Joe Talamo won 43 races, 12 of them stakes, at the recent Del Mar meet, placing the 22-year-old Louisiana native second in the standings behind champion Rafael Bejarano, who won 52.
Talamo and his agent, Scott McClellan, hope to continue riding the crest of success at Santa Anita’s 24-day Breeders’ Cup World Championship run next Friday, Sept. 28. Among Talamo’s scheduled stakes mounts of the five “Win and You’re In” events on Sept. 29 is multiple stakes winner Include Me Out for trainer Ron Ellis in the inaugural Zenyatta Stakes, formerly the Lady’s Secret.
“Winning 12 stakes was phenomenal. He won nine of the last 20, something like that. There was a point where it seemed like everything was clicking, and it goes like that.
“Sometimes it’s the opposite and you can’t win a stake. Joe did very well at the end of Hollywood in stakes and we got to Del Mar and did well the whole meet, but especially the last part when we were just on a roll.”
The departure of leading rider Joel Rosario to the East Coast on a regular basis presents more opportunities for other Southern California-based riders, Talamo high among them.
Skilled and mature beyond his years, Louisiana native Talamo, who will be 23 next Jan. 12, rarely turns down a riding assignment. His upbeat personality is as refreshing as a sea breeze. It’s a winning combination.
“There were days he worked 12 or 13 horses in the morning and rode nine or 10 in the afternoon,” pointed out McClellan, whose clients have included Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron and Alex Solis, who has been on several Hall of Fame ballots but has yet to pass through the august threshold.
“Riding that many horses means you take directions from many trainers, and you meet owners and other people connected with the horses. It’s demanding but he’s 22 years old and he can do it. He loves what he does, he’s a hard-working kid and everybody loves him.
“He’s got a great attitude. He was brought up right and he doesn’t complain about anything. He’s got everything going for him.”
ACCLAMATION POINTING TOWARDS BREEDERS’ CUP TURF
Acclamation is galloping towards the Breeders’ Cup Turf. That’s the word from Tim Reavey, assistant trainer to Don Warren, who conditions last year’s Eclipse Award winner as champion Older Male for majority owner Bud Johnston.
“He’s galloping and he’s doing well,” Reavey said of the 6-year-old California-bred Unusual Heat horse, who has been sidelined with a “mild sprain” of his left foot since winning the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar in July.
Reavey knows whereof he speaks. The native of England came to America’s shores in 1978 with Angel Penna. From there, he was tutored by legends of the turf John Nerud of Dr. Fager fame and Woody Stephens, whose signature achievement was saddling five straight Belmont Stakes winners.
Reavey has been with Warren for eight years.
EL CAJON RUNNER-UP JIMMY CREED EYES SA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
Jimmy Creed, second to the promising Fed Biz in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar, is set to take on older rivals including Eclipse Award sprint king Amazombie in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 6.
“We’ll see how he stacks up in there,” said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella of the 3-year-old chestnut colt owned by Spendthrift Farm. “It will be a test to see how good he is, but I’m confident, or I wouldn’t be trying him in there.”
Mandella added that Hirsch winner Champ Pegasus wouldn’t be ready for this year’s go on Sept. 30 (now named the John Henry Turf Championship). “He won’t be ready to run for a while,” Mandella said, “but I believe you’ll see him this meet.”
AGENT PUHICH, JOCKEY GUTIERREZ TO RECEIVE MR. FITZ AWARD
The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association will honor Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez and his agent, Ivan Puhich, recently retired Churchill Downs track superintendent Raymond “Butch” Lehr, and two-time Eclipse Award recipient Bill Mooney at its annual awards dinner on Oct. 31 in Arcadia.
Gutierrez, 25, and Puhich, an agent since 1944, will receive the Mr. Fitz Award, named for the late Hall of Fame trainer Jim “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, for typifying the spirit of racing. Gutierrez rose from the relative obscurity of Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver to sweep the opening two legs of the Triple Crown aboard I’ll Have Another.
The precocious Gutierrez, drawing from Puhich’s vast knowledge, displayed remarkable patience and poise in delivering two masterful rides before I’ll Have Another was retired with a career-ending injury the day before his Triple Crown bid. Gutierrez handled that setback with the same grace that accompanied his two memorable triumphs, yet another positive reflection on Puhich.
Lehr, an industry leader in safety programs and initiatives during his 30 years as track superintendent at famed Churchill Downs, will be honored with the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing. Palmer was an esteemed turf writer at the New York Herald Tribune.
Lehr was renowned for personally grading the track to ensure uniformity, and Churchill was regarded as one of the nation’s safest courses under his watch. He also oversaw the design and construction of the Matt Winn Turf Course, which opened in 1986 and is celebrated as one of the finest surfaces of its kind.
Mooney will accept the Walter Haight Award, named for the former Washington Post turf writer and columnist, for excellence in turf writing. Mooney is a two-time Eclipse Award winner, earning that prestigious honor in 1985 and 2007. He authored The Complete Encyclopedia of Horse Racing and co-authored Keeneland’s Ted Bassett: My Life. The latter was chosen for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award in 2010.
Mooney owns more than a dozen American Horse Publication awards and was cited twice with the David Woods Award for the best Preakness story, befitting his status as one of the finest writers of his era.
FINISH LINES: Courageous Del Mar allowance winner Hoorayforhollywood, nominated to the Awesome Again on Sept. 29, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Wednesday in a bullet 58.60, fastest of 23 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.60. Hoorayforhollywood, with Martin Garcia up for owner George Krikorian, worked in company with Sinai, who was clocked in 59.60, but Bob Baffert was undecided on whether Hoorayforhollywood would join stablemate Game On Dude in the Awesome Again . . . Neil Drysdale reports that Chilean-bred filly Amani is on target to return against her own sex in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 29. Amani recently finished sixth against males in the Pacific Classic . . . Baffert said he is pointing Ellafitz to the Zenyatta, “but it’s not definite.” . . . Agent Joe Griffith reports that apprentice Eswan Flores will resume riding on Oct. 23 after a suspension of 60 days that already includes credit for time served for a cocaine suspension mandated by the California Horse Racing Board. Meanwhile, Griffith has taken the book of seven-pound apprentice Irving Orozco, winner of 37 races at Golden Gate. Orozco tacks 111 pounds . . . San Gabriel Stakes winner Norvsky, prepping for the Ralph Hinds at Fairplex Park on Sunday, closing day, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s training track Wednesday in 1:12.60 for Don Warren. Former jockey Fernando Valenzuela was aboard. Stablemate Accelerant also worked on the training track for the Hinds, going five furlongs in 1:01.60 . . . Santa Anita offers its first turf works on Friday.