ACCELERATE TO WORK FRIDAY FOR RICH PEGASUS
STUTE TRIES BAFFERT-FREE LA CANADA STAKES
RACE HORSE OHTANI TRIES TO TOP HIS NAMESAKE
TWO DEBUT WINNERS NOT A FIRST FOR HOFMANS
ONE DOLLAR STRONACH 5 STARTS TOMORROW
RACING MOURNS THE PASSING OF BOB FLETCHER
WEATHER ALTERS BREEZE DAYS FOR ACCELERATE, CITY OF LIGHT
With rain forecast starting tomorrow evening in an erratic weather pattern forecast over the next few days, Horse of the Year finalist Accelerate will work Friday morning at 6:30 instead of Saturday in advance of the $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.
Trainer John Sadler did not have a specific distance in mind, only that it would be “long.” Accelerate worked six furlongs last Saturday in a bullet 1:13.40 under assistant trainer Juan Leyva, who will be aboard Friday.
Meanwhile, Pegasus contender City of Light, the only horse to defeat Accelerate this year, having done so by a neck in the Oaklawn Handicap last April, couldn’t be doing better for the potential rematch in North America’s richest race, at 1 1/8 miles.
“His attitude is good, his appetite is great and he’s training with a lot of energy,” trainer Michael McCarthy said of the speedy and determined son of Quality Road.
“We’ll handicap Mother Nature here this weekend, be sure we have a decent track to work on and go from there.”
Thursday morning, Bob Baffert was still mulling whether or not to start McKinzie in the Pegasus World Cup. “We’re just waiting and don’t want to get in a rush with him,” Baffert said of the impressive 4 ¾-length winner of the Grade I Malibu on Dec. 26. “It’s a long year.”
If McKinzie does not to run in the Pegasus, the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at a mile and an eighth on Feb. 2 would be his first option, Baffert said.
NO BAFFERT, SO STRADELLA ROAD IS BACK QUICK FOR LA CANADA
Stradella Road just raced two weeks ago and has never competed on the main track, but that isn’t stopping Gary Stute from going in Saturday’s Grade III La Canada Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on dirt.
“It’s the first time she’ll run on dirt, so we’ll see what happens,” Stute said of the four-year-old Elusive Quality filly whose dam is Miss Houdini, a Grade I winner. “The pedigree is there. I’ve been running her on grass so I wouldn’t have to run against (Bob) Baffert, and so far I haven’t had to hook him yet.”
The La Canada, race eight of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Exuberance, Geovanni Franco, 8-1; Stradella Road, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Lemoona, Flavien Prat, 5-1; True Royalty, Joel Rosario, 3-1; Bernina Star, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Escape Clause, Tyler Baze, 5-2; and K P Wildcat, Roimes Chirinos, 4-1.
OHTANI THE HORSE, WILL TRY TO RUN TO EXPECTATIONS
Whenever a horse is named for a person, there’s always a burden of sorts to bear. And, when a horse is named for a prominent person, well, the burden is magnified a bit. Such is the case in today’s fifth race, wherein a Florida-bred chestnut gelding named Ohtani has drawn the outside post position eight, going 6 ½ furlongs against fellow three-year-olds entered for a $50,000 claiming tag.
Bred in Florida by his owner, Donald R. Dizney, and trained by Bill Spawr, Ohtani is named for the LA Angels’ 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, Shohei Ohtani, who just happens to be one of the biggest sensations in Major League baseball at the moment.
The first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to combine 20 home runs and 10 pitching appearances in the same season, Ohtani, a 24-year-old native of Japan, missed a good part of the season with an elbow injury, but still managed 22 homers, 65 RBIs, a .285 batting average, a won/loss record of 4-2 and an ERA of 3.31.
A physical specimen at 6-4 and 203 pounds, Ohtani the player can also run like a deer–evidenced by a documented scouting time of 3.8 seconds from home plate to first base, one of the fastest ever recorded.
As for Ohtani the horse, although he bears little resemblance to his namesake in terms of physicality, he showed a good deal of promise himself first time out Nov. 24 at Del Mar. In against similar maidens at six furlongs, he ran a better than looked third, beaten 8 ¾ lengths.
“He’s a little guy with a big heart,” said Spawr this morning. “If you look at his race, he was pretty much eliminated at the start, but he kept fighting . . . he split horses at the quarter pole and tried very hard. He’s been a really fun horse for us and I think he’s going to improve as time goes on.”
With Tiago Pereira riding him back today, he’s listed at 6-1 on Jon White’s morning line.
TWO DEBUT WINNERS NOT A FIRST FOR HOFMANS
David Hofmans has been training going on half a century, but when he sent out two first-time starters to win last Sunday, it wasn’t a first for the 76-year-old Los Angeles native. “I don’t remember, but I think I’ve done it before,” Hofmans said.
The two winners were Spicy Vibration, who captured the first race by a half-length under Heriberto Figueroa, and Miss Fla, winner of the third by 2 ¾ lengths with Agapito Delgadillo up.
The winners are owned by long-time Hofmans clients Legacy Ranch, Inc. and Tarabilla Farms, Inc., respectively.
“I think I’ve been with Pete (Parrella of Legacy Ranch) for about 50 years,” Hofmans said, “and Mrs. (Susan) Osborne (Tarabilla Farms) about 20.”
But wait. There’s more.
Today, Hofmans has a horse running for additional owners of several decades, Dick Colvin and the late Bill Gould, who now has horses running in his wife’s name, Mary Ann. The horse is Drink, the 5-2 morning line choice in the fifth race.
“They’ve been with me 35, 40 years,” Hofmans said of Colvin and the Goulds. “It’s pretty unusual to have two first-time starters win on the same day, but it’s happened before.”
Hofmans, who has 1,053 victories in his career, achieved his most noteworthy triumphs in three Breeders’ Cup races: the Classic with Alphabet Soup in 1996; the Distaff with Adoration in 2003; and the Turf Sprint with Desert Code in 2008.
Hofmans also saddled Touch Gold to win the 1997 Belmont Stakes, preventing Silver Charm from a Triple Crown sweep.
ONE DOLLAR STRONACH 5 SET FOR FRIDAY
With average field size at 10 horses per race, the popular One Dollar Stronach 5, which features an industry low 12 percent takeout, will initiate on Friday from Laurel Park, as their fifth race, a $5,000 claiming affair for fillies and mares at one mile, is set to get underway at 1:35 p.m. PT.
Leg B will shift to Gulfstream Park’s ninth race, as nine older horses will go six furlongs for a $30,000 to $25,000 claiming tag. Assigned post time is 1:41 p.m. PT.
Leg C in Friday’s Stronach 5 will shift west to Santa Anita’s fourth race, which has attracted a field of 11 older maiden fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Assigned post time is 2 p.m. PT.
Leg D will take players back to Gulfstream’s 10th race, as a field of 12 older maiden special weight fillies and mares go 1 1/16 miles on turf. Assigned post time is 2:12 p.m. PT.
Friday’s Stronach 5 will conclude with Leg E, which features the fifth race from Golden Gate Fields, a one mile main track test for older horses in for a $20,000 tag. A field of eight is in prospect, with assigned post time 2:47 p.m. PT.
Players are advised that free Stronach 5 past performances can be downloaded by visiting Xpressbet.com.
RACING MOURNS PASSING OF WINNERS FOUNDATION’S BOB FLETCHER
The racing community mourns the passing of Bob Fletcher, a man who willingly donated his time and effort to help others in the game as Director of the Winners Foundation for more than 10 years.
Fletcher died on Sunday after suffering a stroke two years ago.
The Winners Foundation has a presence at every track in California, helping front and backside employees troubled by alcohol, drugs, or gambling problems, as well as mental illnesses.
“Bob is credited with saving lives and keeping families together,” Winners Foundation President Gino Roncelli said. “His namesake, Bobs All In, won the second race at Golden Gate just a few hours after Bob’s death.
“Bob was known to all for the Winners Foundation and the name of the horse depicts that. His family was at his side at his passing. All of us at Winners Foundation feel a great loss.”
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Winners Foundation, Gate 7 at Santa Anita, on Jan. 15 at 11:30 a.m.
FINISH LINES: With rain forecast sometime Friday, John Sadler could run Selcourt in Saturday’s $100,000 Las Cienegas Stakes as opposed to Sunday’s $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes. The Grade III Las Cienegas is scheduled for turf, but inclement weather could force it to be run on the main track. Selcourt has never raced on turf and is unbeaten in four starts on Santa Anita’s main track . . . Big Score, scratched from last Saturday’s San Gabriel Stakes, could surface in the Grade III Thunder Road Stakes at a mile on turf Feb. 9, said Tim Yakteen, who trains the son of Mr. Big for George Krikorian. . . The very popular Burgers & Brewfest trackside event is set for this Saturday at The Great Race Place. Online packages available as are walk-ups, while supplies last . . . The Bulldog Derby will hold its inaugural running Saturday, Jan. 19 in the Infield. Both French and English-breds will face off in a friendly competition throughout the day over the grass with two dirt finals set for the main track later in the day. All proceeds benefit the Southern California Bulldog Rescue…Santa Anita’s simulcast feed will include a special interview following race five today with fans John Alarcon and Monique Aragon. Rumor has it a special question may be asked…