(Stronghold / Courtesy of Sunland Park & Santa Anita)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:


While top Santa Anita-based trainer Phil D’Amato has never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby, that could change this year following Stronghold’s victory in the G3 Sunland Park Derby this past Sunday in New Mexico.

Stronghold won the 1 1/16-mile Sunland Park Derby by 2 ½ lengths as the 6-5 favorite under Santa Anita-based jockey Antonio Fresu. With the win, the Ghostzapper colt collected 20 qualifying points for this year’s Kentucky Derby, which will be run for the 150th time on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Stronghold previously earned five Kentucky Derby points when finishing second in the GII Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 16. With 25 points in all, he now ranks fourth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

Stronghold, who returned to Santa Anita Monday, earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sunland Park Derby.

“It was a good effort,” D’Amato said Thursday morning. “I thought he finished strong through the stretch. That was a very deep track out there. He should get a

Stronghold’s next step on the Kentucky Derby trail remains to be determined. One option under consideration is the 1 1/8-mile GI Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

“We don’t have a race targeted at this point. We’re going to look at all the preps and try to find the right one that gives us a chance to make the Kentucky Derby,” D’Amato said.

Stronghold races as a homebred for Eric M. Waller and Sharon Waller. He is the first foal out of graded-stakes winner Spectator, a daughter of crack sprinter Jimmy Creed.

D’Amato, 47, has won five trainer’s titles at Santa Anita including both the 2022-23 Classic Meet and 2023 Hollywood Meet. Best known for his work with turf horses, he has 925 career wins and more than $68.3 million in earnings.


Theismann, purchased for $1.15 million at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, makes his long-awaited debut in Saturday’s sixth race for trainer John Shirreffs.

A 4-year-old Quality Road colt for C R K Stable, Theismann is entered in a maiden special weight going seven furlongs on the main track. He will break from the rail under Antonio Fresu.

“He’s a really nice colt,” Shirreffs said Thursday morning. “We’re looking forward to his racing career.”

Theismann is listed at 8-1 on the morning line. While Shirreffs rarely wins with a first-time starter, the work tab indicates Theismann could make an impact. He has a pair of bullet drills heading into his bow including a five-furlong move in 1:00.40 on Feb. 14.

On Thursday morning, Shirreffs had Theismann pop from the gate for added schooling.

According to Shirreffs, Theismann’s belated debut is due to “some little things that popped up. He needed a little bit of extra time.”

Post time for Saturday’s sixth race is scheduled for 2:59 p.m. PT. The 8-5 morning-line favorite is Vegas Burner, an 11-start maiden for trainer George Papaprodromou.

The field in post position order: Theismann, Antonio Fresu (8-1); Duran, Umberto Rispoli (5-2); Yellow Brick, Kazushi Kimura (4-1); Aschcroft, Kent Desormeaux (15-1); Mongolian Altai, Jeremy Laprida (20-1); Vegas Burner, Frankie Dettori (8-5); Appreciate Today, Juan Hernandez (4-1);


The fourth race Friday, a first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies going 6 ½ furlongs on dirt, features several contenders dropping out of the stakes ranks. Among those getting class relief are Don’t Bring Crazy and Tambo, who each exit the GIII Santa Ynez going seven furlongs here Jan. 7. Don’t Bring Crazy, trained by Doug O’Neill, finished second in the Santa Ynez behind runaway winner Kopion. Tambo, trained by Peter Eurton, finished some four lengths back of Don’t Bring Crazy in third.

Set to make her sophomore bow is Dua, who last year placed in a pair of graded stakes for trainer Bob Baffert. The Arrogate filly has been sidelined since finishing fourth in the six-furlong Anokia Stakes here Oct. 21. Prior to the Anokia, Dua was third in the both the GIII Sorrento going six furlongs at Del Mar and GII Chandelier at 1 1/16 miles here Oct. 7.

Also looming in the field is California-bred stakes winner Madison Rae for trainer Peter Miller. Madison Rae won the one-mile Soviet Problem Stakes for statebreds at Los Alamitos Dec. 10 and most recently was off the board in the Cal Cup Oaks at a mile on turf here Jan. 13.

Friday’s fourth race has a scheduled post time of 2 p.m. PT. The field in post position order: Madison Rae, Edwin Maldonado (6-1); Dua, Juan Hernandez (5-2); Tambo, Antonio Fresu (8-5), Don’t Bring Crazy, Frankie Dettori (4-1); Beau Soleil, Tiago Pereira (12-1); Blackpink, Kazushi Kimura (3-1); Hattie T, Armando Ayuso (12-1).


Jockeys Drayden Van Dyke and Jose Valdivia Jr. each won their first races at the Classic Meet Sunday. Van Dyke won the opener on English Danger ($19.40) for trainer Rolando Quinonez while Valdivia scored in the fourth race aboard Unkept Secret ($4.20) for trainer Paula Capestro…The 54th annual Santa Anita Jockeys vs. Holy Angels Middle School Charity Basketball Game is this Monday at La Salle High School in nearby Pasadena. The La Salle High gymnasium will open to the public at 6 p.m. and tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Admission tickets will be available on-site and a $5 donation will generate proceeds to the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund (PDJF) and Holy Angels athletics…Flavien Prat and Juan Hernandez remain tied atop the jockey’s standings with 32 wins each entering Friday’s action. Prat will not at Santa Anita this week. He’s in Saudi Arabia where he’s set to ride National Treasure for Bob Baffert in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Saturday…First post Friday is 12:30 p.m. PT. Every Friday at the Classic Meet, on-track fans will receive free parking and admission plus $3 beers and $5 margaritas…Memorial Services have been finalized for veteran turf writer Art Wilson, who passed away this past Sunday at 71. There will be a Memorial for Wilson at Oakdale Memorial Chapel in Glendora on Wednesday, March 27 at 11 a.m.