Del Mar, Horse racing

Nakatani to return to riding with son as agent

Jockey Corey Naktani, who hasn’t ridden since April while contemplating retirement, is returning to ride, presumably before the end of the Del Mar Bing Crosby Season meet on Dec. 4.

Nakatani’s son, Matt, said Wednesday on Twitter that his father start will start taking mounts and that he would be his agent.

Corey Nakatani, 46, who has won 10 Breeders’ Cup races and nearly $228 million in purses lifetime, has been seen working horses in the mornings at Del Mar.

This year Nakatani had 27 winners — all at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., last winter — from 158 mounts and $1.4 million in earnings, but was frustrated by his lack of quality mounts and stepped away from the sport.

Nakatani has not been named on any mounts yet. Del Mar has drawn entries through Saturday.

The Thoroughbred Daily News first wrote the story of Nakatani’s return.

@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, Triple Crown

Lukas not happy with Strong Mandate’s Rebel effort?

Sounds like trainer D. Wayne Lukas wasn’t all that happy with Strong Mandate’s second place finish in Monday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Quotes are courtesy of the Oaklawn Park media department:

Lukas: “He ran well. He didn’t have the cleanest of trips. We had wanted to be more forwardly placed, but he got bumped leaving the gate and was actually wide the whole trip. The winner ran exceptional. We’ll just go back to the barn and look at the Rebel Stakes (March 15).”

Jockey Joel Rosario, on Strong Mandate: “He broke a little slow. In the first turn, I wanted to get into position, but I couldn’t. I had to hold a bit because a few horses were bouncing in and out. He’s the kind of horse you need to let run easy. He’s a big horse and you want to let him do what he wants. Maybe next time we’ll get a better trip.”

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Winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Tapiture: “It was a big step forward for him. I was impressed with  what he did. I saw some things we need to improve and he’ll have to continue to improve with the races coming up. I think the series sets up really well for him.”

Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr, Tapiture: “This horse was working really nice. I was so excited for this race. When we got to the straight, he showed all his class. He was really nice and was really relaxed today.”

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Trainer Billy Gowan, third with Ride OnCurlin: “He ran a heck of a race. He was hung nine wide and he got a little bit tired. We’ll be back for the Rebel.”

Jockey Calvin Borel, third with Ride OnCurlin: “He ran good. He broke sharp. He got hung a little wide going into the first turn and he didn’t like that. I had to take him back and let him go about his business. He got a little heavy at the end.”

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Jockey Terry Thompson on Kendall’s Boy, “He had a real rough trip. He got banged up basically from when the gates opened until he just gave up on me. He never go into stride. It was his first time going two turns and we needed everything to go right. Hard to go off of this one.”

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