Victor Espinoza has ridden Teddy’s Promise twice, winning each time, first in an overnight race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 15 at odds of 11-10, then in the Grade I La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 31 at 16-1.
It seems like yesterday Espinoza was winning the Kentucky Derby on War Emblem, but it was 2002. Now 39, the native of Mexico is enjoying a resurgence under the guidance of agent Brad Pegram, who also represents Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith.
Through 18 days of Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet, Espinoza was tied for third in the standings with 13 victories and among the leaders in win percentage at 18.
Next Saturday, Espinoza seeks win No. 3 on Teddy’s Promise in the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Monica Stakes for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs.
“It looks like the difference has been the rider,” Espinoza said, laughing. “Seriously, she’s really nice. The first time I rode her, she hadn’t run for a while and she ran a big race, although I really don’t think Hollywood Park is her track.
“But with the heart she shows and the way she ran, it was very impressive. I really liked her in the La Brea. She ran unbelievable that day and I think she’s still improving. She’s getting better and better. In past races, she was on the lead, but I think Ron’s figured out that she’s better coming from off the pace. He’s done an unbelievable job with her.”
Ron would be Ron Ellis, who trains Teddy’s Promise for owner/breeders Ted and Judy Nichols of Oceanside, California.
“You don’t want to fight her or take too much hold,” Espinoza continued. “Ron told me to get her to relax and she’ll be a much better filly, and that’s what’s happened. Her last three races (all wins), she relaxed and finished unbelievable.”
As for Espinoza, he keeps on rolling.
“I’m always happy,” he said, “as long as I’m safe and healthy so I can ride horses, and trying to win races.”
Probable for the Santa Monica: Beat the Blues, Miguel Mena; Home Sweet Aspen, Joel Rosario; Rumor, Mike Smith; She’s Cheeky, no rider; Sugarinthemorning, Rafael Bejarano; and Teddy’s Promise, Espinoza.
Home Sweet Aspen worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Sunday in 1:13 for John Sadler.
BEAT THE BLUES TO SHIP IN FOR SANTA MONICA STAKES
Beat the Blues, an East Coast-based mare that has won half of her 16 career starts, will ship to Santa Anita for next Saturday’s Grade I Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs.
“She’s booked on a flight Tuesday,” trainer Bret Calhoun said by phone Sunday morning.
A Florida-bred mare by Great Pyramid, Beat the Blues has won her last two starts against lesser company at Churchill Downs and the Fair Grounds, respectively. The Santa Monica would be her first Grade I start. Calhoun said regular rider Miguel Mena would be in to ride.
CARACORTADO SET FOR SENSATIONAL STAR; AMAZOMBIE EYES SAN CARLOS
A potential showdown between Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie and electrifying Grade III Daytona Stakes winner Caracortado in next Saturday’s Sensational Star Stakes was scotched Sunday morning when Bill Spawr said he would “look around the country” for a race for Amazombie, who was scratched from Saturday’s Palos Verdes Stakes, and if there were no suitable races, he would run in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 25.
“I’m glad we didn’t run (in the Palos Verdes),’ Spawr said Sunday morning. “We’ll look around the country for a race, but the plan now is to run in the San Carlos.”
Amazombie, who has not run since winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5, galloped a mile Sunday. Caracortado galloped a mile and five-eighths for trainer Mike Machowsky.
The field for the Sensational Star: Luckaruck, Hector Berrios; Ain’t No Other, Martin Garcia; Tamarack Smarty, David Flores; Compari, Mike Smith; Caracortado, Rafael Bejarano; My Summer Slew, Alonso Quinonez; Mega Heat, Joe Talamo; and Red Defense, Joel Rosario.
LUCK HORSES LEARN THEIR ROLES FROM MATT CHEW FOR HBO SERIES
Actors aren’t the only ones who have to learn their lines for LUCK. Horses do, too, in a manner of speaking.
That assignment is in the capable hands of Matt Chew, official trainer for the 50 LUCK horses participating in the HBO original series that was filmed largely at Santa Anita. The series premiere of LUCK airs on HBO next Sunday at 9 p.m.
“When horses are out in the wild, they’re naturally herd animals, and they run as a herd and tend to bunch as a herd,” said Chew, who also operates a public stable.
“In racing, we tend to treat horses as individuals, because we need them to respond to the rider’s request when it comes time to leave the pack. But in LUCK, we’re trying to re-instill the herd instinct, allowing them to come back to that and encouraging it, because for filming, it looks a lot better when they’re in a tight group.
“Because it’s a natural tendency for horses to want to be a part of a herd, most adapt to it very well. We have a couple individuals that have been taught to be race horses; we’re not going to get that out of their system. We’ll just have to adapt to it. But of the 50 horses, I’d say 45 of them have adapted to it real well.”
SANTA ANITA, GULFSTREAM TEAM FOR $250,000 GUARANTEED ‘LUCK’ PICK SIX
Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park will celebrate the HBO series LUCK with a special Pick Six wager on Sunshine Millions Day next Saturday. The one dollar minimum wager will have a guaranteed pool of $250,000 and will feature three races from Santa Anita and three from Gulfstream Park. HBO’s LUCK, the highly anticipated racetrack-themed series based at Santa Anita and starring Dustin Hoffman will premier the following night, next Sunday, Jan. 29.
First post time on Sunshine Millions Day is 12 noon. The LUCK Pick Six will begin at approximately 1:10 p.m. with Gulfstream’s eighth race. It will conclude with Santa Anita’s sixth race, which will be run at approximately 2:37 p.m. All six races will be stakes races.
“The Stronach Group is very proud of the fact the Sunshine Millions, which was initiated in 2003, has become one of our most popular signature events here at Santa Anita,” said George Haines, Santa Anita President. “LUCK has the potential to expose thousands of new fans to our sport and to Santa Anita and we believe this wager is going to help draw attention throughout the country.
“The LUCK Pick Six will start at Gulfstream with their eighth race and from there we’ll be alternating with Gulfstream every other race. We’re looking forward to welcoming many of the actors associated with LUCK throughout the day in the winner’s circle and at other ancillary locations throughout the track. The LUCK Pick Six is a great way to get people excited about Sunshine Millions Day and to introduce a new crowd to The Great Race Place,” Haines added.
In addition to a one dollar minimum wager, the LUCK Pick Six will also offer a mandatory payout, with no carryover provision. In the event of a Santa Anita Pick Six carryover on Friday, Jan. 27, all Pick Six monies would be carried over to Sunday, Jan. 29. The LUCK Pick Six will be televised on HRTV and at http://www.facebook.com/LUCKHBO.
CONFIDENCE, EMOTIONAL BALANCE PUT ROSARIO ON TOP
With four wins Saturday, Joel Rosario broke a tie with Rafael Bejarano to take an undisputed lead in Santa Anita’s jockey standings, 20-16, through 18 racing days.
Good horses and a good agent contribute to the success of the 27-year-old Rosario, a native of the Dominican Republic, but an intangible is a major factor, too.
“He’s been here two years now and he’s adapted well,” said Rosario’s agent, Ron Ebanks. “He’s much more comfortable with the language, and the people support him so strongly that it gives him so much more confidence, and confidence is crucial in any sport.
“We were kind of in a bit of a struggle before yesterday’s four-bagger, but we were still in the lead. Overall, we’re having a great meet. A lot of things came together yesterday and it was good that we were able to get a stay (putting a five-day suspension on hold, enabling Rosario to continue riding).
“But Joel’s confidence level is something that just carries him. You never see him rattled, you never see him upset. He doesn’t get down very much, whereas a lot of riders I’ve had show big emotional swings. He stays pretty even-keeled and that’s a huge advantage to a young rider.”
FINISH LINES: Probable for next Saturday’s Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles: Charm the Maker, Rafael Bejarano; Coup de Couer, Joel Rosario; Eden’s Moon, Martin Garcia; and Killer Graces, Joe Talamo . . . Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Setsuko worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track in 1:25.20 for Richard Mandella . . . San Carlos Stakes candidate Sway Away worked four furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Sunday in 47.80 for Jeff Bonde, while 2010 Norfolk Stakes winner Jaycito worked six furlongs handily from the gate in 1:12.20 for Bob Baffert . . . One Magical Girl, who finished fourth in today’s first race, is owned by Tim Mickelson, brother of pro golfing great Phil Mickelson . . . Producer/songwriter/musician Keith Harris, who has been associated with mega-acts such as Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, will.i.am, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, John Legend, Earth Wind and Fire and Sergio Mendes among many others, will visit Santa Anita on Sunshine Millions Day next Saturday . . . Going into Sunday’s races, 27 players remained alive in Santa Anita’s on line handicapping contest, ShowVivor.