El Kabeir is among five of the seven horses entered in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Opening Day Saturday that are not based at Santa Anita.
Only longshot Bad Read Sanchez and Lord Nelson are stabled at Santa Anita.
El Kabeir, headquartered in New York where the gray son of the late Scat Daddy is trained by John Terranova II for Ahmed Zayat of American Pharoah fame, understandably has called trainer Bob Baffert’s barn his home since he arrived at Santa Anita two weeks ago.
Baffert, for those on another planet the past year, was the Svengali who masterminded the Zayat-owned American Pharoah to a successful Triple Crown campaign in 2015.
“El Kabeir looked really good when he came in,” said Baffert, who trains Lord Nelson for the Peachtree Stable. Nothing has changed during his stay.
“All reports are that he’s doing great,” Terranova said by phone Thursday morning from New York, where he will leave tomorrow from The Big Apple with his wife, Tonja, to saddle El Kabeir in the Malibu.
“He’s had two works over the track, drew a good post and has a top rider in Mike Smith. The horse is sitting on a big race.”
El Kabeir has run in nothing but stakes since breaking his maiden by nearly 11 lengths at Saratoga on Aug. 30, 2014. Eight of the stakes have been graded. Only the City Of Laurel in Maryland on Nov. 14 was not. He won that seven furlong race by a nose.
He has won five of 11 starts and earned $834,892. His only two misfires came at Belmont Park, in the Grade I Champagne over a sloppy track when he was beaten nearly 18 lengths last Oct. 4, and against older horses in the Grade III Bold Ruler Oct. 31 when he was nearly 10 lengths back.
Other than those two, El Kabeir has never finished out of the money.
The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: Pain and Misery, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Marking, Jose Lezcano, 5-2; Watershed, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Runhappy, Gary Stevens, 6-5; El Kabeir, Mike Smith, 8-1; Bad Read Sanchez, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; and Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1.
First post time opening day is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
CAN BALTAS SMELL THE ROSES WITH LILY POD?
Having never run in a stakes race, let alone a Grade I, Lily Pod looms a rank outsider in Saturday’s Grade I La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, but Richard Baltas is inclined to give the daughter of Bernstein a longshot’s chance.
“I think she liked Los Alamitos, but I might have worked her too fast too close to the race and she got away from the rider,” Baltas said, referring to her fourth-place finish as the 9-10 favorite at the Orange County oval on Dec. 13. “That might have made a difference.
“She came back good, although she’s in tough in the La Brea, no doubt, but she ran big here last year when she broke her maiden (winning by 3 ½ lengths Oct. 16 while in hand late).”
The field: Birdatthewire, Mike Smith, 6-1; Hot City Girl, Jose Ortiz, 3-1; Cavorting, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-2; Maybellene, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Lily Pod, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Ben’s Duchess, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Rattataptap, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Pleasant Tales, James Graham, 20-1; Moyo Honey, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; and Finest City, Gary Stevens, 8-1.
IMPROVEMENT DUE FOR CRITTENDEN IN MATHIS MILE
Crittenden’s disappointing showing in the Grade I Hollywood Derby remains a mystery to Eoin Harty. “He got beat,” the trainer said drolly and succinctly of the son of Distorted Humor owned by Godolphin Racing, LLC. “It looks like he just got outrun.”
Crittenden finished a distant 12th of 14 in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on Nov. 28, but save for his second career start, has there or thereabouts in his other 10 races, winning the restricted Let It Ride stakes at Del Mark on Oct. 31.
The field for the Mathis Brothers Mile: Ground Rules, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Perfectly Majestic, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1; Crittenden, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Professor Berns, Brice Blanc, 15-1; Soul Driver, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Mister Brightside, Mike Smith, 4-1; Acceptance, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Ike Walker, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Vigilante, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Om, Gary Stevens, 5-2; Ocho Ocho Ocho, Santiago Gonzalez, 10-1; and Fueled by Bourbon, Joel Rosario, 10-1.
TRAINER ROSEMARY TRELA RECOVERING FROM BRAIN ANEURISM
Just 15 days after suffering a near-fatal brain aneurism Dec. 9 at her San Luis Rey Downs base, trainer Rosemary Trela was a Christmas Eve visitor at Clockers’ Corner as she and her husband Brian watched her star pupil, two-year-old filly Dragon Flower, gallop on Santa Anita’s main track.
“My doctors told me I should take a year off, but now I think I’ll take a month or two,” said Trela, who turned 57 on Dec. 7. “I remember exactly when it happened, at 7:59 that morning. I was extremely lucky to have a neurosurgeon, Dr. Andrew Nguyen, on duty.”
Trela’s husband related that his wife, who has just in the past couple of days regained the ability to speak in complete sentences, underwent a minimally invasive procedure addressing the precise location of the hemorrhage while also draining a substantial amount of excess blood, thereby relieving pressure to her brain.
“She’s really doing well,” said Brian. “It’s going to be hard to keep her down now, the way she’s coming along.”
Trela, whose primary client is Joseph Schneider, had six wins and four seconds from 18 San Luis Rey-based starters prior to being sidelined by the aneurism. Derek Meredith, who has taken over training duties for Trela during her period of convalescence, sent a recent Trela/Schneider claim, Finallygotabentley, out to an impressive $8,000 claiming win this past Sunday at Los Alamitos.
WARREN’S VENEDA SET FOR FRANKEL, RAIN OR SHINE
Craig Lewis has entered Warren’s Veneda in Sunday’s Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, listed for 1 1/8 miles on turf, but with recent erratic rain patterns, should it come off the grass and be run on dirt, “All the better,” the trainer said.
“She’s better on dirt and there’s nowhere to run her right now, so we opted for the Frankel, but I’d love for it to come off the turf. Her one off-track race here last winter was awesome,” referring to a 5 ½ length romp on a wet/fast strip in the Paseana Stakes on Jan. 11. “She won with authority.”
As for memories of Bobby Frankel, the Hall of Fame trainer for whom the race is named, Lewis was precise and succinct: “One of the greatest trainers of all time,” he said. “We were very friendly. I got along real well with him. I had many good conversations with him over the years.”
Frankel died at the age of 68 on Nov. 16, 2009.
The field for the Frankel: Nancy From Nairobi, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Three Hearts, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Alexis Tangier, Gary Stevens, 5-1; Rusty Slipper, James Graham, 9-2; Star Act, Kieren Fallon, 30-1; Peace and War, Joel Rosario, 12-1; Stormy Lucy, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Fresh Feline, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Warren’s Veneda, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Sweet as a Rose, Brice Blanc, 30-1; Gender Agenda, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Glory, Mike Smith, 4-1; Honey Ride, Abel Lezcano, 20-1; and Gas Total, Flavien Prat, 12-1.
LIVE RACING AT SANTA ANITA WEDNESDAY, DEC. 30
Santa Anita will offer a five-day racing week beginning Wednesday, Dec. 30, through Sunday, Jan. 3. First post time throughout the week will be 12:30 p.m.
Excluding weekday holidays, live racing usually is conducted Thursday through Sunday, but with the holiday season in full swing, an exception was made. Santa Anita will be dark on Monday, Dec. 28, and Tuesday, Dec. 29.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will give away its popular full color Wall Calendar free on opening day to all fans at the track with paid admission while supplies last . . . The first 20,000 paid attendees will receive a $100 Mathis Brothers Furniture gift certificate, and the first 5,000 kids 17 and under accompanied by a paid adult will get a plush, mini-Thoroughbred . . . There will be a $1 million guaranteed pool on the Late Pick 4 opening day, and a $150,000 guaranteed pool on the Pick 6 . . . Sunday at Santa Anita, unbeaten Songbird is expected to have her first breeze since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Oct. 30. “She’s ready,” said Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward.
Source: Santa Anita Park