- KEEPER OFTHE STARS RETURNS FOR WILSHIRE
- SPECHT, SACRED RIDER HERE FOR SNOW CHIEF
- SANTA ANITA REMEMBERS LAZARO BARRERA
- GGF SENSATION HERNANDEZ COMING TO SO CAL
WIN MACHINE KEEPER OFTHE STARS BACK FOR WILSHIRE
Keeper Ofthe Stars, who gave trainer Jonathan Wong his first Grade I stakes win when she captured Santa Anita’s Gamely on May 25, returns in less than a month for Saturday’s Grade III Wilshire Stakes for fillies and mares three and up at a mile on turf.
“She’s doing well and she really likes the Santa Anita turf course, so we wanted to get another race over it,” said Wong in explaining the decision to run in the Wilshire.
Should she win, it would mark her third straight graded stakes success, not surprising since the four-year-old gray daughter of Midnight Lute has a penchant for stringing victories together.
In 2019 she won three in a row at Golden Gate Fields prior to being trained by Wong who won two straight last fall and now seeks to add to her triumphs in the Grade II Buena Vista and the Gamely.
Abel Cedillo, who has ridden Keeper Ofthe Stars in seven of her 15 career starts, the last six in a row, once again will be aboard for owner Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, LLC.
Overall, Keeper Ofthe Stars has a 7-1-3 record from 15 starts with earnings of $501,931.
The Wilshire, race two of 12 with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Red Lark, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Cordiality, Umberto Rispoli, 8-1; Gypsy Spirit, Mike Smith, 8-1; $2,000 supplemental entry Querelle, Aaron Gryder, 6-1; Keeper Ofthe Stars, Abel Cedillo, 9-5; Toinette, Flavien Prat, 8-5; and Simply Breathless, Ruben Fuentes, 6-1.
SACRED RIDER INVADES FOR SNOW CHIEF
Steve Specht has moseyed down from his Northern California base to saddle Sacred Rider in a salty version of Saturday’s $100,000 Snow Chief Stakes for three-year-old California-breds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The gelded son of Lucky Pulpit owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams showed an affinity for Santa Anita, having finished second by a neck at 36-1 under Abel Cedillo in the California Cup Derby on January 20, although that race was on the main track.
“He’s got a versatile style and can do whatever the rider needs to do,” Specht said. “He’s got speed enough to be in the mix, and if they go too fast, he can back off; I think he runs better on grass than anything else.”
Sacred Rider has 13 career starts, four on turf, where he posted his only two victories. “He’ll be tough,” Specht said. “He’s training pretty good. He worked well Sunday (five furlongs at Golden Gate in 1:00.20), got in early Thursday, jogged today and he’s ready to run.”
The Snow Chief, race 10: Sacred Rider, Abel Cedillo, 5-2; Margot’s Boy, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-5; Canyon Crest, Umberto Rispoli, 6-1; Descartes, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; California Kook, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Bam Bam Again, Tiago Pereira, 15-1; and Indian Peak, Mike Smith, 5-2.
LAZ BARRERA STAKES HONORS LATE, GREAT TRAINER
With a pair each, two trainers dominated the seven nominations to Saturday’s Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs: Bob Baffert, as one might expect, and Jorge Periban, as one might not.
Baffert nominated Bronn, a maiden winner at Los Alamitos owned by his wife, Natalie, and Ragtime Blues, front-running winner of an overnight race as the 4-5 favorite May 25 at Santa Anita, owned by a partnership. He entered Ragtime Blues.
Periban nominated Bam Bam Again, a bay son of Awesome Again, and Phantom Boss, a chestnut colt by Shackleford, entering the latter.
The race is named for Hall of Fame trainer Laz Barrera, who died at the age of 66 in 1991. The colorful native of Cuba won an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer four straight years (1976 through 1979) but is best remembered as conditioner of Affirmed, who swept the Triple Crown in 1978 under 18-year-old Steve Cauthen.
“Laz was a great trainer, a lot of fun and a good friend of mine,” said veteran agent Tony Matos, who represented Angel Cordero Jr. when he rode Bold Forbes to victory for Barrera in the 1976 Kentucky Derby.
The Barrera, race nine: Collusion Illusion, Flavien Prat, 4-5; Ragtime Blues, Mike Smith, 2-1; Phantom Boss, Tiago Pereira, 8-1; Alcools, Abel Cedillo, 4-1; and Howbeit, Umberto Rispoli, 12-1.
GOLDEN GATE SENSATION JUAN HERNANDEZ TO JOIN FORCES WITH O’BRYAN
News broke Wednesday morning that perennial Golden Gate Fields leading rider Juan Hernandez will be shifting his tack full-time to Southern California beginning with the second week of the upcoming Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meeting, which spans July 3, 4, and 5.
Hernandez, 28, will be joining forces with longtime agent Craig O’Bryan, who has been idle since Tyler Baze opted for the Oaklawn/Kentucky circuit over a year ago.
“I got a call, asking if I’d be interested in representing Juan,” said O’Bryan. “I said, ‘When can he get down here?’ The phone is already ringing and I truly believe our business will continue to grow as people see, first-hand, just how good he is.”
How good is Juan Hernandez?
With 135 wins from 429 mounts, he led his nearest competitor by some 77 wins at the conclusion of Golden Gate Fields’ 72-day Winter/Spring Meeting this past Sunday, winning at a 31 percent clip. Many racing insiders have been wondering when he was going to make the move to So Cal for some time now, particularly in view of the tremendous success former No Cal rider Abel Cedillo has enjoyed over the past year riding full-time at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Los Alamitos.
“I’m really excited to come and ride with that colony down there,” said Hernandez by phone from Northern California on Thursday. “My wife’s family lives in Ontario, near Santa Anita, so our kids will be spending the summer with them. Craig came very highly recommended. I think it’s a big plus to go with him because he’s had many top riders and he knows everyone down there, he knows the business.”
A 28-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, Hernandez, who is married, Melissa, and has two boys aged five and two, had 1,882 wins from 8,726 career mounts through Sunday and with just Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Luis Saez in front of him, he is currently America’s third winningest jockey in 2020, with more than 125 wins through this past weekend.
O’Bryan, who enjoyed an eight-year run with Baze, is a second generation agent, following in the footsteps of his legendary father George “Black Heart” O’Bryan.
With a past client list that reads like a Who’s Who of Turfdom, Craig O’Bryan has represented Hall of Famers Eddie Delahoussaye (for an incredible eight-year run that included back to back Kentucky Derby victories with Gato del Sol in 1982 and Sunny’s Halo in 1983), Alex Solis and Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Mucho Macho Man and 2013 Distaff with Beholder), as well as David Flores, Corey Nakatani, Jose Valdivia, Jr., Aaron Gryder and Baze.
“I’ve been doing this for 48 years, since 1972,” said O’Bryan. “The main thing now, is that people need to know that Juan is coming here permanently, this isn’t just for the summer. For me personally, it’s a great opportunity and it’s great to be back in action.”
FINISH LINES: Leading rider Flavien Prat (83 wins) is named to ride in 11 of Saturday’s 12 races, while distant runner-up Abel Cedillo (60 wins) and third-place Umberto Rispoli (46) have mounts in 10 of the 12. Peter Miller, who holds a 32-31 lead over Bob Baffert in the race for leading trainer with three days left in the meet that ends Sunday, has eight horses entered Saturday. Baffert leads Miller in stakes wins, 10-8.