Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Morning Buzz at Clockers Corner: Track Safety

Trainers Eoin Harty and Jack Carava (center) comparing notes.

Clockers' Corner at Santa Anita Racetrack was buzzing this morning with conversations. Leading the list were the results of Saturday's big races, the amount of food consumed on Thanksgiving, and - always a hot topic - the condition of the track surfaces.

It's always devastating to hear of horses breaking down, and this morning's discussions were fueled by several recent injuries. Red Alert, trained by Jack Carava, pulled up with an injury after finishing 4th in Saturday's 3rd race at Hollywood Park. And trainer Mel Stute had to scratch Hurry Up Austin from Saturday's Hollywood Turf Express due to an injury suffered in training at Santa Anita, which will necessitate at least an 8-month rest.

Although there are many factors that can be involved in horse injuries, the focus these days in Southern California is naturally on the performance of the synthetic racetracks. All major California racetracks were required, by a mandate of the California Horse Racing Board in 2007, to install synthetic tracks. To date, statistics do seem to show they are safer for horses and riders; but we are still in the early stages of the learning curve. The type and amount of maintenance needed, in particular, is an ongoing experiment for the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields, and the newest of them all, the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.

California's synthetic tracks are not the only ones on which horses are getting injured, however. One lively conversation this morning among trainers Bobby Frankel, Bob Baffert, and Mike Machowsky, and retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens concerned two tragic breakdowns at Aqueduct during Saturday's race card. Wanderin Boy, a 7-year-old who has earned over $1.2 million in his career, suffered a fatal injury to his left front leg during the running of the Cigar Mile, and the 2-year-old filly Springside suffered a fracture to her right front pastern after winning the Demoiselle Stakes by 9-1/2 lengths.

During this morning's discussion, Frankel made a quick call to Richard Dutrow on his cell phone, then reported that Dutrow said the track at Aqueduct is great; he loves it. Aqueduct's track, by the way, is old fashioned dirt. It's not hard to find opinions that are polar opposites among trainers at any one track. Here at Santa Anita, Mel Stute hates the synthetics; Richard Mandella loves them. Most trainers are just hoping they turn out to be part of the solution to the age-old problem of horse injuries. At least the racing industry in California is being proactive, and no one can argue that everyone isn't trying to do what they think is best for the safety of our magnificent equines and the people who work with them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chantal Sutherland Rides Mr. Rod to Victory in the Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park

The post parade for the Generous, followed by a short interview with winning trainer Dan Hendricks. Mr. Rod wearing saddle cloth #2.

Chantal Sutherland got her 4th win at the Hollywood Park Fall Meet aboard Mr. Rod in the $100,000 Grade 3 Generous Stakes.

Mr. Rod sped to the lead early, set the pace inside, then kicked clear in the far turn and held on gamely to prevail by one and a half lengths over Bittel Road and jockey Mike Smith. Hype and Bourbon Bay finished in a dead heat for third.

Mr. Rod, a son of Scrimshaw, is trained by Dan Hendricks for owner Cecil Peacock. He paid $15.60, $5.40, and $3.00.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hyperbaric Wins Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park

Jockey Tyler Baze sent Hyperbaric to the lead out of the gate, got him to relax down the backstretch, and took advantage of the lack of other speed to cruise to victory in the 31st running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Citation Handicap at 1-1/16 miles on the turf at Hollywood Park. The win was the 4th in a row and first Grade 1 victory for Hyperbaric, who provided trainer Julio Canani with his second Citation Handicap win. Canani won the 1990 running with Colway Rally.

Canani said Hyperbaric's next start will most likely be in the Duty Free Stakes in Dubai, run during the Dubai World Cup in March. The 5-year-old Sky Classic gelding is owned by Prestonwood Farm LLC. He paid $13.00, $6.20, and $4.00. Running second and third were Formal Decree and Becrux.

Habaya Wins Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park

Habaya picked up her first graded stakes victory for owner Shadwell Farm in today's Miesque Stakes for two-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf. The Miesque is the first of six graded stakes in the Hollywood Park Turf Festival and will be followed up by the Grade 1 Citation today, the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express and Grade 3 Generous Stakes Saturday, and the Matriarch Stakes and Hollywood Derby, both Grade 1, on Sunday.

Coming off a 6-week rest, Habaya was ridden by Richard Migliore, who has been aboard on all three of her starts. Following today's race, Migliore said, "Today was the best trip she's had of her two starts." Habaya defeated maidens in her debut at Belmont Park on Sept. 25, then was second in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 9 to Laragh, who subsequently ran third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Habaya, decided to pass up the Breeders' Cup.

Representing Kieran McLaughlin today at Hollywood Park was his brother Neil, who commented, "Hopefully she'll be coming back out here for the American Oaks, because she looks like she wants to go a little further." The Grade 1 American Oaks, a 1-1/4 mile turf test for 3-year-old fillies, will most likely be part of the 4th of July weekend card during the Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meet.

Habaya is by Storm Cat and is out of the Eclipse Award-winning turf mare Golden Apples. She paid $6.80, $4.20, and $3.20. Finishing second and third were Internallyflawless and Eloquently.

Precious Kitten Seeks 2nd Straight Matriarch Win Sunday at Hollywod Park

Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile on turf will be led by defending champion Precious Kitten, who was 4th against males in the Breeders' Cup Mile last month. Precious Kitten, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner, will be making her final career start in the Matriarch for owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson's Lael Stables.

Current meet leading rider, Rafael Bejarano, has the call on Precious Kitten for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who has a good chance of notching his 5th consecutive Matriarch. He also sends out Visit, who ran 4th in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

The Matriarch is the 7th race and co-feature with the Hollywood Derby on a 10-race card that wraps up a three-day Turf Festival that begins today (Friday).

The 27th Running of The Matriarch (Grade I)
$500,000 Guaranteed, One Mile (Turf)
Fillies and Mares 3 years old and up

1 BLACK MAMBA (NZ) 03 M 123 Smith, M Sadler, John
2 MAGICAL FANTASY 05 F 120 Solis, A Gallagher, Patrick
3 PRECIOUS KITTEN 03 M 123 Bejarano, R Frankel, Robert
4 CRIMINOLOGIST 03 M 123 Prado, E McGaughey III, Claude
5 ROSINKA (IRE) 03 M 123 Rose, J Motion, H.
6 I CAN SEE 03 M 123 Baze, T Knapp, Steve
7 VISIT (GB) 05 F 120 Gomez, G Frankel, Robert
8 ROSHANI 03 M 123 Velazquez, J Pletcher, Todd
9 COCOA BEACH (CHI) 04 F 123 Dominguez, R bin Suroor, Saeed

Thanks to Cindy Pierson Dulay for the photo of Precious Kitten winning the Gallorette Hcp. 5/19/07.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A.C. Avila: A Horse Trainer Whose Dreams Predict Winners

Southern California Thoroughbred trainer A.C. Avila had a dream last year about a big win. In his dream, he saw racehorse owner Madeline Auerbach handing a huge check to her trainer, Barry Abrams, and insisting that Abrams cash it and bet on their horse. The next day, Avila asked Auerbach, "Do you have a horse in today?" "No," she answered. "Tomorrow?" he insisted. "No, but we have one in Saturday," she said, referring to Rushen Heat in an allowance feature at Hollywood Park.

"I had a dream," Avila told her. "She's going to win." Auerbach didn't pay much attention to his premonition, but Avila bet $2,000 to win on Rushen Heat, who paid nearly $10.00.

Avila tells another story of when he was training in Brazil. That time, he dreamed he was dressed entirely in blue. Several days after the dream, he was on the way to the track when he noticed that he was wearing a blue shirt, blue jeans, and blue shoes. He made a wager they had at the time in which he had to select the winning exacta in each of four consecutive races. "I just made the bet, without really handicapping," he said. "And I won. It paid about $111,000 U.S."

He doesn't have these dreams very frequently, but swears that when he does he always knows that they will come true. My new greeting for A.C. will be, "Had any dreams lately?"

Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday's Turf Festival Card

The Hollywood Park Turf Festival includes the Grade 3 Generous Stakes on Saturday. The stakes is named for champion Irish-bred Generous, Horse of the Year in both Ireland and the UK in 1991. Generous won six of 11 career starts, including the prestigious Irish and Epsom Derbys, and earned in excess of $2 million. Here's the field for Saturday's running:

The 26th Running of the Generous Stakes (Grade III)
$100,000 Added, One Mile (Turf), For Two-Year-Olds

1 BITTEL ROAD 06 C 122 Smith, M Pletcher, Todd
2 MR. ROD (SA) 06 C 117 Sutherland, C Hendricks, Dan
3 HYPE 06 C 117 Baze, M Pletcher, Todd
4 BATTLE OF HASTINGS (GB) 06 G 117 Baze, T Mullins, Jeff
5 MENSA HEAT 06 C 115 Potts, C Abrams, Barry
6 INSURGENCE 06 C 117 Rosario, J Casse, Mark
7 BOURBON BAY 06 G 117 Bejarano, R Drysdale, Neil
8 LITURGICAL 06 C 117 Blanc, B O'Neill, Doug

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nature Provides Another Drainage Test for Santa Anita Pro-Ride

On the heels of last week's drainage test conducted by Santa Anita using a sprinkler system, nature provided its own version last night. A steady rainfall throughout much of the night dumped at least an inch and a half of rain on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface. After a break in the weather that coincided with training hours this morning, the rain continued to fall sporadically in Arcadia today.

As shown in the video, taken this morning, the Pro-Ride surface seems to have handled the rain beautifully. According to Santa Anita general manager, George Haines, the water drained very well. The track was harrowed during the training break, after which it looked like it hadn't rained at all.

Zap! of the Week: Zenyatta Schooling

Zap of the Week

Racing's "princess," Zenyatta, will be paraded on the track betweeen races on Sunday at Hollywood Park, where fans in attendance will also receive a Zenyatta poster. I thought it was a good time to feature one of my favorite Zap videos, featuring a star-studded cast of racehorses, including some lovely footage of Zenyatta schooling at Santa Anita in advance of the Breeders Cup. Enjoy!

Zap is known as "the eye" for being able to measure quality in thoroughbred racehorses, and is practically a fixture at Southern California tracks. He has a deep appreciation for quality horses, music, movies, live performance, and comedy. Zap co-hosts Race and Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 AM (pst) on San Diego's XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) and online at .

Whatsthescript Tops Field of 10 in Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park

Friday's main race is the $400,000 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf. Garrett Gomez has the call on Whatsthescript for trainer John Sadler. Whatsthescript, third in the Breeders' Cup Mile, is owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, LLC. Here's how the field shapes up:

The 31st Running of the Citation Handicap (Grade I)
$400,000 Guaranteed
One Mile And One Sixteenth (Turf)

1 HYPERBARIC 03 G 120 Baze, T Canani, Julio
2 GALANTAS 03 H 116 Rose, J Motion, H.
3 FERNELEY 04 C 114 Espinoza, V Cecil, Ben
4 LORD ADMIRAL 01 H 118 Solis, A O'Brien, Charles
5 BECRUX (ITY) 02 G 117 Smith, M Sadler, John
6 REBELLION (GB) 03 H 118 Bejarano, R Motion, H.
7 MEDICI CODE (GB) 04 G 113 Pedroza, M Vienna, Darrell
8 PROUDINSKY (GER) 03 H 116 Valdivia, Jr., J Frankel, Robert
9 WHATSTHESCRIPT (IRE) 04 C 120 Gomez, G Sadler, John
10 FORMAL DECREE (GER) 03 G 117 Samyn, J bin Suroor, Saeed

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Richard Matlow Confirms Hollywood Prevue Winner Jack O'Lantern Injured

Jack o' Lantern, the $41.80 upset winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes on Sunday, 11/23, suffered a condylar fracture and will be out for at least six months, according to trainer Richard Matlow. In an interview with Daily Racing Form columnist Brad Free, Matlow said the colt was sore cooling out after the race, and x-rays on Monday morning revealed the break.

Surgery will be performed this week to insert screws into the break - a common surgery for this type of horse racing injury. Jack O'Lantern is expected to come back from the operation and have every chance of racing again.

Peppermint Lounge Seeks First Stakes Win in Playa del Rey Stakes

Peppermint Lounge seeks her fourth consecutive victory and first stakes win in the $65,000 Playa del Rey Stakes on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, at Hollywood Park. Peppermint Lounge is trained by Carla Gaines for Warren B. Williamson and gets the services of leading rider, Rafael Bejarano, in the 6-furlong event for filles and mares 3 and up.

Bsharpsonata, trained by Todd Pletcher, is making her first start since finishing 8th in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in May. She won two Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream earlier in the year, the Davona Dale and Forward Gal.

The 2nd Running of The Playa del Rey Stakes
$65,000 Added

1 BSHARPSONATA 05 F 124 Gomez, G Pletcher, Todd
2 HIGHLAND TORREE 05 F 118 Garcia, M DeLeon, Rafael
3 PEPPERMINT LOUNGE 04 F 120 Bejarano, R Gaines, Carla
4 COCO BELLE 04 F 122 Rosario, J Sadler, John
5 LOVELY ISLE 05 F 118 Espinoza, V Frankel, Robert
6 TIZZY'S TUNE 03 M 120 Solis, A Baffert, Bob
7 FOXY DANSEUR 05 F 122 Smith, M Paasch, Christopher

Trainer Periban Seeks First California Stakes Win in War Chant Stakes

Trainer Jorge Periban seeks his first stakes victory in California on Thanksgiving Day at Hollywood Park, with Pistol Pete Afleet in the War Chant Stakes. A native of Mexico, Periban began training in New Mexico in 1985, moving to California in 1997. He's hoping his recent winning streak will continue; Periban won one race on Wednesday and two on Thursday. Here are the entries for the War Chant:

The 2nd Running of The War Chant Stakes
$65,000 Added

1 FIFTEEN LOVE 05 C 123 Gomez, G Frankel, Robert
2 PISTOL PETE AFLEET 05 C 119 Contreras, L Periban, Jorge
3a TEN MEROPA 05 C 117 Baze, T Mullins, Jeff
4 RIVERGRADE BOY 05 C 119 Valdivia, Jr., J Dominguez, Caesar
5 BLUE CHAGALL 05 C 117 Blanc, B Canani, Julio
6 SLEW'S TIZNOW 05 C 123 Bejarano, R O'Neill, Doug
7 MORAL COMPASS 05 C 119 Pedroza, M Carava, Jack
8 LIBERIAN FREIGHTER 05 G 121 Flores, Drysdale, Neil
9 ICEMANCOMETH 05 G 121 Espinoza, V Mitchell, Mike
10a GHETTO 05 C 119 Baze, M Dollase, Craig

a - indicates same ownership

Monday, November 24, 2008

Santa Anita Tests Pro-Ride Drainage

Santa Anita
performed its first large-scale drainage test on the Pro-Ride synthetic track surface Friday morning, running a specially installed sprinkler system to produce an accumulation of water mimicking a good rainfall. Southern California has been experiencing a particularly dry year, with no rain to test the drainage capabilities of the surface since it was installed over the summer.

According to track president, Ron Charles, anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of water hit varying sections of the racetrack, which was then harrowed to facilitate drainage. According to all reports, the track drained well. Trainer Matt Chew tested the footing on horseback and reported it felt good, with his horse getting a good hold of it.

Santa Anita's Historic Blacksmith Forge

In a nondescript building at the east edge of Santa Anita Racetrack's stable area is the original blacksmith shop, where for more than 50 years a coal burning forge has been in use. The forge stands in the corner of the a small but efficiently organized shop, connected to a metal duct system that runs along the ceiling and surrounded by stockpiles of steel, rows of hanging horseshoes, and tools of the trade. In front of the forge stands a 100-year old anvil, also still in use today.

Blacksmith Michael Bromley recently fired up the forge and explained how it operates, turning coal into coke, which in turn burns hot enough to work steel. Bromley is also a farrier - someone who shoes the horses. He has worked as a blacksmith and farrier for more than 30 years, predominantly with standardbreds at Los Alamitos racecourse in Los Alamitos, California.

He also serves on several test boards, and on the day I shot this video, Bromley was assisting with a licensing test at Santa Anita -- a grueling three-hour test that farriers much pass in order to be licensed by the California Horse Racing Board to work on the racetrack.

Note in the video that Bromley talks about the "swedges" he produces as raw stock for horse shoes. The swedges are lengths of steel that will eventually be made into the horseshoes. Although many of the shoes for racehorses these days are made of lighter metals, such as aluminum and titanium, steel shoes are the standard, and farriers must know how to produce them. Enjoy the video!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jack O'Lantern Upsets in Hollywood Prevue, Gives Trainer Richard Matlow his First Graded Stakes Victory

Edited Hollywood Park report
Jack o' Lantern, given a perfect trip by Isaias Enriquez, found room along the rail in the stretch and took charge nearing the sixteenth pole en route to a $41.80 upset in Sunday's $103,700 Hollywood Prevue at Hollywood Park.

Favorite Azul Leon finished a half-length back in second in the Grade III event - a major stepping-stone to the CashCall Futurity here Dec. 20. Ventana and Arashi Cat were another half-length back in a dead heat for third while second choice Backbackbackgone finished fifth and Congor Bay sixth.

The victory was the first in a graded stakes for 66-year-old trainer Richard Matlow, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease earlier this year. He saddled Heptathlon to win the $74,090 Safely Kept here in 1998 and Half Mamoon to win the $175,000 Cal Cup Mile at Santa Anita in 1996.

"I was diagnosed about seven months ago - I was misdiagnosed for about a year," Matlow said. "I've got a bad foot and my hands are not good, but other than that, I'm not bad. I still come to the barn every day. This is probably one of my biggest wins, first graded stakes. I had placed before."

Jack o' Lantern paid $41.80, $12 and $5.80. Azul Leon returned $3.20 and $2.60, while the show payoff on Arashi Cat was $3.

Vic Stauffer Now Agent for Jockey Joel Rosario

Hollywood Park track announcer, Vic Stauffer, in his booth during Friday night racing.

In addition to his job as Hollywood Park track announcer, Vic Stauffer has taken on the role of agent for talented Southern California-based jockey Joel Rosario. According to Stauffer, who took Rosario's book as of Thursday, he has the potential to become a leading rider.

Stauffer was Rosario'a agent for several months at Bay Meadows in Northern California two winters ago, just before Rosario made the move to Southern California.

"He's 23 years old, people like him, he has tremendous ability on the back of the horses, and has a really good work ethic," said Stauffer. "He has the whole package, and a chance to be truly great." Stauffer added, "It's a tremendous opportunity for me."

Stauffer says he's not doing "barnstorming" anymore, preferring to settle down in Southern California. "When I asked Hollywood Park about this opportunity," he said, "I made it clear that, regardless of what they said, as long as they will allow me to call races, I will be at Hollywood Park."

Siren Lure Gives Trainer Steve Sherman First Stakes Victory in Sausalito Stakes

Edited Golden Gate Fields report

Siren Lure snapped a 12-race losing streak Saturday when he charged powerfully down the stretch to score a 1 1/4-length victory over 2-to-5 favorite Indyanne in the $75,000 Sausalito Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, giving trainer Steve Sherman his first stakes victory. Sherman went out on his own in 2008 after serving as an assistant trainer to his father, Art, for many years. Art was the trainer of record for all of Siren Lure's previous 32 starts.

“It’s exciting,” said Steve Sherman of his maiden stakes win. “I saddled many stakes winners for my father but it’s great to get my first one.” The victory was Siren Lure’s first since Aug. 20, 2006, when he captured the Pat O’Brien Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Del Mar.

A stone cold stretch-runner, Siren Lure received a great set up in the six-furlong Sausalito as four horses, including Indyanne, battled for the lead through fractions of 21.37 and 44.23.

Indyanne, a 3-year-old filly facing male rivals for the first time and making her first start since Oct. 4, was a little too aggressive early, according to jockey Russell Baze.

“She was a little too fresh today,” said Baze of Indyanne, who lost for only the second time in seven starts. “We had planned to let the other speed go and sit behind them but she wouldn’t have it. I tried to ease her back but she wanted no part of that.

“We were caught up in a speed duel and it set up for Siren Lure,” continued Baze. “Take nothing away from that horse – he ran a big race. My filly ran hard to the wire and he caught us.”

Frank Alvarado rode Siren Lure, who stopped the timer in 1:09.40 and paid $12.60 as the second choice in the wagering.

“I just wanted to keep my horse outside and out of trouble,” said Alvarado. “From the three-sixteenths pole to the wire he was just flying. I mean he was rolling. I thank Steve for giving me the chance to ride this horse. It’s his first stakes win and I’m glad I was a part of it.”

Siren Lure is a 7-year-old gelding owned in partnership by Stuart Kesselman and Tony and Marilyn Melkonian. The Sausalito victory was worth $45,000 and increased Siren Lure’s earnings to $913,844.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Johnny Eves Wins Vernon O. Underwood S.

Johnny Eves scores in the 28th running of the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park for trainer Jay Robbins and jockey Garrett Gomez, giving Gomez his 4th win on the day's card.

Square Eddie in Training at Hollywood Park

I shot a quick video of Square Eddie galloping on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park this morning, and spoke to trainer Doug O'Neill about his plans. O'Neill said Square Eddie, back from a well-deserved rest following his runner-up finish to Midshipman in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, was just out for an easy gallop with the pony. Square Eddie has been back about two weeks at the Hollywood Park barn of O'Neill, who is considering the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes, for 3-year-olds at 1-1/16 miles at Santa Anita in February for his next start.

Up on Square Eddie this morning was a new exercise rider in the O'Neill barn, David, who hails from England. According to O'Neill, he is a perfect fit for Square Eddie, who did his early running in Europe.

Square Eddie, a son of Smart Strike, is owned by J. Paul Reddam.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Two Greg Gilchrest Fillies Entered in Saturday's Sausalito Stakes at Golden Gate Fields

Trainer Greg Gilchrest has entered his two very special 3-year-old fillies, Indyanne and High Resolve, against older males in Saturday's Sausalito Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, for 3-year-olds and up at 6 furlongs on the main track. High Resolve races for the Estate of Harry Aleo, Gilchrest's longtime owner and friend who died on June 21st after a battle with cancer, and for whom Gilchrest conditioned Lost in the Fog and Smokey Stover. Indyanne is owned by John Sikura.

The possibility remains that either, or both, of the two fillies will be scratched from the Sausalito and instead aim for the $65,000 Playa Del Rey, a sprint for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park on Thanksgiving Day.

Indyanne, by Indian Charlie, is a multiple graded stakes winner who has won 5 of 6 starts including the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland last month -- a race that earned her a spot in the $1 million Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She was withdrawn from the BC Filly & Mare Sprint after developing a cough and low-grade fever.

High Resolve, by Put It Back, has won 6 of 8 starts including 4 stakes. She was a 5-1/4 length winner of the $150,000 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies Stakes on the Florida Millions card in 2007.

Here's how the field looks for the Sasalito:

Golden Gate Fields - November 22nd, 2008 - Race 8
$75,000 Sausalito Stakes

PP Horse Age Sex Wt. Jockey
1 Return of the King 6 g 123 Alex Bisono
2 Bound to Be MVP 5 h 123 Omar Figueroa
3 Assessment 4 g 123 Kyle Kaenel
4 High Resolve 3 f 117 David G. Lopez
5 Indyanne 3 f 117 Russell A. Baze
6 A Cat Named Snipe 3 c 120 Roberto M. Gonzalez
7 Siren Lure 7 g 123 Frank T. Alvarado
8 Esperamos 4 g 123 William Antongeorgi III

Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Wagering Now Available Outside California

The Hollywood Park and Golden Gate Fields signals are once again available to out-of-state ADW (advance deposit wagering) customers. The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) this morning announced that agreement has been reached with Xpressbet, Twin Spires, Youbet, and TVG on the current ADW impasse. The accord permits those ADW providers to begin accepting interstate ADW wagers today, and resolves related issues for all California Thoroughbred race meets for next year. The settlement agreement was reached as a direct result of the efforts of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group (THG), of which TOC is a founding member.

The news comes just in time for bettors around the nation to take part in a massive $251,713 pick-six carryover at Hollywood tonight and a $49,645 carryover at Golden Gate Fields.

First post at Hollywood Park is 7:05 p.m. PST, and first post at Golden Gate Fields is 1:45 p.m. PST.

David Flores Will Ride Speedy Bob Black Jack in Vernon O. Underwood

David Flores, recently nominated for this year's prestigious George Woolf Award, has the call on Bob Black Jack in the 28th running of the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Bob Black Jack, who established a world record of 1:06.53 for six furlongs at Santa Anita in January, returns to the races to face older horses at his record distance.

Bob Black Jack, a son of Stormy Jack, finished third in the San Felipe, then second to Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby, earning a trip to the Kentucky Derby, where he set the pace before tiring to finish 16th. Trained by Jim Kasparoff for owners Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, Bob Black Jack has won 3 of 8 starts for earnings of $442,925.

Flores was among five finalists for the 2009 Woolf Award announced by Santa Anita Park yesterday. He has long been regarded as one of Southern California's top jockeys and is known for a level temperament and coolness under fire. A native of Mexico, Flores won his first race at Agua Caliente racetrack on March 5, 1984. He has won more than 3,180 races including three Breeders' Cup races. Flores believes in giving back to his community and hosts his own golf tournament each summer at Del Mar to raise funds for the charity "Orphans of Tijuana."

Here's the complete field for Saturday's feature:

Vernon O. Underwood S. (G3)
November 22, $100,000, 3yo & up, 6f, Hollywood Park, 3:35 PM PT

PP Horse              Sire            Jockey          Wt.  Trainer
1. Wiredfortwotwenty Greatness Joseph Talamo 116 Brian Koriner
2. Six Pack Abs Forest Wildcat Tyler Baze 118 John Sadler
3. Noble Court Doneraile Court Mike E. Smith 122 John Sadler
4. Master Daniel Broken Vow Rafael Bejarano 114 Doug O’Neill
5. Bob Black Jack Stormy Jack David Flores 122 James Kasparoff
6. Johnny Eves Skimming Garrett Gomez 122 Jay Robbins
7. Northern Soldier Yankee Victor Aaron Gryder 118 Brian Koriner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

$251,712 Pick Six Carryover Friday Night at Hollywood Park

Hollywood Park has a two-day, $251,712 carryover going into Friday night's Pick Six, which starts with race 3 on the 8-race card. First post is 7:05 p.m. (PST).

Historical Note:
The Pick Six wager was introduced at Hollywood Park by Vernon O. Underwood on June 7, 1980. Underwood, for whom Saturday's stakes feature is named, was Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Hollywood Park from 1972-1985, and was known as one of racing's most innovative executives.

Mike Smith to Ride Ventana in Hollywood Prevue Stakes

Mike Smith preparing to work Ventana on Santa Anita's main track Wednesday morning.

Trainer Bob Baffert has named Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on Ventana for Sunday's Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs. Smith won the 2003 Prevue on Lion Heart. Baffert has won a record four runnings of the stakes, including last year with Massive Drama.

Ventana is by Toccet, winner of the 2002 CashCall Futurity. The colt was a $410,000 purchase at the Barretts March Sale for co-owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.

George Woolf Jockey Award Finalists Named

Santa Anita Park today announced a list of five finalists for the 2009 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. Jockeys named were Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano, David Flores and John Velazquez. The nominees will be judged by their peers, with the winner being announced in January.

The Woolf Award has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950 to a North American jockey who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct both on and off the racetrack. The trophy is a replica of a full-size bronze statue of George Woolf that stands in the paddock at Santa Anita Park. Woolf, who was revered by his fellow riders for his riding ability, competitiveness, and professionalism, died at the age of 35 following a spill at Santa Anita.

Known as "The Iceman" becuase of his renowned cool and patience while waiting for his horse to make the right move in a race, George Woolf was one of the premier jockeys of his era. In 1935, he made history when he rode Azucar to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap - the first horse race worth $100,000.

The Woolf Award will be presented during the Santa Anita Winter/Spring meeting, which runs from Dec. 26, 2008 through Apr. 19, 2009.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hollywood Park and the Great Fire of 1949

by Leonard N. Wynne

Above photo used with permission of Inglewood Public Library.

In early May, 1949, the Hollywood Turf Club was in busy preparation for the upcoming Spring meeting. In its relatively short history, Hollywood Park had achieved recognition as one the preeminent venues on the national racing scene, and there was much anticipation surrounding the start of the new season.

This happy optimism, however, would soon be clouded by uncertainty. Just after 11:00 PM on May 5, 1949, a fire broke out in the grandstand and, despite the efforts of local fire companies, the entire building was soon consumed in flames. When the sun rose over Inglewood the following morning, the grandstand and clubhouse, which for the past decade had been a favorite spot of both Hollywood celebrities and racing fans alike, had been reduced to a skeleton of twisted steel and smoking debris.

While the Hollywood Park fire of 1949 would become one of the darkest days in the track's history, the days to come would highlight some of the best aspects of California racing. In a great spirit of cooperation, the Los Angeles Turf Club, with the blessings of the California Horse Racing Board, extended the invitation to Hollywood Park to conduct its Spring meeting at Santa Anita. Although there were less than two weeks left to the opening, the tireless work and dedication of many individuals made the quick transition a success. On May 17, 1949, Hollywood Park at Santa Anita launched the Spring race meeting on schedule.

With the racing meet resumed at its temporary location across town, the Hollywood Turf Club quickly began the process of rebuilding. By the following Spring, Hollywood Park, like the Phoenix, had risen anew from the ashes. Just a year after the devastating fire Hollywood Park would reclaim the position it would hold for the next three decades as a driving force in North American racing.

Hollywood Park before and after the Fire of 1949.

Photos courtesy of The Thoroughbred of California, Vol, VIII, June 1949, 504.

Leonard N. Wynne is a lifelong fan of horse racing and its history. Wynne earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cal Poly Pomona, and holds advanced degrees in History from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently on leave from PhD program in History, UCSC. His areas of specialization include 19th Century United States with an emphasis on religion and gender and Popular Culture in the United States.

Memorial Service for Trainer Jim Hilling

A memorial service for former Northern California trainer Jim Hilling, who died Nov. 11 at the age of 66, will be held Thursday, Nov. 20, at 10:30 a.m. in the Top of the Stretch Room at Golden Gate Fields. Golden Gate Fields is located at 1100 Eastshore Highway, Albany, Calif., 94706. (For more information about Hilling, see 11/17 post on this site.)

TV Buzz at Santa Anita

There is a beehive of activity at Santa Anita this morning where television crews have descended to film a commercial for Wrigley's Gum. It is amazing to see the huge amount of equipment, crew members, and support services that the Hollywood studios bring along. There must be 25 people (all young and good looking) with walkie talkies, scurrying about. The caterer is already setting up the most important part -- a fabulous looking buffet for actors and crew.

Santa Anita, with its beautiful grounds and historic art deco buildings, is regularly rented out for TV and movie shoots. Recent productions include the kitchen scene in the 2006 movie "Bobby" starring Emilio Estevez, and a series about jockeys filmed for the Animal Planet and featuring Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland. The series premiers in February.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zap! of the Week: Curlin vs. Zenyatta?

Zap of the Week

How about Curlin versus Zenyatta, December 26th, in a Match Race, 1-1/8 miles, at the Fairgrounds? I'd show up, what about you?

Great video blog by Larry Zap. Note that Zenyatta is beating Curlin by more than 2 to 1 in my poll to the right...

Zap is known as "the eye" for being able to measure quality in thoroughbred racehorses, and is practically a fixture at Southern California tracks. He has a deep appreciation for quality horses, music, movies, live performance, and comedy. Zap co-hosts Race and Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 AM (pst) on San Diego's XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) and online at .

CHRB Allocates 2009 Race Dates

At a meeting today at U.C. Davis, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) approved the California Thoroughbred race meet calendar for 2009.

The Northern California calendar reflects significant changes from recent years, due to the closing of Bay Meadows in San Mateo. The following race meet dates were approved:
  • Golden Gate Fields - Dec. 26, 2008 through June 14, 2009
  • Stockton Fair - June 18-28
  • Pleasanton Fair - July 1-19
  • Vallejo Fair - July 22-26*
  • Santa Rosa Fair - July 29-Aug. 9
  • Golden Gate Fields - Aug. 12-23 (to benefit California Fairs)
  • Ferndale Fair - Aug. 13-23 (overlaps with Golden Gate)
  • Sacramento Fair - Aug. 26-Sept. 7
  • Golden Gate Fields - Sept. 9-Oct. 4
  • Fresno Fair - Oct. 7-18
  • Golden Gate Fields - Oct. 21-Dec. 13

*Vallejo Fair week was tentatively approved pending further discussion among industry stakeholders.

Southern California Race Dates Approved:

  • Santa Anita (LATC) - Dec. 26, 2008 - Apr. 19, 2009
  • Hollywood Park - Apr. 22-July 19
  • Del Mar - July 22-Sept. 9
  • Fairplex - Sept. 10-28 (no racing Monday, 9/14)
  • Oak Tree at Santa Anita - Sept. 30-Nov. 8
  • Hollywood Park - Nov. 11-Dec. 21**

**Hollywood Park has agreed to provide 6 months' notice prior to permanently closing down.

CHRB Will Consider California Race Dates for 2009 and Beyond

After today's meeting of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), horsemen will hopefully have a clearer idea of what the future racing calendar for California will look like. Item 10 of a lengthy agenda for the meeting that begins at 9:30 a.m. (pst) at U.C. Davis, will consider the allocation of race dates for 2009 and beyond.

Some of the most contested issues include allocation of dates for Northern California now that Bay Meadows is no longer in the picture, and future race dates for Southern California in light of Hollywood Park's reticence regarding a commitment to operating beyond its 2009 Spring-Summer meet.

Check this blog this afternoon for an update on today's action by the racing board.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Palacio de Amor Update

Palacio de Amor, the 2-year-old filly who was vanned off the track following her 3rd place finish in Sunday's Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park reportedly sustained an ankle injury and will be sent to the farm for a rest, most likely returning to training in few months.

Zenyatta Will Race in 2009

Zenyatta Schooling for 2008 Breeders Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in October.

Trainer John Shirreffs confirmed Saturday that undefeated Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner Zenyatta will remain in training next year for owners Jerry and Ann Moss. The 4-year-old Street Cry (Ire) filly will return to racing in 2009 after a well-deserved break.

Zenyatta, who won each of her seven starts this season, is a leading contender for Horse of the Year honors. Zenyatta is at Hollywood Park where, according to Shirreffs, she will remain, walking for about 60 days before starting back in serious training.

Zenyatta is unbeaten in 9 starts, with purse earnings totaling $2,144,580.

Northern California Trainer Jim Hilling Dies

Jim Hilling, widely respected by his peers throughout his 30 years as a trainer, died Tuesday night at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley from pneumonia and other complications. Hilling was 66. His son, David, and longtime companion Kit Conner were at his bedside at the end.

Hilling sent out Show Dancer to a second-place finish behind Miesque in the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Hollywood Park. He maintained a stable in Northern California from the mid-1970s until his retirement in the summer of 2007. In addition to managing his own horses, Hilling often handled stakes runners that shipped in from Southern California, including those for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale.

Personally, I knew Hilling to be exceptionally generous with his time and knowledge, as he shared both with groups of newcomers to the sport as a host for Thoroughbred Owners of California seminars and hands-on clinics.

Services for Hilling are pending.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Evita Argentina Wins Moccasin S. for Tyler Baze on His Wife's Birthday

Evita Argentina came from last to first to score an impressive victory in the 22nd running of the $100,000-added Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track. The victory was extra special for jockey Tyler Baze, who took the opportunity in the winner's circle to wish his wife, Christina, a happy birthday.

Down the backstretch, Evita Argentina was last in the field of 11; but, when Baze made his move on her, she came charging down the center of the track to prevail by nearly two lengths over runners-up Mi Chiamano Mimi and Palacio de Amor.

Evita Argentina, who paid $14.80, $5.80, and $3.40, is trained by John Sadler for Ted Aroney's Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, who knew they had a special filly when she beat Stardom Bound in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 6, in the second start of her career. In the Sorrento S., Evita Argentina became the first stakes winner for freshman sire Candy Ride.

Curlin Retired

Curlin Schooling for the Breeders Cup Classic, in the Paddock at Santa Anita Oct. 16, 2008.

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year and winningest horse in North American history, will not race again after this year. The announcement was made Saturday by Curlin's majority owner, Jess Jackson, who said that Curlin may race once more before the end of this year.

Curlin, who raced as a four-year-old this year finishing 4th in the Breeders' Cup Classic, has earned more than $10 million in a career that includes 11 wins in 16 starts - including victories in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, the Stephen Foster, the Woodward and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He is one of the top contenders for 2008 Horse of the Year.

Jackson, who owns 80 percent of Curlin, last week reportedly submitted a private offer for the remaining 20 percent interest in the horse.

You Lift Me Up Wins Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at Hollywood Park Under Smokey Skies

Longshot You Lift Me Up, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, beat fravorite Solar Miss by a head to win Saturday's Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at Hollywood Park. You Lift Me Up is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, and covered the 1-1/8 miles on the turf in 1:50:09, paying $19.20, $8.60, and $5.

Solar Miss finished second, a nose in front of Fire n' Brimstone. You Lift Me Up, a California-bred daughter of Lord Carson, posted her fifth win in 16 starts.

The afternoon's card was run under oppressively smokey skies resulting from three major brush fires. Active fires burned throughout the day in Palos Verdes Peninsula to the west, Sylmar to the northwest, and Yorba Linda to the east of the Inglewood track. Hollywood Park shortened the time horses were in the saddling paddock and on the track before races, as fans watched under eerily darkened skies and a light rain of ash.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

$100,000 Moccasin Stakes Sunday at Hollywood Park

Trainer Ron Ellis, who starts Wind Caper in Sunday's Moccasin Stakes.

Wind Caper will make her West Coast debut Sunday at Hollywood Park for trainer Ron Ellis. In her last start, Wind Caper beat maiden specials by a neck at Presque Isle Downs.

"She's in pretty tough," said Ellis, "but we couldn't find an allowance race for her."

Sunday marks the 22nd running of the $100,000-added Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs on the Cushion Track. The race serves as a prep for the $250,000 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 13th. Here's how the field lines up:

  1. MI CHIAMANO MIMI (Garrett Gomez)
  2. CASINO GOLD (David Flores)
  3. WILL O WAY (Rafael Bejarano)
  4. WIND CAPER (Jose Valdivia, Jr.)
  5. MALUSITA (Joel Rosario)
  6. PASAR SILBANO (Mike Smith)
  7. MONTANA FIELDS (Michael Baze)
  8. EVITA ARGENTINA (Tyler Baze)
  9. PALACIO DE AMOR (Victor Espinoza)
  10. WYNNING RIDE (Joseph Talamo)
  11. MOONTUNE MISSY (Aaron Gryder)

A Little Bit of History...
(1963-1986) was an American Champion and the only two-year-old filly to be voted Horse of the Year. She shared the honor in 1965 with Roman Brother. Undefeated in 8 starts as a 2-year-old, Moccasin was the first female to be named Horse of the Year since Busher 20 years earlier. Her wins included the Spinaway, Matron, Alcibiades, Selima and Gardenia Stakes. A full sister to Ridan, Moccasin's grandsire was the champion Nasrullah who in turn was sired by the very important Nearco.

Stute, Kilmer and the Topless Donut Shop

Trainer Mel Stute
Stute sporting one of his favorite hats, a visor with faux hair.

Trainer Mel Stute, who loves a good joke and a good story, was in fine form Friday morning at Clockers Corner. He had a great anecdote involving his friend Billy Kilmer. Kilmer, an NFL quarterback, played for the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Washington Redskins.

"Billy had some horses with me, and we had some great names for them," Stute said. "His number was 17, so we had one named Bold Seventeen. And when he threw passes, they had this kind of a wobble to them, so we had one called Wobbly Pass."

Well, it seems the two men were in Florida with some horses, and Kilmer decided to have a little fun with Stute. "He knew I always brought donuts to the barn," Stute related. "And he said, 'Why don't you stop in here and get some donuts?' It was a place called 'Topless Something Donuts,' and I had no idea what it was."

Apparently it was one of a chain of donut shops in the area that featured topless servers... "The girl had her back to me," Stute said. "And when she turned around, I almost fell off the stool!"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trainer Paddy Gallagher Seeks Repeat in Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at Hollywood Park

Trainer Paddy Gallagher at Santa Anita Racetrack Friday Morning.

Paddy Gallagher seeks his second straight win in the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies at 1-1/8 miles on the turf Sunday at Hollywood Park, with Miss Singhsix. This morning at Santa Anita, Gallagher said Miss Singhsix has been training great and looks like she'll go a mile and an eighth. Gallagher won the stakes last year with Hucking Hot.

Miss Singhsix, an Irish-bred Singspiel filly, finished fourth in the Harold Ramser Stakes at Santa Anita at a mile in her last start, on October 11.

Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes Saturday at Hollywood Park

Saturday marks the sixth running of the stakes race named for Southern California philanthropist Audrey Skirball-Kenis, who died in 2002 at the age of 87. The $65,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies will be contested at one and one-eighth miles on the turf.

Skirball-Kenis, who moved to California in 1941, was a driving force behind many philanthropic projects - including the Skirball Cultural Center , The Audrey Skirball-Kenis Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and other projects supporting medicine and the arts.

Skirball-Kenis was a longtime Thoroughbred owner who raced under the name 3+U Stable with her husband, Charles Kenis. Among the stable's winners were Mazel Trick, who set a track record of 1:19 4/5 for 7 furlongs in the 1999 Triple Bend Hcp. and Super Quercus, winner of the 1999 Hollywood Derby and 2001 Hollywood Turf Cup.

This morning at Clockers Corner, I spoke to trainer Bobby Frankel, with whom the Kenis's enjoyed some of their most successful racing years, particularly with the many good horses Frankel brought them back from France, including Sixieme Sens, See You Soon, Uncharted Heaven, Millie's Quest, and The Seven Seas. Frankel had nothing but good things to say about Audrey and her husband, Charles. Although he does not have an entry in Saturday's stakes, Frankel won the 2006 running with Citronnade.

Here's the field for Saturday's stakes, which goes as the 8th on a 9-race card:

  1. Stroppy (Michael Baze)
  2. Mohaka (Victor Espinoza)
  3. Set of Wings (David Flores)
  4. You Lift Me Up (Mike Smith)
  5. Miss Singhsix (Alex Solis)
  6. Solar Miss (Garrett Gomez)
  7. Sensational Love (Rafael Bejarano)
  8. Famous Ruby (Joel Rosario)
  9. Fire n’ Brimstone (Tyler Baze)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Quiet Man: Trainer Jack Van Berg

To me, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg has always seemed like something of a cross between John Wayne and Will Rogers... tough, quietly intelligent, with a twinkle in his eye! So when I saw him sitting on his pony outside his barn at Hollywood Park last week I just had to snap a photo.

Born June 7, 1936 in Columbus, Nebraska, he is perhaps best known for his great success with 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba. Van Berg joined horse racing's Hall of Fame in 1985, following in the footsteps of his late father, Marion, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a trainer in 1970.

Van Berg began working with horses at the age of 13, and he saddled his first winner at 16. In 1976, he became the first trainer in Thoroughbred history to lead the nation both in races won and money won, with 496 victories. He would, of course, go on to garner well over 6,000 wins, as well as an Eclipse Award as trainer in 1984.

On another historical note, Van Berg saddled I Be Casual on Dec. 9, 1999 at Hollywood Park, as jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. tied Bill Shoemaker's record for career riding victories, at 8,833!

Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Van Berg runs Cold Prince in the 3rd race, a $12,500 claimer for 3-year-olds and up, and Nu Power Two in the 8th, a maiden claimer for 3-year-olds and up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eye on "The Eye" - Zap Introduces New Video Blog

Followers of my blog are familiar with the cool horseracing video clips by Larry Zap. Get a look at the man behind "the eye" videos by checking out Zap's new Video Blog .

Zap! of the Week: Breeders Cup 2008, Zenyatta & Company

Zap of the Week

Some wonderful footage of Zenyatta, Goldikova, Tiago, Stardom Bound, Maram, Kip Deville, Curlin, and more on a very busy training morning at Santa Anita Park. Some beautiful scenes that start out in the dark, then lighten as the sun comes up over the track.

Zap says, "Last full day of training for the Breeders Cup 2008...super filly Goldikova enjoyed a nice gallop as well...enjoy!"

Zap is known as "the eye" for being able to measure quality in thoroughbred racehorses, and is practically a fixture at Southern California tracks. He has a deep appreciation for quality horses, music, movies, live performance, and comedy. Zap co-hosts Race and Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 AM (pst) on San Diego's XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) and online at .

Monday, November 10, 2008

70 Years of Racing History at Hollywood Park

View of Hollywood Park Grandstand from the Far Turn.

This year, Hollywood Park is celebrating its 70th Anniversary. The Inglewood track's history is linked to some of Hollywood's elite and famous. It was formed under the chairmanship of Jack L. Warner of the Warner Bros. film corporation, and its original shareholders included many stars, directors and producers of the film world, including Al Jolson, Joan Blondell, Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, Sam Goldwyn, Ralph Bellamy, and Wallace Beery. The historic track opened on June 10, 1938. The grand old track can boast many historic firsts including:

  • Citation became racing's first million-dollar earner by winning the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup.
  • The Pick Six wager was introduced at Hollywood Park on June 7, 1980.
  • Hollywood Park pioneered the Exacta wager in 1971.
  • Sunday racing was introduced to California at Hollywood Park on April 15, 1973.
  • The inaugural Breeders' Cup was held at Hollywood Park, before a crowd of 64,625 (plus an estimated 50 million viewers).

Coincidentally, as fellow blogger Trackside View points out, Gulfstream Park in Florida is also celebrating its 70th year, when it opens its meet on January 3, 2009.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

High Heel Sneakers Captures Hermosa Beach; Pick Six Pays $154,253 at Hollywood Park

(edited Hollywood Park report)
Favorite High Heel Sneakers, under Victor Espinoza, easily outran Brushed Gold through the stretch en route to a 2-3/4 length victory in Sunday's $65,000 Hermosa Beach Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The 5-year-old bay mare, meeting easier competition after a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon S. at Santa Anita, covered the one and one-half miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 2:28.58 while paying $5.60, $3.40 and $2.60. Brushed Gold, ridden by Garrett Gomez, paid $5.40 and $3.40, while the show payoff on Maryland shipper Caprice paid $2.60.

High Heel Sneakers, a Great Britain-bred owned by Christopher Wright and trained by Ben Cecil, won for the third time in 20 starts. The winner's share of $42,925 raised her earnings to $212,137. The win was her first in four U.S. starts.

With a Pick Six carryover of $112,486 entering Sunday, an additional $630,918 was wagered. The payoff to three perfect tickets was $154,253.20.

Gula Gold and Friends at Hollywood Park

Steve Gula and son Brian in the Hollywood Park paddock, 11/8/08.

It's always a delight to chat with Washington-based owner Steven Gula when he comes to Southern California to watch one of his horses run. I began following Gula Gold last year after meeting Steven Gula at Santa Anita. Gula is one of the most enthusiastic, energetic, and friendly people I've ever met, and he truly loves the sport. At his suggestion (and with his help setting it up), I had a marvelous time writing a profile for Owners' Circle magazine on his good friend, actor Dick Van Patten.

Racing fans, especially in the Northwest, will remember Gula's first racehorse - the great Mula Gula - a $6,000 purchase who went on to win nearly $700,000. As a 3-year-old, Mula Gula won a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar, the Bay Meadows Breeders Cup Derby (Grade 3) and the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, for Gula and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He was voted Champion Northern California 3-year-old Colt of 1999. As a 4-year-old, Mula Gula ran third in the Arlington Million before being retired to stud. He now stands at Old Frankfort Stud in Midway, Kentucky.

The excitement continues with Mula Gula's daughter, Gula Gold, who has already earned more than $100,000. Saturday, Gula Gold, Garrett Gomez up, finished a close 4th in an allowance/optional claiming race at one mile on the Hollywood Park turf course. Steve Gula brought his son, Brian, along. Father and son began the day's journey at 3:00 a.m., made it to Hollywood Park just in time to watch Gula Gold be saddled, and took a flight from LAX back to Seattle right after the race. We appreciate Gula's support of California racing and look forward to his next visit!

Two Classics Chat at Clockers Corner

Trainers Richard Mandella and Mel Stute chatting at Santa Anita this morning. Another beautiful day is on tap for Southern California.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sweet! Chocolate Candy Wins Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park

Chocolate Candy, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Garret Gomez, scored a one-length victory in today's $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park. Chocolate Candy has now won two straight for the Craig Family Trust. He covered the one and one-sixteenth miles on the Cushion Track in 1:42.25, prevailing over favorite Charlie's Moment, and J P Jammer. Enjoy the video clip, which includes Hollendorfer's post-race interview.

Chocolate Candy, Garrett Gomez up, comes onto the Cushion Track in the post parade.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Maryland Shipper Caprice in Sunday's Hermosa Beach Hcp. at Hollywood Park

Maryland shipper Caprice has been supplemented by trainer Graham Motion to Sunday's $65,000-added Hermosa Beach Handicap at Hollywood Park. The stakes is for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at one and a half miles on the turf. Rafael Bejarano has the mount.

The German-bred mare will be seeking her first U.S. victory. Most recently, she finished third in the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 19.

The stakes is named for the eclectic city on the Pacific Ocean just a few miles from the track. Hermosa Beach is bordered by two other famous Southern California playgrounds - Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. Hermosa Beach pier, at the end of Pier Avenue, is one of the city's main areas for shopping and dining, including the best Cajun food restaurant west of the Mississippi, the Ragin' Cajun. Coincidentally, the Ragin' Cajun is owned and operated by my cousin Steven Domingue from Lafayette, Louisiana! If you're ever in Hermosa Beach, ya'll come!

Here's the entire field for the Hermosa Beach Stakes:

1 Opal Haze (Michael Baze)
2 High Heel Sneakers (Victor Espinoza)
3 Elle Pickle (Aaron Gryder)
4 Caprice (Bejarano)
5 Le Cirque (Joe Talamo)
6 Brushed Gold (Garrett Gomez)
7 Rushen Heat (Jose Valdivia)
8 Restless Soul (Joel Rosario)
9 Sports Edition (Martin Garcia)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park

Trainer Bob Baffert at Clockers Corner, Santa Anita, this morning.

Saturday's feature at Hollywood Park - the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes - has some great history attached to it. It is named for Real Quiet, trained by Bob Baffert. In 1999, Real Quiet became the first Kentucky Derby champion since Ferdinand (1987) to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Park's premier race.

Real Quiet, owned by Mike Pegram, was nicknamed "the fish" by Baffert because of his narrow frame. As a two-year-old in 1997, Real Quiet won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity.

In 1998, Real Quiet faced an impressive crop of three-year-olds, yet he came closer to winning the Triple Crown than any horse since Affirmed did 20 years earlier. After winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Real Quiet lost his bid for racing immortality in the Belmont, when beaten in the final strides by Victory Gallop. He nevertheless ended the year with an Eclipse Award for best three-year-old colt.

As a four-year-old in 1999, Real Quiet won the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pimlico Special. Considered to be a strong contender in the Breeders' Cup Classic that year, Real Quiet instead suffered an injury, forcing his retirement.

Real Quiet's progeny include Pussycat Doll, No Place Like It, Wonder Lady Ann L, and Midnight Lute.

Here's the field for the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes, for 2-year-olds, at 1-1/16 miles on the Cushion Track.

1 Mark S the Cooler (Michael Baze)
2 When We Met (Mike Smith)
3 J P Jammer (Aaron Gryder)
4 Chocolate Candy (Garrett Gomez)
5 Danny Q (Martin Pedroza)
6 Escalon (Rafael Bejarano)
7 Charlie's Moment (Joel Rosario)

Zap! The Green Monkey

I ran into Larry Zap this morning at Clockers Corner, and we got to talking about the Fasig-Tipton sale, where Better than Honour recently sold for $14 million - a record price for a broodmare. Of course, that brought up the mention of The Green Monkey, the world's most expensive racehorse who sold for $16 million at the Fasig-Tipton Calder 2-year-old sale in 2006 and subsequently retired winless in three starts.

"At least she has thrown some stakes winners," said Zap about Better Than Honor. On the other hand, he used the word "bogus" to describe the sale of The Green Monkey. For your viewing pleasure, I offer Zap's video of the sale of The Green Monkey. Notice in the very beginning, Zap comments, "Where's the rest of him?" Enjoy!

Zap is known as "the eye" for being able to measure quality in thoroughbred racehorses, and is practically a fixture at Southern California tracks. He has a deep appreciation for quality horses, music, movies, live performance, and comedy. Zap co-hosts Race and Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 AM (pst) on San Diego's XX Sports Radio (1090 AM) and online at .

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maryland Votes on Slots Tuesday

On Tuesday, voters in Maryland will decide whether or not to allow slot machines at their racetracks, when they vote on "Question 2."

Who Needs Slots?
Personally, I never wanted to see slot machines at racetracks. But at some point I realized the truth of the saying, "If you can't beat them, joint them!" No one would argue that Thoroughbred racing needs help these days, and many states have turned to slots for a much needed infusion of revenue. Racetracks in Maryland, including Laurel and Pimlico, have found it increasingly difficult to compete with racing in neighboring states that have slots.

Leveling the Playing Field
Maryland shares borders with three direct racing competitors - Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia - all of which have slots and, consequently, can offer purses that far outstrip those in Maryland.

Maryland-based stable and blogger That's Amore Stable presents a passionate and relevant argument in favor of Question 2.

Best of luck to my counterparts in Maryland!