SMITH EXPECTS BIG EFFORT FROM EFFINEX
Mike Smith seeks an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the 79th Santa Anita Handicap when he rides favored Effinex in the $1 million race presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino on Saturday’s dynamite racing program also highlighted by the Grade II San Felipe Stakes for three-year-old Triple Crown contenders, the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf and the Grade II San Carlos Stakes for top sprinters.
Smith won the Santa Anita Handicap last year aboard the ill-fated Shared Belief, and in 2014 and 2013 with Game On Dude. Effinex had his only breeze over Santa Anita’s main track Tuesday with Smith up, going four furlongs in a bullet 47.80. He went the first quarter mile in 24 seconds flat and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.20.
“He felt real good,” Smith said of the drill. “He looks wonderful coming off his layoff. He seems to have put some weight on, he’s training well, he’s happy, and got over the track just beautiful Tuesday morning.
“If that’s any indication as to how he’s going to run, I guess he should run extremely well. Given the opportunity, I think he’ll run big. I know his connections are really happy with him. He was doing a lot of good things back in Florida before he got here as well.”
Smith has ridden Effinex in his last two races, a victory in the Grade I Clark Handicap last Nov. 27, and a second to Triple Crown king American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Oct. 31.
“Effinex got a good draw. We couldn’t be happier with that, and he came out of his work really good,” said Kent Sweezey, assistant to trainer Jimmy Jerkens. “We took him to the gate today, jogged him once around and schooled him in the afternoon.
“Tomorrow we’ll gallop him and then walk him through the paddock.”
The field for the Santa Anita Handicap, the 10th of 11 races: Point Piper, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Melatonin, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 3-1; General a Rod, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Effinex, Mike Smith, 2-1; Cyrus Alexander, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Hard Aces, Abel Lezcano, 12-1; Imperative, Santiago Gonzalez, 3-1; and Class Leader, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1.
Mike McCarthy, former assistant to Todd Pletcher, said General a Rod is due to arrive at Santa Anita tonight from the East Coast.
Fans at Santa Anita on Big Cap Day will receive a free Santa Anita Fleece Blanket
presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino with paid admission while supplies last.
First post time is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
MILLION DOLLAR LINEUP IN SAN FELIPE
How good is the field of three-year-olds in Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe Stakes, a major steppingstone to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9?
“This is the race that should have a $1 million purse,” said Bob Baffert, who sends out favored Mor Spirit and Cupid in the Grade II race at 1 1/16 miles. Baffert will be seeking his record sixth win in the San Felipe, which goes as the seventh race.
The San Felipe: Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 8-1; Danzing Candy, Mike Smith, 4-1; Mor Spirit, Gary Stevens, 2-1; Cupid, Martin Garcia, 12-1; I Will Score, Rafael Bejarano, 10-1; Smokey Image, Victor Espinoza, 4-1; and Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, 5-2.
Trainer Gary Sherlock would prefer a post other than No. 1, if he had his druthers.
“It’s not where I want to be, but it’s the post position, so I’ll deal with it,” he said. “He’s coming up to the race in good shape; no excuses.”
OM WILL RUN HIS RACE IN GRADE I KILROE
Trainer Dan Hendricks expects another solid effort from Om when the multiple graded stakes winner goes in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf.
“He’ll run his race in his usual spot right up front,” Hendricks said of Om, who drew the rail in a field of seven.
“We’ll see how the turf plays, how the other horses come out of there and decide what to do. There’s speed in the race–not Obviously’s speed–but quite a bit, so I think there will be fast fractions for whoever is out front.”
The Kilroe: Om, Gary Stevens, 3-1; What a View, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; Bal a Bali, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Bolo, Mike Smith, 2-1; Kenjisstorm, Edwin Maldonado, 50-1; Midnight Storm, Victor Espinoza, 3-1; and De Treville, Tyler Baze, 8-1.
KOBE’S BACK WILL COME RUNNING IN SAN CARLOS
Kobe’s Back won from the rail in the Palos Verdes Stakes on Feb. 7. The committed stretch runner, a notoriously slow starter, could win Saturday’s Grade II San Carlos Stakes breaking from the outside No. eight post position.
It matters not, says his jockey, Gary Stevens.
“He comes from out of it,” Stevens said, plain and simple. “He broke good the other day, just dropped back and that’s just his style. There really is no option. He calls the shots. I’m just a passenger until the last three-eighths of a mile.
“He’s been training unbelievably. He was training great before his last race, he’s come back and trained the same way. He’s really sharp and had a really sharp half-mile breeze last weekend; he’s ready.”
The San Carlos: Calculator, Flavien Prat, 5-2; Coastline, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; San Onofre, Edwin Maldonado, 6-1; Cautious Giant, Santiago Gonzalez, 10-1; Mystery Train, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Outside Nashville, Martin Garcia, 20-1; and Kobe’s Back, Gary Stevens, 2-1.
FINISH LINES: Undefeated male two-year-old champion of 2015 Nyquist worked a mile on Santa Anita’s fast main track under Jonny Garcia on a spectacular Thursday morning in 1:46, going the last five-eighths in 1:01 and change, according to trainer Doug O’Neill. “It was a solid work,” O’Neill said. “We plan to leave for the (April 2) Florida Derby on March 28.” Santa Anita’s clockers had Nyquist going five furlongs 1:01.40 . . . El Camino Real Derby winner Frank Conversation, headed to the UAE Derby on March 26, went five furlongs for O’Neill in 1:02.20 . . . Jerry Hollendorfer has 10, count ‘em, 10 horses entered to run at Santa Anita on Saturday. “I don’t know if I’ve ever run that many on one card in one day before,” the Hall of Fame trainer with more than 7,000 career wins said. “I’ve run a lot of horses on a lot of different days, but I don’t think I’ve ever run that many at Santa Anita in one day.” . . . Three-time Eclipse champion Beholder could surface in a race before her long-range goal of the Grade I Vanity Stakes on June 4. “We’re in no hurry (for the Vanity),” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said Thursday morning. “Hopefully, there will be something before that.” . . . Agent Derek Lawson reports that Flavien Prat, the meet’s third-leading rider with 34 wins through 43 racing days, leaves for Dubai on March 21 to ride Hoppertunity in the $10 million World Cup against 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome on March 26. Hoppertunity worked five furlongs Thursday in a minute flat . . . John Sadler has stretch-running English-bred import Nancy From Nairobi ticketed for the Grade II Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf March 26 . . . Episode 2 of ‘Down Home with Team O’Neill’ is available now. This month Team O’Neill met with and received some coaching advice from retired NBA, WNBA and NCAA basketball coach Paul Westhead, who has led several teams to National Championships. Says Doug: “You’ll get to meet our assistant coaches and even the ultimate, Coach Lava Man, who helps with the mail bag . . . Track announcer Frank Mirahmadi and Santa Anita simulcast host Michelle Yu will be Tom Quigley’s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in the East Paddock Gardens, 10:50 a.m. Saturday and 11:20 a.m. on Sunday . . .Condolences to family and friends of iconic San Diego radio and television personality Ernie Myers. Known as “Mr. San Diego,” Myers was Del Mar’s longtime simulcast television host from 1989 through the 1990s. He died Tuesday morning in La Mesa, California at age 86 following a long bout with Parkinson’s Disease . . . Nine horses were entered in today’s first race, five of them sired by Unusual Heat and three by Square Eddie. The lone dissenter was 30-1 morning line chance Bishops of Compton, sired by Desert Code . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.
Source: Santa Anita Park