Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita selections for Saturday, Feb. 7

FIRST RACE: 1. Signature Cat, 2. Cheap O Charlie, 3. Ministers Prayer. LONG SHOT: Roper.

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SECOND RACE: 1. Industry Leader, 2. Pray Hard, 3. Love Forever. LONG SHOT: American Act.

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THIRD RACE: 1. Ghost of Navigator, 2. Cyrus Alexander, 3. Nob Hill. LONG SHOT: Scorpious.

Barn has always been high on this son of Mineshaft, but GHOST OF NAVIGATOR (30-1) just hasn’t put it together. This is a tough maiden heat, but worth a stab at the price for trainer Ron Ellis and jockey Tiago Perez. The 3-year-old has shown improved works and should be worth a couple of bucks on win end and underneath the favorites in the exacta.

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FOURTH RACE: 1. Shanty Irish (best bet), 2. Go Trumpy Go, 3. Young and Hungry. LONG SHOT: Perfect Temptation.

Trainer Mike Puype must want to get this Cal-bred SHANTY IRISH (8-1) on the grass pretty bad as he runs in an open MSW. Breeding says yes to the grass. Pressed that pace in debut, has good work coming into race down the hill and jockey Elvis Trujillo sticks.

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FIFTH RACE: 1. Firing Line, 2. Dortmund, 3. Rock Shandy. LONG SHOT: Tizcano.

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SIXTH RACE: 1. Cautious Giant, 2. Whine for Wine, 3. Pulling G’s. LONG SHOT: Kristo.

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SEVENTH RACE: 1. Quadrivium, 2. Finnegans Wake, 3. Patrioticandproud. LONG SHOT: Dyanmic Sky.

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EIGHT RACE: 1. Bronzo, 2. Shared Belief, 3. California Chrome. LONG SHOT: Tonito M.

Yes, this is a tough spot for BRONZO (20-1) with the likes of Hoppertunity, Shared Belief and California Chrome in the race, but trainer Neil Drysdale has been quoted as saying the longer the better for this Chile-import. Jockey Gary Stevens got familiar with him last time and hopefully learned something.

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NINTH RACE: 1. Arethusa, 2. Our Little Hen, 3. Dakota Kid. LONG SHOT: Kyiaki.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Friday’s top choice winners: 2 (Katerrific $3, first race; Midnight Hawk $4.40, sixth)

Friday’s second choice winners: 1 (Bluegrass Reward $7, second)

Friday’s third choice winners: 3 (Fighter Squadron $15.80, fourth; Nextdoorneighbor $11.20, fifth; Christopher Street $6.40, seventh)

Friday’s long shot winners: 1 (Discatsonthesquare $11.80, third)

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Del Mar, Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

California Chrome’s connections fine with No. 5 draw in Derby

Jockey Victor Espinoza was more than happy when Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite California Chrome (5-2), who trains at Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County, drew the No. 5 post for Saturday’s Run for the Roses in Louisville, Ky.

“It’s my lucky number,” said Espinoza.

Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby aboard War Emblem from post No. 5 for trainer Bob Baffert in 2002.

California Chrome also won the Santa Anita Derby from post five in his last start and the 3-year-old, trained by Art Sherman, will be looking for his fifth straight victory on the track.

With California Chrome’s tactical speed, the No. 5 post should not prove a problem as Espinoza should be able to get out quickly and place him where he wants.

“He’s an amazing horse to ride,” said Espinoza. “I let him do his own thing. I think that’s why he’s running so great.”

Sherman obviously didn’t want to draw the No. 1 hole like Louisiana Derby winner Vicars In Trouble (30-1) did or the outside post in the 20-horse field like Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong (8-1).

“I like it fine,” said Sherman after the draw. “Victor says he likes it. I’m happy and I feel no pressure.”

California Chrome has been a step slow in two of his last five starts, but Sherman isn’t worried.

“We’re going to school (from the gate Thursday),” said Sherman. “(In a race) he’ll be standing there perfect and just before he gets anxious. When he puts those blinkers on he gets anxious because he knows it’s a whole new ballgame (race day).”

Arkansas Derby winner Danza (10-1) drew just inside California Chrome in the No. 4 post.

Other California horses drew toward the outside in Hoppertunity (6-1) at No. 11, Dance With Fate (20-1) at No. 12, Chitu (20-1) at No. 13 and Candy Boy (20-1) at No. 18 for trainer John Sadler and jockey Gary Stevens.

Hoppertunity, who finished second to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, was made the second choice on the morning line after Wicked Strong drew the outside post.

However, four of the last six Derby winners have come from the auxiliary gate (post No. 15 and out) and the last three in a row have come from there.

Baffert trains both Hoppertunity and Chitu. He was fine with the draw for both.

“I’m happy with the way the horses are training and that’s more important,” he said. “The only disadvantage is that Hoppertunity is going to have to wait in the gate for a long time, but I’d rather wait in the 11-hole than wait in the one-hole. I think he’s second choice because he’s gotten the closest to California Chrome this year.”

Chitu is expected to be part of the speed in the 1¼-mile race.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Baffert. “The speed horses, you don’t know who’s going to break, who’s going to go, what if the pace isn’t fast? What if it’s a War Emblem pace and they keep going? I think nobody knows. We’re all assuming a lot of stuff but, this Derby, aside from that California Chrome has proven he’s a really good horse, there’s a lot of horses in there that are pretty close. There’s a lot of parity in this field so that’s why we have 20 horses, because everybody might have a chance. He’s fast. (Jockey) Martin Garcia thinks he can do it so he’s real confident about the horse.”

Trainer Peter Eurton didn’t have a problem with Blue Grass winner Dancer With Fate’s draw.

“I am thrilled with it,” he said. “There is a lot of speed to the inside of us rather than outside and that should give us a good chance to pick a spot.”

Sadler said he doesn’t worry about post draws.

“It’s OK,” Sadler said. “I’d rather be outside than in. And I don’t put a lot of energy into things I can’t control. We’ll figure out a strategy and go from there. I think we’ll be fine.”

Stevens said he was already planning a strategy as the draw progressed, but he wasn’t giving away any trade secrets.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita picks for Thursday, April 10

FIRST RACE: 1. Road Ready, 2. Newfound Gold, 3. Trucial State. LONG SHOT: El Pitucon.

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SECOND RACE: 1. Mum, 2. Dancinginthestreet, 3. Courageous Call. LONG SHOT: Tiz Champ.

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THIRD RACE: 1. Honduran, 2. Seeking the West, 3. Footbridge. LONG SHOT: Perfect Set.

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FOURTH RACE: 1. Ryleigh Ruler, 2. Wild Optimism, 3. Betty Bing Bing. LONG SHOT: New Nature.

RYLEIGH RULER, a daughter of Roman Ruler, might have won her career debut at Del Mar last summer except for a poor start. She returns here and obviously trainer Robertino Diodoro knows how to get one ready to run, especially after a long layoff (30%).

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FIFTH RACE: 1. Ambitoness, 2. Smart N Dreamy, 3. Spiced Latte. LONG SHOT: Miss American Pie.

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SIXTH RACE: 1. Neurosurgeon, 2. Slight Edge, 3. Storm Bird. LONG SHOT: Grey is Best.

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SEVENTH RACE: 1. Mark of a Gem, 2. Tiz a Kiss, 3. Tribal Chatter. LONG SHOT: Noise of the Crowd.

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EIGHTH RACE: 1. Even Echo (best bet), 2. Warrensgoldenyears, 3. Wicked Heat. LONG SHOT: Fuzzy Logic.

Yes, this 3-year-old colt, EVEN ECHO, was favored last time in the drop to the maiden claiming ranks, but we’re willing to give another shot. Look who he has lost races to in the last few races: Hoppertunity, Shared Belief, Enterprising. Maybe this is the day he outclasses the field.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Del Mar, Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

On to Kentucky for California Chrome

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California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza return to the winner’s circle after winning Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. BENOIT PHOTO

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The overwhelming sentiment when leaving Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on Saturday was that everyone saw the winner of next month’s Kentucky Derby. Heck, he might finally break the drought of Triple Crown winners.

And they well have, but maybe it wasn’t the horse you’re thinking about.

There’s no doubt that California Chrome was spectacular in winning Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. But will he be the winner on the first Saturday of May in Louisville, Ky.

The thing you have to remember is there will be a full field of 20 horses at Churchill Downs. There will be all kinds of trouble for all kinds of horses. There will be horses that don’t belong, and California Chrome surely isn’t one of those, but he could get stopped by one who is. Remember funny things happen in 20-horse fields.

I hope California Chrome wins it for trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza and to stick it to the “bluebloods,” but I know too many things can go wrong. It just seems amazing to me that California Chrome was running last summer in Cal-bred races and now maybe the betting favorite in Kentucky. It brings back fond memories of Silver Charm, one of my all-time favorites.

Hoppertunity, who finished second to California Chrome, certainly belongs in the equation. He has run three good races in a row.

And perhaps the most impressive 3-year-old winner Saturday was Wicked Strong taking the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, seemingly passing the entire field in the stretch.

Personally, I’m keeping my eye on Commanding Curve, who finished third in the Louisiana Derby, to see if he gets in.

And don’t forget there are two more big preps this coming Saturday with the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Hot Spring, Ark.

Wait until all the data is in and then make your decision. Just think how many other times have you left Santa Anita on its Derby Day saying you thought you saw the winner of the Kentucky Derby?

You might have and you might not.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Saturday’s top choice winners: 0

Saturday’s second choice winners: 3 (Fashion Plate $6.20, fifth race; Nashoba’s Gold $7.40, seventh; Kerrilynn $10.60, 11th)

Saturday’s third choice winners: 4 (Reno Rebel $6.80, first; Storm Fighter $6.40, second; California Chrome $3.40, eighth; Seeking the Sherif $9.80, 10th)

Saturday’s long shot winners: 1 (Alert Bay $20.20, third)

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Sunday’s top choice winners: 1 (Crusher $7.60, first race)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 3 (Big Note $10.40, fourth; Congregationalist $11.80, seventh; Perfect Tango $7, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 0

Sunday’s long shot winners: 1 (Jules Journey $14.40, sixth)

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Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown

Rebel Stakes: What they said

Quotes courtesy of Oaklawn Park following Hoppertunity’s win in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes:

Mike Pegram (owner, Hoppertunity, 1st): “Bob (Baffert, trainer) is in charge and he knows what to do. I’m just having fun being a passenger. He looks like he’ll go a mile-and-a-quarter and I wouldn’t trade places with nobody. He’s a nice horse and he proved it today. What you really want to see is a horse that will fight, and he showed it when he got bumped in there and held his ground. He responded. He’s a fighter. We will run is some Derby. His next race will be a derby if he comes out good out of here.”

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Jimmy Barnes (assistant to Baffert, Hoppertunity, 1st): “That was exciting. Wow. I saw what happened in the race live and I was saying to myself, that kid (Santana, Jr. on Tapiture) is trying to push us out of the way to get by. We had enough horse that he wasn’t getting by. Mike (Smith) said he just started running when he got bumped. That just made him run faster. He’s tough. He’s lightly raced. That was only his fourth race so that was exciting and I’m glad we came. Whether we come back for the Arkansas Derby is up to Bob.”

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Steve Asmussen (Tapiture, 2nd) – “He ran well. It was a pretty roughly run race by some fast horses.”

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Kent Desormeaux (Ride On Curlin, 3rd) – “I tell you, I fancy him. I like him a lot. At the half-mile pole, I thought I could win. The only thing I didn’t like was my post. I think if I had had an outside post, it would have been better. I was kind of committed from where I was. But, he was comfortable. He’s like riding a 9-year-old he’s so cool.”

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D. Wayne Lukas (4th Strong Mandate): “We haven’t been able to get a clean trip yet. We got roughed up more than was indicated. I don’t yet what’s next for him. We haven’t even gotten him cooled out yet. The Arkansas Derby is a month away.”

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Association Steward Larry Snyder on the decision not to change the order of finish after an inquiry and jockey objection: “We based our decision on the fact that Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. on Tapiture pushed his way out from behind the four horse (Strong Mandate) as the horses were straightening out into the stretch. Jockey Mike Smith was just holding his position.”

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Horse racing, Santa Anita

Santa Anita picks for Thursday, Feb. 6

FIRST RACE: 1. Geldautomat, 2. Cousin Ricky, 3. Mr. Cactus. LONG SHOT: Goldnesian.

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SECOND RACE: 1. Sweet Spell, 2. Provenance, 3. Seattle Charlie. LONG SHOT: Wasted At Midnight.

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THIRD RACE: 1. Madoffwiththemoney, 2. Metaxa, 3. Warren’s Judy. LONG SHOT: Backwoods Belle.

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FOURTH RACE: 1. Cougarontheprowl, 2. Our Pure Creation, 3. Small Moves. LONG SHOT: Kerrilynn.

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FIFTH RACE: 1. Moonlight Stroll, 2. Chicago Angel, 3. Mini Candy. LONG SHOT: Alissa R N.

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SIXTH RACE: 1. Readyforhercloseup, 2. Akiss Forarose, 3. Elegant in Silk. LONG SHOT: Incredible Journey.

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SEVENTH RACE: 1. Mark of a Gem (best bet), 2. J and S Express, 3. Always a Chance. LONG SHOT: Yawannagokid.

MARK OF A GEM, a 4-year-old filly, hasn’t raced since May 19, 2013, but she has speed and has been working well over the Santa Anita dirt. Trainer Tim Yakteen is 38% turf to dirt and he’s 36% with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

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EIGHTH RACE: 1. Los Borrachos, 2. Kozani, 3. Melatonin. LONG SHOT: J Kat.

Jockey Mike Smith is looking for the late daily double here with this son of Pulpit. The 3-year-old LOS BORRACHOS isn’t drawn ideally for a down-the-hill effort on the rail, but Pulpits seem to do well in the move from dirt to turf. He showed improvement in his second race and comes out of a maiden race where a horse he beat by 2 lengths (Hoppertunity) has already come back to win.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 1 (Te Rapa $4.60, sixth race)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 3 (Intoxicating Move $9, second; Putahexonher $8.20, third; Stollin Home $10.20, fifth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (Wild Dude $19.20, fourth); Cat Burglar $3.40, seventh)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 0

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