Hawthorne Race Course opens Friday with a 1:30pm first post. As always, you can watch and wager on each day of racing at Hawthorne.
The popular online Hawthorne Thoroughbred Survivor Contest begins Feb 18. You can register now at their website. This contest is free to enter and offers a $2,500 first prize.
News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
SANTA ANITA HOSTING PAIR OF KEY GRADE II EVENTS THIS WEEKEND
Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Tapizar, regarded by many as the West Coast’s preeminent 3-year-old, will be solidly favored to enhance that judgment Saturday among eight entrants in Santa Anita’s 73rd running of the Grade II, $250,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.
The Lewis, named for the immensely popular owner/breeder who passed away in 2006, was run as the Santa Catalina Stakes prior to 2007, and has produced five of the last 16 winners of the Santa Anita Derby.
Two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Asmussen, who had never competed at Santa Anita on a large scale before this season, watched Tapizar evolve into his premier 3-year-old with a crushing 4 ½-length victory in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 15 at Santa Anita.
“I’m blessed to have him,” said Asmussen, a winner of 504 races last year.”He’s a tremendously talented horse.”
Tapizar comes into the Lewis with earnings of $105,632 from four starts, all route races, for Winchell Thoroughbreds. It took three races before the son of hot young stallion Tapit broke his maiden by 10 ½ lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. One of his earlier races was marred when Tapizar tossed his rider. Garrett Gomez, aboard for the commanding win in the Sham, will be back atop Tapizar.
None of Tapizar’s opponents appears to be of his caliber. Grade I winner Comma to the Top was entered by trainer Peter Miller, but only as a contingency measure, as the 123-pound high weight is expected to run instead in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.
The complete field for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, from the rail out, is: Wegner (jockey: Rafael Bejarano, weight: 118); Anthony’s Cross (Joel Rosario, 118); Comma to the Top (Corey Nakatani, 123); Tapizar (Garrett Gomez, 120); Ten Devils (Joseph Talamo, 118); Riveting Reason (Victor Espinoza, 118); Quail Hill (Martin Pedroza, 118); and Thirtyfirststreet (Patrick Valenzuela).
On Saturday, Santa Anita also presents the 69th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Maria Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The Santa Maria marks the return of defending champion St Trinians among its seven entrants.
In capturing the 2010 Santa Maria by 1 ¾ lengths over Life Is Sweet, St Trinians won her fourth straight race on U.S. soil after being imported from Great Britain by trainer Mike Mitchell on behalf of owners Daniel Capen and Laura Chavers. The win was impressive enough for the bay mare to warrant 3-1 favoritism in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap.
St Trinians wound up sixth in the March 6 Big ‘Cap. She subsequently went to the sidelines, but returned at full strength to give the mighty Zenyatta a terrific scare when beaten by one-half length in the Grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 13. Again, she went to the sidelines when, according to Mitchell, she became body sore.
“I’m very pleased with her works,” Mitchell said of St Trinians’ comeback preparations at the age of six.”She’s had a nice break.” Joe Talamo will take over the reins of the British-bred who has earned $308,587 from a career record of 7-1-3 in 13 starts.
The opposition for St Trinians in the Santa Maria includes Zardana, the 7-year-old mare who made a name for herself by upsetting 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Handicap last March 20 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The Brazilian-bred mare, trained by John Shirreffs for Arnold Zetcher, will be seeking her first win in five starts since stinging Rachel Alexandra at odds of 9-1. Victor Espinoza, who rode Zardana to a pair of stakes wins in 2009, has the mount. He was aboard when Zardana finished fourth, 4 ¾ lengths behind St Trinians, in last year’s Santa Maria.
The complete field for the Santa Maria Handicap, in post position order, is: St Trinians (jockey: Joe Talamo, weight: 120); Vision in Gold (Joel Rosario, 118); Washington Bridge (Raphael Bejarano, 123); Miss Match Garrett Gomez, 118); Zardana (Victor Espinoza, 118); Mona de Momma (Alonso Quinonez, 118); and It Tiz (David Flores, 118).
FUTURITY WINNER COMMA TO THE TOP HEADS SEVEN IN EL CAMINO REAL DERBY
Last year’s Grade I CashCall Futurity winner Comma to the Top will be the horse to beat when he takes on six foes in Saturday’s $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif.
Northern California’s premier event for Triple Crown hopefuls, the El Camino Real Derby will be run at 1 1/8-miles on Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic Tapeta racing surface.
Southern California-based Comma to the Top has won five straight races, a streak that began when trainer Peter Miller sent the gelding to Golden Gate Fields for a $40,000 starter allowance race. Comma to the Top won that six-furlong sprint by four lengths and three weeks later returned to the Bay Area to win a six-furlong allowance race by six lengths.
Comma to the Top followed up his Bay Area victories with a stakes hat trick at Hollywood Park, where he captured the Real Quiet Stakes (a 1 1/16-mile test on the synthetic Cushion Track surface), the Grade III Generous Stakes (a one-mile turf race), and the Grade I CashCall Futurity (a 1 1/16-mile race on Cushion Track).
Comma to the Top, who has six wins and a second in 10 career starts and $551,600 in earnings, will be ridden in the El Camino Real Derby by Corey Nakatani.
The top local hope is Positive Response. The William E. Morey trainee has four victories and a third in six career starts and enters the El Camino Real Derby with a three-race winning streak at Golden Gate Fields. Prior to winning the 1 1/16-mile California Derby, Positive Response won the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes and a one-mile starter allowance race. All three races were recorded on the Tapeta surface.
Positive Response began his career in Canada and was purchased by Morey for $75,000 after he broke his maiden in his second start at Woodbine. Since joining the Morey barn, Positive Response has earned $116,880 for the trainer and his ownership partners, Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman and Ray Pagano.
Frenchman Julien Couton, who is second to Russell Baze in the jockey standings at the current Golden Gate Fields meeting, guided Positive Response to his Gold Rush and California Derby victories and will be back in the irons Saturday. Baze, who has won the El Camino Real Derby a record seven times, will seek an eighth victory in the race with Silver Medallion. The Steve Asmussen trainee is coming off a victory in the Eddie Logan Stakes, a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita. Silver Medallion, who has two wins and a second in five career starts, will be Asmussen’s first starter at Golden Gate Fields.
The El Camino Real Derby field also features Jakesam, Anthony’s Cross, Bluegrass Reward, and Formula Gold.
BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT CHAMPION CHAMBERLAIN BRIDGE TO RUN AT SAM HOUSTON SATURDAY
In Saturday night’s $75,000 RailSplitter Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, fans will be treated to the return of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge, who will ship in from Fair Grounds for Saturday’s 5-furlong grass event.
Owned by Carl Moore Management LLC, the 7-year-old son of War Chant is an extraordinary turf specialist, winning eight of his 13 starts sprinting. Last year, he won three consecutive stakes in Illinois and Pennsylvania before scoring the biggest victory in his career, the Grade II, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. Calhoun and Moore had been searching for a prep race for Chamberlain Bridge, who will ship to Dubai for $1 million Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse on March 26.
“We have gone back and forth with the weather,” said Calhoun from his Fair Grounds barn. “The Fair Grounds weather has been so volatile; we decided that shipping to Houston was our best option. Houston has a nice turf course, which was definitely part of the lure.”The complete field, from the rail out, is: Forestry Gold (jockey: Alfredo Contreras); Goldzar (Shane Sellers); Truly Lucky (Quincy Hamilton); Hollywood Ice (Chris Landeros); Chamberlain Bridge (Jamie Theriot); Antioch Diamond (Eguard Tejera); Pacific Tsunami (Bobby Walker, Jr.); Thunder Pants (Paul Nolan); Midnight Cabinet (Larry Taylor; and Future Covenant (Miguel Mena.)