VENTURA WORKS FOR SANTA MONICA; BAFFERT UNDECIDED ON INDIAN BLESSING
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ventura, prepping for her 2009 debut in Saturday’s Grade I Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:00.20 under Goncalino Almeida.

“She went very well,” said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to Bobby Frankel. “We’re looking forward to her first race back.”

Bob Baffert was undecided on champion Indian Blessing’s participation in the Santa Monica after the La Brea Stakes winner worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:00.80. “I don’t know what I’m doing yet,” Baffert said of Indian Blessing, who has the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 28 as her long-range objective.

Also working for the Santa Monica was She’s Cheeky, who went five furlongs in 1:00.40 under regular rider Alex Solis.

“She worked well today,” trainer Peter Eurton said of the 4-year-old daughter of Black Minnaloushe, who has never been out of the money in eight career starts and who has won her last three races. “She worked as well as she possibly could. It looks like a small field, and for us, the smaller the better.”

Probable for the 52nd Santa Monica: Baroness Thatcher, Joe Talamo; She’s Cheeky, Alex Solis; So Long Sonoma, Mike Smith; and Ventura, Garrett Gomez.


WOMAN FULFILLS DYING WISH WITH TRIP TO SANTA ANITA

Sherry Allice had one dream when she learned she had inoperable cervical cancer: a trip to Santa Anita. “This is my favorite track,” said the Omaha, Nebraska, resident following a winner’s circle ceremony after Friday’s second race.

“When my son learned I had cancer, he asked if there was any trip on my wish list, like Hawaii, or some exotic vacation spot, and I told him, ‘Santa Anita.’”

Explained Sherry’s cousin, Jackie Jordan: “After the shock of the terrible news wore off, Sherry was determined to plan her own ‘bucket list.’ The top item was to visit Santa Anita before she dies. Her children arranged for the trip through this weekend.

“There are two jockeys she has followed for years. She knew Garrett Gomez when he raced at Ak-Sar-Ben, and Mike Smith is a good friend of her cousin's.

“Sherry's grandfather owned race horses from the 1940's and she has three cousins who were/are jockeys. She worked at Ak-Sar-Ben until they closed the track (in 1995). Now she attends simulcasting several times a week, so this trip to Santa Anita is a lifelong dream.”

“Garrett was a baby rider when I knew him,” Sherry said before hugging Gomez on a reunion in the winner’s circle, “and Mike Smith rode at Ak-Sar-Ben. My grandfather, V.O. Hunter, ran horses out there. My whole family’s been in horse racing. I love it.”


‘FREE FRIDAYS’ ATTRACTING MORE FANS TO SANTA ANITA

The introduction of ‘Free Fridays’ by Santa Anita’s marketing department has been a step forward despite an economic downturn.

“They have been pretty much a home run so far,” said Santa Anita’s Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “The crowds generally have been twice as big on Fridays this year than on the comparable Friday last year. No doubt the free admission, the free box seats and the $1 hot dogs, beer, soft drinks and popcorn have struck a nerve in this difficult economy.

“You know, what you bet is your business but at least we can make a day at the races very inexpensive in a very competitive metropolitan Los Angeles entertainment environment. We’re seeing young people and families here on Friday and that’s always good news for a racetrack.”


HRTV FEATURES LAMBERT, HOFMANS, UNUSUAL HEAT TONIGHT

Retired jockey Jerry Lambert and his link to the great Native Diver, the resilient career of noted trainer David Hofmans, and the success of California-based sire Unusual Heat are features on HRTV’s popular newsmagazine show, "Inside Information," which airs tonight at 6 p.m.

It was four-plus decades ago when Lambert made his debut en route to becoming a fixture on the Southern California circuit. Lambert's biggest wins came when he piloted the great California gelding, Native Diver, to three straight Hollywood Gold Cup victories (1965-67). Although he's been retired for many years, Lambert’s passion for horses remains keen and he currently works at the training center at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, breaking young horses.

He vividly remembers the day Native Diver succumbed to colic. "I was just in shock," Lambert recalled. "It really didn't hit me for three or four days . . . then I cried like a baby."

Hofmans has fashioned a successful training career in Southern California, with three Breeders' Cup wins and a 1997 Belmont Stakes triumph by Touch Gold on his resume. It wasn't always smooth sailing, and earlier in his career, Hofmans was able to salvage and maintain his stable despite losing clients, and their horses.

Trainer Barry Abrams followed Unusual Heat's career, and when the opportunity arose to obtain the hard-knocking claimer, he convinced longtime client Madeline Auerbach and her late husband, Jim, to follow through. The decision has paid off handsomely. Now standing at Old English Rancho, Unusual Heat's progeny brilliantly distinguished themselves in 2008, eclipsing Cee's Tizzy's former California-based record.


THE PAMPLEMOUSSE DEBUTS ON WHITE’S KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10

In the wake of The Pamplemousse’s two-length victory in last Saturday’s Grade III San Rafael Stakes, he has made his way onto the weekly Kentucky Derby Top 10 compiled by Jon White, a commentator for HRTV and Santa Anita’s simulcast network.

“My main concern at this point regarding The Pamplemousse and the Kentucky Derby is that his grandsires (Cherokee Run and Rubiano) both were Eclipse Award-winning sprinters,” White said. “But it’s clear that he’s a very talented colt going in the right direction for a very good trainer in Julio Canani. And talent can take a colt a long way despite concerns about a possible lack of stamina in a pedigree.”

Here is White’s current Top 10 list: (1) Pioneerof the Nile, (2) Old Fashioned, (3) I Want Revenge, (4) Chocolate Candy, (5) Stardom Bound, (6) Square Eddie, (7) The Pamplemousse, (8) Hello Broadway, (9) Notonthesamepage, (10) Friesan Fire.

The Pamplemousse is scheduled to make his next start in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Feb. 28.

“The Sham will be a good test for The Pamplemousse in terms of his stamina,” White said.

Chocolate Candy remained at No. 4 on White’s list after winning the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields last Saturday.


FINISH LINES: CashCall Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, prepping for his 3-year-old debut in the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7, was one of 191 workers on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Sunday morning, going six furlongs for Bob Baffert in a bullet 1:10.60, breezing. “He worked great, like he always does,” Baffert said. Bittel Road, another Lewis candidate, worked five furlongs for Todd Pletcher in 1:00.20, while Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion Stardom Bound went six furlongs for Bobby Frankel in 1:12 as she readies for her 3-year-old debut in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 7. Frankel trainee Champs Elysees, a contender for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7, went six furlongs in 1:13.40 . . . Former All-Pro quarterback Billy Kilmer will be interviewed by Kurt Hoover and Caroline Conley on HRTV’s “Race Day America” next Sunday between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Kilmer’s Washington Redskins ran second to the undefeated Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins 36 years ago in a 14-7 loss at the Los Angeles Coliseum. “The result would have been different if Jake Scott hadn’t been my primary receiver,” joked Kilmer . . . Martin Pedroza is undergoing physical therapy twice a day at Arcadia Methodist Hospital’s rehab center. “He’ll be there two more weeks,” agent Richie Silverstein said of the 43-year-old rider who suffered a fractured pelvis in a post parade mishap in the ninth race on Jan. 11. “After that, it’s up to nature.” . . . Nicholas Bachalard, assistant to Christophe Clement, said In Summation would be given a breather after his fifth-place finish as the $2.10-1 favorite in Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Sprint. “He had one thing on his mind with the blinkers,” Bachalard said: “Go.” . . . Bachalard added that Sir Beaufort Stakes winner Gio Ponti will make his next start in the Grade II Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 7 . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 La Habra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf: Acting Lady, Rafael Bejarano; Pisar Silbano, Mike Smith; Real Fancy Runner, Joe Talamo; and Starlarks, Alex Solis . . . According to Barry Abrams, a breeder and the trainer of Spenditallbaby, the 5-year-old mare sustained two fractured sesamoids early in the running of Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Distaff and will be evaluated at Abrams’ barn for “the next four to five days.” It is hoped she can be stabilized and can be operated on to repair her ankles when she is ready . . . Garrett Gomez has been suspended three days (Feb. 1, 4 and 5) for causing interference entering the clubhouse turn on Commandeered in Saturday’s 10th race . . . Corey Nakatani and his wife, Lisa, are the proud parents of a baby girl, Lilah Marie, born at 11:42 p.m. Thursday at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. She weighed seven pounds, one ounce, and was 19 inches long. It was a somewhat bittersweet time for the 37-year-old jockey. His mother, Marie, was in a Covina hospital being treated for a problem with her heart, which had an accelerated rate that reached 170. “It’s been stabilized,” Nakatani said, “and thankfully, she’s doing better.”