By Ed Golden —-
• MAIDEN WINNER TRIES THE SAN VICENTE STAKES
• HOLLENDORFER HAPPY WITH SANTA MARIA POST
• MILE OF THUNDER ROAD COULD SUIT TEQUILA JOE
• FIRST POST TIME ON SATURDAY WILL BE 12 NOON
• CREDO FOR RICHARD BALTAS BARN: BORN TO RUN
KRIS’ ROCKET KAT RETURNS IN SAN VICENTE
Kris’ Rocket Kat is one of five of six three-year-olds owning just a maiden victory in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes.
Only invading Mr. Jagermeister has graced the winner’s circle twice, that being at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota
Kris’ Rocket Kat, meanwhile, has not raced since breaking his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths last Nov. 25 at Del Mar.
“He had a temperature earlier and missed some training, but he’s ready to go now,” said Richard Baltas, third in the Winter Meet standings with 10 victories through 25 days. “He’s ready to start his three-year-old year and we hope to have a good campaign with him.”
A $105,000 son of Eskendereya, Kris’ Rocket Kat was fifth in his debut race, breaking slowly from the inside post at Santa Anita last Sept. 30.
The San Vicente, race six of 10 with a 12 noon first post: Ax Man, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-5; Mr. Jagermeister, Geovanni Franco, 6-1; Nero, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; All Out Blitz, Tyler Baze, 7-2 Kanthaka, Flavien Prat, 5-1; and Kris’ Rocket Kat, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1.
UNIQUE BELLA GETS GOOD DRAW FOR SANTA MARIA
Jerry Hollendorfer is happy with post position four for Unique Bella in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares, four and up, at 1 1/16 miles.
“I haven’t looked at (the past performances) of this race yet,” the Hall of Fame trainer said Thursday morning, “but she got a good draw.”
The Eclipse Award winner as champion female sprinter of 2017, Unique Bella is coming off a game three-quarter length victory in the Grade I La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs on Dec. 26, but has won twice in the past going two turns, in the Grade II Las Virgenes at a mile last Feb. 17, and the Grade III Santa Ysabel at 1 1/16 miles last March 4.
Winner of six of eight career starts, the four-year-old gray daughter of Tapit bred in Pennsylvania has earned $592,400 and is owned by Don Alberto Stable.
The Santa Maria, race four: Shenandoah Queen, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Mopotism, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Kathy’s Song, Brice Blanc, 10-1; Unique Bella, Mike Smith, 3-5; and Majestic Heat, Flavien Prat, 4-1.
TRAINER TAKES A SHOT WITH TEQUILA JOE IN THUNDER ROAD
Even though he was a longshot at 25-1, Tequila Joe disappointed while finishing ninth of 10 in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf Jan. 6.
Trainer Michael McCarthy is inclined to dismiss that performance and focus on Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road for four-year-olds and up at a mile on turf.
“I’m not sure what it was,” McCarthy said of the San Gabriel. “We just draw a line through his last race and hope that the full mile is more to his liking. We don’t really have an explanation for the way he ran here earlier in the meet so we’re going to give him one more try.”
A five-year-old Stormy Atlantic horse, Tequila Joe was a sharp second, beaten only a neck, in the restricted Lure Stakes at a mile on Del Mar’s grass last Nov. 2. He seeks his first stakes win Saturday.
Blackjackcat, Jon White’s 6-5 morning line favorite for the Thunder Road, returns to action after three months, not having run since finishing an onrushing third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 4, despite the jock losing his whip and going five wide into the stretch.
“We just gave him a little breather,” said Mark Glatt, who trains the five-year-old Tale of the Cat gelding for owners/breeders Al and Sandee Kirkwood. “He had a pretty good campaign the second half of last year and just felt off of some strong efforts we’d kind of let him freshen up and here he is starting this year. I think a flat mile is his best gig, but we’ll see.”
In six starts at the distance, Blackjackcat has four wins with one third. Overall, he is six for 15, earning $580,070.
The Thunder Road, which will be run as the fifth race: Next Shares, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Bowies Hero, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Blackjackcat, Kent Desormeaux, 6-5; Tequila Joe, Joe Talamo, 10-1; Ohio, Brice Blanc, 12-1; and Om, Flavien Prat, 3-1.
FIRST POST TIME SATURDAY IS 12 NOON; SAN VICENTE ON FS2 TV
Santa Anita has a special early first post time of 12 noon on Saturday. With a 10-race card, highlighted by three graded stakes, the decision to move first post time up 30 minutes was made following the drawing of Saturday’s entries on Wednesday morning.
The Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes goes as Saturday’s fourth race, with the Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes as race five.
The Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes, which will showcase Derby hopefuls going seven furlongs, is Saturday’s sixth race, with approximate post time 2:30 p.m.
The San Vicente will also be broadcast live nationally on Fox Sports 2 (FS2) as part of a series of races that serve as steppingstones to the 2018 Triple Crown. Fox Sports, the New York Racing Association and The Stronach Group are partners in “Fox Sports Saturday at the Races,” a new live program sponsored by Claiborne Farm.
BALTAS HAS 18 HORSES ENTERED OVER THREE DAYS
Richard Baltas has seven horses entered in six of the nine races today, three of them drawing the rail. The 56-year-old trainer is spreading the wealth, too, using five different riders: Rafael Bejarano, Kent Desormeaux, Stewart Elliott, Flavien Prat and Alonso Quinonez.
Saturday, Baltas has five horses entered, Sunday six, for a total of 18 over three days, more than some trainers enter in a meet. Through 25 days, he has entered more horses–74–than any other trainer, winning 10 races, good for third in Santa Anita’s standings.
With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, Richard Baltas was born to run—and win, thanks in no small measure to a well-organized team, which includes Brit David Meah and assistant trainer Felipe Rivera.
“David is a bloodstock agent who has bought a lot of the horses we have running,” Baltas said. “He goes to the sales and scouts the horses.”
But entering seven in one day is not man bites dog news for Baltas.
“I’ve run seven horses in one day before,” he said. “I’m a racing stable, so I like to run my horses. I like to put ‘em where they belong. Owners like that, and horses are ready to run.
“I’ve had luck using different jockeys and I go with guys who are hungry and trying. Of my 10 winners, seven different jockeys have ridden them. We have such an abundance of riders here. You have small fields and 30 different guys looking for mounts.
“That leaves 24 sitting in the jocks’ room. It’s not an easy thing, and I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket with the jockeys. Everybody deserves a shot.”
FINISH LINES: There is a Pick Six carryover today of $31,694 . . . Skye Diamonds, prepping for the Grade III Las Flores Feb. 18, worked six furlongs on the training track Friday in 1:14.60 under the watchful eye of Bill Spawr . . Drayden Van Dyke has been suspended three days (Feb. 15, 16 and 17) for careless riding aboard Casino Red in Sunday’s fourth race.
SANTA ANITA STATISTICS
(Current Through Thursday, Feb. 8)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Evin Roman 146 24 24 19 16% 46% $831,064
Flavien Prat 111 20 21 11 18% 47% $1,109,848
Rafael Bejarano 103 19 11 21 18% 50% $793,678
Kent Desormeaux 94 17 13 12 18% 45% $1,055,423
Tyler Baze 128 14 22 15 11% 40% $956,649
Joseph Talamo 103 14 11 12 14% 36% $639,293
Drayden Van Dyke 83 13 8 8 16% 35% $925,783
Trainer Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Peter Miller 65 14 16 8 22% 58% $764,984
Bob Baffert 49 12 7 4 24% 47% $766,844
Richard Baltas 74 10 11 11 14% 43% $601,156
Doug O’Neill 66 9 8 10 14% 41% $604,402
Jerry Hollendorfer 62 9 5 10 15% 39% $494,021
William E. Morey 18 9 0 5 50% 78% $345,943
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.