Track Reports

Santa Anita Stable Notes: Songbird Lowest Morning Line Choice Since Zenyatta

Songbird and Mike Smith - Photo Credit: ©Clockers' Corner/Zoe Metz
©Clockers' Corner/Zoe Metz

The fact that nine three-year-old fillies were entered to run against undefeated champion Songbird in the Santa Ysabel Stakes on Saturday was surprising, but on the other hand, it did not cost anything to go in and with rain forecast for the weekend, horsemen were inclined to roll the dice when entries were taken on Wednesday.

“Everybody’s looking at the weather forecast, from what they say,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Songbird. “There’s a 40 percent chance of rain, but we can’t do anything about that.”

Doug O’Neill has two entered against Songbird, including Land Over Sea, who has been beaten a combined margin of 30 ½ lengths in her last four starts against Songbird, all in a row.

“Both our fillies are doing well and the race is in our own back yard,” O’Neill reasoned.

“Songbird is as good as they come. Obviously, you’d rather not run against her, but with her presence, we were hoping for a shorter field.”

The field for the Santa Ysabel, race four of nine: My Dynamo, Fernando Perez, 20-1; Land Over Sea, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Pageant Material, Santiago Gonzalez, 30-1; Merirosvo, Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1; Songbird, Mike Smith, 1-9; Code Warrior, Anne Sanguinetti, 20-1; Jade Princess, Rafael Bejarano, 30-1; Not Now Carolyn, Kent Desormeaux, 15-1; and Mokat, Flavien Prat, 20-1.

Songbird has been pegged a rare 1-9 favorite on Jon White’s morning line for Saturday’s Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes.

“The last time I made a 1-9 morning-line favorite was Zenyatta six years ago when she was making her first start of the year in the Santa Margarita,” White noted. “Zenyatta was coming off her tremendous performance in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic when she made history by becoming the first filly or mare to ever win that race.

“When Songbird made her first start of the year in the Las Virgenes last month, I made her a 1-5 morning line favorite. But she never, ever moved off 1-9 on the tote board. In fact, she never came close to moving off 1-9 because she actually went off as a 1-20 favorite, paying only $2.10 for a $2 win wager.

“I’ve made Land Over Sea the second favorite for the Santa Ysabel at 12-1. It certainly is unusual to have a second favorite at such a high price, but I actually am cutting her price in half from the Las Virgenes when she went off at just slightly under 24-1.

“Land Over Sea did finish second in the Las Virgenes, but Songbird was super impressive, winning for fun by 6 ½ lengths. And it was the fourth straight time Songbird has defeated Land Over Sea. That suggests to me that even though Land Over Sea might well go off as the second favorite this Saturday, she likely will be in double digits.

“Songbird is an undefeated Eclipse Award winner. She is a Breeders’ Cup winner. Some even believe she is the best 3-year-old in the country, not just the best 3-year-old filly in the country. And here she is, running in a Grade III race against 3-year-old fillies Saturday. I will be very surprised if Songbird’s price on the tote board ever budges from 1-9 Saturday.”

Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Nyquist worked a half mile under exercise rider Jonny Garcia Thursday morning on Santa Anita’s fast main track in 48.80 as the son of Uncle Mo prepared for the Florida Derby on April 2

“He went great, full of energy,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains the bay colt for Paul and Zillah Reddam. “I loved what we saw and we’re very happy. We’re just trying to stay in front of the rain that might be coming this weekend.”

O’Neill added that all Nyquist’s major works for the Florida Derby will be at Santa Anita prior to shipping. “The plan is to have all breezes here,” O’Neill said.

Santa Anita announced yesterday that it will begin installation of a completely new Bermuda turf course on June 20, which will be ready for use in advance of Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet which begins in late September.

“With the impact of additional racing dates and increased demand for turf racing, the replacement of the course is something we have been anticipating and planning for several months,” said Joe Morris, Senior Vice President, West Coast Operations for The Stronach Group.  “The new course will be very tight-knit and uniform, and we’re confident that we can have it fully installed by early July, which will give it the time it needs during optimum growing conditions.

“Turf racing is extremely popular with our fans and horsemen, and with our expanded racing calendar, we are placing demands on this course that have never before existed.  The new turf is designed to be robust enough to handle the additional use.  The horsemen are fully supportive of this project, and together, we look forward to its implementation.”

Trainer Jim Cassidy, President of the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), said the following:  “A completely new and durable turf course is essential to successful year ’round racing at Santa Anita.  Track leadership has been careful to consider our suggestions and we are pleased to endorse their plan.”

Beginning June 6, preparations will begin on the hillside portion of the course, with the turf oval scheduled for closure beginning June 20.  The first course of action will be to remove the existing turf and prepare the soil for the installation of the fully mature Bermuda, which has been grown in La Quinta, Calif.

With an oval that measures about seven furlongs, Santa Anita’s Camino Real Turf Course is unlike any other in North America, in that it features a hillside component, which measures about 6 ½ furlongs (4,777 feet) from the top of the hill to the finish line.

With Santa Anita’s current Winter Meet drawing to a close on April 10, turf racing in California will shift to Golden Gate Fields as they conduct their 75th anniversary Turf Festival, which will run from April 14 through May 1.  Turf Festival purses will be increased and horsemen will be offered complementary vanning between Santa Anita and Golden Gate.

As a result of Santa Anita’s turf course project, there will be no turf racing here from June 23 through closing day of the track’s Spring Meeting on July 10.

Turf racing will resume with the onset of Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet, which runs from Sept. 30 through Nov. 6.

Santa Anita has announced it will offer fans free shuttle service to and from the new Metro Gold Line Arcadia Station, beginning with the Gold Line’s Arcadia launch this Saturday, March 5.

Beginning Saturday, the Metro Gold Line will, for the first time, provide service to Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and as far east as the Azusa/Glendora border near Citrus Community College.

The Santa Anita Shuttle will run on all race days and will operate in addition to Arcadia’s Transit Shuttle Service, providing fans with a non-stop trip to and from The Great Race Place, which is located a mile from the Arcadia Station. The Santa Anita Shuttle will be offered through closing day of the track’s Spring Meet on July 10.

“Along with many thousands of others, we are very excited about the Metro Gold Line launch on Saturday and we believe our free shuttle is going to be a great way for fans throughout metro L.A. to connect with us,” said Nate Newby, Santa Anita’s Vice President, Marketing.  “This is a welcome development and a great alternative for many of our fans and employees who regularly commute on the crowded 210 Freeway.”

The Santa Anita Shuttle will operate on a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. basis with pickup and drop off service available every 20 minutes. Santa Anita Ambassadors will staff each shuttle and be available to assist fans who may have questions regarding racetrack seating, dining, etc.

The Arcadia Transit Shuttle, which features stops at Santa Anita, Methodist Hospital, the Westfield Santa Anita Mall and the L.A. County Arboretum, will operate seven days a week from 7:10 a.m. to 6:36 p.m. and be offered free of charge through June 15.

FINISH LINES: Trainer Jimmy Jerkens will run 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Effinex in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, according to Racing Director, Mike Lakow.  Effinex will arrive from his base at Palm Meadows later today and be stabled here with trainer Eoin Harty . . . Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. has San Felipe contender Danzing Candy scheduled to work Saturday at 9 a.m. for the Grade II race on March 12 . . . Richard Baltas has engaged Santiago Gonzalez to ride San Antonio runner-up Imperative in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino on March 12. First post time on Big ’Cap Day is 12 noon, with admission gates opening at 10 a.m. . . . Nick Coukos, President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and TVG host/analyst Peter Lurie, will be Tom Quigley’s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in the East Paddock Gardens at 11:20 a.m. . . . Aces wild: Out of Patience, 4-1 chance in today’s fourth race, breaks from post position four after drawing the rail four straight races for trainer Leonard Powell.

Source: Santa Anita Park

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