Aqueduct, Horse racing, Keeneland, Santa Anita

Santa Anita stakes opinions for Saturday, April 6 (Plus Wood Memorial and Blue Grass)

SANTA ANITA

SECOND RACE (Evening Jewel): 1. Sneaking Out, 2. Tim for Kisses, 3. Ruby Bradley. LONG SHOT: Violette Szabo.

THIRD RACE (Grade I Santa Anita Oaks): 1. Flor de La Mar, 2. Bellafina, 3. Chasing Yesterday. LONG SHOT: Slewgoodtobetrue.
Obviously Bellafina is the filly to beat as the 2-5 favorite and trainer Bob Baffert tries to do it with Flor de La Mar and Chasing Yesterday. Flor de La Mar makes her first start around two turns and Baffert is 28 percent with this move and she’s bred to do so. Chasing Yesterday is coming back a little soon after a win in the March 24 Sunland Park Oaks and that’s not a normal Baffert move.

FIFTH RACE (Grade II Royal Heroine): 1. Space Talk, 2. Vasilika, 3. Meal Ticket. LONG SHOT: Ms Bad Behavior.
Vasilika is 3-5 on the morning-line favorite and deservedly so with nine wins over the course. Space Talk is making her second start in the U.S. and is bred to run all day. Her last looks like a prep to me and huge jockey change to Rafael Bejarano.

SIXTH RACE (Echo Eddie): 1. Tap the Wire, 2. Foster Boi, 3. Lieutenant Dan. LONG SHOT: Midnight Special.

EIGHTH RACE (Grade I Santa Anita Derby): 1. Roadster, 2. Game Winner, 3. Instagrand. LONG SHOT: Nolo Contesto.
If any of these four won the race, it wouldn’t surprise me. Roadster needs the points the most to get into the Kentucky Derby and maybe Baffert has him cranked up more than stablemate Game Winner, who is in the Derby and appears to be racing himself into shape after that huge second in a division of the Rebel. Instagrand also needs a first or second to get into the Derby and he figures to improve off that third in the Gotham.

NINTH RACE (Grade III Providencia): 1. Hostess, 2. Miss Flawless, 3. Lady Prancealot. LONG SHOT: Truffalino.
Hostess (12-1) and Miss Flawless (6-1) are both making their first starts in the U.S. after European campaigns and they are bred to run all day. Trainer Simon Callaghan is 24 percent first time in the U.S. so I lean to her. Miss Flawless is trained by Peter Miller, who is 21 percent with a horse off a 90-plus day layoff.

10TH RACE (Grade I Santa Anita Handicap): 1. Gift Box, 2. McKinzie, 3. Campaign. LONG SHOT: Mongolian Groom.
It certain looks like a two-horse race and the odds suggest that: 4-5 on McKinzie and 6-5 on Gift Box. Loved Gift Box when he beat the ill-fated Battle of Midway in the San Antonio and he has been training well for John Sadler in this spot.

AQUEDUCT

RACE 10 (Grade II Wood Memorial): 1. Haikal, 2. Final Jeopardy, 3. Tax. LONG SHOT: Hoffa’s Union.

KEENELAND

RACE 11 (Blue Grass): 1. Market King, 2. Dream Maker, 3. Signalman. LONG SHOT: So Alive.

Good luck.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS (Santa Anita races 2-7)

Top choice winners: 1 (Monydontspenitself $13.60, second race)

Second choice winners: 3 (Railman $2.80, third; Lomu $5.40, fourth; Cinnamon Twist $6.40, fifth)

Third choice winners: 0

Long shot winners: 0

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Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita, Triple Crown

Santa Anita opinions (plus some Derby preps) for Saturday, April 4 (updated)

Race 2: #4 Calm the Sea (6-1)

The fact is this race runs through trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Never Ends, who has finished second in all three lifetime starts. Yet, Hollendorfer enters this 3-year-old filly and gets one of his main men from Northern California, J.J. Hernandez to ride. Interesting.

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Race 7: #3 Curlin’s Fox (4-1)

Trainer Carla Gaines tries the “Bolo route” here with this 3-year-old filly. After two wins on the turf, Gaines tries to find out if this daughter can run on the dirt like her daddy. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be looking for a hot pace up front for this closer.

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EIGHTH RACESANTA ANITA DERBY: 1. Dortmund, 2. One Lucky Dane, 3. Prospect Park, 4. Bolo. LONG SHOT: Cross the Line.

What can you say about Dortmund? He’s 5-for-5 and wins impressively every time. I would single. Like Dortmund, One Lucky Dane is from the Bob Baffert barn and he was impressive in his 2015 debut. People forget he finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Interesting that Baffert didn’t ship this one somewhere else, but if he finishes second, he’ll go to the Derby. Prospect Park ran a good second to Dortmund last time and could love the extra ground. I’m not sold on Bolo. I didn’t like the he tired in the stretch last time. We find out here if he’s a dirt or turf horse.

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10TH RACE: 1. Bad Ju Ju

I debated this race for 10 minutes the other night and decided not to add this filly to my selections for HorsePlayer Now. I wish I had after seeing the works on this daughter of Desert Code. Jokcey Kayla Stra will take this one straight to the front and see how far she can go. That’s go enough for me on a day the track could be “souped up.”

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WOOD MEMORIAL at New York’s Aqueduct Race Track: 1. Frosted, 2. Lieutenant Colonel, 3. Daredevil, 4. El Kabeir. LONG SHOT: Tiz Shea.

Let me say I haven’t been impressed with much this winter in New York and the one horse I was (Far From Over) is hurt now. El Kabeir just doesn’t do it for me and he may prove me wrong. Frosted comes from the speed-biased Gulfstream and receives a jockey change to Joel Rosario. The real interesting horse to me is Lieutenant Colonel, who is trained by Chad Brown. By Colonel John, he should love longer distances, although he didn’t like the mud in the Grade III Gotham. Hope for a dry track.

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BLUE GRASS at Lexington’s Keeneland Race Course: 1. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 2. Carpe Diem, 3. Frammento, 4. Unrivaled. LONG SHOT: Gorgeous Bird.

As much as I laud trainer Jim Cassidy for coming to this race, I think he made a mistake by running against Dortmund in the San Felipe in this 3-year-old’s first race back from a layoff. There had to be easier spots, but it’s time to move on and look to the future. It’s now or never for this late-blooming 2-year-old. Carpe Diem was the first horse to come out of the key Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to win around two turns in the Tampa Bay Derby. That said, who did he beat in that race. He’s quality and will be tested here. Unrivaled is the “X” factor having been purchased by Team Valor after a huge win at Parx. Should be interesting.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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

On to Kentucky for California Chrome

California_Chrome_cb4_200 (1)

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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