Trainer John Shirreffs reported Sunday that Zenyatta’s half-sister, Eblouissante, emerged from her impressive debut win “fine,” and that the striking black filly could return toward the end of the Autumn meet, which concludes Dec. 16.
Asked about the blinkers she wore first time out, Shirreffs explained that he put them on about two months ago. “She’s so curious, we noticed she was watching people walk across the infield,’’ he said.
The headgear obviously achieved its desired effect, as the Bernardini filly was all business Friday, winning by 4 ½ lengths under jockey Corey Nakatani.
HOLLYWOOD DERBY, MATRIARCH FIELDS STARTING TO JELL
A bulging field of 14 sophomores are set to do battle in the Grade I, $250,000 Hollywood Derby, while the Grade I, $250,000 Matriarch is expected to draw nine or 10 fillies and mares. Both races will be Sunday, the final day of the Turf Festival.
Heading the field for the 1 ¼ mile Derby are Grandeur (trainer Jeremy Noseda), Speaking of Which (Dermot Weld) and Smart Ellis (Richard Mandella), the 1-2-3 finishers in the Grade II Twilight Derby on Nov. 2. Garrett Gomez has been confirmed as the rider on Grandeur and Patrick Smullen has been named on Speaking of Which.
Others penciled in are Handsome Mike (Doug O’Neill) and Golden Ticket (Ken McPeek), first and third, respectively, in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby September 22 at Parx, Big Bane Theory (Carla Gaines), Lucky Chappy (Graham Motion), Twilight Eclipse (Thomas Albertrani), Silentio (Gary Mandella), and Unbridled Command (Tom Bush).
Supplemental nominees include General Logan (Motion), Groovin’ Solo (Myung Kwon Cho), All Squared Away (Peter Miller) and Rjwa (Francois Rohaut). Rjwa, a filly, was supplemented for both the Derby and Matriarch, but Rohaut indicated she will start in the Derby with regular rider Thierry Jarnet in the saddle.
Budding star Dayatthespa (Chad Brown), winner of five in a row, including the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland October 13, deserves top billing in the one-mile Matriarch.
Renewing their rivalry will be Summer Soiree (Motion) and Star Billing (John Shirreffs). ‘The former defeated the latter in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in August, 2011, before Star Billing returned the favor two months later with a victory in last year’s Matriarch.
Also slated to run are Emulous (Weld), who captured the 2011 Grade I Coolmore Matron in Ireland, Serena’s Cat Stakes winner Future Generation (Christophe Clement), and Grade II Santa Ana Stakes winner Vamo a Galupiar (Neil Drysdale). Smullen will pilot Emulous.
Supplemental nominees expected to start are Grade II Sands Point Stakes winner Better Lucky (Albertrani), and California bred Tiz Flirtatious (Marty Jones).
The wild card in the Matriarch is Mizdirection (Mike Puype), winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. Puype has been considering the daughter of Mizzen Mast, but a scheduled turf work was called off Sunday morning. Her status remains undetermined.
PAT VALENZUELA TO HAVE KNEE SURGERY
Agent Tom Knust reported that Pat Valenzuela will be taking some time off to have surgery on his right knee.
“He injured the knee at Del Mar,” said Knust, “but, at the time he had Acclamation ready for the Breeders’ Cup, so he put off taking care of it.”
“The problem is, he can’t work horses right now, so he thought it would be the right time to address the issue.”
There is no timetable for his return. Kevin Krigger, the other rider Knust represents, rode Goldencents to victory for trainer Doug O’Neill in the Grade III, $1 million Delta Jackpot Saturday at Delta Downs.
MCCLELLAN CELEBRATES 40 YEARS AS JOCKEY AGENT
When rising superstar Joe Talamo captured the Autumn Santa Anita riding title to break the five-year Southern California reign of Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario, it was a scrapbook-filling moment for the 22-year-old. For his agent, Scotty McClellan, it was just another day at the office.
Jay “Scotty” McClellan, 57, is celebrating his 40th year as a jockey agent. The son of Chick McClellan, longtime agent for Fernando Toro, McClellan started at the age of 17 in 1972, 18 years before Talamo was born. His first rider was Frank Olivares, and at various times through the years represented Robyn Smith,
Marco Castaneda, Ken Skinner, Corey Black, Richard Migliore, David Flores, Darrel McHargue and Alex Solis.
Though he had success with all his riders, his big break came in 1981.
“Doc Giammarino, who owned a horse named The Medic, and Chris McCarron were neighbors and often shared a ride to the track,” recalled McClellan. “Doc would always pick McCarron’s brain and found out that McCarron and his agent Vince (DeGregory) weren’t getting along that well, even though they were the national champions two years running.”
“One morning I was standing at Santa Anita and there was a group of eight or 10 of us in a circle, talking and telling jokes. Doc walked up and had a look on his face like he had info for me. He called me aside and I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to ask, but whatever it is, the answer is yes.’
“He said, ‘Do you know what I’m going to ask you?’ I said ‘I have no idea but by the look on your face, I know it’s good.’ He said, ‘McCarron is going to call you up tonight and ask if you will take his book.’ Would you be interested?”
“I said, ‘Hell, yeah. I also said he’ll never need another agent. And that was the truth. He never had another agent until he retired 21 years later. Chris was a super guy; a hard worker, smart rider and didn’t burn any bridges.”
Through the years, his riders all carried one similar trait; high character.
“You kind of see how guys are before you get them,” McClellan continued. “You know them from their past experiences—whether they’re getting mad at this or that, or yelling at their agents after a race. Those guys aren’t for me. The job is stressful enough dealing with people all the time and trying to get on the right horse.”
After McCarron retired, McClellan had considerable success with Solis, who was leading rider at Betfair Hollywood Park several times. When Solis’ business lessened in 2009, the agent picked up Joe Talamo, then 19 and a promising jockey from Louisiana. Solis fired McClellan and shortly thereafter left California.
“I have no idea why Solis left,” said McClellan. “Maybe he was jealous of Joe, I don’t know. Solis didn’t have as much business as he used to have while Joe had quite a bit building. When riders get older, they don’t have as many barns as they used to ride for, even though mentally, they think they’re the same as they were. It’s not as if Alex wasn’t a good rider, he is. But younger guys come in and take your spot. It makes it harder and harder because even though you work at trying to get them on horses, it doesn’t help.”
“One day he called and said he had to make a change. I said, ‘Fine, good luck.’”
“Talamo’s perfect, a good kid,” explained McClellan. “He works hard and he loves teasing me and kidding around. When anyone comes to me; newspapers, television, publicity, charities, anyone who needs a favor from Joe, he always says yes. He goes out of his way because he believes it’s for the good of the sport.”
Agents are an old school breed. The relationship with their riders is one of the few contracts remaining that are established by a handshake. Jockeys generally earn 10 per cent of purse money and their agents traditionally receive 25 per cent of that income.
Though his dad was a big help. McClellan learned things the old fashioned way. “Somebody can tell you what to do, but like anything else you learn by doing it,’’ he said. “One of the first things you learn is that you can talk until you’re blue in the face to try and get on a horse, but if a guy doesn’t want your rider, he’s not going to put you on.”
After 40 years on the job, McClellan shows no signs of weakening, especially when a youngster like Talamo has the world in front of him.
In case you’re wondering, Scotty is McClellan’s middle name, but one by which he’s always been known. “My legal name is Jay, but I’ve been called Scotty my whole life. When they took roll in school and they called out Jay, it would take me a few moments to realize they were calling on me. They must have thought I was dense or something.”
CLOSING STRIDES—Trainer Bob Baffert is considering Game On Dude for the $250,000 Native Diver Stakes, a Grade III at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion, which will be run December 1. The multiple Grade 1 winner worked a leisurely half mile in 51 1/5 seconds Nov. 13 at Santa Anita November 13th after a seventh place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic 10 days earlier……Recent arrival Goofontheroof was named for Betfair Hollywood Park track announcer Vic Stauffer. Stauffer, who embraces the nickname, suggested the handle. “(Owner-breeder) John Harris sends a list of unnamed babies to about 20 or 30 of us every year,” said Stauffer. “I told him that if he had any runners left over, Goofontheroof might be an idea.” The dark bay or brown son of Lucky J.H. has been sent to Dean Pederson and will begin training shortly……..Awesome Gem, who earned the biggest win of his illustrious career in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup, will be paraded between races Saturday, Nov. 24 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Retired September 21 at age 9, Awesome Gem, who has called Betfair Hollywood Park home for more than six years, will appear between the fourth and fifth races on the second day of the Turf Festival.