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Victor Espinoza aboard Gormley out after winning the 2017 Sham Stakes
Santa Anita Park carded 4 graded stakes on the first full weekend of the year. On Saturday conditions were quite damp with the main track rated sloppy and turf races taken off, but by Sunday the skies stayed clear and the track dried out to "good", with temperatures in the mid 60's both days.
Gormley (outside) wins the Sham Stakes (G3)
Winning trainer John Shirreffs said, "You never know what they're going to do so it's always interesting. We're very proud of him. He's quick. He starts quick, he gets away quickly. But then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes. It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done." Jockey Victor Espinoza added, "It didn't surprise me how well he broke out of there today. When he's feeling good, he breaks quickly and already running. In the Breeders' Cup he broke slow but today he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away."
Blue Tone wins the San Gabriel Stakes (G3)
Winning owner Bob Hess Jr. said, "It was apparent there wasn't any pace in the race. The other day when he stumbled, we couldn't have beaten the winner, but I thought we could've been second. He's a big lumbering horse and when he's able to run like this, he's a lot better. We've got some money now, so we're going to run next at Gulfstream in the Poseidon (on the Pegasus World Cup undercard) It's $400,000 and we're going to take a shot." Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux added, "He broke horribly today and I didn't know if he had anything left at the half-mile pole. I absolutely nursed him to the quarter pole and he showed all the class that he has and held them at bay."
Watch This Cat wins the Las Cienegas Stakes
Winning trainer Richard Baltas said, "This horse has won down the hill both times and she's impressed me. I was excited about today but the only thing was that we just didn't know about the dirt. I just told Corey to let her have her way. Let her get relaxed and run where she wants to run and he did. He rode her perfectly." Jockey Corey Natakani added, "She's won her last two on the grass and has been doing really well for Richard. .I've ridden two stakes winners for him already and he's put me back into a spot to have a chance at leading rider. He told me that wherever she's placed, just let her get her feet under her and she loved it. She didn't turn a hair out there and she was focused and spot on. She was ready to go today. I was going down the backside with a big grin on my face. I was just cruising. I pounced on them when she was ready to go. I just stayed out of her way."
Arrogate works before the first races on Saturday
Trainer Bob Baffert said, "I still have to see how he comes out of it. It was nice to get the work in. It wasn't the ideal situation but we knew he likes the mud, an off track. Great horses always like the mud. I was happy with the way he finished. The other horse, we could have had him a little more in front (at the start of the drill). We got the work in and that was very important. I'd rather work on a nice, dry track. Every time you work on an off track, you're taking that chance, but I got a nice, stiff work into him so that was very important. I got him in 1:11 and change, 1:24, out in 1:37 and change. Once he lost his company he'll just pin his ears. When he has that company, he likes to chase something. He has that tremendous stride. His stride is his biggest weapon."
Unique Bella wins the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2)
Left: Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with jockey Mike Smith after winning the Santa Ynez with Unique Bella. Hollendorfer said, "I've always liked her. Today, she showed that she's brilliant. We thought she'd jump out of there a little better. I thought she would be close to the lead. Mike used his judgement, got behind and then got to the outside so it worked out well and our other filly (It Tiz Well, 2nd) also got G2 placed, so we're very pleased right now." Smith added, "When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her and see what happens. It didn't seem to bother her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air."