By Ed Golden —-
ESPINOZA SAYS THERE’S VALUE IN CROSSOVER SPORTS PR
CAL-BRED LONG HOT SUMMER IS ‘IN GOOD SPOT’ SATURDAY
GUN RUNNER WORKS FOR CLASSIC, ARROGATE TOMORROW
BARRETTS FALL YEARLING SALE HELD AT FAIRPLEX OCT. 17
Canelo Alvarez and Victor Espinoza; Golden Boy Productions
ESPINOZA SEES CROSSOVER BENEFIT FOR RACING
Victor Espinoza knows a good PR op when he sees one.
He’s been in enough of them.
The first jockey to win the Triple Crown in 37 years when he guided American Pharoah to the elusive sweep in 2015, and the regular rider of The People’s Horse, two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, Espinoza has exchanged network TV banter with the likes of David Letterman and displayed surprising terpsichorean footwork tripping the light fantastic on Dancing With the Stars.
He also recognizes the crossover public relations promotion value from a mainstream sport, in this instance boxing, which came to light after he befriended fellow Mexican and three-time world champion boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and spent several days with him before, during and after his middleweight title bout draw against Gennady Golovkin before a sellout crowd in Las Vegas Sept. 16 that generated more than $27 million from 17,318 tickets sold.
It was the third-largest live gate in boxing history.
“Sports should support one other,” Espinoza said. “There were tons and tons of media at the fight, most of them from Spanish-speaking outlets, but all of it is important because racing has fallen behind and we need to stick together to get as much publicity as possible.
“I’m from a town near Mexico City and Canelo is from Guadalajara, where he has a farm with show horses, pretty much just for the fun of it. He wanted to meet me at Del Mar, so I invited him and he was able to see the difference between the two breeds, how Thoroughbreds train, and was very impressed with the whole atmosphere at the race track.”
Canelo (in Spanish, it’s the masculine word for cinnamon, a common nickname for people with red hair, such as the boxer) at the age of five moved to Juanacatlan and grew up on his family’s farm, where he learned to ride, which he still does today.
The youngest of eight children, seven of them boys, all his brothers became professional boxers, but Canelo’s love of horses never waned, eventually leading to a meeting with Espinoza.
“He invited me to watch him train in La Jolla and I watched how they prepared for a fight and enjoyed seeing how athletes in other sports go through their routines,” Victor said. “Then he invited me to his fight in Las Vegas.
“It was interesting to see how he gets ready as a boxer, compared with how I prepare as a rider. Basically, we all have the same competitive drive, but more important to me was the fact that professionals from two different sports came together.
“This is something that could benefit every sport, especially horse racing, because we’ve fallen behind a little bit when it comes to getting publicity on a regular basis. We have to catch up, and sharing with other mainstream sports such as boxing gives us much needed exposure.
“I know I’ve been criticized for appearing on network shows and doing things away from the track when I was riding California Chrome and American Pharoah, but people have to understand that I only did that because I feel it’s best for racing.”
Espinoza and Canelo, said Victor’s agent, Brian Beach, “are two of the most recognized people in Mexico.”
Perhaps one day, they can meld the popularity of their sports to benefit racing, and Espinoza can return the favor for Canelo.
TRAINER SEEKS BETTER LUCK FOR LONG HOT SUMMER
Phil D’Amato is hoping for improvement from Long Hot Summer when she runs in this year’s $100,000 California Distaff Handicap Saturday, a sprint at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf in which she finished fifth by 13 lengths behind victorious stablemate Enola Gray in 2016.
A five-year-old Street Boss mare, Long Hot Summer wound up running for purse money only in her most recent start, an overnight race at Del Mar Aug. 31. “It was a weird deal,” the trainer said. “She broke a split second before the gates opened and was declared a non-starter, so you can throw that race out.
“She spotted the field like 15 lengths in a five furlong race and still was only four lengths back at the finish. She’s run down the hill here before, and this race is against Cal-breds, so it’s a good spot for her.”
The California Distaff is one in the Golden State Series for Cal-bred or sired runners, this one for fillies and mares, age three and older.
Probable for the California Distaff Handicap: Barbara Beatrice, Chad Chom, Late ‘n Left, Long Hot Summer, Moonless Sky, Princess Ashlyn, Ready to Hula Lula and Starlite Style.
Joe Talamo, who has ridden Long Hot Summer in all 17 of her races, six of them wins, pilots Del Mar Oaks runner-up Beau Recall for Simon Callaghan next Saturday in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Invitational at Keeneland, so Flavien Prat takes over on Long Hot Summer.
GUN RUNNER IN CLASSIC BREEZE, ARROGATE WORKS TUESDAY
Gun Runner, expected to vie for favoritism with Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Monday in 1:01.60.
“He had good rhythm, looked good and felt good coming off the race track,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to Steve Asmussen, who was on hand for the 6:45 a.m. drill.
“He’ll do more next week.”
Defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate is scheduled to work Tuesday for Bob Baffert, who sent Breeders’ Cup Sprint favorite Drefong four furlongs under Martin Garcia Monday in 47.40 and Distaff contender Abel Tasman four furlongs in 48.60.
Drefong went in company with Show Me Da Lute, who was timed in 47.80.
Mick Ruis, trainer of unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite Bolt d’Oro, said the bay Medaglia d’Oro colt would breeze the next two Sundays.
FINISH LINES: Attention horsemen—The Barretts Fall Yearling and Horses of All Ages Sale will be conducted Tuesday, Oct. 17 at Fairplex Park. “Game time” is 11 a.m. . . . Jerry Hollendorfer reports Unique Bella came out of Sunday’s LA Woman Stakes “perfect” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 4 . . . Santa Anita will be dark Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Live racing resumes at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13
Santa Anita Park is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America’s top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world’s largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is North America’s premier supplier of virtual online horseracing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry.