Lane’s End Futurity winner Square Eddie, second to Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Oak Tree last Oct. 25, makes his 3-year-old debut Saturday in the San Rafael Stakes, a one-mile test that trainer Doug O’Neill hopes will propel the son of Smart Strike to the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
"He's doing fantastic. He looks great, full of energy,” O’Neill said from his Hollywood Park headquarters Wednesday morning. “We gave him 83 days between the Breeders' Cup and the San Rafael, so he's been freshened and he looks ready to roll."
Despite his precocious 2-year-old campaign, inexplicably, Square Eddie is not a finalist for an Eclipse Award as outstanding male 2-year-old of 2008. The finalists are Midshipman, Vineyard Haven and Old Fashioned. "It's bizarre (that he didn't make it), but you can't worry about that kind of stuff,” O’Neill said. “We have so much confidence in the horse. We think we have one of the top three right now, so I guess that's all that matters."
Asked to project beyond Saturday, O'Neill said, "I don't know. That would definitely be a Team Reddam decision, but I'm pretty certain there would be at least one dirt prep if all goes well, maybe two. But Saturday's a big day and we're hoping for a big effort and see him come out of it good.”
The field for the 29th San Rafael, which goes as race No. 7 on a nine-race program: The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis, 116; Fiddlers Afleet, Michael Baze, 116; Brother Keith, Garrett Gomez, 116; Ryehill Dreamer, Mike Smith, 119; Papa Clem, Tyler Baze, 116; Square Eddie, Rafael Bejarano, 122; Charlie’s Moment, Joel Rosario, 116; and Feisty Suances, David Flores, 116.
The Pamplemousse blew out three furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in :35.20 for Julio Canani. Frumious was declared out of the San Rafael by Jeff Bonde. “He’s not going,” the trainer said, choosing not to elaborate. “We’re going to wait.”
COUNTRY STAR DRILLS FOR 2009 DEBUT IN SUNDAY’S EL ENCINO
Hollywood Starlet winner Country Star worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in :59.60 for her 4-year-old debut in Sunday’s Grade II El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Goncalino Almeida was up.
“She went good, I guess,” Bobby Frankel said with a trace of reservation. “She’s fresh. I wanted to go a little easier, but the track’s very fast this morning.”
Frankel added that Midships “might not run” in Monday’s San Marcos Stakes for older horses at 1 ¼ miles on turf.
“He had a little temperature yesterday,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “We’ll take a blood (test) on him today and check him tomorrow.”
Probable for the 45th El Encino for 4-year-old fillies: Accopela Choir, Martin Garcia; Country Star, Rafael Bejarano; Ginger Pop, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Life Is Sweet, Garrett Gomez; and Love to Siphon, Tyler Baze.
MUNY SEEMS WELL-PLACED IN SATURDAY’S SAN FERNANDO STAKES
Muny found the mile and a quarter of the Grade I Hollywood Derby on turf a tad exacting, finishing fifth after setting the pace, but beaten less than two lengths.
The gelding trained by Mike Puype should find the mile and a sixteenth on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride more to his liking in Saturday’s Grade II San Fernando Stakes, second leg of the Strub series.
“He’s consistent,” said jockey David Flores, who has ridden Muny in each of his five starts, three of them victories, including the Grade II Oak Tree Derby last Oct. 25. “He ran a really good race last time. He just got beat late. That race was a mile and a quarter; this is a mile and a sixteenth. That should be a big help to him, but he’s versatile.”
Muny came from second to win his maiden at one mile on Del Mar’s Polytrack last July 28. “He was sitting off another horse, and he ran a good race,” Flores recalled. “That doesn’t mean I’d be surprised if he went to the lead (in the San Fernando), because that’s his style. But if anybody else goes crazy, he can lay off.”
Muny worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:11.80 with Flores up. “It was just a regular work, nothing special,” Flores said. “He was comfortable. It was his last work before he runs, so we didn’t want to ask for much.” Muny, a Kentucky-bred gelding by the Runaway Groom sire Najran, has earnings of $171,160.
The field for the 57th San Fernando, which goes as the eighth race: Muny, David Flores, 120; Wishful Tomcat, Joel Rosario, 118; Cherokee Artist, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118; Blue Exit, Jesus Rios, 116; Booted, Victor Espinoza, 116; Nownownow, Joe Talamo, 116; Madeo, Mike Smith, 120; El Gato Malo, Corey Nakatani, 122; Silver Sword, Michael Baze, 116; Slew’s Tiznow, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Tres Borrachos, Tyler Baze, 120; and Dakota Phone, Garrett Gomez, 118.
SHOWVIVOR RETURNS THIS SATURDAY
Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping contest “ShowVivor,” will again be available for fans to play beginning Saturday, Jan. 17. The contest will feature $5,000 in prize money, with $3,000 going to the top finisher. Prizes will also be awarded to the first runner up ($1,500) and the second runner up ($500).
Participation is free and contestants will be required to select one horse per day to finish first, second or third in a race of the player’s choice. If a selection finishes lower than third, that player is eliminated. All selections must be registered on-line no later than 10 minutes before first post time at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita launched ShowVivor in January of 2007. “The response to this promotion has far exceeded our expectations,” said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. “ShowVivor has proven itself to be a great way for our fans from all over the country to stay in touch with our racing product here at Santa Anita, and we believe it’s going to continue to grow in popularity at this meet.”
Fans are encouraged to register for ShowVivor as soon as possible at http://www.santaanita.com. First post time on Jan. 17 is 12:30 p.m. In order to participate, players must be registered by 12:15 p.m. on Jan. 17. Santa Anita’s 84-day meeting will run through April 19. Regular first post time on weekends and holidays will be 12:30 p.m. Regular first post time on weekdays is 1 p.m.
HOLIDAY RACING NEXT MONDAY, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY
Santa Anita will offer holiday racing this Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While supplies last, all THOROUGHBREDS members will receive a free wallet which will include a free general admission pass to Sunshine Millions Day, Saturday, Jan. 24.
Also, 10 lucky patrons will find a $100 bill inside their wallet. First post time Monday is 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m.
FINISH LINES: Agent Richie Silverstein said Martin Pedroza was out of Intensive Care today and in a room at Arcadia Methodist Hospital where the 43-year-old jockey was taken after he was unseated in the post parade by 32-1 shot Humane, a first-time starter in Sunday’s ninth race. “We won’t know more until the swelling (from his injuries) goes down,” Silverstein said. “It will probably take a few days.” . . . Trainer Carla Gaines reports that heralded 3-year-old Point Encounter has been turned out with a soft tissue injury and will miss “quite a bit” of time.” The son of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given won his debut race on opening day as the 13-10 favorite, heightening the adrenaline of Kentucky Derby Future Book enthusiasts . . . Legendary Santa Anita shoe shine man Eddie Logan was discharged from Arcadia Methodist Hospital Tuesday and is at his home in Monrovia. The 98-year-old icon has been at Santa Anita on opening day every meet since the track opened on Christmas Day, 1934. Logan will be in a wheelchair until he completes therapy and will be absent from his shoe shine stand indefinitely. Those wishing to visit Logan can contact Santa Anita Publicity to make arrangements . . . Agent Craig O’Bryan has taken the book of Canadian sensation Patrick Husbands for the remainder of the Santa Anita meet. Barbados native Husbands has had a long and successful association with trainer Mark Casse, a newcomer at Santa Anita this meet with some 30 horses on hand. O’Bryan will also continue to represent Aaron Gryder . . . Jesus Rios was scheduled to make his Santa Anita debut aboard 15-1 morning line chance Turbo Energy for trainer Librado Barocio in today’s eighth race. “I’m very impressed with Santa Anita,” said the 26-year-old native of Puerto Rico, where he was a leading rider the last five years. “We hope to have a good start, said his agent, Tony Matos, who also represents Victor Espinoza . . . Mike Machowsky said well-regarded 3-year-old Majormotionpicture will skip Monday’s $70,000 San Pedro Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs. “He tied up behind last week, so I’m just going to wait,” the trainer said. “I can’t get him over the hump right now.” Majormotionpicture, a Kentucky-bred son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day, won his only start, a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar last Aug. 24 . . . Trainer Sandy Shulman will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest Saturday at the Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 11 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.