(Bast winning at Del Mar / Photo Courtesy of Del Mar)
From the Santa Anita Media Team:
JOHNNY V, ROSARIO, HERNANDEZ AT SANTA ANITA OPENING WEEKEND
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey John Velazquez has been engaged by Bob Baffert to ride Eight Rings and Bast in the Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes and the Grade I, $300,000 Chandelier Stakes opening day this Friday as Santa Anita continues to enhance its historic resume that began on Christmas Day 1934 and will culminate by hosting the Breeders’ Cup for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2.
Velazquez, a 47-year-old Hall of Fame member who is represented by fellow shrine member and Puerto Rican native Angel Cordero Jr. leads all jockeys in career purse earnings with $410,561,486. Johnny V. also will pilot turf sprint specialist Eddie Haskell for trainer Mark Glatt in the Grade II Eddie D. Stakes on opening day.
“I’m flying Johnny V. in to ride because I wasn’t sure Drayden (Van Dyke) would make it back in time to ride my horses,” Baffert said by phone Monday morning. Van Dyke was injured when unseated by Eight Rings after the start of the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 2, but has recovered and is expected to resume riding this meet.
Van Dyke had ridden both Eight Rings and Bast in each of their two starts, winning twice. “I asked Johnny V. to ride and he’s doing me a favor and coming in,” Baffert added.
Rosario, 34, a native of the Dominican Republic who earned his stripes in Southern California before going global under the auspices of agent Ron Anderson, is set to ride Hopeful Stakes runner-up Shoplifted for Steve Asmussen in the American Pharoah, like the Chandelier a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race providing the winner with a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, respectively.
Louisiana-born Hernandez, who turns 34 on Nov. 3, rides multiple graded stakes winner Seeking the Soul for trainer Dallas Stewart in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race with a fees-paid berth to the winner for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2.
Expected for the American Pharoah: American Theorem, Tiago Pereira; Defense Wins, Rafael Bejarano; Eight Rings, John Velazquez; Fore Left, Mario Gutierrez; Shoplifted, Joel Rosario; and Storm the Court, Flavien Prat.
Also on tap for the Chandelier are Doug O’Neill trainees Buyer’s Remorse, Mario Gutierrez, and Comical, Abel Cedillo.
A fitting piece of trivia for the American Pharoah: debut winner American Theorum, trained by George Papaprodromou for owner Rustin Kretz, is a son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, for whom the race is named.
Kretz provides internet marketing services through Scorpion Design, Inc., which he operates in California out of nearby Valencia as well as in Texas. The company designs websites for health care, home service, and automotive businesses and franchises.
First post time on opening day is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.
OMAHA BEACH TO LAND IN GRADE I SANTA ANITA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
Omaha Beach, who had been scheduled to return to the races in the Grade III, one-turn mile Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 28, now is being pointed to the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship after a training snafu last Friday.
“Simply put, the work got messed up and I’m not taking him to Kentucky off a long layoff, so I scrapped that idea, period, and I’m going to run him in the Sprint. I didn’t want to ship him unless everything was perfect,” trainer Richard Mandella said early Monday morning.
The Sprint is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event at six furlongs on Oct. 5.
Omaha Beach was the pre-race favorite for the Kentucky Derby last May 4 but an entrapped epiglottis during the week leading into the classic forced the son of War Front to be scratched and he hasn’t raced since.
Omaha Beach’s work was aborted after a furlong when a horse in front of him lost its rider forcing Omaha Beach to pull up. He galloped around the track, then broke off again at the six furlong pole, working a furlong past the finish in 1:27.20 in company with Charlito.
“I think he’ll be perfect in time for the Sprint,” Mandella continued. “He’ll have a nice work before the race in a few days.”
PRAT ON COURSE TO CONTINUE WILD RIDE AT SANTA ANITA
Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Flavien Prat hopes to continue 2019’s wild ride when Santa Anita begins its 23-day Autumn Meet this Friday.
The 27-year-old Frenchman piloted Higher Power to a 9-1 upset by 5 ¼ lengths in the Pacific Classic when he rode him competitively for the first time, and will be back aboard in the Awesome Again Stakes for John Sadler and Hronis Racing.
“It was a good run,” Prat said in recounting Del Mar’s marquee race. “He broke well and he put me in the race. There wasn’t a lot of pace so we were in a good spot. When we entered the turn he kind of jumped on the bridle and he took me from there.
“I worked him yesterday (six furlongs in a bullet 1:13 flat) so I’m quite excited.”
Added Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson: “Winning the Pacific Classic and the Del Mar title was a lot of fun for us. This year has marked a major stepping stone for Flavien, winning the Derby and the Pacific Classic.
“Winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic would top off a super year.”
McCARTHY COULD HAVE PAVED ON RIGHT ROAD IN RODEO DRIVE
With surprising stakes victories by City of Light and Ohio on his resume, Michael McCarthy hopes to add to his list of Grade I upsets with Paved in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“She was beaten a short ways in the Rodeo Drive as a three-year-old in her third race off a layoff,” the trainer pointed out, alluding to her second by a half-length behind win machine Vasilika last Sept. 29. “Right now I don’t think I could ask her to be doing any better.”
A four-year-old Quality Road filly, Paved was third beaten two lengths in the restricted Osunitas at Del Mar on July 19, her first race in nearly seven months, followed by a fourth in the Grade II John C. Mabee on Aug. 31.
Also in the race are Elysea’s World, Flavien Prat, and Siberian Iris, Rafael Bejarano.
NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita has installed a new state-of-the-art LED Infield video board, which will offer viewers dramatically improved brightness and visual clarity beginning on opening day.
Manufactured and installed by Daktronics, America’s leading manufacturer of outdoor LED (light-emitting diode) boards, this new 30′ x 54′ display contains 648,000 total 15 mm pixels, the optimum size for a board of this scope, ensuring an improved view of the races and all video content throughout the race day.
Due to the breadth of this project, the previous board was removed in August and the new board was installed last month while the Santa Anita stable area was closed.
Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics employs 2,500 people and parts are made in the USA. Daktronics is the preferred vendor for 21 of 31 NFL stadiums and 22 of 30 Major League Baseball parks throughout the United States.
Santa Anita will also be offering fans other major new amenities, such as its Stretch Run Suites and Trackside Terrace Dining and Seating, at a cost of more than $5 million.
FINISH LINES: There were 190 recorded workouts at Santa Anita Monday, including 31 on the training track. Victor Espinoza worked Anonymity, never out of the money in nine starts, five furlongs in a bullet 59 flat. Richard Mandella is pointing the five-year-old mare to the Grade III LA Woman Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs Oct. 5 . . . Santa Oaks winner Bellafina, fourth in the Cotillion at Parx last Saturday, will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 2, trainer Simon Callaghan said . . . Congrats to apprentice Jorge Velez on winning four races yesterday at Los Alamitos to clinch the title with 13 victories. It marked the fifth time agent Nelson Arroyo has represented a rider who won the crown at the Cypress track, also calling shots for previous winner Heriberto Figueroa . . . Trainer Andrew Lerner captured three races at Los Al over the weekend, two owned in partnership by newcomers Alydom Racing. Lerner, 30, is a rising presence in California. He had 18 horses after starting out a year ago but now is up to 44 head . . . Fasig-Tipton presents its California Fall Yearling sale at Fairplex Park in Pomona this Thursday at 12 noon. For further information, visit [email protected]/fasigtipton.com.