• TRAINER MISSES $112 WINNER, MENTOR PACO GONZALEZ RETIRES
• FLORES KEEN ON UPBEAT MOOD IN MONDAY’S HOLIDAY FEATURE
Winding Way’s victory in the Rancho Bernardo Handicap had to be seen to be believed.
She hopped at the start and appeared hopelessly beaten in the 6 ½-furlong race, but
closed furiously under Rafael Bejarano to win by a half-length. You only see horses run like that in a Marx Brothers movie.
Winding Way returns Sunday at Santa Anita in the inaugural running of the $100,000 L.A. Woman, a 6 ½-furlong test for fillies and mares age 3 and up.
Trainer Carla Gaines will take another winning effort, of course, but hopefully without the trepidation Winding Way wrought in the Rancho Bernardo.
“I had so much confidence in her, initially I thought, ‘Oh, they’re probably going to go so fast early that maybe she can catch them’,” Gaines said, reflecting on the Rancho Bernardo. “I was hoping they might go in 21 and change or 22 flat (for the first quarter). They went 22 and change and I then I thought, ‘Well, I hope I hit the board.’ So it was pretty amazing.”
Winding Way won her first two starts by wide margins, leading throughout. Then came the Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar on Aug. 19.
“Honestly, I’ve never really worried about her rating,” Gaines said. “She’s always rated beautifully in the mornings. In her previous races, she’s always been the fastest. She’s not a rank horse on the lead. Her last race was phenomenal. Let’s hope she repeats it.”
The field for the L.A. Woman: Rumor, Mike Smith, 8-5; Winding Way, Rafael Bejarano, 2-5; Great Hot, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; and Lady of Fifty, Martin Garcia, 15-1.
GUTIERREZ DIDN’T BET ON 55-1 WINNER THAT GAVE BAZE FIRST WIN BACK
Jorge Gutierrez didn’t have enough conviction to bet on his starter in yesterday’s sixth race, $112.60 winner Warren’s Sugarbuzz, which gave jockey Tyler Baze his first victory after more than a year’s absence.
Had he gone with his conscience and adhered to the teachings of his recently retired mentor, the highly successful, low-profile Paco Gonzalez, Gutierrez might have cashed a few tickets.
“I was going to bet,” the 47-year-old native of Mexico City said Saturday morning, fresh from capturing his first-ever training crown at the recent Fairplex Park meet, where he won six races. “I loved the filly. I knew there were two or three horses in the race that were going to be tough, but I figured she might hit the board or get a piece of it.
“I get the PP’s (past performances) on my phone on the Internet but when I started reading all the things in the Racing Form, it convinced me not to bet on my own horse.”
Oh ye of little faith. His lack of confidence likely triggered a Pick Six carryover of $36,436 into Saturday’s races.
Gutierrez worked eight years for the 67-year-old Gonzalez, who enjoyed remarkable success in the 1990s and early 2000s as private trainer for John Toffan and the late Trudy McCaffery with the likes of stakes winners such as Santa Anita Derby winners Free House and Came Home; Bagshot, A.P. Assay, Bien Bien, Pacific Squall and Del Mar Dennis.
“Paco retired about two weeks ago,” said Gutierrez, who has 42 horses in training, “not all for Mr. Warren. I’m going public at the end of the month and I’ve got a couple horses already for John Toffan.”
Gutierrez expects Warren’s Sugarbuzz to hold her form as she stretches out.
“She needs to go longer, and she didn’t get a hold of the synthetic surfaces at Hollywood and Del Mar,” said Gutierrez, who has been training on his own for 12 years. “When she got to Pomona, she was able to get a hold of the track, we put blinkers on, she focused more and that made a difference.”
The 2-year-old California-bred filly owned by Gutierrez’s principal client, Benjamin Warren, broke her maiden in a $32,000 claiming race going six furlongs at Fairplex on Sept. 13.
In Friday’s starter allowance race at six furlongs, Warren’s Sugarbuzz came from just off the pace to win by three-quarters of a length while breaking from the rail.
“She really handled this track well,” Gutierrez said. “I think she’s going to be a better two-turn horse. She’s out of a good Thunder Gulch mare (Warren’s Thunder). Being on the dirt made a difference, too.”
Baze was working horses Saturday morning, but took time to reflect on his lengthy absence and winning on his second mount back.
“It was good to win on a longshot,” said Baze, who turns 30 on Oct. 19. “Any horse, for that matter. I went through an emotional roller coaster during my time away, but it’s nice to be back in the game.
“There were a lot of issues that I needed to take care of that just took time. I did what I had to do and I’m back and ready to roll.”
POSITION IMPORTANT FOR UPBEAT MOOD IN MONDAY’S FEATURE
An outside post compromised Upbeat Mood’s in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar on Sept. 3, when the 2-year-old filly finished fifth, beaten only a length.
David Flores expects a vastly improved performance from the Mike Puype-trained filly when she runs in Monday’s inaugural Surfer Girl, thanks to a better draw and the addition of blinkers.
“I had the outside (10) post that day and she didn’t break that well,” Flores said. “I had to drop in and make one run. At the end she was making up a lot of ground but it was too much for her to do.
“They’re putting blinkers on her for the first time now, so hopefully that will make her break better from the gate and get a better position. Position means a lot.”
The field for the Surfer Girl, the ninth of 10 races: Somethingabouther, Victor Espinoza; Egyptian Femme, Aaron Gryder; Upbeat Mood, Flores; Wishing Gate, Garrett Gomez; Bares Tripper, Martin Pedroza; Flashy Ways, Joe Talamo; and Truly Marie, Martin Garcia.
A FIRST FOR SADLER: IOWA-BRED IN TODAY’S TIM CONWAY STAKES
John Sadler has trained nearly 2,000 winners in his career of more than three
decades, but when he saddles 7-5 morning line favorite Scherer Magic in today’s inaugural Tim Conway Stakes it will mark a first.
“Not that I know of,” Sadler said when asked if he’d ever trained an Iowa-bred in his
career that began in 1978. “We claimed him at Hollywood last summer first out. We liked the way he was working and it was kind of a roll the dice-type claim. He won easy and it turned out to be very good for us.
“We’re adding small blinkers, just to sharpen him up a little bit. He’s got good form, but I don’t think he really loved Del Mar. I think he’ll like this track even better.”