(Ward ‘N Jerry / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)

From the Santa Anita Media Team:

WARD ‘N JERRY TRIES TURF CLASSIC FOR THIRD TIME

Trainer Mike Puype hopes the third time’s the charm for Ward ‘n Jerry in Saturday’s $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic presented by City National Bank.

The 11/8th-mile race is one of five stakes in the Golden State Series showcasing horses bred or sired in California, with total prize money amounting to $900,000. It is one of Santa Anita’s most appealing and attractive racing presentations of the Winter/Spring meet, and a daunting challenge for handicappers to boot.

Ward ‘n Jerry, an eight-year-old gelded son of Lucky Pulpit owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams, long-time supporters of racing in the Golden State, was third in the 2017 Turf Classic and second last year.

The old war horse “can run all day,” as the saying goes, a victory in the Grade III San Luis Rey Stakes at a mile and a half among his six career triumphs from 24 starts a testament to that axiom.

He has earned $388,579 and is coming off a seventh-place finish at odds of 114-1 in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at a mile and a half against open company last Nov. 27.

“The distance Saturday isn’t his best, but we’re running,” said the 56-year-old Puype (pronounced PIPE-ee), a native of Phoenix, Arizona, who came into racing out of high school working odd jobs on the backstretch at Turf Paradise.

He was an assistant to the late Walter Greenman and later connected with owner Gary Biszantz, working for him from 1996 until 2002 before opening a successful public stable.

“He can handle any distance but he’s better going further,” Puype said of Ward ‘n Jerry, who will be running in his eighth straight stakes, six of them graded.  “That’s clear on paper but we have to run; it’s a lot of money, it’s Cal-bred, so we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”

Flavien Prat, who piloted Ward ‘n Jerry to victory in the San Luis Rey on March 20 of last year, returns to ride after an absence of two races.

Puype also has Tigre Di Sligo going in Saturday’s $150,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint for four-year-olds and up at six furlongs.

The lightly raced six-year-old gelded son of Smiling Tiger closed fast to win an overnight sprint at Del Mar last Nov. 27 and has three victories from five starts overall, each on the main track.

“He broke from the rail winning at Del Mar, and that’s seldom an advantage, so we feel he has a good chance Saturday,” Puype said.

Joel Rosario, who was aboard for the Del Mar win, retains the mount.

The Sprint is named for prominent CTBA board member and longtime California owner/breeder Donald Valpredo, who is credited with helping to conceive the inaugural Cal Cup Sprint in 1990. Valpredo has served on the CHRB, the boards of the Breeders’ Cup and TOC, and is a current member of The Jockey Club.

The field for the Turf Classic, race eight of 10 with a 12 noon first post time: Brandothebartender, Umberto Rispoli, 6-1; Ward ‘n Jerry, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Fly to Mars, Jose Valdivia Jr., 15-1; Indian Peak, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Marckie’s Water, Abel Cedillo, 15-1; $25,000 supplemental nominee North County Guy, Mario Gutierrez, 5-1; Heck Yeah, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Acclimate, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Tropical Terror, Geovanni Franco, 30-1; Margot’s Boy, Juan Hernandez, 8-1; and Cono, Ricky Gonzalez, 15-1.

The field for the Sprint, race nine: Tigre Di Slugo, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Royal Trump, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; Fashionably Fast, Tiago Pereira, 5-2; Bettor Trip Nick, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Psycho Dar, Ricky Gonzalez, 12-1; Loud Mouth, Abel Cedillo, 3-1; Club Aspen, Juan Hernandez, 20-1; Brickyard Ride, Alexis Centeno, 6-1; Oliver, Umberto Rispoli, 20-1; Jamming Eddy, Flavien Prat, 6-1; andRookie Mistake, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1.

ACCLIMATE EMBODIES SOLID CAL-BRED PEDIGREE IN TURF CLASSIC

With five horses entered on Cal Cup Day, Phil D’Amato has plenty to look forward to and that includes a big look at the $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic presented by City National Bank.

In the Classic, D’Amato will be front and center with 5-2 morning line favorite Acclimate, who is owned and bred in-part by The Ellwood Johnston Trust/Old English Rancho, an iconic force in the California Thoroughbred industry dating back to the late 1940s.

Fittingly, Acclimate, a 7-year-old gelding, is the embodiment of successful California breeding, going back several generations.  His grandsire is the late stallion sensation Unusual Heat and Acclimation is by Acclimate, who was America’s Eclipse Award Champion Older Male in 2011 and California Horse of the year in 2010 and 2011.

Trained by the late Donnie Warren, who passed at age 67 in May of 2019, Acclamation now stands at Harris Farms for $4,000 live foal.

Acclimate led into the stretch in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at a mile and one half on Nov. 27 before finishing fourth.  It was his first race in more than a year and although he yielded late, Acclimate was only beaten two lengths.

“I thought he ran a smashing race first time back,” said D’Amato.  “Now he’s in with Cal-breds at a little shorter distance and he’s training as good as ever.”

Mike Willman

TACTICS VARY FOR MILLER IN CAL CUP DERBY

If he had his druthers, Peter Miller would settle for a head-heat with his two starters in Saturday’s $200,000 California Derby at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

One, Good With People, is a committed front-runner, while the other, None Above the Law, is a closer, or at least he has displayed that style sprinting, which he has done in three of his four career starts.

In his lone two-turn race, None Above the Law finished a troubled seventh in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf last Sept. 7 at one mile.

The son of the Bernstein stallion Karakontie has had eventful trips in each of his four races. The gray gelding was bumped and steadied running third by nearly seventh lengths going six furlongs at Del Mar last Nov. 29.

Good With People has led at one point of call in each of his six races, the Curlin colt winning three.

Both horses are owned by and were bred by Kirk and Judy Robison.

One’s got speed, one comes from behind, so we’ve got ’em surrounded,” Miller said.

The California Cup Derby, race seven: The Chosen Vron, Joel Rosario, 8-5; Mischievous Path, Abel Cedillo, 12-1; Big Fish, Juan Hernandez, 5-1; Good With People, Ricky Gonzalez, 7-2; Play Chicken, Mario Gutierrez, 4-1; None Above the Law, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; Positivity, Drayden Van Dyke, 10-1; Warrens Candy Man, Flavien Prat, 10-1; and Cozy Bear, Tyler Baze, 50-1.

DEL MAR FLASH SHOULD APPRECIATE OAKS DISTANCE

Bob Hess Jr. expects Del Mar Flash to relish her first two-turn race in Saturday’s $200,000 Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks which will be decided at a mile on turf.

The daughter of Sky Mesa is coming off two five-furlong turf sprints, both eventful journeys, although she rallied from eighth to win by a neck last out on Nov. 14 under Abel Cedillo who is back aboard Saturday.

“We’re excited and looking forward to a good race,” said Hess, who trains Del Mar Flash for an ownership group which also bred her, Red Barons Barn, LLC, Rancho Temescal, LLC and Vaya Con Suerta, LLC.

Del Mar Flash was “bothered at the eighth pole” in her debut when seventh by nearly five lengths in a five-furlong turf sprint against open company at Del Mar last Aug. 28, then won by a neck versus Cal-breds over the same venue Nov. 14, despite a troubled start.

“Her first race she wasn’t as ready as I would have liked,” Hess said. “The second race she kind of broke funky. I guess she was fractious in the gate even though we schooled her a lot.

“But I’m not really looking for her to show a ton of speed anyway going long. She’s bred to love it, she’s doing super, very healthy, we have great ownership people and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

A prominent figure in California racing for parts of five decades, Leigh Ann Howard always put the horse first while active in every phase of the California Thoroughbred industry.  An an owner/breeder, farm manager and past president of the CTBA, she was a staunch supporter of the Cal-bred incentive program and did all she could to improve California racing.  Leigh Ann Howard passed away Sept. 3, 2020 at age 78.

The Leigh Ann Howard Cal Cup Oaks, race six: Dylans Wild Cat, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Smoothlikebuttah, Ruben Fuentes, 30-1; Super Game, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Warrens Candy Girl, Drayden Van Dyke, 10-1; I’m So Anna, Ricky Gonzalez, 6-1; Closing Remarks, Umberto Rispoli, 5-2; Sensible Cat, Mike Smith, 3-1; Del Mar Flash, Abel Cedillo, 15-1; Governor Goteven, Tiago Pereira, 6-1; and Westward Breeze, Juan Hernandez, 5-1.

D’AMATO’S STEAKING LEGGS GALORE GOES IN SM F&M TURF SPRINT

Phil D’Amato hopes Leggs Galore stretches her winning streak on grass to four in Saturday’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint presented by John Deere.

The gray daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern makes her stakes debut in the race. She already has a game head victory going 5 ½ furlongs in an overnight turf sprint at Santa Anita in her most recent start last Oct. 10.

“We’ve been waiting for this race,” said D’Amato, who trains the four-year-old for owner/breeder William J. (Jack) Sims. “She was given a little freshening and came back in really good order.

“Jack has been breeding horses for a while, both Kentucky-breds and Cal-breds, and this filly is a homebred. Hopefully, we turn her into a Cal-bred stakes winner for him.”

The field for the Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, race four: She’s Devoted, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Leggs Galore, Ricky Gonzalez, 4-1; Hollywood Hills, Abel Cedillo, 12-1; Sheza Girly Girl, Tiago Pereira, 20-1; Warren’s Showtime, Juan Hernandez, 5-2; Florentine Diamond, Alexis Centeno, 20-1; Mo See Cal, Umberto Rispoli, 3-1; Homehome, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; and Nardini, Joel Rosario, 6-1.

 

ECLIPSE FINALISTS TO BE ANNOUNCED LIVE ON TVG

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) and Daily Racing Form have announced that TVG will televise live the finalists for the 2020 Eclipse Awards this Saturday, Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in Thoroughbred racing, are voted upon by NTRA, represented by member racetrack racing officials and Equibase field personnel, NTWAB and Daily Racing Form, and are produced by the NTRA.

TVG also will televise live the 50th Eclipse Awards ceremony, presented by Spendthrift Farm, on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. The ceremony also will be streamed on additional outlets.

 

FINISH LINES: Live racing resumes today starting a four-day race week as there will be special holiday fare on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18. The main event will be the Grade III, $100,000 Megahertz Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf . . . There were 105 horses entered for Saturday’s program spotlighting Cal-breds, an average of 10.5 per race . . . Come-backing American Theorem worked six furlongs under Flavien Prat Friday in a bullet 1:13.40 for trainer George Papaprodromou. It was one of 97 recorded works recorded this morning including 11 on the training track. A son of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, American Theorem last raced on March 14, 2020 finishing seventh to Nadal in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He was second to Eight Rings in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 27, 2019. Papaprodromou had no race in mind for American Theorem’s return. “When we feel he’s ready, we’ll find a race,” he said . . . Through nine racing days Juan Hernandez leads the jockey standings with 17 victories from 64 rides, followed by Umberto Rispoli (12 for 42), Joel Rosario (11 for 57) and Prat (nine for 60). Peter Miller is first among trainers with eight wins from 34 starters, followed by Bob Baffert (six of 26) and Phil D’Amato (five of 24). Four trainers are tied with four wins each, Mike Puype, John Sadler, Kristin Mulhall and Eric Kruljac, the latter pair succeeding at a 57 percent clip from only seven starters…Special early first post time on Cal Cup Day, Saturday, is at 12 noon.