• O’NEILL FRESH AND FIT AT SANTA ANITA AFTER ECLIPSE AWARDS
• NEW MOM KAYLA STRA JUST MISSES IN RETURN TO THE RACES
There is little pressure on Edwin Maldonado in Monday’s Santa Ynez Stakes, or for any
of the other jockeys in the race, save for Garrett Gomez.
Gomez rides 3-5 morning line favorite and newly crowned 2-year-old filly champ of 2012 Beholder in the Grade II race for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. Maldonado rides 5-1 second choice Dawn’s Charm, smashing 10 ¾-length maiden allowance winner at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 14 for Jeff Bonde, who trains the gray daughter of Hard Spun for owner Michael House of El Cajon.
“She’s working good and she really improved a lot her last race,” said Maldonado, who has ridden Dawn’s Charm in each of three starts. She was 10th at Santa Anita in her debut, beaten nearly 10 lengths, last Sept. 29.
She showed good speed in her next start, running second to the half-mile marker before weakening to finish fifth, beaten only four lengths in an improved performance.
“The key with her is to be in front,” Maldonado said, “and she never was in front before.
“I was on for a couple of her works here and she went well. They were maintenance works, but she’s ready for the race.”
The field for the Santa Ynez: Small Moves, Victor Espinoza, 30-1; Blushing Angel, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Dawn’s Charm, Edwin Maldonado, 5-1; Lady Rosamond, Martin Garcia, 10-1; Inwiththeblonde, Juan Hernandez, 10-1; Renee’s Titan, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Switch to the Lead, Julien Leparoux, 8-1; and Beholder, Garrett Gomez, 3-5.
First post time Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is 12:30 p.m. All Thoroughbreds members at Santa Anita tomorrow will receive free a premium Santa Anita hooded sweatshirt with paid admission while supplies last.
O’NEILL BACK ON THE BEAT AFTER ECLIPSE AWARDS
Doug O’Neill, so fresh it looked “like he just jumped in at the quarter pole” thanks to an Air Reddam jet flight back from last night’s Eclipse Awards in Florida where Team O’Neill’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was an overwhelming winner as outstanding male 3-year-old of 2012, was back at his command post Sunday morning, multi-tasking with the media during training hours.
“We had a wonderful time there,” O’Neill said of the ceremony held at Gulfstream Park. “It was great. Everyone was so nice. It was a real good venue.
“If you had to knock anything, it would have been ideal if there had been more video clips of all the nominees. That would have been cool. But it still was great.
“(Hostess) Jeanine Edwards urged speakers not to go over a minute, so they started playing the piano (as a cue to end their say) after a minute with some people. That was funny.”
One horse O’Neill had a close watch on Sunday morning was galloper Mudflats, a recent acquisition who disappointed in the Jerome at Aqueduct, but was a portrait in gray this morning.
“We’ve got the San Vicente Stakes (Grade II, $150,000 at seven furlongs Feb. 17) circled on the calendar for him,” O’Neill said.
STRA JUST MISSES STORYBOOK ENDING IN COMEBACK RACE
Kayla Stra missed victory by a head in her first race as a new mother. The 28-year-old Australian native had an eventful trip to just miss winning Saturday’s third race aboard 44-1 shot Wild in the Saddle, losing to front-running 62-1 outsider J Louie, ridden by Tyler Baze.
For Stra (pronounced straw), it was her first ride since last May 20 at Betfair Hollywood Park. During that span, she took time off to give birth to a son on Nov. 15 fathered by trainer Gus Headley. The boy’s name is Brys (pronounced Breece) Baldwin Headley.
“I was hoping to win,” Stra said after the narrow defeat. “If I hadn’t been wide, I might have got there. It would have been great to win for the chaplain,” referring to trainer Francis Meza, wife of Eddie Meza, chaplain for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America.
Eddie is the brother of former jockey Rafael Meza. Francis and Eddie celebrated big time four races later when A Jealous Woman, trained by Francis, won the $75,000 Megahertz Stakes in a three-horse photo under Brice Blanc.
For Kayla, a win Saturday would have been additionally appropriate since her grandmother, Joan, is in Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach battling complications from recent cancer surgery on a kidney. Joan was 76 last Friday.
“I was hoping to win not only for the chaplain, but for my grandmother,” Stra said. “We’re saying our prayers.”
If hunch plays mean anything, the Man Upstairs should be on Kayla’s side Monday. She rides a horse for Gus in the third race named On Holy Ground.
FINISH LINES: My Miss Aurelia, who lost to Questing by four votes in the Eclipse Awards voting for outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2012, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track on a sparkling Sunday morning in 50.20. Steve Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi called the move “easy.” Another Asmussen runner, 2012 Eddie D. winner Unbridled’s Note, went five furlongs in 1:01 flat . . . Secret Circle, winner of a division of the Southwest Stakes and the Rebel Stakes last year, worked four furlongs for Bob Baffert in 51.40, while promising maiden winner War Academy went the same distance in 48.20 . . . Lady of Shamrock, winner of the Del Mar Oaks and the American Oaks on turf for John Sadler, went four furlongs on the main track in 51 seconds . . . Strong Suit, pointing to the Arcadia Stakes on Feb. 2, worked five furlongs in 59.80 for Simon Callaghan, who has Jamie Spencer coming in from Europe for the ride. “He’s the owner’s retained rider,” Callaghan explained. “The horse worked very well. I couldn’t be happier.” Callaghan added that Robert J. Frankel Stakes winner Qaraaba is on course for the Grade II Santa Ana Stakes at nine furlongs on turf March 24 . . . At Hollywood Park, 2011 Strub Stakes winner Ultimate Eagle worked five furlongs under Martin Pedroza on Cushion Track in a bullet 59.60, cutting fractions of 24 and 36 while galloping out six furlongs in 1:11, according to trainer Mike Pender, who said Pedroza “was like a statue.” . . . With the majority of players backing winning favorite Prettypriceygirl in yesterday’s first race, 164 remained alive in ShowVivor entering Sunday’s action . . . Next Saturday, Jan. 26, fans can watch and wager as the best California-bred horses battle over six stakes races at The Great Race Place. Fans in attendance at Santa Anita receive free a Sunshine Millions Beach Hat with paid admission while supplies last. In addition, there will be a KROQ concert in the infield, live music between races, microbrew beers, premium food trucks and family fun activities.
SANTA ANITA STATISTICS
(Current through Saturday, Jan. 19)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Rafael Bejarano 81 17 17 5 21% $1,018,250
Joseph Talamo 90 14 14 15 16% $684,882
Garrett Gomez 53 12 12 5 23% $767,220
Edwin Maldonado 94 12 9 12 13% $502,700
Tyler Baze 91 10 10 9 11% $380,930
Martin Garcia 70 9 8 8 13% $529,938
Victor Espinoza 32 9 3 6 28% $304,120
Julien Leparoux 56 7 7 5 13% $414,960
Kevin Krigger 34 7 3 2 21% $187,950
Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
John Sadler 49 8 9 7 16% $414,630
Jerry Hollendorfer 32 8 7 6 25% $472,398
Bob Baffert 57 7 8 5 12% $731,660
Doug O'Neill 56 7 8 4 13% $463,384
Peter Miller 26 5 7 2 19% $315,550
John Shirreffs 16 5 2 2 31% $238,880
Richard Mandella 15 4 2 2 27% $313,520
Mark Glatt 15 4 1 1 27% $85,600