Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita opinions for Thursday, April 2

Editor’s note: Hope to get back to full handicapping by Saturday. Suffice to say, someone close to me has been sick and had surgery recently and I’ve been dealing this for a long time. Now it’s on the road to recovery.


Race 4: #2 Badasmywifeletsmeb

The gelding is taking a drop in class after showing speed against better. The gelding has won over the course before for trainer Barry Abrams, who turns to jockey Elvis Trujillo to take over.


Race 8: #3 War Destiny

Trainer John Sadler tried to get this gelding on the grass last time but it was taken off. The 5-year-old pressed the pace on the dirt and I love War Fronts on the grass. Jockey Tyler Baze, who is 23% with Sadler, takes the reins.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Del Mar, Horse racing

Elliott could flourish on Del Mar Polytrack

Here’s the first betting hint of the upcoming Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s summer meet, which opens on Thursday: Give horses ridden by Stewart Elliott extra consideration on the Polytrack.

Elliott is the veteran jockey who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Smarty Jones a decade ago. He has kicked around the sport over that time, but rose to prominence again this spring at the Keeneland meet in Lexington, Ky.

Elliott rode a lot for Canadian-based Mark Casse.

Elliott finished second in the jockey standings with 15 wins from 73 mounts good for $557,650 in purses. The veteran rider showed a propensity for getting to the winner’s circle on the Polytrack as he tied for most synthetic winners (14). Elliott was just 1-for-16 on the grass.

So when Casse decided to bring a string this summer to Del Mar for the first time, Elliott was asked if he wanted to come west, too.

“We were trying to decide whether to go to Saratoga or Del Mar,” said Nelson Arroyo, Elliott’s agent, on Monday. “We have a good relationship with Mark and didn’t put any pressure on him. He just said if we wanted to come to Del Mar, come.”

There is no agreement for Elliott to ride first string for all of Casse’s horses, which number at least 36 so far at the seaside oval.

“We’re going to ride a lot of them,” said Casse. “Mark is really fair. If she’s another jockey fits a horse better, he will ride them.”

Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form reporter via Twitter Monday that Victor Espinoza will ride Casse’s Conquestadory in Saturday’s San Clemente on the new turf course.

But Arroyo isn’t worried.

“I didn’t know anyone here two days ago,” said Arroyo, who is a former jockey himself, “but business is picking up quickly. We’ve working horses for John Sadler and Peter Miller.”

Arroyo booked mounts with trainer Barry Abrams for Thursday and Friday.

Arroyo said Elliott loves riding the Polytrack, the synthetic surface that will be making its final appearance this year before a return to dirt next year.

“He gets along with the Polytrack well,” said Arroyo. “He can put a horse on the lead or he can come from off the pace. It’s very easy to ride for him.”

Del Mar’s has rarely been called easy to ride since it seems sensitive to the weather, whether it’s warm or cooler due to the coastal overcast.

“I asked John Sadler how it plays,” said Arroyo, “and he said, ‘That’s a trick question.’

“Stewart likes to play it by ear. That’s why he’s so good on it. He gets a feeling for the horse and how he’s handling it and a feel for the track. He adapts each race.

“At Keeneland this spring, he won the first race on the lead on the fence, but by the third race he went to the outside. He told me during the second race, he could tell the rail was dying and getting deeper.”

Elliott will face similar conditions at Del Mar.

Hope he figures it out. Quickly.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter



Del Mar, Horse racing, Los Alamitos

Derby, Preakness winning jockey Elliott heads to Del Mar

Jockey Stewart Elliott, who rode Smarty Jones to wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes a decade ago, will be coming to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, starting with opening day on Thursday.

The news was first reported by Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form.

Elliott is coming west to ride a lot for trainer Mark Casse, who has sent a string to the seaside oval for the first time in the final year of Del Mar’s use of Polytrack. Del Mar will replace its Polytrack main surface with dirt after its inaugural fall meet.

Casse promised Del Mar officials he would send 30 to 40 horses this meet.

Elliott rode a lot for Casse at this spring’s Keeneland meet and finished second in the jockey standings with 15 wins from 73 mounts good for $557,650 in purses. The veteran rider showed a propensity for getting to the winner’s circle on the Polytrack as he tied for most synthetic winners (14). Elliott was just 1-for-16 on the grass.

Casse’s main stable in the summer is at Toronto’s Woodbine Race Course, which also features Polytrack.

When asked this spring if Elliott might come to Del Mar to ride for the barn, Casse was noncommittal.

“I mean there’s plenty of good riders in California,” said Casse.  “I don’t think I really have to bring anybody.  You know, (Hall of Fame jockey) Mike Smith and we go back probably 25 or 30 years, and so there are a lot of good riders.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

“So far we’ve been very lucky recently at Keeneland with Stewart Elliott, and, you know, we’ll just have to see how things are going. I like the way he rides, and him and I have a good relationship, but we may or may not bring somebody.  That just remains to be seen.  But like I said, I’m not concerned.  There’s a lot of good riders in California.”

Casse supposedly has brought a barn full of stakes and allowance runners so he might opt for a rider like Smith, or others, who know the circuit better at times.

Elliott has one mount (Know Plans) on opening day for trainer Barry Abrams in Thursday’s seventh race and another mount for Abrams on Friday.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Los Alamitos thoroughbred results

Saturday’s top choice winners: 3 (Sacred Ovation $3.40, first race; Stracciatella $7, third; Rowdy Dylan $2.80, fifth)

Saturday’s second choice winners: 0

Saturday’s third choice winners: 1 (Smogcutter $22.60, second)

Saturday’s long shot winners: 1 (Doinghardtimeagain $9.80, seventh)


Sunday’s top choice winners: 4 (Swiss Heart $3.40, second race; Story to Tell $5.20, third; Sharla Rae $9, seventh; La Grange $10.60, eighth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 1 (Patriotic Lion $6.60, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (Melanistic $5.80, fifth)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 2 (Wicked City Woman $8.20, first; I’ve Had Enough $7.80, fourth)


Horse racing, Santa Anita

The grass is always greener

The Santa Anita turf course is considered one of the best in the business. Now, we’ll see what happens later this spring when the meet extends into May and June with the extinction of Hollywood Park.

So far this meet, the rain has been confined to one week. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast for this week so this probably isn’t the best time to talk about the best turf riders and trainers, but such is life.

When handicapping I always give horses ridden by Joe Talamo (16-for-121), Corey Nakatani (16-99), Gary Stevens (11-49) and Mike Smith (12-71) extra credit. I guess I need to start looking at more Rafael Bejarano, even if he is the track’s leading rider already. Bejarano has won 31-of-130 turf starts, according to Equibase stats. The price might be great, but winners are winners.

On the flip side. jockeys to stay away from on the grass are Martin Garcia (1-54), Alonso Quinonez (1-26), Fernando Perez (1-22), Aaron Gryder (0-20) and Orlando Mojica (0-19). Garcia’s stats surprise me a little bit, but he does ride No. 1 for the Bob Baffert barn, which is 1-for-12 on the grass this meet.

The top turf trainer is Tom Proctor (14-47), especially with all those Glen Hill Farm horses he has and Stevens rides most of those.

The trainer that surprised me was Marty Jones, who has won 10 of 26 grass starts. He’s followed by Jerry Hollendorfer (9-43), John Sadler (8-59) and Doug O’Neill (8-87). O’Neill has usually been a throw out for me on turf at Del Mar, but he’s starting to get a lot of horses from Europe lately.

Surprisingly, trainer Barry Abrams is a horrible 1-for-26 on the grass this year despite most of his horses being by the sire Unusual Heat, who has excelled on the surface in the past. Others to ignore are Richard Baltas (1-17), Eoin Harty (1-16), Jack Carava (1-17) and Jorge Gutierrez (1-18).

As for last week, Baltas had three wins in one day while at least four other trainers (Jones, Hollendorfer, O’Neill and Ron Ellis) had two wins. Peter Miller continued his cold spell with an 0-for-8 week and Baffert’s barn was 0-for-3.

On the jockeys’ side, Bejarano had three wins from just nine mounts as he had to sit out a suspension. He was joined with three wins by Talamo (3-24), Tyler Baze (3-22), Smith (3-8) and apprentice Drayden Van Dyke (3-16). Nakatani was just 1-for-13 while Victor Espinoza was 1-for-10.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Musical Arts $7.40, seventh race; Hobbits Hero $31.80, eighth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 3 (Halo Dolly $7.60, third; Tizmetizyou $18, fourth; Fast Moka Too $3.40, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 0

Sunday’s long shot winners: 1 (Arkenstone $35.80, first)

Del Mar, Horse racing

Updated Del Mar picks for Friday, Aug. 23

Don’t forget first post is 4 p.m. on Fridays and there will only be seven races on the card. The Pick Six will start with the second race.

On Thursday, jockey Edwin Maldonado and trainer Steve Miyadi took the first two races on the card. They are a good team to watch for in the final days of the meet.

Speaking of teams, trainer Barry Abrams and jockey Corey Nakatani scored their third win of the meet when Starspangled Heat ($15.40) won on only five days rest.

Top trainers John Sadler and Doug O’Neill both had wins. O’Neill now has 13 wins over the last 12 days of racing. Both barns could be live this coming weekend with the big money on the line.

Trainer Neil Drysdale won his third race in the last four racing days while leading jockey Rafael Bejarano won two more on the card.

It should be interesting to see how many wins Bejarano has on Sunday’s 11-race card with former Del Mar riding champ Joel Rosario shipping in from Saratoga.

FIRST RACE: 1. Humorous, 2. One Firm Cat, 3. Change of Plan. LONG SHOT: Space Runner.

There’s that guy Miyadi again in today’s first but he has Martin Garcia on HUMOROUS today. The gelding takes a drop in class and has a good work since his last race.


SECOND RACE: 1. Steppingood, 2. Heyyoucan, 3. Salt Power. LONG SHOT: He’s a Wizard.

Trainer Adam Kitchingman hits with 30 percent of his debut maiden claimers and that’s what we have here in STEPPINGOOD. The 2-year-old gelding gets speed jockey Maldonado aboard and the jock/trainer combin have hit at a 38 percent clip the last two years.


THIRD RACE: 1. Meltarib, 2. Ricspretentiousgal, 3. The Only Key. LONG SHOT: Prettypriceygirl.

MELTARIB takes a slight move up in company after a fourth-place effort. Hopefully, jockey Agapito Delgadillo learned from his premature move in the last race and will wait a little longer before pushing the button.


FOURTH RACE: 1. Sugar Spice, 2. Quinnette, 3. Tiz the Route. LONG SHOT: Granny Calling.

SUGAR SPICE makes a class move up off a gutty victory over the Polytrack for trainer Vann Belvoir. TIZ THE ROUTE was claimed by trainer Mark Glatt out of her last, drops in class and has a big work over the track since the race.


FIFTH RACE: 1. Broker Brett, 2. Green Beret, 3. Southern Sunrise. LONG SHOT: Expo and Fig.

BROKER BRETT is from the Sadler barn and takes a class drop out of a race that has produced three next out winners. GREEN BERET is from the Eric Kruljac barn and he likes to give them one and then put the hammer down second time out. EXPO AND FIG could be live first time out off those decent works.


SIXTH RACE: 1. MIDNIGHT MUSIC (best bet), 2. Silver Hustler, 3. Topic. LONG SHOT: Good Karma.

MIDNIGHT MUSIC will be making her third start in the country for trainer Tom Proctor and she appears to be moving in the right direction. TOPIC is from the Drysdale barn and she finished third in the Grade I American Oaks. NOTE: MIDNIGHT MUSIC has been scratched so this race is wide open.


SEVENTH RACE: 1. Tuckers Point, 2. Chocolatier, 3. Alkaray. LONG SHOT: On Holy Ground.

This looks like a wide open race as many of these have been facing each other at this level. TUCKERS POINT was claimed last time out by Peter Miller and he puts go to rider Garrett Gomez on board. Look for an improved effort. ON HOLY GROUND has speed and is coming out of a key race.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter