TEAM O’NEILL HOPES FOR ANOTHER WILD RIDE IN 2013

When Dennis O’Neill last encamped at Santa Anita, it was three weeks before the

Kentucky Derby. At that time, Dennis, brother of trainer Doug O’Neill, had wittingly or “un” suggested that I’ll Have Another had as much chance as the next horse to win the Run for the Roses, which he ultimately did. He would go on to capture not only the Preakness but the hearts of America in his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

An 11th-hour tendon injury dashed those aspirations under a pall of disappointment, and I’ll Have Another, who registered an upset in the Santa Anita Derby before doing it again in the Kentucky Derby, was retired to stud in Japan.

Dennis sounded like the Nostradamus of racing in a pre-Kentucky Derby interview that ran in Santa Anita’s stable notes last April 21: “The thing I like best about him (I’ll Have Another) is he has tactical speed. He makes his own trip. He’s not a horse that’s going to sit back and have to weave his way through. He’s not a horse that has to be on the lead.

“He just needs to break and settle right in behind. He really is a classic type of horse in the sense that he’s going to make his own trip and if he’s good enough, he’s going to win.”

Team O’Neill’s wild ride with I’ll Have Another is now indelibly etched in racing lore, but

hopes of another dream come true rest on the shoulders of their promising two-year-olds.

“When you look back, you try to be optimistic that we won the Derby and the Preakness, which is pretty incredible,” Dennis reflected. “But on the pessimistic side, we were 4-5 to win the Triple Crown, so that’s tough to swallow.

“But it was an incredible run, an incredible run. I’ll Have Another has a great home. We see videos of him every week and we’re planning to see him next year in Japan, and we’ll try to do it all over again. That’s what it’s all about.

“We’re excited about Know More, who runs in the FrontRunner (formerly the Norfolk) at Santa Anita a week from Saturday, and Goldencents, who runs in the Champagne (Grade I, $400,000 at Belmont Park on Oct. 6). Horses with that kind of promise keep you going.”

Know More is owned by J. Paul Reddam, who owned I’ll Have Another. Garrett Gomez has the mount in the FrontRunner. The bay colt won the Grade II Best Pal at Del Mar in his first start. Kevin Krigger is back on Goldencents in the Champagne.

A Daily Racing Form story has Know More at 60-1 in the first Kentucky Derby futures wagering posted by John Avello, director of the race and sports book at the Wynn Las Vegas.


AMAZOMBIE STRONGER THAN EVER IN DEFENSE OF BC SPRINT TITLE

Amazombie is scheduled to work six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday morning as last year’s champion sprinter prepares for the inaugural Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 6. The six furlong “Win and You’re In” race formerly was run as the Ancient Title Stakes.

“He’s better than he ever was,” trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr said of the California-bred son of Northern Afleet, who is also owned by Tom Sanford. “It’s scary. He’s stronger than he was. If he wins or runs well in the Sprint, it’s on to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The Grade I, $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint, won by Amazombie last year at Churchill Downs, will be decided this year at Santa Anita, Amazombie’s home track, on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Spawr said Amazombie would have one more work after tomorrow, probably “at six furlongs next Friday or Saturday.”

Amazombie’s fan base, meanwhile, is becoming Zenyatta-esque. “I was at a restaurant in Kentucky when I was down there for the Keeneland Sales,” Spawr said. “The waitress said Amazombie was her favorite horse, and when I told her I was his trainer, she couldn’t believe it.”

It’s a small world.

In other Santa Anita Sprint Championship news:

Peter Miller, fresh from winning the Del Mar training championship, said the stakes-winning filly Reneesgotzip would run in the race but Comma to the Top would pass in favor of the inaugural Eddie D at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf on opening day next Friday.


WORKERS OUT EN MASSE AS OPENING NEARS NEXT FRIDAY

More than 100 horses worked at Santa Anita on another in a seemingly unending skein of sun-drenched mornings, a week before the historic venue starts its 24-day Autumn Meet highlighted by the 29th Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 2 and 3.

Among the 124 recorded works, including three on the training track, were 27 on the turf. Brother Francis, third in the Del Mar Derby, went six furlongs under Victor Espinoza in 1:17.

“He’ll probably run in the Eddie D (at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf on opening day),” trainer Jim Cassidy said, “but our long-range goal is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Nov. 3).”

The 8-year-old California Flag, winner of the 2009 BC Turf Sprint, worked six furlongs on grass in a bullet 1:14.40 for Brian Koriner.

Ninety-four works were recorded on the main track, including those by the Neil Drysdale-trained Amani, five furlongs in 1:00.60 for the Zenyatta Stakes next Saturday; John Scott, trained by Carla Gaines, also five furlongs in 1:01.60 for the Awesome Again Stakes the same day; the Peter Miller-trained Miss Empire, six furlongs in 1:15 for the Chandelier Stakes next Saturday; and Beholder, conditioned by Richard Mandella, seven furlongs in 1:26.60 for the FrontRunner Stakes the same day.


FINISH LINES: Eddie Delahoussaye, who will be on hand opening day for the inaugural Eddie D Stakes, celebrated his 61st birthday today . . . Edwin Maldonado is in a good position to dethrone Martin Pedroza as Fairplex Park’s riding king after a run of 13 straight years. The 29-year-old Maldonado, whose agent is veteran Vic Lipton, held an 18-13 lead over Pedroza through Thursday, with three racing days remaining. Pedroza has won the crown at the Pomona track from 1999 through 2011. “My agent has been my mentor,” said the 29-year-old native of Puerto Rico, who tacks 117 pounds. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we’d be where we’re at right now. Martin is a great rider and I’m really happy to be in a spot to win the title. Hopefully, my success at Fairplex will carry over to Santa Anita and I’ll continue to get good opportunities.” . . . Vann Belvoir is looking forward to his second season at Santa Anita. The affable 38-year-old trainer, stationed mainly in the Northwest before coming to Southern California, has 35 head on hand for the meet. “We’re really happy here,” Belvoir said. “In fact, my wife (Sauci) and I are looking to buy a home here, I don’t have any high quality horses at the moment, but I have good owners and we’re trying to upgrade our stock.” . . . Rosie Ybarra, popular hostess at Clockers’ Corner, begins her 32nd stand at the popular and picturesque Santa Anita venue this meet.