Three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder blew out three furlongs Wednesday morning in 37.60 as she prepares for her 2016 debut at age six in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Adoration Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/16 miles.
“It was just to stretch her legs,” trainer Richard Mandella said by phone from Kentucky Wednesday morning. “She’s had her serious works. We’re excited to have her back.”
Beholder worked a mile in company Friday under Janeen Painter in 1:40 flat, with fractions of 26, 38.60, 51, 1:28.40. Stablemate Atypique got a seven furlong time of 1:29.40.
— Brad Free (@BradFree1) May 4, 2016
Painter was also up for Wednesday’s blowout.
Among those expected to face Beholder in the Adoration is Sheer Pleasure, a California-bred daughter of Birdonthewire who won the restricted Dream of Summer Stakes last out on March 27 for Little Red Feather Racing or RM Racing.
“”We’ve gotten her ready little by little,” said Rudy Cruz, assistant to Phil D’Amato, who, like Mandella, was in Kentucky Wednesday. “She’s better than she’s ever been, so we have to give Beholder a try. It’s the first time back for Beholder (since last Sept. 26), so if we’re ever going to get her, this is the time.”
SHERLOCK FANCIES NYQUIST IN KENTUCKY DERBY
Gary Sherlock, trainer of California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino, has seen the best of Exaggerator, having been beaten by the Santa Anita Derby winner twice. Not so for Nyquist, the undefeated male two-year-old champion of 2015 who is favored to win Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Nyquist and Uncle Lino, both sons of Uncle Mo, have never raced against each other.
That could change should Nyquist run in the May 21 Preakness, a race Sherlock has ticketed for Uncle Lino.
But all that speculative data didn’t prevent Sherlock from having an opinion on the 142nd Run for the Roses, which fans can watch and wager on at Santa Anita.
“I think Nyquist is the best horse,” Sherlock said. “He’s an athlete and so far he’s done nothing wrong. If he doesn’t win, then I think it’s wide open. Exaggerator freaked in the mud (winning the Santa Anita Derby by 6 ¼ lengths on a sloppy track), and also, the pace was ridiculous (45.20, 1:10, 1:36.20 with a final time of 1:49.60 for a mile and an eighth).
“We set it up for him by osmosis. Danzing Candy went too fast and I went too fast. I took the lead from Danzing Candy but Exaggerator just ran by us.”
Sherlock concedes that Nyquist has a more favorable style for the mile and a quarter Derby, while Exaggerator, although in attendance to the pace in the Delta Jackpot and the San Vicente, has run his best coming from behind.
“Exaggerator has to come from out of it, as do several others,” Sherlock said, “so I’m looking for a mid-pack horse that’s going to get the trip and lay fourth or fifth.”
D’AMATO BACK IN ACTION AT SANTA ANITA
Phil D’Amato, who won his first-ever training title by finishing with a flourish to take Santa Anita’s Winter Meet crown, 41-34, over Doug O’Neill, hopes to continue his winning ways with Havanna Belle and Fanticola in Thursday’s opening day feature, the $200,000, Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes at a mile on turf, and Cape Wolfe in Friday’s Grade III American Stakes.
Havanna Belle, an Irish-bred daughter of Teofilo, won the Astra Stakes at a mile and a half on a “good’ course Jan. 17, and captured an overnight race in hand by 6 ½ lengths April 7.
Fanticola, a committed front runner in races at a mile or longer, was third in the Grade III Las Cienegas at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf closing day of the Winter Meet, April 1o. The six-year-old mare won the Royal Heroine last year.
Cape Wolfe, an English-bred gelding, was second in the Grade III San Simeon Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf April 2, his best finish in three U.S. starts.
The field for the Royal Heroine: Her Emmynency, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Smoove It, Fernando Perez, 15-1; Nancy From Nairobi, Abel Lezcano, 6-1; Prize Exhibit, Santiago Gonzalez, 12-1; La Berma, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Elektrum, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; Keri Belle, Alex Solis, 15-1; Living The Life, Martin Garcia, 15-1; Sharla Rae, Tiago Pereira, 15-1; Havanna Belle, Flavien Part, 5-1; Glory, Mike Smith, 8-1; Fasnacloich, Brice Blanc, 15-1; Faufiler, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; and Fanticola, Joe Talamo, 8-1.
The field for the American, race six of nine with a first post time of 2 p.m.: Si Sage, Santiago Gonzalez, 12-1; Southern Freedom, Martin Garcia, 8-1; Little Curlin, Martin Pedroza, 8-1; Ohio, Brice Blanc, 3-1; Patentar, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Cape Wolfe, Edwin Maldonado, 3-1; Producer, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Twentytwentyvision, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 12-1.
CANCER VICTIM BARRY ABRAMS SOLDIERS ON
Like Ted Cruz a day earlier, Barry Abrams has suspended his campaign.
The 62-year-old trainer has turned in his license and is taking a leave of absence due to health problems.
“I might go back to training, I might not. At this point, I’m officially not training any horses,” said Abrams, who has battled cancer for the past 11 years.
Wednesday morning, back at his usual table at Clockers’ Corner, Abrams was barely audible as he explained his dire circumstances, resulting from inoperable throat cancer that first surfaced in 2005.
“I had to turn in my license,” Abrams said. “Otherwise I can’t run horses that I own, even though I only own pieces of horses now. I turned over my four horses to Tim Yakteen.”
Abrams also is minority owner of the remarkable 26-year-old stallion Unusual Heat, who stands for $20,000 at the Harris Ranch in Coalinga.
Surgery in 2005 cost Abrams half of his voice box. He has no taste buds, can’t swallow, uses a feeding tube, can’t eat, and can’t run. “I’m just happy to be alive,” he said.
“After my initial throat cancer, six years later cancer came back on my jugular and carotid arteries, and I had to go through surgery with only a 10 percent chance of survival. No doctor wanted to touch me, because one wrong move operating on the jugular and it’s over.
“I found one brave cancer surgeon, Dr. Poomima Rao of Huntington Memorial Hospital, who agreed to perform the surgery. After a five-hour operation, she was able to scrape the cancer off the carotid and jugular. I then had to undergo chemo and radiation in the throat area twice a day for 40 days.
“It was a miracle that I survived.”
Abrams, who started as a groom in 1971 and began training in 1975, has been to hell and back. Right now, hell has the upper hand.
It is difficult to understand Abrams, even when a listener puts his ear close to his lips. “I can’t communicate to my owners,” Abrams said, “but I’ll be back. The horses will be here forever but it’s not fair to my owners when I can’t communicate. It’s hard to train when you can’t yell at the jockeys or your help.
“I’ll be at Santa Anita every morning until I’m dead. Right now, I’m just worried about waking up every morning.”
HEALTHY SONGBIRD ‘HAPPY TO BE BACK’
Undefeated female two-year-old champion of 2015 Songbird is back doing her thing after a fever forced her to miss tomorrow’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
“She was back on the track Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer.
“Each horse is different in dealing with a fever,” Ward said. “She got over it in quick fashion. There was nothing abnormal. Her blood was always good, so it was easy to get over.
“She’s just happy to be back in training.”
FESTIVE DERBY DAY ACTIVITIES AT SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita will host the “Biggest Derby Party West of Kentucky,” the KROQ Kentucky Derby Beer Festival, in the track’s spacious Infield Area on Saturday.
In addition to the Run for the Roses from, Santa Anita will offer fans a full card of live Thoroughbred action, with first post time at 12 noon. Admission to the KROQ Beer Festival starts at 12 noon. Approximate post time for the Kentucky Derby is 3:40 p.m. PDT.
Santa Anita in partnership with KROQ will offer a Kentucky Derby Trackside Package that includes Club House admission, a drink voucher (must be 21 or over), a racing program and tip sheet, access to Trackside and reserved Grandstand seating areas and an American Pharoah Tote Bag.
For more information on the Derby Day KROQ Beer Festival or to purchase tickets online, please visit santaanita.com/events.
FINISH LINES: For Thursday’s second and fifth races on turf, the rail will be set at 20 feet, while it will be set at zero for the eighth race on grass . . . Owner Arnold Zetcher reports that 2015 Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line is scheduled to have his first breeze next week since running in last May’s Preakness . . . Santa Anita offers a $300,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool every weekend during the Summer Meet, and a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 and a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 6 every Saturday and Sunday.
Santa Anita Park