• ‘BETTER THAN EVER’ BEJARANO NEARS FOURTH SANTA ANITA TITLE
• CONSISTENT MARE FRESH OFF THE ‘BENCH’ FOR LAS CIENEGAS
• PINO TO ACCEPT SANTA ANITA’S GEORGE WOOLF AWARD SUNDAY
• WHITTINGHAM’S 100TH BIRTHDAY TO BE HONORED ON SUNDAY

BEJARANO RUNAWAY LEADER IN SANTA ANITA JOCKEYS’ RACE

If Santa Anita’s jockeys’ race were a political election, Rafael Bejarano would be
declared the winner in a landslide. With a 26-win lead over his closest competitor and only seven racing days remaining in the 71-day meet, some might even call it a mandate.

With four wins from four mounts yesterday, the 30-year-old Peruvian held a commanding 82-56 lead over runner-up Edwin Maldonado and appeared well on his way to his fourth Santa Anita title, even though he rides at Keeneland today and Oaklawn Park tomorrow.

One of Bejarano’s wins Thursday came aboard Top Kisser for Jerry Hollendorfer in the seventh race. It marked the 22nd time from 35 rides this meet riding for the Hall of Fame trainer that they have landed in the winner’s circle, nearly 63 percent.

Bejarano is among the leaders nationally, as well. Through April 9, he ranked fourth in purse earnings with more than $3.8 million and was ninth in wins with 72.

Joe Ferrer, his agent of eight years, says all the kudos should go to Bejarano.
“Give all the credit to Rafael,” Ferrer said. “I’ve never seen him ride better. He’s done it all by himself. He’s done an incredible job. He’s getting better and better with age.”

Told he should receive at least some plaudits, Ferrer was respectfully dismissive.
“It’s good to ride 4-5 shots,” he said.


CAL-BRED BENCH GLORY IN BLOOM FOR LAS CIENEGAS

Listed as the 3-5 morning line choice, Mizdirection would appear to have her five rivals at her mercy in Saturday’s Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes over her favorite venue, Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs.

Despite the compact field, the race for older fillies and mares came up a bit salty. One mare that could rub sodium in the wound is Bench Glory, winner of the Irish O’Brien Stakes on March 17 after a year’s absence.

“She came out of that race in very good shape,” said Sean McCarthy, who trains the
6-year-old California-bred daughter of Benchmark for owner/breeder John Harris. “She’s like a spring flower in bloom right now. The race came up very well timing wise and she loves the course.

“Of course, she’s running against a great horse in Mizdirection. It’s a small field but a very good field, but Bench Glory is doing as well now as she ever has. If somebody stubs a toe, our mare will be tough.”

The field for the Las Cienegas: Purim’s Dancer, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Schiaparelli, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Dancingtothestars, Kevin Krigger, 15-1; Givine, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; Bench Glory, Brice Blanc, 10-1; and Mizdirection, David Flores, 3-5.


PINO TO RECEIVE SANTA ANITA’S GEORGE WOOLF AWARD SUNDAY

Mario Pino, winner of the 2013 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, will accept the award in a winner’s circle ceremony after the fifth race Sunday at Santa Anita.

Pino, Maryland’s all-time leading jockey who recently moved with his wife, Christina, and three daughters to Florida, is also 10th on racing’s all-time win list with nearly 6,500 winners.

In a vote of jockeys nationwide, Pino outpolled fellow riders Javier Castellano, Perry Compton, David Flores and Rodney Prescott.

Initiated by Santa Anita in 1950, the Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Pino, 51, garnered national acclaim as the regular rider of top-tier 3-year-old Hard Spun in 2007, guiding him to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and to victories in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. He would go on to ride the Larry Jones trainee to a runner-up finish behind eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize legendary jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf, was regarded as one of the greatest big money riders of his era, who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946. The trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

The Woolf Award was won last year by Ramon Dominguez.


SANTA ANITA HONORS 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF ‘BALD EAGLE’S’ BIRTH SATURDAY

Charlie Whittingham, legendary Hall of Fame trainer of champions such as Ack Ack, Cougar II, Turkish Trousers, Ferdinand and Sunday Silence, would have been 100 years old on Saturday, and as such, Santa Anita Park will honor the occasion with an array of video tributes available to on-track attendees and those at simulcast outlets.

Although “The Bald Eagle,” Santa Anita’s all-time leading stakes winning trainer with 204 added money tallies, succumbed to leukemia at age 86 in April, 1999, his presence and contributions to Thoroughbred racing and to The Great Race Place are anything but forgotten.

A large bronze bust of his likeness adorns Santa Anita’s East Paddock Gardens and a monogrammed tack box, with his signature “CW” stable logo and a small plaque entitled “In Memory of Charlie Whittingham,” remains intact at Barn 4, his longtime base of operation that currently is home to Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

Perhaps more important is the fact that memories of the self-effacing Whittingham are still vivid in the minds of not only those who knew him well, but also those who were merely casual acquaintances.

The late trainer Willard Proctor summed up the character of his longtime friend and confidant in succinct fashion upon Whittingham’s passing: “Charlie wore winning well,” said Proctor. “He could win the Santa Anita Handicap (nine times) or the Hollywood Gold Cup (eight times) and he was just the same guy.”

Multiple Eclipse Award-winning Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey captured the essence of Whittingham’s success and appeal thusly in Saturday’s DRF: “His best horses became popular older horses, full grown and magnificent, able to cultivate loyal fans and sustain serious careers at the top of the game. Whittingham won those seven (national) money championships—all of them without significant help from horses younger than 4—because he could deliver on the promises he made to high-rent patrons that it was better to let other barns make mistakes, run their horses too soon or too steep, and always be there in overwhelming force when the pot was full.”

The following races honoring Whittingham will be shown between live races on Saturday:
--1970 San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Whittingham won his first of a record 14 San Juan’s as his twosome of Fiddle Isle and Quicken Tree dead-heated after 1 ¾ miles on turf.

--1973 Santa Anita Handicap: Whittingham ran one-two with Cougar II and Kennedy Road, as Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Donald Pierce “threw it down” and were separated by a nose at the wire.
--1985 Santa Anita Handicap: Lord At War, with Bill Shoemaker up, put the “Shoe-Charlie Club” center stage before a record on-track crowd of 85,527.
--1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic: Run at Hollywood Park, Whittingham’s Ferdinand, winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby, defeated ’87 Derby winner Alysheba in one of the greatest moments in Breeders’ Cup history.
--1989 Santa Anita Derby: Whittingham’s Sunday Silence annihilated the competition and went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic and was thus crowned Horse of the Year.

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the “pot” remains full and as Charlie would have said, ”We got ‘em surrounded.”

And how, Mr. Whittingham. And now.


GOMEZ ABOARD CLUBHOUSE RIDE IN CT CLASSIC, VYJACK IN DERBY

Garrett Gomez will ride Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Clubhouse Ride in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 20, agent Tony Matos said Friday morning after the son of Candy Ride worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track in a bullet 59.40.

Trainer Craig Lewis said the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred chestnut was “on cruise” for the drill, which is expected to lead to a rematch with Big Cap winner Game On Dude.

Matos added that Gomez rides Gotham winner and third-place Wood Memorial finisher Vyjack in the Kentucky Derby; Examen for Tom Proctor in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on April 20, and, of course, champion Beholder for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3.


BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIFT

In honor of her 73rd birthday yesterday, co-worker Joe Laricchia bought Georgie Arias a one dollar, one-way 7-3 exacta ticket for each of the eight races.

The number went down in flames until the final race. That’s when a 5-year-old maiden making his first start named Talk of the Town won by a length and half under Agapito Delgadillo for trainer and part owner Bill Spawr, paying $10.

Closing well to be second in the five furlong sprint was Mr. Cappuccino, ridden by Arnold Perez for trainer Uri Rafaeli, at 76-1 the longest shot in the field of nine. The 7-3 exacta returned $250.90.

“What a great surprise,” said Arias, currently Grandstand Captain of Ushers who has been on the beat at Southern California tracks since 1984. “I really didn’t want to go public with the news, because now everyone knows my age, but at this stage, I guess it doesn’t matter.”


FINISH LINES: Caracortado, who has not raced in 15 months due to persistent frog problems with his right front foot, could have his first workout since that lengthy span soon. Winner of nine of 19 starts and $864,105, the rags-to-riches California-bred gelding won the Daytona Stakes with a breathtaking last-to-first move on Jan. 8, 2012, albeit in a four-horse field. “He could work on the turf at Hollywood Park when it opens,” trainer Mike Machowsky said of the chestnut son of Cat Dreams, winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes in 2010 and the Grade II Del Mar Handicap in 2011. “He might even breeze here.” Caracortado won first out at Fairplex Park in September of 2009 against $40,000 maiden claimers . . . Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, one of only five conditioners with 6,000 career wins, will sign his book, "Jack, From Grit to Glory", throughout the day on Saturday, April 20, across from Champions! Gifts & Apparel. Written by Chris Kotulak, it's the improbable story of one of racing's true greats. Books are $20 at the signing, $25 thereafter . . . Veteran agent and handicapping guru Richie Silverstein will be Tom Quigley’s guest at his seminar Saturday in the East Paddock Gardens starting at 11:30 a.m.

Santa Anita Statistics

(Current through Thursday, April 11)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Rafael Bejarano 318 82 58 36 26% $4,146,244
Edwin Maldonado 352 56 41 50 16% $2,193,018
Garrett Gomez 209 50 34 23 24% $3,143,088
Joe Talamo 349 45 56 57 13% $2,877,883
Tyler Baze 351 40 38 37 11% $1,572,348
Martin Garcia 227 36 33 29 16% $2,040,195
Victor Espinoza 171 32 18 23 19% $1,476,030
Julien Leparoux 206 28 31 18 14% $1,739,828
Kevin Krigger 156 24 20 15 15% $1,251,664
Martin Pedroza 151 20 17 23 13% $746,664
Agapito Delgadillo 140 17 16 21 12% $547,975
Gary Stevens 94 14 23 14 15% $1,110,164
Mario Gutierrez 149 13 22 25 9% $672,608
Mike Smith 78 13 12 14 17% $1,484,244
Orlando Mojica 176 11 18 25 6% $537,158

Trainer Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% Money Won
Bob Baffert 167 36 30 18 22% $3,449,020
Jerry Hollendorfer 111 33 22 14 30% $1,972,716
Doug O'Neill 233 32 41 32 14% $2,063,212
John Sadler 195 29 37 30 15% $1,647,123
Peter Miller 105 18 17 15 17% $929,566
Mike Mitchell 73 16 12 7 22% $611,084
Richard Mandella 53 15 12 3 28% $1,188,562
Mike Puype 102 14 10 15 14% $713,283
Jorge Gutierrez 68 13 9 15 19% $438,244
Julio Canani 53 13 5 5 25% $451,560
William Spawr 50 11 12 6 22% $319,480
Mark Glatt 81 10 9 9 12% $366,140
John Shirreffs 44 10 7 4 23% $642,938
Jeff Bonde 38 10 5 6 26% $402,250
Steve Knapp 54 10 2 10 19% $267,610