OMAHA BEACH ‘LOOKS GREAT,’ ALL OPTIONS OPEN
DISTANCE COULD AID GYPSY BLU IN UPSET EFFORT
XPRESSBET ‘FIRST CALL’ LOOKS AT WEEKEND RACES
OAK TREE STALWART CHILLINGWORTH DEAD AT 93
BAFFERT ‘COMFORTABLE’ GOING FROM SMITH TO ROSARIO
Multiple Grade I winner McKinzie, tepid favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa
Anita on Nov. 2, worked four furlongs towards that goal Thursday morning in 49.40 under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
“It was just an easy half,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who brewed a pot of controversy by replacing Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith with Joel Rosario for the $6 million race at a mile and a quarter after Smith finished second on 3-10 favorite McKinzie in the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 28.
“I think the horse is not real difficult to ride,” Baffert opined. “He went really nice in the work and I think Rosario will do well, but the horse has to show his ability. If he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter who rides him.
“I feel comfortable with the change.”
BREEDERS’ CUP RACE STILL ON HOLD FOR OMAHA BEACH
Richard Mandella had “no decision today” in which Breeders’ Cup race Omaha Beach will run–the $2 million Sprint at six furlongs, the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, or the $6 million Classic at a mile and a quarter, all on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, which hosts the championship events for a record 10th time starting on Nov. 1.
“There won’t be one until I see him train a few days,” Mandella continued. “He just started back, he’s looking great and I’m going to have to study this before I decide what to do.
“He’s back to the track and looks great. All options are open.”
Omaha Beach made a dramatic and successful return to the races last Saturday after an absence of six months, winning the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs over odds-on favorite Shancelot, powering through on the rail to win by a head.
The pre-race choice for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 won the SA Sprint Championship after a myriad of aborted return attempts that kept the three-year-old son of War Front absent from the races since April 13, when he won the Grade I Arkansas Derby on a sloppy track.
GYPSY BLU ON THE MARK FOR UPSET OF S Y SKY?
It would be an upset of some magnitude if Gypsy Blu defeats S Y Sky in Saturday’s $100,000 California Distaff Handicap not, perhaps, as stunning as Washington’s over the Dodgers, but a shocker nonetheless, even though Gypsy Blu owns a victory over S Y Sky.
A five-year-old mare trained by Mark Glatt for Philip Wood and James Hailey, Gypsy Blu defeated S Y Sky by a half-length in the Irish O’Brien Stakes on March 31. That race was on the downhill turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs; Saturday’s race is a furlong shorter.
“She’s coming up to the race well enough, and a little pace would help her,” Glatt said of the five-year-old Papa Clem mare that was claimed for $20,000 last Jan. 25 and is coming off three straight races at five furlongs on turf.
“I think there’s quite a difference between the 5 ½ furlong races and the five-eighths races, so I think that little bit of extra ground will help her considerably, with her style,” Glatt added. “We’ll hope they blister up front and she can come and get ’em.
“She actually had a fair amount of trouble in her last race (third when off slowly Aug. 14 at Del Mar). You can’t really see it on paper, but she probably should have won. That’s the trouble with a closer in those short sprints. They’ve got to negotiate through traffic and she wasn’t able to all that well, but still ran a good race.”
The California Distaff Handicap, race seven of nine: S Y Sky, Drayden Van Dyke; Silk From Heaven, Eswan Flores; Gypsy Blu, Abel Cedillo; Queen Bee to You, Ruben Fuentes; Don’t Sell, Mario Gutierrez; and Just Grazed Me, Geovanni Franco.
First post time Saturday is 12:30 p.m.
XPRESSBET FIRST CALL
Xpressbet “First Call” is a weekly handicapping and analysis podcast focused on the top Thoroughbred racetracks in America. It features industry veterans Jeff Siegel as the lead handicapper and host Jeremy Plonk.
Released each Thursday at XBTV.com and available on-demand thereafter, “First Call” will also include handicapping shorts from John DeSantis (“Johnny D”), with an emphasis on tracks operated by The Stronach Group, as well as many other top North American races as well. “Last Call” will also include a preview of each Friday’s One Dollar Stronach 5.
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LONGTIME OAK TREE STALWART CHILLINGWORTH PASSES AT AGE 93
Sherwood C. Chillingworth, a longtime director and executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association, passed away on Tuesday at age 93.
A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Chillingworth, known affectionately as “Chilly” to all who knew him, was named an Oak Tree director in 1989, and later assumed the title of Executive Vice President in 1993. A tireless advocate for the many causes that the not-for-profit Oak Tree Racing Association funded since its inception at Santa Anita in October, 1969, Chillingworth was a truly beloved figure in California racing.
“He was a great man who was a very big part of the Oak Tree Racing Association for many years,” said Hall of Fame trainer and fellow Oak Tree Board member Richard Mandella on Wednesday morning at Santa Anita. “He lived a full life, and from what I knew, he loved every minute of it. He had a great sense of humor, he loved to bet and he loved our game.”
Although still active in funding various charitable causes, the Oak Tree Racing Association, which conducted its final fall meeting at Santa Anita in 2009, operated for one year at Hollywood Park in 2010, and then conducted summer meetings at the Alameda County Fair Grounds in Pleasanton through 2018.
A former real estate developer, Chillingworth, who served as Vice Chairman and CEO, Santa Anita Realty Enterprises from 1994-1996, had a true passion for horses and horse racing as he owned and raced Thoroughbreds dating back to the early 1970s under the nom de course Paniolo Ranch.
It was in Thoroughbred partnerships, however, that he experienced considerable success, as he owned percentages of Grade I stakes winners Swing Till Dawn (1983 Strub and Widener Stakes), Yashgan (1985 Oak Tree Invitational and 1986 San Gabriel Handicap), Forzando (1985 Metropolitan, Ft. Marcy and Sierra Madre Handicaps), and Valley Victory (1986 Coaching Club American Oaks).
“He was a first-class guy,” said Hall of Fame conditioner Ron McAnally, whose legendary gelding John Henry won three straight runnings of the Grade I Oak Tree Invitational in the early 1980s. “Doc Robbins (original Oak Tree Director and John Henry’s attending veterinarian) admired him so much and was so appreciative of everything he meant to Oak Tree and our racing here. Chilly was good for the horses and he was good for the business.”
A consummate gentleman and tireless consensus builder, Chillingworth was also a past Steward of the Jockey Club, Secretary of the Board of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA), director of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau (TRPB) and member of the Equibase Management Committee.
“Chilly was one of the kindest and most gracious executives in racing,” said George Haines, former Santa Anita General Manager. “He treated the employees with great respect and was universally loved by all. His wit and humor will be missed but not forgotten.”
Chillingworth, who resided at Santa Anita Park with his wife Sandra, is also survived by four sons and two daughters, as well as several grandchildren.
Services are pending.
FINISH LINES: Mitole, likely favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, worked four furlongs Thursday morning in 48.80 for Steve Asmussen, while Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster went five furlongs for Bob Baffert in a minute flat.