With six stakes wins the first two weeks of the Santa Anita meet that began last Dec. 26, Garrett Gomez was off to a flying start. Fate stepped in on Jan. 8 when Gomez suffered a broken left heel in a freak paddock accident, forcing him to miss 11 weeks of action.
Still among the leaders this meet with six stakes wins, the 40-year-old Gomez hopes to make it No. 7 when he rides Reneesgotzip in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.
Reneesgotzip incurred her first defeat last out when she was an eventful second to Eden’s Moon in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on March 3.
The field for the Oaks: Eden’s Moon, Martin Garcia, 3-5; Reneesgotzip, Garrett Gomez, 6-5; Willa B Awesome, Martin Pedroza, 8-1; Bella’s Fantasy, Mike Smith, 15-1; and Conjure the Spirit, Joel Rosario, 15-1.
PROMISING MAIDEN TACKLES WINNERS IN SANTA ANITA DERBY
A “maiden,” in racing parlance, is a horse that has never won a race. A Grade I stakes is the apex in class, attracting the game’s best runners.
Thus it will be somewhat quixotic when trainer Jim Cassidy runs the maiden Brother Francis in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7. The nine-furlong classic is the West Coast’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
In four starts, Brother Francis has two seconds and two thirds, one second coming in the Grade III Hollywood Prevue Stakes and a close third registered behind Santa Anita Derby contender Liaison in the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last Dec. 17.
Owned and bred by Norman Cheng of San Gabriel, Brother Francis was third by a head after leading into the stretch on March 10, in a one-mile maiden allowance race on turf.
“He’s training really well,” Cassidy said of the Kentucky-bred son of Lion Heart, who was second in the 2004 Preakness. “He’s been so close in all his races, it’d be a shame not to run him. We tried to break his maiden last time, but a bit of a slow break cost us the race. Other than that, he ran great. I think the mile and an eighth of the Santa Anita Derby will suit him.”
Take it as a plus that agent Tony Matos has booked two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez to ride Brother Francis.
“I don’t look at the fact that he’s a maiden,” said Matos, who has represented Hall of Fame greats such as Angel Cordero Jr., Kent Desormeaux and Laffit Pincay Jr. during a span in which they won the Kentucky Derby five times: with Cannonade, Bold Forbes (Cordero), Real Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasus (Desormeaux) and Swale (Pincay). Matos also was agent for Victor Espinoza for 15 years. They won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 on War Emblem.
“I look at the horses he’s been running with and how he’s been running,” Matos said. “He’s a fresh horse and a horse that‘s got a chance to move forward.”
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another worked seven furlongs Friday on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in 1:26.
“It was exactly what we wanted,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the Flower Alley colt owned by J. Paul Reddam. “He galloped out a mile in 1:39 and change and cooled out fine. We’re excited about running next Saturday.”
At Santa Anita, San Pedro Stakes winner Midnight Transfer worked six furlongs under Mike Smith in a bullet 1:11.80 for Carla Gaines.
Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez; Blueskiesnrainbows; Baby Blake; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez; Longview Drive; Paynter; and Senor Rain.
Also on Santa Anita Derby Day, there will be a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4, and next Saturday, March 31, Santa Anita Oaks Day, there will be a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 presented by DRF TicketMaker.
TIM CONWAY JR. HOSTS SANTA ANITA DERBY DRAW BREAKFAST WEDNESDAY
Top-rated Los Angeles talk show host Tim Conway Jr. will emcee this year’s Santa Anita Derby Draw Breakfast at the track’s FrontRunner Restaurant on Wednesday, April 4. The draw will determine the field for the Grade I, $750,000 Derby to be run Saturday, April 7.
“Tim is a great personal friend and a great friend of Santa Anita,” said Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge. “I guarantee everyone this: we are going to have some fun with the draw on Wednesday.
Tim’s got a great sense of humor and knows the game inside and out. We’ve got some outstanding horses lined up and we want everyone to know they can come out to Santa Anita and have a great time and be a part of what we hope is going to be an unforgettable Derby Day.”
Conway, son of legendary actor/comedian Tim Conway and the host of the “Tim Conway Jr. Show,” on KFI, AM 640, weeknights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., is a regular attendee at The Great Race Place.
“My father told me as a child, ‘Son, one day you’ll be a part of the Santa Anita Derby.’ I thought he meant as an owner!” said Conway. “You gotta love a racetrack that gives out tee shirts the same day they’re running the Westfield Best Dressed Contest. I remember the good old days when they used to call it ‘Fewest Stains Wins.’”
This year marks the 75th running of the Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s premier Kentucky Derby prep, a race that has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners over the years, most recently Giacomo in 2005.
It is expected this year’s Santa Anita Derby, for 3-year-olds to be run at 1 1/8 miles, could attract as many as 10 horses, including the likely favorite Creative Cause, winner of the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 10.
“Along with Creative Cause, we expect to have a very exciting horse named I’ll Have Another, who was an impressive winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes here on Feb. 4,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Racing Rick Hammerle. “Bob Baffert could have three horses in the Derby which is good news and Carla Gaines is definite with Midnight Transfer, who was third in the San Felipe and who won the San Pedro Stakes in January.”
First post time on Santa Anita Derby Day is 12 noon. For dining and seating reservations or additional racing information, visit http://www.santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
HANDSOME RETURN FOR ‘HANDSOME JACK’ IN HANDICAPPING DEBUT
Handicapper “Handsome Jack” turned a handsome profit from his first selections published Thursday on page four of the Los Angeles Times sports section.
“Thursday, Race 5, bet the exacta #7 Nihilist to win with #9 Swingaway to finish second,” wrote Jack. Bingo! Nihilist won at a $7.40 win payoff under leading rider Joel Rosario for trainer John Sadler, while 4-1 chance Swingaway was second under Martin Garcia for trainer Eric Kruljac.
The $1 exacta returned $17.
CREATIVE CAUSE 10-1 IN KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER
Pool 3 of the 2012 Kentucky Derby Future Wager opened today at 9 a.m. and closes Sunday at “3:30 or 4 p.m.” to allow bettors to consider last-minute results of the Louisiana Derby, which has a scheduled post time of 2:55 p.m. (all times Pacific).
Following are the odds of Southern California-based 3-year-olds: Bodemeister, 12-1; Creative Cause, 10-1; I’ll Have Another, 20-1; Liaison, 30-1; Midnight Transfer, 50-1; and Secret Circle, 15-1.
The mutuel field (all others) is the 6-1 favorite, up from 3-1 in Pool 2 and 3-2 in Pool 1.
POTRERO GRANDE NOMINEE WORKS SIX FURLONGS IN 1:13.40
Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday morning in 1:13.40 under jockey Alex Bisono. The 6-year-old California-bred gelding has been nominated to both the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at Santa Anita on April 7 and the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 14.
“We have options,” trainer Bill Spawr said after the work. “The horse is doing well. Where he runs depends on the weather and the track conditions.”
Bisono said Amazombie “relaxed nice and finished strong.”
HRTV'S ‘INSIDE INFORMATION’ AIRS MINE THAT BIRD'S DERBY WIN ON SUNDAY
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby is little more than a month away, and HRTV will take an in-depth retrospective on one of the most stunning Derbys of all-time when its Media Eclipse Award-winning documentary show, Inside Information, premieres Inside Information: 2009 Kentucky Derby on Sunday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m.
The half-hour documentary will offer racing fans a historical look back at the entire field, highlighting the improbable victory by Mine That Bird, a rank outsider in the field who closed strongly, storming up the rail over Churchill Downs' sloppy track to post a shocking win.
The gelding paid $103.20, the second-highest winning price in the race's history. Additionally, Mine That Bird's winning margin was 6 3/4 lengths, the largest in 60 years.
Jockey Calvin Borel's rail-skimming ride aboard Mine That Bird further solidified his place as one of the sport's top riders. Inside Information: 2009 Kentucky Derby will offer new interviews with Borel, Mine That Bird's unassuming trainer, Chip Woolley, as well as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose Pioneerof the Nile finished second in the 2009 Derby.
Also featured in the show are Garrett Gomez (Pioneerof the Nile's jockey), as well as the intriguing story of owner-trainer Tom McCarthy, a former school teacher and principal, who reached the pinnacle of the sport when he started General Quarters, winner of the Bluegrass Stakes, in the 2009 Derby.
PAT’S PARADISE WINS FOR LATE BIG FAN OF SANTA ANITA
Pat’s Paradise, who won the third race Thursday at Golden Gate Fields for owner Dream Racing Stable, happens to be named for someone who was one of Santa Anita Park’s biggest fans.
“David Bloom, who bred Pat’s Paradise, named the horse after Pat Lawyer, who passed away in 2010 after a five-year battle with cancer,” noted Jon White, who makes Santa Anita’s morning line. “Pat absolutely loved Santa Anita. Her favorite race was at Santa Anita, too—the San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Pat not only was a huge racing fan, she was a California owner and breeder, along with her husband, Rick.
“And guess where Rick was when Pat’s Paradise won at Golden Gate? Rick watched the race right here at Santa Anita. After the race, Rick said he hopes the day will come when he sees Pat’s Paradise standing in the Santa Anita winner’s circle.” Pat’s Paradise was guided to his maiden victory Thursday by Russell Baze, the world’s winningest rider.
FINISH LINES: Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Older Male Acclamation worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s turf course Thursday in 1:13.80. “I didn’t want him to go that fast yet,” trainer Don Warren said of the 6-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat, “but it looks like he’s OK.” . . . Multiple graded stakes winner Rail Trip worked his first half-mile on the comeback trail for Ron Ellis, going in 48.80, breezing, on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Friday. Downhill turf specialist Mr Gruff went five furlongs for Ellis in 1:01.80 as the 8-year-old gelding prepares for defense of his title in the Grade III San Simeon Handicap on April 21, while Grade I La Brea Stakes winner Teddy’s Promise went three furlongs in a bullet 35.80, breezing. Ellis has the $70,000 Time to Leave Stakes at Hollywood on May 6 in mind for Teddy’s Promise . . . Joel Rosario leads Rafael Bejarano in purse earnings at Santa Anita this meet, $3,499,342 to $2,964,422, but Bejarano is ahead of Rosario nationally through March 27, $3,417,252 to $3,330,892, placing them third and fourth, respectively . . . Entering Friday’s races, there were 39 players alive in Santa Anita’s popular on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor2 . . . Trainer Ted H. West will be Steve Andersen’s guest on Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:30 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Unlucky seven: Terrify, a 15-1 morning line chance for trainer Steve Knapp in today’s fourth race, has finished seventh seven times in his last 12 races. That won’t happen today. Only six horses were entered in the six furlong race.