Horse racing, Santa Anita

Trio heating up at Santa Anita

Last week was dominated by jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Drayden Van Dyke along with trainer John Sadler as everyone prepared for this Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby Day, which features big races and big money on the line.

Bejarano and apprentice Van Dyke both recorded six victories during the last four days of racing. For Bejarano (6-for-16) it was really three days of racing as he sat on Thursday, finishing a three-day riding suspension.

Van Dyke (6-for-20) has been so hot that he lost two pounds of his riding allowance in the middle of a program. He won a race with a seven-pound weight allowance and then went to a five-pound allowance, which he will keep for the remainder of his time before becoming a journeyman.

On the other end of the spectrum, jockey Joe Talamo had an 0-for-25 week. He went through similar droughts at Del Mar and may be should be avoided until he wins a race or two. Edwin Maldonado (0-for-15), Gary Stevens (0-for-6) and Mario Gutierrez (0-for-6) joined Talamo on the doughnut patrol.

In the training race, Sadler finally got hot with seven wins from 10 starters. Sadler tends to heat up coming into big weekends and he does have Candy Boy ready for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.

Jerry Hollendorfer stayed in the training lead, going 3-for-7.

On the cold end, trained Peter Miller was 0-for-9 and by my count hasn’t won a race in three weeks. If I’m wrong I stand corrected. Miller’s barn has too many horses to stay cold for much longer so pay attention.

Other cold trainers last week were Mike Puype (1-for-7), Marty Jones (1-for-5) and Tom Proctor (0-for-2).

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

Will Chrome get rusty if he skips Santa Anita Derby?

From Ed Golden of the Santa Anita publicity department:

ARCADIA — The pressure is off Art Sherman. By earning 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby with California Chrome’s dazzling victory in Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes, the door to Louisville and the Run for the Roses on May 3 was opened wide.

All the 77-year-old trainer has to do now is keep the colt healthy and pick and choose the best way to get to Churchill Downs for the 140thrunning of the world’s most famous horse race.

“He came out of the race good; he looked good this morning,” Sherman said by phone early Sunday from his Los Alamitos headquarters. “I was here really early to make sure. You get a little nervous thinking about it.

“I’m not making any plans (for his next race), you know what I mean? I’m in the Derby now; I’ve got enough points. That took a lot of pressure off me. I’m just going to play it by ear. There is a chance we might go to the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I, $1 million, April 5).

“The horse has to let me know. He came out of the race good, he ate up last night. I was happy. He’s a cool horse. I just don’t want to do too much with him. We’re on the Derby trail and I know it’s tough. I’ve been there before as a kid with other people’s horses, but I know how grueling it is getting up to that point.”

As a teenage “kid,” Sherman went to work for Rex Ellsworth and accompanied the mighty California-bred Swaps to the Derby in 1955 and later to Chicago for his match race against the vaunted Nashua.

Now California Chrome will seek to become the first Cal-bred to win the Derby since Decidedly in 1962.

“He’s Derby-bound,” the Brooklyn-born Sherman said after Saturday’s romp. “He looked like Swaps turning down the lane. I was amazed. You think a horse might win by a length or two. I’m not used to seeing him draw off by five or six.

“He’s peaking at the right time. The horse has been super, he’s putting on weight, he looked excellent in the paddock. I said, ‘My, he looks like a race horse today.’”

Sherman, a former jockey who enjoyed his best year as a trainer in 2007 when he won 207 races and gleaned $4,023,669 in purse money, isn’t about to be counting his roses before they bloom.

“I still have to go to Kentucky and try the big boys,” he said. “So far, all this has been great, not only for me and the horse, but for (owners/breeders) Steve (Coburn) and Perry (Martin). We’re just a mom and pop operation.”

If luck holds, the family will be growing.

Added Victor Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to a 7 ¼-length victory, the largest winning margin in the San Felipe at the distance of 1 1/16 miles since Premier Pegasus posted a 7 ¾-length romp under Alonso Quinonez for Myung Kwon Cho in 2005:

“Yesterday was his most impressive race since I’ve been riding him, but I believe he still has more left. I just took it easy with him yesterday. I think he’ll be even better at a mile and a quarter. We’ll find out how good he is as we go along, but he’s an amazing horse right now.”

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Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Prince of Paris $8, second race; Judy the Beauty $3, seventh)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 1 (Fit to Rule $22.40, fifth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 3 (Keyboard Courage $5.60, first; Sagebrush Queen $7.40, third; Fort Wagner $30.60, fourth)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 0

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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Horse racing, Santa Anita

PVal ready to ride Santa Anita’s opening day

From Ed Golden’s Santa Anita notes on Wednesday:

P. Val’s back and Santa Anita has him.

The 51-year-old jockey–full handle, Patrick Valenzuela–resumes riding at The Great Race Place when it opens on Dec. 26. A fixture in Southern California since he began his career in 1978, Valenzuela has made more comebacks than Brett Favre, overcoming numerous injuries and substance abuse issues, but has never lost his zeal for the game.

His ability on horseback has never been questioned.

“I’ve been out here working every morning, just getting ready for the Big Meet,” said Valenzuela, exhibiting the same unbridled enthusiasm that has become his signature trait.

“I’ve got some good calls and hopefully we’ll get lucky and get a couple winners right away and get rolling.” Agent Tom Knust represents Valenzuela.

Valenzuela, the youngest jockey ever to win a Santa Anita Derby at 17 aboard Codex for D. Wayne Lukas in 1980, has not ridden competitively since Oct. 11. He was winless in 12 rides at Santa Anita’s Autumn meet.

“I got sick during the fall meet here and I lost a lot of weight,” said Valenzuela, whose most memorable victory came aboard 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence in that year’s Kentucky Derby. “My immune system was down and I got a pretty bad sinus infection.

“I went to the doctor and had to take a couple days off. It came at the wrong time, but I decided to give it more time and get healthy the right way.

“My weight’s good. I’ll probably be doing 18 (tacking 118 pounds) opening day and hopefully continue doing that for the rest of my career.”

Among Valenzuela’s 13 riding titles is the 2002-03 crown at Santa Anita, where he won 94 races, outdistancing runner-up David Flores, who won 69.

Although he’s won only four races this year according to Equibase statistics, Valenzuela has 4,346 career wins, with purse earnings of $165,266,242.

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Other jockey news from Golden’s notes:

+ Trainer Jeff Mullins is a staunch proponent of Tyler Baze. The 31-year-old rider is nearing his return from a lengthy suspension for violation of alcohol abuse. “It’s like he never left,” Mullins said, addressing Baze’s skill in the saddle. “I think he’s getting plenty of support. He’s working nine or 10 head a day. He’s working horses on the training track and everything . . . I think he’s got a pretty strong fan base.” Baze has been cleared to resume riding on Jan. 1, and will be represented by agent Craig O’Bryan.

+ Agent Dudley Osborne hopes to make an impact this meet representing jockeys Orlando Mojica and Julien Couton, the latter a 31-year-old Frenchman who has been riding for 10 years, and in the U.S. since 2007, first for trainer Patrick Biancone and more recently for Leonard Powell, both fellow Frenchman. “It’s a tough circuit and you have to take advantage of all opportunities,” Osborne said. “Julien has the ability. It’s a matter of getting the chance, but we’re getting there.” Mojica also is taking an optimistic approach. “You have to ride the right horses for the right people,” said the personable 31-year-old from Puerto Rico. “I’ve been riding for 14 years and enjoyed success in Kentucky and at Indiana Downs before coming to Southern California. I’m working hard and doing the best I can.”

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