group. Charles traveled to China shortly before this year’s Kentucky Derby, but it’s not known for certain if the trip had anything to do with the possible sale of Santa Anita.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California at one time were believed to be interested in submitting a bid, along with Martin Wygod, a prominent thoroughbred owner and breeder.

A Santa Anita official said recently that track employees “are on pins and needles” in regards to the possible sale because of the uncertainty of the situation. No one knows if the track is sold whether the new owners will come in and clean house or even want to keep racing at the site. However, it’s pretty certain that new owners would have a major fight on their hands with Arcadia city officials if they tried to turn Santa Anita into anything but a race track.

Santa Anita will become the first track to host back to back Breeders’ Cups this year during the Oak Tree meeting. Breeders’ Cup XXVI is scheduled for Nov. 6-7.

And the beat goes on in California

Wonder why there’s a shortage of race horses in the state? Hmmmm, well, cut and paste the following link to Ray Paulick’s blog. Our “astute” state legislators are the main reason why we’re in the economic mess we’re in, and it’s others who are asked to sacrifice to help make up for their long trail of mistakes and bad judgment. If I performed my duties at work like they’ve performed theirs, I’d have been fired long ago.


Handicapping Horse of the Year race

There are still roughly 5 1/2 months left for viable Horse of the Year candidates to strut their stuff and show why they should be voted the most prestigious of the Eclipse Awards. Here’s how we see the race as the field approaches the quarter pole, including probable odds:

1. Rachel Alexandra — A Haskell-Travers sweep could be the crowning blow, 7-5
2. Zenyatta — Brilliant mare’s camp needs to step up, take a chance, 7-2
3. Einstein — Looking for Arlington Million-Pacific Classic-Breeders’ Cup Classic trifecta, 6-1
4. Mine That Bird — Derby winner can’t afford any more slip-ups, 12-1
5. Well Armed — Must add to that 14-length romp in Dubai World Cup, 15-1
6. Gio Ponti — Turf specialist needs to keep winning, hope others stumble, 20-1
7. Rail Trip — Needs Pacific Classic-Breeders’ Cup Classic double, then some help, 25-1
8. The field — Time running out for Summer Bird, Macho Again and others, 50-1

Even if Rachel Alexandra doesn’t sweep the Haskell and Travers and wins only one of the two, that will give her two victories over males this year. A sweep would give her three and make it highly unlikely Zenyatta could challenge her for Horse of the Year unless the two meet on the track and Zenyatta beats her and then goes on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

If Rachel Alexandra wins her next start — the Haskell on Aug. 2 — she’ll score more points with the Eclipse voters in the Horse of the Year chase. If Zenyatta wins her next race — the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9 — it won’t do her a bit of good with the voters. Sure, she’ll be in line to defend her title as top older female, but owner Jerry Moss already has gone on record as saying Horse of the Year is a goal — a goal that will be virtually impossible to reach unless the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry ventures outside her comfort zone.

Right now, Rachel Alexandra is proving as difficult to catch in the HOY race as she is on the race track.

It’s official: Rachel to take on the boys again

Reader Jim Tierney advised on 7/15 that there are six horses that have won both the Haskell and Travers.
Reader BC advised on 7/16 that there are seven horses that have won both stakes.

Rachel Alexandra, on the verge of possibly establishing herself as the greatest 3-year-old filly ever, will race next against the boys in the $1 million Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., on Aug. 2.

The move sets it up for Rachel Alexandra to try to become the first filly ever to sweep the Haskell and the historic Travers Stakes on Aug. 29 at Saratoga. Seven horses have swept both Grade 1 events for 3-year-olds, Point Given being the most recent in 2001. Coronado’s Quest (1998), Holy Bull (1994), Forty Niner (1988), Wise Times (1986), Wajima (1975) and Holding Pattern (1974) also accomplished the feat.

If Rachel Alexandra, who’s won all six of her starts in 2009, including record victories in the Kentucky Oaks (20 1/4 lengths) and Mother Goose (19 1/4 lengths), won both races it would give her three victories over the boys and stamp her as an overwhelming favorite to be named Horse of the Year, pending a meeting with Zenyatta, which at this point is not planned.

“Rachel Alexandra is progressing well after her stakes record victory in the Mother Goose,” co-owner Jess Jackson said in a statement. “She is in top condition. If this preparation continues, our target is to race in the Haskell Invitational in about three weeks. We are all looking forward to seeing this great athlete perform again against both colts and fillies.”

The Haskell, won last year by Big Brown, is a 1 1/8-mile race run on dirt.

Jackson also announced there are 11 more days to bid on Rachel Alexandra’s training halter worn while she was preparing for her Preakness victory, when she became the first filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 to win the middle leg of the Triple Crown series. The Kendall-Jackson/Rachel Alexandra Running Auction is a five-month-long charity auction taking place on www.kj.com. Proceeds will be donated to The V Foundation to aid in cancer research.

A Haskell-Travers double for Rachel? Don’t rule it out

Reader Jim Tierney advised on 7/15 that there are six horses that have won both the Haskell and Travers.
Reader BC advised on 7/16 that there are seven horses that have won both stakes.

Seven horses have won both the Haskell Invitational and historic Travers Stakes since the former race was established in 1968. But no filly has ever turned the trick, until maybe now. Think that Rachel Alexandra’s co-owner, Jess Jackson, who likes to raise the bar and set the standard, isn’t thinking about what a coup it would be for his immensely popular 3-year-old filly?

We’re still waiting to hear when Rachel Alexandra will make her next start. Of course, everyone is still holding out hope that the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’ Oro will eventually take on the country’s most popular older distaffer, the unbeaten Zenyatta, but there’s no further word on that front. Zenyatta’s next start will come in the $300,000 Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9.

There are three races where Rachel Alexandra could logically make her next start — the $1 million Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on Sunday, which would be her first race against older fillies and mares; the $300,000 Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 25; or the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Aug 2, which would be her second matchup against the boys after a victory in the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

The American Oaks is probably out, seeing as though it carries a much smaller purse than the two million-dollar races. Entries for the Delaware Handicap will be taken Wednesday, so a decision is needed immediately if Rachel’s connections want to go that route. She certainly signified her readiness for racing Monday morning, when she worked five furlongs in 1:01.38 at Saratoga.

A start in either of the aforementioned three stakes means she would be set up for a start in the $600,000 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 23 or the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Aug. 29, both of which will be run at Saratoga. If it comes down to a choice of the two, bet on the latter.

It’s my guess she’ll go next in the Haskell and then try the Travers. Holding Pattern (1974), Wajima (1975), Wise Times (1986), Forty Niner (1988), Holy Bull (1994), Coronado’s Quest (1998) and Point Given (2001) are the only horses to win both. If Rachel Alexandra accomplishes the feat, meaning she would have beaten the boys three times this year, well, you can make her 1-5 to win Horse of the Year.

Rachel Alexandra is unbeaten in six starts this year and has won nine of 11 lifetime. Her past three starts have all been most impressive — a record 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1, the victory in the Preakness and a record 19 1/4-length win in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on June 27.