(Kristin Mulhall trains Catemaco / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:


The Catemaco story reads like a chapter right out of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 horror novel of a young scientist who creates a sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.

But Catemaco’s tale has a happy ending.

A 4-year-old colt bred in California on March 23, 2017, Catemaco won his first start Friday by a widening four lengths at Santa Anita, leading throughout six furlongs in a sprightly 1:09.08, paying $30.60 to his scattered backers and earning $36,000 for owners Twilight Racing LLC and Steve Taub, all pretty remarkable facts in their own right.

But truth be told, it’s a miracle Catemaco is even alive.

He swallowed a black widow spider when he was four months old, had a reaction that put him near death and would have died if it hadn’t been for the diligent response of his trainer and breeder, Kristin Mulhall.

She has the distressing details committed to memory.

After completing training at Santa Anita one morning, Mulhall arrived at her home in Covina Hills where she keeps some horses on her two-acre spread, only to find Catemaco lying down, “struggling to breathe.”

“The horse couldn’t breathe at all,” Kristin said. “There was froth coming out of his nose, his eyes were bloodshot and cloudy. He was seconds away from dying.”

Mulhall’s passion and persistence prevented his death even though she had only rudimentary tools at her disposal.

“I called my vet, Melinda Blue. We were on FaceTime and she was having her hair done. She said find anything, and I found a box blade. Fortunately, my tack room was right next to where the horse was. She told me to feel the ridges in his throat to find his trachea and slice a hole all the way through it, and he started breathing through that.

“Then I said, ‘Now what?” and she said, ‘Find any kind of tube,’ and I found a syringe casing, cut the end of it and shoved it in, but I only had a couple minutes before the hole would plug up with foam and stuff.

“I tried to shove it in but the hole closed and he was flailing around really bad like a fish out of water, I tried to cut it again but couldn’t.

“At that point, Humberto Gomez (Bob Baffert’s exercise rider, known as Beto to friends) had returned and he held the horse’s feet and head and I got it through the trachea the third time I tried, made a bigger hole which I was able to open with my finger to insert the casing.

“Then I called Melinda back and asked how the casing would stay in. . . I had to find dental floss and the largest needle I could, tie the dental floss to the needle and try to suture the hole the best way I could.

“I said I don’t know how to do that. She said just tie a knot. Put it through the hole, through the skin and tie a knot on both sides, and that will hold it in until you get him to the hospital.

“Beto was holding Catemaco until I found everything I needed, we got it all done but then we didn’t know if he was going to get up, if he was brain-dead or what.

“He got up after an hour. His eyes were still bloodshot and cloudy but he was up and walking. We put him in the back of the trailer with his mom and Humberto stayed with them, holding the tube in place.

“We took them to Chino Hills Equine Hospital and Dr. (Andreas) Klohnen, the head vet there, was absolutely shocked at what he saw. The horse would have been dead if we didn’t do what we did, so the doctor was able to administer the correct implements for about two days before the swelling went down enough that they were comfortable to remove it.

“The horse was in the hospital about a week before I brought him back home and he’s been fine ever since. It didn’t affect him at all.”

Catemaco is named for a horse by the same name that Gomez said was ‘a freak’ when he rode him as a jockey in Mexico City. “It was the favorite horse he ever rode and he asked me to name my foal Catemaco, so I did.” Catemaco also is a city in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Kristin, 38, is the daughter of the late trainer Richard Mulhall, who managed the late Prince Ahmed Salman’s The Thoroughbred Corp. after a lengthy training career in Southern California. But her experience in horsemanship extends well beyond learning from Dad.

She was an Olympic-caliber equestrian rider through her teens before being grounded by a serious arm injury. She obtained her trainer’s license in 2002 after working for trainer John Shirreffs.

Presently she has 23 head at Santa Anita and some horses for trainer Jonathan Wong at her Covina Hills location.

Her emotions understandably flooded forth after watching Catemaco win on Friday.

“I couldn’t hold the tears back,” Kristin said. “That’s the first time I cried after a race. That horse means so much to me, he’s so special. The fact that he lived through that and he had the heart to fight through that is pretty unbelievable.

“I grew up with War Emblem, Point Given, Spain and all those good horses at their farm. I was around some special ones.”

But none as special as Catemaco.



In addition to his voluminous resume as the Hall of Fame conditioner of the legendary gelding John Henry, top mares Bayakoa, Paseana and so many other Grade I winners, Ron McAnally is also relishing his role as a Thoroughbred breeder of note, as he and his wife Debbie rung in the New Year on Friday as proud breeders of maiden special weight winner Rock Your World, a first time starter who sped to an impressive 1 ¾ length win in Friday’s ninth race, stopping the clock in a rapid 1:08.47 for six furlongs on turf.

Purchased by Kosta Hronis for $650,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling, Rock Your World is out of McAnally’s Empire Maker mare Charm the Maker and is by Candy Ride, who McAnally saddled to win the 2003 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.  Trained by John Sadler, Rock Your World was off as the 2-1 favorite with Joel Rosario and paid $6.60 to win.

“We’ve got the whole family,” said McAnally, on Saturday morning.  “The mare is back in foal to Candy Ride and we’ve got a 2-year-old full brother coming in next month to my barn here at Santa Anita.  This colt’s (Rock Your World) full sister (newly turned 5-year-old She’s Our Charm)  just ran third in the Frankel the other day (Grade III Robert J. Frankel on Dec. 27) and the mare (Charm the Maker) has a yearling filly in Kentucky by Into Mischief.

So although at age 88, Ron McAnally is no longer contending for training titles, he’s still very much “All-In” with plenty to look forward to as 2021 unfolds.

Mike Willman



Michael McCarthy tackles the Bob Baffert blitz on Sunday.

The protégé of Todd Pletcher, methodically establishing himself as a trainer to be reckoned with both nationally and internationally, hopes his filly Nasreddine stays in the pocket when four horses trained by Baffert unleash their charge in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

The race is significant in that it could lead to the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks on April 3 and beyond that, should the fates allow, the Grade I Kentucky Oaks.

Of the 17 fillies nominated to the Santa Ynez, six are trained by Baffert, while McCarthy was fending for himself with Nasreddine.

Nasreddine, a daughter of Nyquist, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Derby, was third behind two of Baffert’s Santa Ynez entrees, victorious Varda and runner-up Kalypso, in the Grade I Starlet at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 5 at Los Alamitos. Baffert also entered maiden winners Beautiful Gift and Exotic West.

“Baffert’s got a monopoly on the race but that’s usually the way it works with him in these three-year-old races,” said McCarthy, who turns 50 on Feb. 1.

Nasreddine raced evenly while wide finishing third in the Starlet, 5 ½ lengths behind Varda and four behind Kalypso.

“She’s shortening up a little bit,” McCarthy allowed. “I thought she was a little bit even through the lane in the Starlet, but I’m looking for this to help her out.”

The Santa Ynez, race eight of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Brilliant Cut, Ricardo Gonzalez, 15-1; Nasreddine, Tiago Pereira, 6-1; Exotic West, Abel Cedillo, 3-1; Queengol, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Varda, Drayden Van Dyke, 3-1; Frosteria, Mike Smith, 5-1; and Kalypso, Joel Rosario, 5-2.



Richard Mandella has a busy weekend coming up with Jolie Olimpica and Superstition ticketed for next Saturday’s Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares four and up at six furlongs on turf, and Amuse set for next Sunday’s $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes for fillies and mares four and older at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

Jolie Olimpica, a five-year-old Brazilian-bred mare, will be making her first start since last July 11 when she finished second in the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland. Mike Smith retains the mount. She won the Las Cienegas in her U.S. debut on Jan. 11, 2020, having been unbeaten and untested in three previous races in her native country.

Superstition, a four-year-old daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, makes her stakes debut after two straight victories at five furlongs on turf at Del Mar. Flavien Prat rides.

Amuse, a six-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare, last raced on Sept. 25, 2020, finishing third by a length in the Grade III Chillingworth under Drayden Van Dyke, who will be back aboard in the Kalookan Queen.

“She just needed a break,” said the Hall of Fame trainer in explaining her absence of three-plus months.



A popular Jockeys’ Room valet and former jockey, Luis Leon passed away peacefully this past Tuesday evening at age 90, according to his son David.  Born Sept. 7, 1930 in Fresno, CA, Leon became a contract rider with Rex Ellsworth in the 1950s and 60s.  While working under Hall of Fame trainer Mesh Tenney, Leon, who was seldom without a smile, was nicknamed “The Cheetah.”

As a valet, his services were in keen demand and he worked for a number of top riders over the years including Eddie Delahoussaye, Patrick Valenzuela, Martin Pedroza, Aaron Gryder, Rafael Meza, David Flores and many others.

Following his retirement from the Jockeys’ Room, Leon and his wife lived on his ranch southeast of San Diego, where he had fruit trees and cattle.

Leon, who had been in failing health the past several years, had suffered a heart attack recently and succumbed to the effects of the COVID-19 virus while hospitalized.  Louie Leon is survived by his wife Juanita, a daughter Sylvia and four sons, Louis, Jr., David, Mike and Victor.  Services are pending.

Mike Willman


          FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert had eight workers Saturday morning, including Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg who went four furlongs in 48 flat, while come-backing Sir Barton winner Ax Man went five furlongs in a bullet 57.80, fastest of 79 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.34. In all there were 138 recorded workouts, eight on the training track . . .Hard Not to Love, winner of the Grade I La Brea Stakes in 2019, worked five furlongs Friday in 1:01 for John Shirreffs. The five-year-old Hard Spun mare is nominated to Saturday’s Grade II La Canada Stakes at 1 1/16 miles . . .  Live racing continues at Santa Anita Sunday, after which there will be no live racing again until Friday, Jan. 8 with first post time 12:30 p.m…Fans are encouraged to tune in early to santaaanita.com/live on Sunday at 11:20 a.m. as Track Announcer Frank Mirahmadi and Tom Quigley handicap all nine races.