Mike Smith celebrates winning the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on trainer Bob Baffert’s Game On Dude.
Quotes from Saturday’s stakes races at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. The quotes are courtesy of the Santa Anita publicity department, headed by Mike Willman.
Grade II San Felipe for 3-year-olds
VICTOR ESPINOZA, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “It was great. He ran like I expected him to. Everything worked out today. I wanted to try something new today so I let him go right out of the gate. I don’t know if people expected me to go right to the lead but I wanted to let him enjoy his race, I just let him go. In these races, you can’t just try and do too much with them. I think it’s important for him to do his thing for the first five-eighths and be happy. It seems like he likes both tracks. He’s been training over at Los Al but he does things so much easier at Santa Anita after having trained at Los Al. He didn’t feel tired at all after the wire.”
MIKE SMITH, MIDNIGHT HAWK, SECOND: “He did good. He got away a bit slow. He didn’t break as well as we’d like, but in saying that, he had no excuse. The winner just beat me. I wish the outcome was different, but it is what it is.”
(On California Chrome): “He’s a serious 3-year-old. People should start paying attention to him now.
It was pretty straightforward, to be honest with you. Except for getting out a bit slow, what you saw was what happened. There are no hiccups after that. He (Victor Espinoza aboard California Chrome) asked his horse to run as I did and he happened to have more than I did.”
ART SHERMAN, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “I didn’t think he’d be on the lead, but he was a handful today. I just told Victor (Espinoza before the race), ‘You got him.’ I told him he broke like that because of that Quarter Horse training at Los Alamitos . . . We all know Santa Anita’s a speed-biased type of track, so it was really great to see him with the hold he had on him. It’s unbelievable.
“I’m looking at the race saying, ‘Well, I hope that horse (Midnight Hawk) doesn’t press him too hard, but I’ll tell you, when he asked him to go, he looked like a fresh horse, breaking, didn’t he? Maybe I’m looking at the wrong race, I don’t know. But I had a lot of fun watching him run.”
Asked if the Santa Anita Derby (April 5) might be next: “Well, we’ll kind of play it by ear. I needed this 50 points (see note below) and we’ll kind of see what happens. Now I think I deserve to go to the (Kentucky) Derby (May 3). I don’t think the distance will make any difference, a mile and a quarter. I think he’ll run all day.”
Asked what it’s like to have the first Derby horse training at Los Al: “The people are just great. The Quarter Horse people, I got more rooters over there today, you cannot believe it. Every Quarter Horse trainer came over and shook my hand and said, ‘Go get ‘em, Art.’ It made me feel good. They’re going to be proud tonight.”
BOB BAFFERT, MIDNIGHT HAWK, SECOND: “I told Mike, ‘That’s the horse you’ve got to beat.’ It was a two-horse race going in. He ran good. My horse ran huge. I was a little disappointed running second– he ran with that horse, but he couldn’t sustain it, and he got a little tired there at the end.
“You don’t want to see a horse go out that fast. When it gets warm like this, the track gets pretty fast. It’s pretty speed-biased. The horse that won it, he’s a good horse.”
DAVID HOFMANS, SCHOOLOFHARDROCKS, FOURTH: “I thought he ran OK. I’m sure he got tired, they ran really fast and maybe the track was a little hard for him today . . . but we’ll see. We’ll go from here!”
NOTES: The winning owners/breeders are Perry Martin of Yuba City, CA and Steve Coburn of Wellington NV. The San Felipe offered the following qualifying points for the May 3 Kentucky Derby: 50 for first, 20 for second, 10 for third and five for fourth.
Grade II San Carlos
JOEL ROSARIO, SAHARA SKY, WINNER: “It was a really good ride. He was in a little bit of trouble turning for home. I had to try and find some room and as soon as someone gave me enough room I tried to find my way through, and when I asked him he was good. He was good after all that.”
LUIS SAEZ, BIG MACHER, SECOND: “My horse has a lot of speed. He got in a good position. Coming into the stretch, I felt I had a lot of horse. My horse wasn’t tired; he could run, but the other horse beat me. He ran so hard.”
MIKE SMITH, SHAKIN IT UP, FIFTH: (How did he end up on the inside coming down the lane?) “That was probably me trying to be too smart, honestly. The inside bias seems to be really playing big today, and being in the 10 hole, I was trying to make it as easy as possible. I had the opportunity to really cut the corner and save some ground, but in doing so, you have to get lucky and get through, and we didn’t. “Yeah, there was a lot of traffic (coming into the stretch), and I didn’t get clear. The winner ended up getting in the same predicament that I was in, but he was able to get out. I found a place to run late, but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SAHARA SKY, WINNER, WILD DUDE, FOURTH, AND ZEEWAT, 10TH AND LAST: “Yes, the pace set up real well for him.” Asked if the No. 1 post position was a concern: “No, not for him, because he comes from out of it anyway. I just told Joel to help him away from there a little bit and not let him get 15 (lengths) out it.
“My eyes were on Wild Dude because he was the one that was prevalent coming down the lane. I thought he was going to win, then I saw Sahara Sky come on the outside. I heard him call Zeewat and I was trying to find where he was but I couldn’t find him . . . He (Sahara Sky) won the Met Mile last year and probably that would be the point race for him this year.”
KIM LLOYD, PART OWNER OF SAHARA SKY: “He’s run so well fresh, and when he didn’t run his best race (fifth in the Palos Verdes), we felt he wasn’t fit. Obviously, that was the case, but you always wonder, and he settled that for us today.”
RICHARD BALTAS, BIG MACHER, SECOND: “I thought he ran great. He did exactly what I told him. He didn’t need to lead if he didn’t have to and I think he rode him well. We got beat by a Grade I horse.
“The game plan was to break sharp and place the horse after that. He does have a lot of speed and he can carry it, but I didn’t want to get him caught behind horses drawing in. I told him to break him and put him in the race and if he gets the lead, fine. If someone else wants the lead, that’s OK, too. He rode him perfect.”
CRAIG LEWIS, CLUBHOUSE RIDE, THIRD: “I lost so much time with him and with the rain (last week) I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with him. That’s why I went in here, the San Carlos (as opposed to the Big ’Cap at 1 ¼ miles).”
NOTES: The winning owners are Jerry Hollendorfer of Point Richmond, CA, and Kim Lloyd (Sweetwater Stable) of Claremont, CA.
Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile
COREY NAKATANI, WINNING PRIZE, WINNER: “I talked to Neil about it this morning, and we felt we were ready if he was going to go ahead and go and do his thing. We knew we could track him. I know this horse didn’t have to be on the lead, but today, it was coming easy to him, and I wasn’t going to take it away. Whatever he was comfortable with, we were going to do. We were getting a little bit of pressure, but I was able to get him relaxed. He had his ears pricked, and it was just nice and comfortable. He likes that high cruising speed, and we let him do the running, and he showed he was the best one today.”
ORLANDO BOCACHICA, LOCHTE, SECOND: “I got a good break. I tried not to use him as much as I could. I tried to sit there and wait for a moment to open up. I think he (Winning Prize) held towards the end and that’s why he beat me.”
NEIL DRYSDALE, WINNING PRIZE, WINNER: “We were expecting the other horse to go to the lead. When he took him back, it left us on the lead, and he wasn’t pressured badly – we went 23 and change, 46 and change. That horse is just quality. It makes a big difference when you can get away with an easy first half mile. That set us up well. He quickened well in the stretch. He’s changed and relaxes in his races. He’s becoming more adaptable the more we race him.”
MARCUS VITALI, LOCHTE, SECOND: “I thought the ride was spectacular. Going a flat mile, I thought we had him tuned up for the flat mile. Orlando did a great job. He sat there, he was patient. He saved ground. The fence opened up a little bit and he made his big run. The six horse (Winning Prize) seemed to be a little bit better today, but overall, I’m pleased with everything. We shipped from Florida about eight days ago. I got here two days ago and watched him train yesterday. Everything seemed on target and I’m very pleased.
Next? “I’ll have to talk that over with Mrs. (Caroline) Vogel and we’ll come up with a game plan.”
FERNANDO FANTINI (RACING MANAGER FOR RON McANALLY), SUGGESTIVE BOY, THIRD: “This is a gift. He had a health problem eight months ago. He was supposed to not run ever again. He ran the Arcadia and wasn’t 100 percent, and now he’s starting to get back. Dr. (Larry) Bramlage said the horse could run again, and he was right. It’s absolutely a good feeling – we’re very happy.”
CHRISTOPHE LOURIEL, ASSISTANT TO CHRISTOPHE CLEMENT, ZA APPROVAL, FOURTH: “I thought he might have tired a little bit. When you looked at the fractions, they were pretty decent. We’re disappointed, but I think he might have needed a race.”
NOTES: The winning owners are Jose Nelson and David Heerensperger of Bellevue, WA.
Grade I Santa Anita Handicap
MIKE SMITH, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “I knew he was going to run today. I knew it from the post parade when we turned around to go to the gate. He was on his toes today, he was on fire. He’s like that when he runs well. He ran big; I just had that feeling that he was going to. Down the backside he was happy, he was cruisin’, he was well within himself. He was throwing numbers, I knew we were going fast; I actually went even faster this time than I did last time (San Antonio Feb. 8). I got yelled at for going fast last time and that was forty-six; we went forty-five today and that’s at a mile and a quarter!
“Bob told me to trust him, that I would have a different horse this time. He didn’t think he had him exactly where he wanted him for the San Antonio. Bob told me not to be down, that he didn’t have him ready. He had him 110 percent today and when it comes to Bob, that’s who you want to be riding for on big days.
“I knew he was going to have to run today because they came at me. But when they came at me he dropped to the ground. When he needs to, he fires.
“I knew they would have to be better than him today to beat him. Like I’ve said before, when he shows up he can run with anybody in the world. We may throw in a dud every now and then but he makes up for it!”
LUIS SAEZ, WILL TAKE CHARGE, SECOND: “He ran so hard. He’s very good and was in good position all the way. At the half-mile pole, I saw Game On Dude going so comfortably. My horse still ran good. It’s OK. I wanted to be following Mucho Macho Man, (because I thought that was the horse with the best chance to win).”
AARON GRYDER, BLINGO, THIRD: “He ran great. We knew we were up against some very good horses and he had to step up and I do believe he did. He ran a very good race. His first time going a mile and a quarter and he cut it real nice. He gave a good account of himself. It was his first time going the distance and he was still running down the lane. He had to run to pass Mucho Macho Man and I was very pleased with his effort. He runs hard. He’s improving.”
GARY STEVENS, MUCHO MACHO MAN, FOURTH: “He broke real well for me, and I was actually in a pretty good spot, and then Rafael (Bejarano, on Rousing Sermon) came up on me and made him move right along. I slipped to the outside, where I wanted to be, going into the back stretch. (Luis Saez) came with Will Take Charge and attacked me about the half-mile pole. That probably was a winning move had Game On Dude not been on his game today. I was fourth-best, and the champ arrived again today at Santa Anita, and Will Take Charge was second-best.”
(Did your horse do anything differently today?)
“He was a complete professional – he warmed up good, ran good. I was very happy. The race really started at the half-mile pole when Luis engaged me and I couldn’t go with him. I was basically empty at the 3/8 pole. That’s a bad feeling in a race like this and on a horse like that when you know at the 3/8 pole that you don’t have a chance to win.”
BOB BAFFERT, GAME ON DUDE, WINNER: “They went fast but he was rockin’, he was rollin’. The Dude showed up. Last time (the San Antonio), he wasn’t ready . . . He had to do it today. I just told Mike Smith, ‘When they expect you to be on the lead, you have to be on the lead. Just let him rip, do his thing and if it happens, it happens.’”
Asked about Game On Dude becoming the first-time three-time winner of the Big ’Cap: “Bernie (Schiappa) is the only guy (owner) here today. To me, it’s an emotional win for the horse. It kills me when they knock on him, but we came in here quiet and that’s the way I like to come in. We came in under the radar and we were ready for them.”
KATHY RITVO, MUCHO MACHO MAN, FOURTH: “It’s going to take us some time to figure it out (what happened). I’m going to watch it again.” Question: Mentioned that it didn’t seem to be his day? “That happens.”
NOTES: Game On Dude is the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap three times, in this, its 77th running. The winning owners are Joe Torre of Harrison, NY (Diamond Pride LLC); Lanni Family Trust of Pasadena; Ernest Moody of Las Vegas (Mercedes Stable, LLC); and Bernie Schiappa of Las Vegas. Today’s on-track attendance was 27,121.