(Wildman Jack headlines G2 Joe Hernandez at Santa Anita / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)
From the Santa Anita Media Team:
W.C. Racing’s homebred Wildman Jack, a graded stakes winning 5-year-old gelding by 2013 Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, heads a wide-open field of 11 older horses in Friday’s New Year’s feature, the G2, $200,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over the Santa Anita turf.
Most recently seventh, beaten three lengths after taking the lead turning for home in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland on Nov. 7, Wildman Jack, who is trained by Doug O’Neill, was a big second, beaten one length two starts back in the 5 ½ furlong turf Eddie D Stakes here on Sept. 25.
A nose winner of the G3 Daytona Stakes five starts back on May 23, 2020, Wildman Jack has a win and two seconds from three tries over the Santa Anita turf and like the rest of the field, he’ll be running out of Santa Anita’s newly christened turf chute for the first time on Friday.
Out of the Orientate mare Orientatious, Wildman Jack is 12-4-3-1 overall with earnings of $439,005.
Other prominent contenders include trainer Graham Motion’s venerable Irish-bred True Valour, who is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland and will be will be making his 30th career start at age seven. No stranger to Santa Anita, True Valour, who was based in Southern California with Simon Callaghan for parts of three racing seasons beginning in 2018, he’s a two time graded stakes winner going one mile over the local lawn from nine tries.
Although primarily a router throughout his career, True Valour transitioned to sprinting two starts back, taking a 6 ½ furlong classified allowance over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta on Nov. 14 and he comes off a solid third in an ungraded six furlong turf stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 28.
Owned by R.L. Johnson, True Valour is 29-6-2-8 overall with earnings of $462,237.
In addition to Wildman Jack, Doug O’Neill will also be represented by Blitzkrieg, a winner of the Grade III American Stakes here five starts back who will be shortening up out of three consecutive turf routes. Owned by R3 Racing, LLC and Calara Farms, Blitzkrieg has four wins from 11 tries over the Santa Anita turf and he has earnings of $411,457 from an overall mark of 25-6-1-1.
Hronis Racing’s classy Encoder, idle since February 1 for John Sadler, rates a huge chance with Tyler Baze engaged to ride. A first-out five furlong turf maiden winner at Del Mar in August, 2019, he followed that up with a game head victory in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf on Sept. 1, 2019.
A well beaten fifth on dirt in the G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes Feb. 1, he pressed the early pace en route to a half length score in the one mile turf Eddie Logan Stakes two starts back on Dec. 29, 2019. Back on his preferred surface on Friday, Encoder should plenty tough while attentive to the pace.
The Joe Hernandez is named in honor of the Original Voice of Santa Anita, who called more than 15,000 consecutive races from Dec. 25, 1934 until he collapsed while calling his final race on January 27, 1972.
THE JOE HERNANDEZ STAKES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 7 of 9 Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT
- Texas Wedge–Flavien Prat–120
- P R Radio Star–Juan Hernandez–120
- Encoder–Tyler Baze–120
- Hembree–Joel Rosario–120
- True Valour–Drayden Van Dyke–120
- Blitzkrieg–Victor Espinoza–122
- Wildman Jack–Abel Cedillo–122
- Chaos Theory–Umberto Rispoli–122
- Oiseau de Guerre–Ruben Fuentes–120
- Mesut–Mike Smith–120
- Ohio–Ricky Gonzalez–120
First post time for a 9-race card on Friday, New Year’s Day, is at 12:30 p.m. All of Santa Anita’s races can be viewed free of charge at santaanita.com/live and fans can watch and wager via 1st.com/Bet. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.