Undefeated Casino Drive has been entered to run at Santa Anita on Sunday in what his connections hope will lead to a start in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25.
Casino Drive drew post position No. 2 in an optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles going as the eighth on a nine-race program. The field: Dakota Phone, Rafael Bejarano; Casino Drive, Victor Espinoza; Gregorian Bay, Martin Garcia; By Spot, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Informed, Aaron Gryder; Sensational Score, Joel Rosario; and Asperity, Danny Sorenson. Each horse is assigned 120 pounds, except Casino Drive, who has 116.
Casino Drive, a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, has not raced since winning the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park last May 10. A stone bruise in his left hind foot forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes and has sidelined him since. Casino Drive subsequently was returned to Japan and arrived at Hollywood Park last month.
Casino Drive won his first start in Japan on Feb. 23 this year, scoring by 11 1/2 lengths in a nine-furlong race. In his only other career start, he won the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes by nearly six lengths.
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said reigning Horse of the Year Curlin galloped another “easy mile” Thursday and was on course for his scheduled public workout at five furlongs in company this Monday, Columbus Day, between the fourth and fifth races.
Undefeated Zenyatta worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park Thursday in a bullet 1:11.20 as she prepares for the Ladies’ Classic on Oct. 24.
Trainer John Shirreffs said he plans to work Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago this weekend for his engagement in the Classic. “I thought his race in the Goodwood (Handicap on Sept. 27) was pretty encouraging,” Shirreffs said of Tiago, who was second by a length to Well Armed, despite going four wide.
Following are training hours for Breeders’ Cup horses on Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25: Friday, 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.; Saturday, 4:30 a. m. to 6 a. m. The training track will be closed on Thursday, Oct. 23.
Oak Tree will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the fourth time and the first time under its two-day format, which features 14 races with total purses of $25.5 million. Oak Tree will also be the first-ever venue to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years. It will present the Championships again in 2009.
ROSARIO HOPES HIS RIDE TO THE TOP CONTINUES IN RAMSER HANDICAP
Move over, boys, there’s a new sheriff in town.
That would be Joel Rosario, a 23-year-old rider from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic who, through Wednesday, was in an unfamiliar but enviable spot atop the Oak Tree riding standings, displacing former top guns Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez. Rosario had 12 wins, one more than Bejarano and Gomez, who had 11 each.
Rosario began riding in his early teens in Santo Domingo. He’s advanced light years in a relatively short time since and now has established himself as one of the circuit’s most sought-after riders.
“Everyone I talk to recognizes his talent,” said veteran agent Vince DeGregory, who has had Rosario’s book since he began riding regularly in Southern California some two years ago. “He’s very good on the lead and he’s tremendous coming from behind. He’s got a great personality, too. He’s always smiling and always happy, and that goes a long way.
“He can do everything now--switch sticks left, right, right, left. I emphasized it to the point that now he does it routinely. I don’t have to say anything anymore. He’s terrific out of the gate. Before, he had a tendency to break and take back. Now, he’s doing it all. He’s doing great.”
Rosario, who has worked hard to improve his English since arriving in the United States, is excited about his success and vows not to take it for granted.
“I work hard every day, and it’s paid off so far,” said Rosario, who rode horses and donkeys on his family’s ranch outside Santo Domingo when he was a boy. “We didn’t have cars or trucks; we rode horses for transportation. My brother liked to go to the racetrack to gamble, and he took me with him sometimes. I was the smallest of the family, and when I was 13, he asked me if I wanted to be a jockey.”
Fast forward to the present, where Rosario (pronounced Ro-SORRY-oh) is poised to ride Solar Miss for trainer Kathy Walsh in Saturday’s $100,000 Grade III Harold C. Ramser, Sr. Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
It will be his second time aboard the daughter of Malibu Moon. “I worked her once and she felt good,” Rosario said. “My success so far has surprised me. There are a lot of great riders here, so I’m very happy. I hope it stays that way.”
The field for the 22nd running of the Ramser: Sweeter Still, Martin Garcia, 121; Dawn Before Dawn, Garrett Gomez, 117; Porto Marmay, David Flores, 115; Set of Wings, Jose Valdivia Jr., 113; Solar Miss, Rosario, 114; Tasha’s Miracle, Mike Smith, 118; Miss Singhsix, Tyler Baze, 116; and Gorgeous Goose, Rafael Bejarano, 116.
DOLLAR DAY AT OAK TREE THIS MONDAY, COLUMBUS DAY
There will be special holiday racing at Oak Tree this Monday, Columbus Day, which also is Dollar Day. General admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, soft drinks and pop corn are $1 each.
The day also will feature Bugstock ’08, presented by radio station K-Earth 101 FM. One of the top Beatles tribute bands, Stars of Beatlemania, will perform live in Santa Anita’s infield.
First post time is 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m.
LIVING LEGENDS GALA AT SANTA ANITA ON OCT. 17
A Living Legends gala event that will include dinner, dancing, cocktails, a silent auction, music, comedy and an opportunity to meet some of the greatest jockeys in the history of Thoroughbred racing will be held at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. and will serve as a prelude to Breeders’ Cup 25 at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 and 25.
The event, hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association in conjunction with racing’s new Legends on Tour, also will include a silent auction to benefit Jockeys’ Choice Charities and will lead into the most prestigious race for retired jockeys in the history of the sport, the Living Legends Race, featuring live pari-mutuel wagering, on Oct. 18.
Eight Hall of Fame jockeys, Angel Cordero Jr., 65, Jacinto Vasquez, 64, Sandy Hawley, 59, Pat Day, 55, Chris McCarron, 53, Jerry Bailey, 51, Gary Stevens, 45, and Julie Krone, 45, will ride in the race, with each of their mounts assigned 126 pounds. Their average age is 55.
With live pari-mutuel wagering approved by the California Horse Racing Board, the race truly has the specter of being an Old-Timers Game that actually counts in the standings.
The combined career winnings of the eight competing Legends is more than $1.5 billion from 49,163 victories.
“I’m looking forward to the race,” said Cordero, who will be 66 on Nov. 8. “I work horses for Todd Pletcher, Bobby Frankel and Shug McGaughey, and I have no problem with weight. With clothes now, I weigh 119, and I haven’t even tried to reduce. It’s my normal weight.”
Cordero, who has represented top jockey John Velazquez for nine years, plans to come to California on Oct. 17.
“Competitiveness is what we all have in common,” said Stevens, himself a winner of three Kentucky Derbies and eight Breeders’ Cup World Championship races and who currently works as an analyst for HRTV and NBC. “We love the sport and we’re all competitive athletes.”
Stevens retired in 2005 and portrayed the legendary jockey George Woolf in 2003’s highly acclaimed and Academy Award nominated feature film “Seabiscuit.”
Pat Day, who won one Kentucky Derby and 12 Breeders’ Cup races and amassed 8,803 career victories, echoed Stevens’ sentiments.
“These guys are all pumped up about this,” said Day. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to compete again, and just being around all these guys on tour has been very rewarding and a lot of fun.”
In addition to those legendary jockeys who will be competing, Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Jorge Velasquez will be involved as Living Legends Ambassadors and will all attend the Living Legends Gala on Oct. 17.
With the addition of these three retired all-time greats, the 11 retired Legends have amassed a total of 71,872 wins and nearly $2 billion in earnings.
“I can’t compete because of my injuries, but I can’t wait to see them in action again,” said Delahoussaye, who won 6,384 races, including two Kentucky Derbies and seven Breeders’ Cup races.
Cordero and Pincay have included many personal items for the silent auction on Oct. 17, including Cordero’s Breeders’ Cup jackets, signed by all participating jockeys at the time.
For ticket information on the Living Legends on Tour Gala at Santa Anita, call (818) 500-1649, or visit http://www.legendsontour.com.
FINISH LINES: Tyler Baze, who injured his left foot in Sunday’s first race, was expected to ride Thursday after receiving treatment yesterday. “A horse stepped on him (after Baze rode Tiz Bodacious for John Sadler) and the toe area was bruised, so doctors relieved some of the pressure on it by opening it up,” said Ron Ebanks, Baze’s agent . . . Angel Cordero Jr., agent for John Velazquez, says the 37-year-old rider has recovered from a serious concussion suffered in the seventh race at Keeneland on opening day last Friday and “probably will ride” Saturday at the Kentucky track. “He’s named on four horses there,” said Cordero, who added, “He didn’t break anything, so we were lucky there.” . . . There were 30 participants alive in Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping contest, ShowVivor, entering Thursday’s races, down from 54 the previous day . . . The public is invited to a free horse “Conformation Clinic” hosted by Thoroughbred Owners of California this Saturday, 11:00 a.m., in the saddling paddock at the Big Fresno Fair. The workshop will be conducted by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi and trainer John Martin, who will be joined by prominent California owner/breeder John Harris. The format features Thoroughbreds being brought into the paddock to give participants an opportunity for a close-up look at various aspects of conformation and how they relate to soundness and racing performance. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling TOC at (800) 994-9909, or by going online at http://www.toconline.com. The Big Fresno Fair is located at 1121 S. Chance Avenue, Fresno, CA, 93702.