Track Reports

Santa Anita Stable Notes: Exaggerator Stays Home, Zenyatta’s Son Debuts Saturday

Exaggerator - Photo Credit: ©Benoit Photo
©Benoit Photo

Keenly competitive on the track, both Doug O’Neill and Keith Desormeaux were uncommonly gracious and magnanimous after O’Neill’s unbeaten champion two-year-old colt of 2015 Nyquist defeated the Desormeaux-trained Exaggerator in Monday’s San Vicente Stakes.

Good sportsmanship aside, now each three-year-old is headed in a different direction on the Triple Crown trail.

“Goodness gracious,” Desormeaux said after Nyquist held off Exaggerator by a length and a half as the 2-5 favorite in the $200,000 San Vicente at seven furlongs. “Anybody not a believer in Nyquist now, that was an awesome race.

“To set those kinds of fractions and still finish in close to track record time for a three-year-old in February. Wow! Hats off to Nyquist.”

Said O’Neill Friday morning: “That was very classy. Going into the race, we both loved our colts a ton. Neither one of us thought we could get beat but only one can win and we got lucky that day, so for Keith to say what he did I’m sure took a lot of strength and a lot of class.”

Nyquist, who covered the distance in a snappy 1:20.71, a shade off the track record of 1:19.70 set by Twirling Candy in 1970, is now headed to the Florida Derby on April 2, while Exaggerator will remain at Santa Anita for the San Felipe Stakes on March 12.

“Our original plan was to run in the Florida Derby after the San Vicente,” O’Neill said. “After the Breeders’ Cup we wanted to run in the San Vicente and then the Florida Derby, so we’re going to stick with our plan.”

O’Neill expects to ship Nyquist to the Sunshine State “about a week before the race.”

As for Frank Conversation, winner of the California Derby and the El Camino Real Derby over Golden Gate’s synthetic Tapeta surface, O’Neill said the son of Quality Road, like Nyquist owned by J. Paul Reddam, will make his next start in the $2 million UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles in Dubai on March 26.

But Exaggerator is set for the San Felipe, a Grade II, $400,000 race at a mile and one sixteenth that is shaping up as the most attractive steppingstone yet to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9, with Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy, Uncle Lino and undefeated Smokey Image all ticketed for the race.

Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Mor Spirit worked four furlongs in company Wednesday in 48.60 for Bob Baffert. Stablemate Uninvited was timed in 49 flat.

“We’re looking at the San Felipe, no doubt,” Desormeaux said of Exaggerator Friday morning. “It seems like a good progression to me. If Nyquist runs next in Florida, I’m fine with that. I don’t ever want to have to run against him for $200,000 again.

“It’s not enough money to run against that kind of horse.”

Ziconic, the second foal out of 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, is entered to make his debut in Saturday’s third race. He is listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite under Gary Stevens in the seven furlong maiden allowance test.

Whether the chestnut Ziconic, owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, has the fairytale last-to-first running style of his dam remains to be seen, although John Shirreffs, who trains the colt as he did Zenyatta, doesn’t expect to see him out on the lead early on.

“It’s hard to say,” Shirreffs allowed, “but he’s not real quick out of the gate. Gary broke him from the gate a couple days ago and said he comes out OK, but he doesn’t break like a Quarter Horse.”

As for the chances of Keri Belle in Saturday’s Grade II Buena Vista Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf, Shirreffs took a wait-and-see approach on strategy.

The six-year-old Empire Maker mare also owned and bred by the Mosses has won on the lead but came from ninth in a field of 12 to capture the Grade III Megahertz on Jan. 18, getting up by a nose at 12-1 under Alex Solis.

“I think it was just the way the race shaped up,” Shirreffs said of the Megahertz. “That’s turf racing. You’ve got to get the trip.”

The field for the Buena Vista: Keri Belle, Alex Solis, 5-1; Stylish in Black, Tiago Pereira, 50-1; Smoove It, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Nashoba’s Gold, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Prize Exhibit, Santiago Gonzalez, 4-1; Lutine Belle, Brice Blanc, 30-1; Glory, Mike Smith, 6-1; Her Emmynency, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Stormy Lucy, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2; Paulina’s Love, Gary Stevens, 12-1; Theatre Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; and Moanin, Flavien Prat, 12-1. Chocolatier and Minks Aprise were scratched.

FINISH LINES: Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza leaves Monday for Dubai where he will ride 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome on Thursday in a prep race for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26. Espinoza expects to resume riding at Santa Anita a week from Saturday, on Feb. 27 . . . Jockey David Lopez took off his scheduled five mounts today, still dealing with soreness suffered in a riding mishap last Friday . . . Prepping for the $500,000, Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes on March 19, La Canada Stakes winner Taris worked four furlongs Friday in 49.20 for Simon Callaghan . . . Speedy recovery to long-time agent Harry (The Hat) Hacek, 69, who is in Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Hollywood recovering from a broken left hip that happened in a fall . . . Announcer Michael Wrona and Singapore Turf Club announcer Craig Evans will be Tom Quigley’s handicapping guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 11:25 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Under the topic “Horse Racing,” this answer was on the 2016 Jeopardy calendar dated Feb. 17: “In 1934, this track opened in its current location in Arcadia, near Los Angeles.” No, the question was not Hollywood Park.

Source: Santa Anita Park

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