Trainer Steve Asmussen's Tapizar, regarded by many as the West Coast's preeminent 3-year-old, will be solidly favored to enhance that judgment Saturday among eight entrants in Santa Anita's 73rd running of the Grade II, $250,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.
The Lewis, named for the immensely popular owner/breeder who passed away in 2006, was run as the Santa Catalina Stakes prior to 2007, and has produced five of the last 16 winners of the Santa Anita Derby.
"I'm blessed to have him," said Asmussen, a winner of 504 races last year."He's a tremendously talented horse."
Tapizar comes into the Lewis with earnings of $105,632 from four starts, all route races, for Winchell Thoroughbreds. It took three races before the son of hot young stallion Tapit broke his maiden by 10 ½ lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. One of his earlier races was marred when Tapizar tossed his rider. Garrett Gomez, aboard for the commanding win in the Sham, will be back atop Tapizar.
None of Tapizar's opponents appears to be of his caliber. Grade I winner Comma to the Top was entered by trainer Peter Miller, but only as a contingency measure, as the 123-pound high weight is expected to run instead in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.
The complete field for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, from the rail out, is: Wegner (jockey: Rafael Bejarano, weight: 118); Anthony's Cross (Joel Rosario, 118); Comma to the Top (Corey Nakatani, 123); Tapizar (Garrett Gomez, 120); Ten Devils (Joseph Talamo, 118); Riveting Reason (Victor Espinoza, 118); Quail Hill (Martin Pedroza, 118); and Thirtyfirststreet (Patrick Valenzuela).
On Saturday, Santa Anita also presents the 69th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The Santa Maria marks the return of defending champion St Trinians among its seven entrants.
In capturing the 2010 Santa Maria by 1 ¾ lengths over Life Is Sweet, St Trinians won her fourth straight race on U.S. soil after being imported from Great Britain by trainer Mike Mitchell on behalf of owners Daniel Capen and Laura Chavers. The win was impressive enough for the bay mare to warrant 3-1 favoritism in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap.
St Trinians wound up sixth in the March 6 Big 'Cap. She subsequently went to the sidelines, but returned at full strength to give the mighty Zenyatta a terrific scare when beaten by one-half length in the Grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 13. Again, she went to the sidelines when, according to Mitchell, she became body sore.
"I'm very pleased with her works," Mitchell said of St Trinians' comeback preparations at the age of six."She's had a nice break." Joe Talamo will take over the reins of the British-bred who has earned $308,587 from a career record of 7-1-3 in 13 starts.
The opposition for St Trinians in the Santa Maria includes Zardana, the 7-year-old mare who made a name for herself by upsetting 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Handicap last March 20 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The Brazilian-bred mare, trained by John Shirreffs for Arnold Zetcher, will be seeking her first win in five starts since stinging Rachel Alexandra at odds of 9-1. Victor Espinoza, who rode Zardana to a pair of stakes wins in 2009, has the mount. He was aboard when Zardana finished fourth, 4 ¾ lengths behind St Trinians, in last year's Santa Maria.
The complete field for the Santa Maria Handicap, in post position order, is: St Trinians (jockey: Joe Talamo, weight: 120); Vision in Gold (Joel Rosario, 118); Washington Bridge (Raphael Bejarano, 123); Miss Match Garrett Gomez, 118); Zardana (Victor Espinoza, 118); Mona de Momma (Alonso Quinonez, 118); and It Tiz (David Flores, 118).
FUTURITY WINNER COMMA TO THE TOP HEADS SEVEN IN EL CAMINO REAL DERBY
Last year's Grade I CashCall Futurity winner Comma to the Top will be the horse to beat when he takes on six foes in Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif.
Northern California's premier event for Triple Crown hopefuls, the El Camino Real Derby will be run at 1 1/8-miles on Golden Gate Fields' synthetic Tapeta racing surface.
Southern California-based Comma to the Top has won five straight races, a streak that began when trainer Peter Miller sent the gelding to Golden Gate Fields for a $40,000 starter allowance race. Comma to the Top won that six-furlong sprint by four lengths and three weeks later returned to the Bay Area to win a six-furlong allowance race by six lengths.
Comma to the Top followed up his Bay Area victories with a stakes hat trick at Hollywood Park, where he captured the Real Quiet Stakes (a 1 1/16-mile test on the synthetic Cushion Track surface), the Grade III Generous Stakes (a one-mile turf race), and the Grade I CashCall Futurity (a 1 1/16-mile race on Cushion Track).
Comma to the Top, who has six wins and a second in 10 career starts and $551,600 in earnings, will be ridden in the El Camino Real Derby by Corey Nakatani.
The top local hope is Positive Response. The William E. Morey trainee has four victories and a third in six career starts and enters the El Camino Real Derby with a three-race winning streak at Golden Gate Fields. Prior to winning the 1 1/16-mile California Derby, Positive Response won the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes and a one-mile starter allowance race. All three races were recorded on the Tapeta surface.
Positive Response began his career in Canada and was purchased by Morey for $75,000 after he broke his maiden in his second start at Woodbine. Since joining the Morey barn, Positive Response has earned $116,880 for the trainer and his ownership partners, Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman and Ray Pagano.
Frenchman Julien Couton, who is second to Russell Baze in the jockey standings at the current Golden Gate Fields meeting, guided Positive Response to his Gold Rush and California Derby victories and will be back in the irons Saturday.
Baze, who has won the El Camino Real Derby a record seven times, will seek an eighth victory in the race with Silver Medallion. The Steve Asmussen trainee is coming off a victory in the Eddie Logan Stakes, a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita. Silver Medallion, who has two wins and a second in five career starts, will be Asmussen's first starter at Golden Gate Fields.
The El Camino Real Derby field also features Jakesam, Anthony's Cross, Bluegrass Reward, and Formula Gold.
BREEDERS' CUP TURF SPRINT CHAMPION CHAMBERLAIN BRIDGE TO RUN AT SAM HOUSTON SATURDAY
In Saturday night's $75,000 RailSplitter Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, fans will be treated to the return of 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge, who will ship in from Fair Grounds for Saturday's 5-furlong grass event.
Owned by Carl Moore Management LLC, the 7-year-old son of War Chant is an extraordinary turf specialist, winning eight of his 13 starts sprinting. Last year, he won three consecutive stakes in Illinois and Pennsylvania before scoring the biggest victory in his career, the Grade II, $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Calhoun and Moore had been searching for a prep race for Chamberlain Bridge, who will ship to Dubai for $1 million Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse on March 26.
"We have gone back and forth with the weather," said Calhoun from his Fair Grounds barn. "The Fair Grounds weather has been so volatile; we decided that shipping to Houston was our best option. Houston has a nice turf course, which was definitely part of the lure."
The complete field, from the rail out, is: Forestry Gold (jockey: Alfredo Contreras); Goldzar (Shane Sellers); Truly Lucky (Quincy Hamilton); Hollywood Ice (Chris Landeros); Chamberlain Bridge (Jamie Theriot); Antioch Diamond (Eguard Tejera); Pacific Tsunami (Bobby Walker, Jr.); Thunder Pants (Paul Nolan); Midnight Cabinet (Larry Taylor; and Future Covenant (Miguel Mena.)
RACING TO HISTORY
Feb. 10, 1998: Undefeated Two-Year-Old Champion Favorite Trick was named 1997 Horse of the Year.
Feb. 10, 2008: Jockey Edgar Prado gained the 6,000th win of his career when he guided Sumphin to victory in the 6th race at Gulfstream Park. Prado became the 16th jockey in history to win 6,000 races.
Feb. 11, 1933: The Jockey Club released data showing that as of 1932, the U.S. had surpassed Great Britain and Ireland in foal production for the first time, to become the world's leading producer of Thoroughbreds.
Feb. 12, 1981: Julie Krone rode her first career winner, a $3,500 claimer named Lord Farkle, in the sixth race at Tampa Bay Downs.
Feb. 14, 1966: Buckpasser suffered the only defeat of his three-year- old season when he finished second in a non-betting race, the Black Caesar Purse, at Hialeah. He went on to post 13 consecutive victories in 1966 (12 of them in stakes races), but was unable to compete in any of the Triple Crown races because of a hoof injury.
Feb. 14, 1990: Ladbroke at Golden Gate Fields inaugurated co-pooling of its wagers with those of a sister organization, Ladbroke Racing Wyoming. The co-pooling of wagers across state lines, made possible by California legislation that had gone into effect Jan. 1, was a first in U.S. racing.
Feb. 14, 2003: Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden, the only horseman to both ride (Count Fleet) and train (Majestic Prince) a Kentucky Derby winner, died at age 96.
Feb. 15, 1974: Future Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew was foaled at White Horse Acres, Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 16, 1891: At the urging of Pierre Lorillard, the Board of Control, composed of seven representatives of the racing industry, was formed to govern Thoroughbred racing. The Board's powers extended to matters of licensing; allotment of racing dates; and the regulation of purse payments. The Board, as the governing body for racing, was succeeded by The Jockey Club, formed in 1894.
Feb. 16, 1999: Jockey Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win 3,500 races, taking the third race at the Fair Grounds.
Feb. 16, 2005: Jockey Calvin Borel picked up his 4,000th career winner aboard Jet Angel in the third race at Oaklawn Park.
Feb. 16, 2007: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers Association announced the creation of a new Eclipse Award for Champion Filly or Mare Sprinter.
Feb. 17, 1985: Laffit Pincay Jr. registered his 6,000th career win, aboard Doria's Delight in the fifth race at Santa Anita Park.
Feb. 22, 1969: Barbara Jo Rubin became the first woman jockey to win a parimutuel race in America when she rode Cohesion to victory at Charles Town.
Feb. 22, 2003: Xtra Heat won the Barbara Fritchie Handicap and became the leading stakes-winning filly of all time with 25 stakes victories.
Feb. 23, 1935: Seven-year-old Azucar, a former steeplechaser, won the inaugural Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park.
WEEKEND STAKES RACES (unrestricted stakes in N.A. worth $75,000 and up)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12
Robert B. Lewis Stakes, 3yo, $250,000, Grade II, 1 1-8M, Santa Anita Park
Sam F. Davis Stakes, 3yo, $225,000, Grade III, 1 1-16M, Tampa Bay Downs
El Camino Real Derby, 3yo, $200,000, Grade III, 1 1-8M, Golden Gate Fields
Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, 4&up, $150,000, Grade II, 7F, Gulfstream Park
Santa Maria Stakes, 4&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade II, 1 1-16M, Santa Anita Park
Endeavor Stakes, 4&up (f&m), $125,000, Grade III, 1 1-16M (T), Tampa Bay Downs
Florida Oaks, 3yo fillies, $100,000, 1 1-16M (T), Tampa Bay Downs
Martha Washington Stakes, 3yo fillies, $75,000, 1M, Oaklawn Park
Rail Splitter Stakes, 4&up, $75,000, 5F (T), Sam Houston Race Park
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13
La Canada Stakes, 4yo fillies, $150,000, Grade II, 1 1-8M, Santa Anita Park
Hurricane Bertie Stakes, 4&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade III, 6 1-2F, Gulfstream Park
Essex Handicap, 4&up, $100,000, 1 1-16M, Oaklawn Park