Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ventura is set for her 2009 debut in Saturday’s Grade I Santa Monica Handicap for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs. The 5-year-old Chester House mare owned and bred by the Juddmonte Farms has not raced since her breathtaking four-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup race at Oak Tree last Oct. 24.
Asked if she was “cranked” for her return, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said, “She’s cranked enough to win.” Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez has the mount. He has ridden Ventura in each of her seven U.S. starts, four of them victories.
Bob Baffert, who entered Indian Blessing in the $300,000 race, said Thursday morning she will skip the race. “We’re not going to run,” the trainer said. “I want to freshen her up. We’re pointing for Dubai ($2 million Golden Shaheen on March 28).”
“I’m glad Indian Blessing’s not running,” said Bobby Frankel, trainer of Ventura, who also entered Jibboom, a stakes winner on turf and synthetic, in the Santa Monica. “I’m not looking for tough competition.”
In other Santa Monica news:
Trainer Peter Eurton, seeking a graded placing for She’s Cheeky, welcomed the word that Indian Blessing would pass the Santa Monica.
“Is that a for sure? You’re not just pulling my leg or trying to make my day,” Eurton said when told Indian Blessing would not run. She’s Cheeky, who will be making her first stakes start, has speed when she wants to use it and will be seeking her fourth straight victory.
“I’m very happy to hear that,” Eurton continued, “because with Indian Blessing and Ventura in there, everyone else was running for third, at best. But I’m not going to try and steal it. We’ll just let her run her race. She does better when she has a little target. She has a good turn of foot, so if she’s up close, it won’t matter who’s in front of her, unless they’re better than her.”
The field for the 52nd Santa Monica: Tizzy’s Tune, Joel Rosario, 114; So Long Sonoma, Mike Smith, 112; She’s Cheeky, Alex Solis, 113; Indian Blessing, John Velazquez, 122; Wake Up Maggie, Tyler Baze, 115; Jibboom, Rafael Bejarano, 115; Ventura, Garrett Gomez, 123; and Baroness Thatcher, Joe Talamo, 115.
FREE FRIDAYS, DOLLAR MENU, CONTINUE AT SANTA ANITA TOMORROW
The fifth of Santa Anita’s ongoing Free Friday promotions is offered tomorrow and continues each Friday the remainder of the meet that ends April 19.
In addition to free general admission, box seating will be available free of charge Fridays on a first-come, first-served basis. Fans also will be offered a $1 menu, which includes beer, soda, hot dogs and popcorn.
FIRST POST TIME IS 11 A.M. ON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 La Habra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies is the racing highlight at Santa Anita, but seven additional races will be themed to coincide with the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Santa Anita will also name Sunday’s second race in honor of 106-year-old Florence Tuckman, who will attend along with family and friends.
First post time on Sunday at Santa Anita is 11 a.m. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. The Super Bowl is scheduled for a 3:28 p.m. start.
The field for the La Habra, which goes as race No. 8 on a nine-race program: Pasar Silbano, Mike Smith; Shantika’s Dream, Chantal Sutherland; Gold Goddess, Jose Valdvia Jr.; Doughnut, David Flores; Ready Steady Gone, Garrett Gomez; Acting Lady, Rafael Bejarano; False Impression, Brice Blanc; Broadway Hennessey, Joel Rosario; Emmy Darling, Victor Espinoza; Jemmealey, Tyler Baze; Real Fancy Runner, Joe Talamo; and Miss Silver Brook, Alex Solis.
SANTA ANITA HOSTS ITS FIRST-EVER ‘SNOW DAY’ SUNDAY, FEB. 15
Although Southern California is in the midst of a heat wave, Santa Anita will buck the trend by hosting its first-ever Snow Day on Sunday, Feb. 15.
A total of 400,000 pounds of the white stuff will be available in Santa Anita’s massive infield area, free of charge to kids of all ages throughout the racing day. “We’re hoping to have some fun with this and provide families with something we don’t often experience here in Southern California,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “We’ll not only have 200 tons of snow, we’ll also have winter games, snow slides and an ice rink available.”
Racing will be highlighted that day by the Grade II La Caňada Stakes and the Grade III Daytona Handicap. First post time is 12:30 p.m.
FINISH LINES: Gary Stute plans to work Papa Clem Saturday for the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, a Grade II prep for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Stute passed the San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 17 in favor of the Lewis. “He would have come back in the San Rafael in a little under three weeks,” Stute said in explaining his altered plans. “We decided to give him more time. If he proves he’s good enough, then we don’t have to worry.” Asked his assessment of this year’s Triple Crown hopefuls at this early point, the trainer said: “It’s hard to tell, but the one good thing is it gives the ones based in California a chance, since the two best 3-year-olds are coming out of Dubai (Midshipman and Vineyard Haven).” . . . Brother Keith, fourth in the San Rafael, will make his next start in either the Lewis or the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds the same day, Bobby Frankel said. Brother Keith worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Monday in 1:00.60 . . . Rail Trip, fittingly enough, drew the rail for Friday’s feature race at 1 1/16 miles, in which the 4-year-old son of Jump Start will attempt to remain unbeaten in his third career start and his first beyond 6 ½ furlongs. “He’s the speed, so he’s in the right spot,” trainer Ron Ellis said. “It’s the shortest distance between two points. This is the next step. We’ll at least know how far he can go.” . . . Richie Silverstein, agent for injured rider Martin Pedroza, will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest, 11 a.m., Saturday, at the Today’s Racing Digest Seminar in the East Paddock Gardens, while HRTV’s Jeff Siegel and Jon White will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:45 a.m., also in the East Paddock Gardens.