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Victor Espinoza celebrates aboard Gormley after winning the Santa Anita Derby
The major California prep race for the Triple Crown is the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles over the Santa Anita main track just 4 weeks before the Run for the Roses, and worth 100 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Conditions were excellent for the 36,155 fans at the historic Arcadia oval, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 60's. A field of 13 went to post for the 80th renewal of the historic race, with San Vicente (G2) winner Iliad sent off as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite off his second place finish in the San Felipe (G2). In to challenge him included 13-4 second choice Reach the World, second in an allowance after breaking his maiden, and 6-1 third choice Gormley, winner of the Sham (G3) before finishing 4th in the San Felipe (G2).
Gormley (center) takes the lead in the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 8 Gormley Espinoza 14.40 7.20 5.00 3 Battle of Midway Nakatani 7.80 5.40 13 Royal Mo Stevens 7.60 Winning Time: 1:51.16 $2 Exacta 8-3 10.00 $1 Trifecta 8-3-13 68.30 $1 Superfecta 8-3-13-2 192.70
Left: Gormley in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Shirreffs said, "I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move. This is very exciting. It's thrilling to have a Kentucky Derby horse and it's for the same owners (Jerry and Ann Moss) as Giacomo. Gormley is an evolving horse. He's very precocious and very excitable.I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use. It's a lot of growing pains with a talented horse. I think using the tongue tie certainly helped us today. We'll see how this shakes out. We'll see how he comes out of this race in the morning and if all is well, we'll point to the Kentucky Derby."
Right: Gormley in the paddock. Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "He's really quick out of the gate and today the plan was to take him back and make him run because it seemed like there was a little bit of speed in the race. I had a little bit of a hard time taking him back but all I had to do was jerk him one time, a bit harder than I wanted, and that's all it took. He relaxed very nice. Down the backside, I started laughing to myself because I knew I was in a good position and I knew all the horses in front of me were going to stop. He showed me he's capable of going the distance. The only problem is his size; he's not very big but he's tough and that's what I like about him."
Left: Second place finisher Battle of Midway in the paddock. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said, "I think he ran a pretty good race. If he didn't get pressured so much early I think we would have won, but that's how things go. I'm very happy with him. He's been progressing all along, and if he can continue, he should be a contender." Jockey Corey Nakatani added, "He ran really well. I wish we could've gotten a breather at some point, but it didn't work out that way. He ran dynamite. It'd be nice (to win the Kentucky Derby aboard Battle of Midway). That's what we're here for."
Right: Third place finisher Royal Mo returns after the race. Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss (of both Gormley and Royal Mo) said, "We hope Royal Mo makes it on points because he deserves to go too! He's such a nice horse, so that really speaks volumes for our other horse." Jerry Moss added, "It's been such a great time bringing both of these horses up and both came through beautifully today. We're just so grateful. It's been a beautiful time. It was fantastic to see Royal Mo do so well today. Gary (Stevens) rode him perfectly. He was even the pacesetter for a while. It's such a great day and we'll see Gary back on him. We're just delighted. I don't know what else I can say. I'm out of words."
Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Iliad in the post parade. The Doug O'Neill trainee has a record of 2 wins, 1 second, and 0 thirds in 5 starts, earning $247,345 for owner Kaleem Shah Inc.
The $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) featured a field of seven 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles with the winner earning 100 points as part of the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series. Starlet (G1) winner and Santa Ysabel (G3) runner-up Abel Tasman was sent off as the 9-10 favorite over 2-1 It Tiz Well, winner of the Honeybee (G3) and 8-1 Paradise Woods, a maiden winner making her stakes debut.
Jockey Flavien Prat sent Paradise Woods to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.46, 47.35, and 1:11.48 while pressed by 12-1 Princess Karen and stalked by 13-1 Mopotism. At the top of the lane, Paradise Woods quickly left the field in her wake, opening up by 10 lengths through 1 mile in 1:36.07, and cruising to win by a stakes record margin of 11 3/4 lengths over late-running favorite Abel Tasman in 1:42.53. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to It Tiz Well third.
Left: Paradise Woods in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "She looked like she was just cruising out there. At the half mile pole, she was going easy. She took my breath away. It means a lot to win for (Herman) Sarkowsky. He was an owner with me for 38 years. I have always been high on her. I wasn't that confident, but I fully expected her to run well. I didn't think she would do this. I was thinking of running her short tomorrow in the Santa Paula, but when Unique Bella scratched, I thought we should take a shot. I thought she was as good as these fillies and she showed it today. She is a young filly.She has only had three starts, so we'll see about the Kentucky Oaks and how things develop.She was really nasty to saddle today, but she ran great."
Right: Paradise Woods returns after the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "From the first time I worked her, I said, ‘That one is really good.' She ran well her first time out (second in a 6f maiden) but I was expecting so much more that I was almost disappointed. But I think that I was just expecting too much from her. The next time out, she won like a good filly. She's so smart. If you teach her something she remembers it the next day. She's super small, she's fast and she has stamina. I learned she can make the distance, no problem. It's an honor to rider her, truly. Down the backside it was all her, I didn't do anything. I just let her have her way."
Left: Second place finisher Abel Tasman returns after the race. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "She was back there, and you have to be up close to the lead. I think Mike Smith got a feel for her today. Now I've got a race into her, and I know what I need to do to sharpen her up. She'll move forward off that – still the Kentucky Oaks." Jockey Mike Smith added, "I made sure we got second. There was no catching the winner. And that was good enough for today. We're going to have to go back to the drawing board, make a couple of changes, tweak this and tweak that a little and see if we can turn the page in the Kentucky Oaks. Today, it was all Mandella. No one was beating that horse."
Right: Third place finisher It Tiz Well in the post parade. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 6 starts, earning $274,840 for owner Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC.
The $150,000 Providencia Stakes (G3) featured 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Undefeated Sircat Sally, winner of the China Doll Stakes, was sent off as the 3-10 favorite in the field of 6 over 4-1 allowance winner Emphatically and 7-1 Princess Roi, 3rd in the California Cup Oaks.
Jockey Mike Smith sent Sircat Sally to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 24.10, 49.06, and 1:14.66 over the firm going while pressed by Princess Roi and stalked by Emphatically. Turning for home Sircat Sally opened up by 2 lengths through 1 mile in 1:37.77, and cruised to win by 2 1/4 lengths over 16-1 You Missed It in 1:48.77. It was a nose back to Emphatically third.
Left: Sircat Sally in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said, "I'm very grateful to have a filly like her. She can do just about anything – she has speed and she can run long. You can't ask any more than that from any horse. We thought we'd be on the lead. Flavien (Prat aboard Emphatically) sat back off the pace, and then he didn't close any ground." Owner Joe Turner added, "The track is kind of fast today so I understand the fractions (regarding the final 1/8 in :34 flat) but she did it beautifully. I think she's better on the dirt. She won by 12 lengths at Los Alamitos. Maybe by the time we get to Del Mar hopefully we can win a race to get into the Breeders' Cup."
Right: Sircat Sally in the post parade. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "She is really well-balanced. You can tell she goes over the grass almost like a deer; she just skips over the top of it. There's just no wasted action and she's got such a quick acceleration. She's just extremely impressive. I would say this was her best race so far. There was a filly that was really fast in there that got in front of her and was trying to get out and in doing so I had to move a little early to make sure that I didn't get carried away. Today showed me that she's ready to take that next big step into open company."
Left: Second place finisher You Missed It in the paddock. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved her record to 5 seconds and 1 third in 6 starts, earning $91,320 for owner Reddam Racing LLC.
Right: Third place finisher Emphatically in the paddock. The Tom Proctor trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $68,040 for owner-breeder Glen Hill Farm.
The $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) featured a field of 7 older fillies and mares going 1 mile on the turf. Mrs. Revere (G2) runner-up Harmonize was sent off as the 6-5 favorite over 5-1 Prize Exhibit, second in the Wishing Well Stakes after winning the Megahertz (G3), and 11-2 Lady Valeur, third in the American Oaks (G1). 11-1 Juno was loose on the lead under Kent Desormeaux through fractions of 22.56, 45.67, and 1:10.09 while stalked by 7-1 Hillhouse High. In the stretch, Hillhouse High under jockey Corey Nakatani took over the lead through 7f in 1:21.72, and was all out to hold off late-closing 10-1 Mokat in 1:33.61. It was a neck back to pacesetter Juno third, and 3/4 more to favorite Harmonize fourth.
Left: Hillhouse High returns after the race. Winning trainer Richard Baltas, who trains the top 2 finishers said, "Hillhouse High had the perfect trip today right behind the speed. I was watching both horses just hoping we'd get a piece and we ended up running one-two. I'm just grateful for that. Corey has been helping me a lot in the mornings. He was helping me before he even started his comeback and he must have breezed 25 horses for me. His weight is down, his son is his agent and they're a great team. Corey is so great on the grass. He's a great rider period but really, really good on the grass." Jockey Corey Nakatani added, "We had a great trip. She broke really well, was tactically placed, and the inside horse asserted herself with Kent (Desormeaux). I was able to track them and give her a target, which was really good for her. She did the rest. She's a really good filly."
Right: Second place finisher Mokat in the post parade. Jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "We had ourselves in a good position, but the winner was much the best. The winner had a better post and we just came up short. We made a good run. Little by little I'm feeling better and I've been getting more opportunities. I lost those couple of months (with an injury), but things are good now."
Left: Third place finisher Juno in the paddock before the race. The Neil Drysdale trainee improved her record to 5 wins, 0 seconds, and 2 thirds in 10 starts, earning $101,652 for owner Team Valor International.
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Harmonize in the post parade. The Bill Mott trainee has a record of 4 wins, 4 seconds, and 1 third in 12 starts, earning $633,860 for owner Larkin Armstrong.
Kicking off the stakes action on Saturday was the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. 3-5 favorite Miss Sunset was quickest away through fractions of 21.94 and 45.63 while pressed by 6-1 first time starter S Y Sky and stalked by 19-1 Radish. In the lane, S Y Sky and jockey Joe Talamo swept to the front through 3/4 in 1:11.08 and drew off late to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Radish in 1:17.52. It was a head back to Miss Sunset third.
Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "These Grazens sure can run. Nick (Alexander) liked her, even before I had her in the barn. He was telling me that he thought she was one of his best fillies. He's the one who twisted my arm to go into this race and he was right all along. Nick is a good racing manager. I think I'm going to get a lot more advice from him from here on out. We're a good team."
Jockey Joe Talamo added, "She broke very alertly. We were able to sit right off the pace, right off the outside filly we went to the front. Really, she just kind of took it from me, I just kind of let her have her head, let her do her thing and she's a very special filly. I think she'll definitely improve from here. This was her first race and it's obviously very rare to see a first-timer win a stake in the fashion like she did."
Closing out the stakes action on Saturday, a field of 9 California-bred 3-year-olds sprinted 6 1/2 furlongs in the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes. 7-2 second choice B Squared set the pace of 22.20 and 45.06 while pressed by 8-1 Mr. Hinx and stalked by 15-1 Will Tell. In the stretch, Mr. Hinx and jockey Tyler Baze came out 3 wide for room and hooked B Squared at the 1/8 pole through 3/4 in 1:10.31. The pair dueled to the line with Mr. Hinx outfinishing B Squared by a nose in 1:17.09. It was a long 3 1/4 lengths back to 13-1 Tribal Storm third, while 6-5 favorite California Diamond was 8th.
Winning jockey Tyler Baze said, "The entire ride went really well. I wasn't really expecting to be on the lead. I schooled (Mr. Hinx) in the dirt the last couple workouts because I didn't really know where I was going to be in the race. Steve (Miyadi) just made me school him in the dirt. So, when he broke in the lead, I wasn't going to grab ahold of him and cut his air off to take him back behind other horses. He was out there, comfortable. He's a very nice horse with so much talent. I haven't gotten to the bottom of him yet but I know that there's a lot there and he's learning. He's developing and getting better every day."
Winning trainer Steve Miyadi said, "Three weeks ago, I thought he belonged with Battle of Midway and the other horses in the (Santa Anita) Derby. At about the 1/4 pole, I stood up and was about to snap my fingers, but as soon as he made the lead, they engulfed him, and I already knew we were coming here. He's a nice horse. Gary (Barber) told me the day he was born that he was sending me a good horse. A lot of owners tell you that, but Gary Barber is a man of his word."
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