(Trainer Doug O’Neill / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)
From the Santa Anita Media Team:
TEAM O’NEILL STARTS ON DERBY TRAIL IN LEWIS
Hot Rod Charlie may not win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Jan. 30, but one thing’s for sure: he won’t be 94-1.
He was dismissed at those boxcar odds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Keeneland but outran them big time when beaten just three-quarters of a length by undefeated Essential Quality, who will be crowned Eclipse Award king as outstanding two-year-old male on Jan. 28.
The Lewis is an early West Coast steppingstone to the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby April 3, and beyond that the Kentucky Derby. Decided at a mile and one-sixteenth, it offers 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, four to the second-place finisher, two to the third horse and one to the fourth.
Doug O’Neill trains Hot Rod Charlie and another Lewis contender, Wipe the Slate, for principal client J. Paul Reddam who capitalized on the Lewis in 2012 as a successful conduit to victory in the Run for the Roses with I’ll Have Another.
Wipe the Slate was an impressive maiden winner by 3 ¼ lengths under Team O’Neill mainstay Mario Gutierrez going seven furlongs in 1:23.42 on Dec. 26. O’Neill also has well-regarded maiden The Great One entered in Saturday’s second race for non-winners at one mile.
A bay son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, The Great One was second by a nose at 33-1 to Spielberg in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity last Dec. 19 and gets Lasix for the first time Saturday. He is Jon White’s 7-5 morning line favorite in a field of five.
Joel Rosario rides Hot Rod Charlie in the Lewis, while Gutierrez, who won the Kentucky Derby for Reddam and O’Neill with I’ll Have Another and Nyquist, returns on Wipe the Slate.
Hot Rod Charlie and Wipe the Slate each worked six furlongs Friday, the former going in 1:16.60 and the latter in a bullet 1:12.60, fastest of 13 drills at the distance.
“Both worked fantastic,” O’Neill said. Amir Cedeno was aboard Hot Rod Charlie while Gutierrez rode Wipe the Slate.
Hot Rod Charlie is listed at 30-1 in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagering, while Wipe the Slate is last at 50-1 among individual horses. Unbeaten Bob Baffert trainee Life Is Good is the individual favorite at 6-1, while the category of “All Other 3-Year-Olds” is favored at 9-5.
“You can’t win if you’re not in, so we’re hoping to win with at least one of our horses, and in a dream world, all three,” O’Neill said.
WILDMAN JACK BACK ON (MAIN) TRACK IN PALOS VERDES
After disappointing as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade II Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 ½ furlong on turf Jan. 1, Wildman Jack returns to the main track in Saturday’s Grade III, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes for four-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
“He’s doing really well,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains the five-year-old gelded son of the Into Mischief sire Goldencents, who was guided by O’Neill to consecutive wins in the 2013 and 2014 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“He’s only run on dirt once but he’s worked well on it,” said O’Neill, alluding to the bay’s close fourth-place finish in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar last Aug. 1.
“He only got beat a length and a half, so I give him a good chance.”
O’Neill has Oiseau de Guerre and Strongconstitution entered in Sunday’s $70,000 Clockers’ Corner Stakes for four-year-olds and up at six furlongs on turf. As is his wont, he leads all trainers with 58 starters through 13 racing days, 12 more than runner-up Peter Miller.
The Palos Verdes, race seven of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Pyron, Umberto Rispoli, 6-1; Wildman Jack, Abel Cedillo, 6-1; Shooters Shoot, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Captain Scotty, Ricardo Gonzalez, 8-1; Shashashakemeup, Juan Hernandez, 4-1; Ax Man, Tyler Baze, 3-1; Take the One O One, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 5-2; and Kneedeepinsnow, Ruben Fuentes, 10-1.
MONSTER MAIDEN WINNER MORAZ EYES LAS VIRGENES
Moraz, winner of a one-mile maiden race by a scintillating 11 lengths on Jan. 8, will elevate to the Grade III plateau next out in the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for three-year-old fillies at one mile on Feb. 6.
“That’s the plan,” said Michael McCarthy by phone from Florida, where he runs Independence Hall in Saturday’s Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
A daughter of Empire Maker out of the A.P. Indy dam Malvinia owned and bred by Don Alberto Stable, Moraz “powered away in the lane” according to Equibase comments, covering the distance in 1:38,47.
Moraz worked four furlongs this morning in 48.20.
McCarthy also has his two Grade I-winning distaff stars Ce Ce and Speech back at Santa Anita, with “no plans for them yet” regarding races.
McCARTHY EYES SECOND PEGASUS VICTORY
Trainer Michael McCarthy seeks his second victory in the Pegasus World Cup Saturday at Gulfstream Park, this time with Independence Hall, who was fifth of six beaten 9 ½ lengths by Charlatan in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs on opening day at Santa Anita Dec. 26.
McCarthy recorded his first Pegasus triumph in 2019 with City of Light, an easy 5 ¾-length winner during a torrential rainstorm over a field that included third-place Accelerate, the 3-2 favorite.
After the Malibu dust settled, McCarthy said Independence Hall would “live to fight another day” and tomorrow is that day.
Though the Malibu did not work out as hoped, the three-year-old Constitution colt came out of the race well and his connections decided on the Pegasus, which offers the highest purse in North America for older horses outside the Breeders’ Cup.
“It was one of those things,” McCarthy said. “As some of the invitees started falling by the wayside, this race became more and more of an option. It’s $3 million; it’s a good spot to take a swing at something like this.
“You may never get this chance again until Breeders’ Cup time nine months from now, so for this kind of money, why not?”
The field for the Pegasus, which goes as race 12 with a post time of 2:44 p.m. Pacific Time: Sleepy Eyes Todd, Jose Ortiz, 15-1; Coastal Defense, Corey Lanerie, 15-1; Independence Hall, Flavien Prat, 20-1; Knicks Go, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Jesus’ Team, Irad Ortiz Jr. 8-1; Kiss Today Goodbye, Mike Smith, 10-1; Tax, Luis Saez, 5-1; Harpers First Ride, Angel Cruz, 10-1; Last Judgment, Paco Lopez, 20-1; Code of Honor, Tyler Gaffalione, 9-2; Mr Freeze, John Velazquez, 15-1; and Math Wizard, Edgardo Zayas, 20-1.
FINISH LINES: With showers forecast today and again early next week through Friday, there were 214 recorded workouts this morning headed by Grade I Malibu Stakes winner Charlatan. One of 13 supervised by Bob Baffert, Charlatan went five furlongs in 1:01.20 as he prepares for the world’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20. Doug O’Neill beat the rains with a battalion of 16 breezers. Idol, ticketed for the San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 30, worked five furlongs for Richard Baltasin 1:01.20. In all, there were 214 recorded drills, 22 on the training track…FIRST POST TIME ON SATURDAY & SUNDAY IS AT 12:30 P.M.