DESORMEAUX HOPES DISTANCE HELPS IN SHAM STAKES
SHORTER ROUTE SHOULD AID D’AMATO IN SAN GABRIEL
BAFFERT’S THREE DOMINATE IN SUNDAY’S SANTA YNEZ
TALAMO, BAZE BID GOODBYE TO SANTA ANITA SUNDAY
ZIMBA WARRIOR MUST PROVE HIMSELF IN ONE MILE SHAM
It’s been a while since Keith Desormeaux developed the likes of Texas Red and Exaggerator from unheralded youngsters into Grade I stakes winners.
But the savvy trainer hopes to return to those glory days and raise the status of an as yet unaccomplished colt in Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile.
That would be Zimba Warrior, a Florida-bred son of Khozan purchased for a mere $62,500 out of the Ocala Sales. Whether he turns out to be a bargain remains to be seen.
“We’re hoping that the stretch out will elevate him to the next level,” Desormeaux said, alluding to the mile of the Sham from the distance of seven furlongs, when he finished third in the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar last Nov. 16. Prior to that, Zimba Warrior was third in the restricted Sunny Slope at 6 ½ furlongs after breaking his maiden going 5 ½ furlongs at Fresno.
“He hasn’t proven he’s in the same league as Texas Red and Exaggerator yet,” Desormeaux admitted. “He’s competitive, but he hasn’t threated to win, so we’re hoping the additional distance will resolve that problem.
“It might seem I develop horses like Texas Red, Exaggerator and Decked Out overnight, but believe me it takes a while. I haven’t had one like them lately, and I’m ready to get back on the bandwagon.
“I used to talk about good horses all the time, but they’ve been scarce lately.”
The field for the Sham, race five of 10 with an 11:30 a.m. first post time: Authentic, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-5; Zimba Warrior, Jose Valdivia Jr., 6-1; Uncaptured Hero, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Azul Coast, Joel Rosario, 5-2; $2,000 supplemental nomination Scoring, Abel Cedillo, 15-1; and Taishan, Aaron Gryder, 5-2.
The Sham is worth 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place finisher and one to the fourth.
SHORTER SAN GABRIEL DISTANCE SUITS D’AMATO DUO
Phil D’Amato has two for the money in Saturday’s Grade II San Gabriel Stakes for four-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf, Cleopatra’s Strike and Overdue.
Cleopatra’s Strike was second by a nose in last year’s San Gabriel. The consistent son of Smart Strike was a willing fourth last out in the mile and a half Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar Dec. 1, beaten only a length after holding second into the stretch.
Overdue was second midway through the Hollywood Turf Cup but weakened to finish ninth of 10 in the longest race of his eight-race career.
“I think a mile and a half was too far for both of them last time,” D’Amato allowed. “Overdue ran really well and was kind of wide the whole race. He looked like a winner at the top of the lane and just hit the wall.
“That showed his distance limitations. Cleopatra’s Strike ran a big race. He was there until the 16th pole and kind of faded. I think a mile and an eighth is perfect for both of them.”
The San Gabriel: Desert Stone, Geovanni Franco, 3-1; Chosen Vessel, Tyler Baze, 10-1; Cleopatra’s Strike, Abel Cedillo, 2-1; Overdue, Mike Smith, 6-1; North County Guy, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Majestic Eagle, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; and Acker, Joel Rosario, 8-1.
BAFFERT HAS STRONG TRIO IN SUNDAY’S GRADE II SANTA YNEZ
With multiple Grade I victor Bast and impressive debut winners Auberge and Golden Principal dominating Sunday’s Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes, Bob Baffert would seem to have a lock on the seven furlong race for three-year-old fillies he has won four times, with Awesome Baby (2013), Indian Blessing (2008), Yearly Report (2004) and Queen of Money (1997).
“I wanted to enter Auberge and Golden Principal in allowance races but they didn’t fill,” Baffert said. “Bast has been working well, despite the fact that I’ve had a little bug running through my barn, so I’ve entered these horses just in case.
“They’re nice fillies and I hate to run them all against each other, but that’s what we have here now.”
The Santa Ynez, race seven of eight with first post time 12:30 p.m.: Auberge, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Golden Principal, Mike Smith, 5-2; Lovely Lilia, Abel Cedillo, 12-1; Paige Anne, Joe Talamo, 20-1; K P Dreamin, Ruben Fuentes, 20-1; Orquidias Biz, Joel Rosario, 12-1; and Bast, Drayden Van Dyke, 1-1.
BAZE, TALAMO SAY GOODBYE TO SANTA ANITA SUNDAY
Tyler Baze and Joe Talamo, two popular and longtime fixtures in the Southern California jockey colony, bid farewell to Santa Anita Sunday, leaving full time for points east.
Baze heads to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas where he will be represented by agent Brandon O’Bryan, son of Craig O’Bryan, who has had Tyler’s book for eight years. Tyler is scheduled to return to Santa Anita on Jan. 18 to ride that day for trainer Mike Harrington.
Talamo also departs for Oaklawn Park where he is due to start riding Jan. 24 under the direction of agent Jake Romans, son of trainer Dale Romans.
The 37-year-old Baze, a native of Seattle, is named on three horses Sunday, his final mount Soul Beam in the ninth race for trainer Jorge Periban. Talamo, who turns 30 on Jan. 12, hails from Marrero, Louisiana and is parting company with Scotty McClellan, his agent for the past 13 years.
Joe is named on four horses Sunday, his final mount fittingly enough Broke Away Gray for his father-in-law, trainer Ron Ellis.
FINISH LINES: Thoroughbred scout Larry Zap and workout analyst Andy Harrington will be Tom Quigley‘s guests, 10:20 a.m. Saturday and 11:20 a.m. Sunday, respectively, in the XBTV studio . . . From veteran turf writer and handicapper Dick Jerardi comes this unsolicited testimonial: “The two most picturesque venues in American sports are separated by just eight miles, with the San Gabriel Mountains as the backdrop to both the Rose Bowl and Santa Anita Park . . . First post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is 11:30 a.m. First post for an eight race program Sunday is 12:30 p.m.