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Day's thrills last all night for Solis
ARCADIA, Calif. - Hours after the biggest day of his career, jockey Alex Solis had trouble sleeping Saturday night.
Earlier that day at Santa Anita, Solis had won the country's two richest races - the $2 million Turf aboard Johar, who finished in a dead heat with High Chaparral, and the $4 million Classic aboard Pleasantly Perfect.
Long after he returned home from a celebratory dinner with family and friends, Solis stayed up watching replays. He went to bed at 1 a.m., then awoke at 4 and did not go back to sleep. The television went back on.
"I was too excited," he said. "I was still buzzing."
Solis was not the only one in the house feeling that way. "Austin went to sleep smiling," Solis said of his son. "He was still sleeping and smiling early in the morning."
The two wins combined with a second-place finish in the Juvenile with Minister Eric gave Solis the distinction of being the recipient of the first Bill Shoemaker Award for outstanding performance by a jockey on Breeders' Cup Day.
The award, determined by a vote by the press, was inaugurated last week, shortly after the death of Shoemaker on Oct. 12.
His wins aboard Johar and Pleasantly Perfect came moments after Solis feared that his chances of a Breeders' Cup win were gone. Since the end of the Del Mar meeting on Sept. 10, Solis had been anxiously awaiting a chance to ride Minister Eric, who had finished second in the Del Mar Futurity.
In the Juvenile, Minister Eric led in early stretch, but was caught in the final sixteenth by stablemate Action This Day.
"I thought he was my best chance," Solis said. "I have a lot of faith in that horse, and I think he will have a big future. When he turns into a man, he will be fun to watch."
Solis has ridden Johar in all but one of his 15 starts, including wins in the 2002 Hollywood Derby and San Marcos Stakes in January.
Johar led in a small field when he finished a game second in the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship on Sept. 28, but in most of his races has come from behind. Solis was not worried when Johar was far back early in the Turf, run over 1 1/2 miles.
"He broke so relaxed," Solis said. "I just improvised. It worked out so good. The others were right on top of each other, and it made it easier."
In early stretch, Johar was fourth with a stubborn Falbrav and High Chaparral in front of him.
"I thought I'd blow by them the way he was running," Solis said. "I switched my whip to the left, and High Chaparral looked at Johar and he took off running again."
It took 11 minutes for officials to determine High Chaparral and Johar had finished in a dead heat.
"I knew it was close, and I thought I had a chance," Solis said. "I saw his head going down at the wire."
Solis thought Pleasantly Perfect had an excellent chance in the 2002 Classic until the colt bled in his prep race and was not allowed to start. When Pleasantly Perfect prepped with a defense of his title in the Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 4, Solis again thought he had a big shot in the Classic.
"We always did think he could do that, but it didn't turn out," he said. "The last couple of weeks, he was getting better and better. You could feel him getting stronger and stronger, and that really helped us out there. He was ready."
Before Saturday, Solis had a poor record in the Breeders' Cup, winning once with 40 mounts - Kona Gold in the 2000 Sprint at Churchill Downs.
"The Breeders' Cup races have been kind of tough on me," he said. "I've told my kids, you don't quit and you don't take the easy way out.
"I always believed that something special would come my way."
Gill to establish California beachhead
Michael Gill, who leads the nation's owners in victories this year, is establishing a stable in Southern California, trainer Nick Canani said.
On Sunday, Gill and Canani claimed five horses for $109,000 at Santa Anita. Their new acquisitions include Workum, who won a $10,000 claimer over a mile in the fifth race.
Canani, who left Southern California earlier this year to launch a stable in Maryland for Gill, said that he is returning to California, and that some of the recently claimed horses will be sent to other circuits.
Canani said plans to send a stable of Gill horses to Fair Grounds have been scuttled.
"The plan is to stay [in California] as long as they give us stalls," he said. "We need some place for the turf horses. This was always in the works for me. I tried to get Mike to come out here, and that's how I got involved."
Canani did not say how large the Gill stable in California would be, but speculated that some runners from the East would be sent to California.
Gill, who lives in New Hampshire, has more than 275 racehorses competing in several circuits. He has been the subject of controversy at some Eastern tracks this year because of his aggressive claiming tactics.
Davis spends day at races
Outgoing California Gov. Gray Davis attended the Breeders' Cup, but he limited his activity to watching, leaving the betting to his wife.
"The people of California will benefit from her misfortune," he said.
Davis watched the Breeders' Cup from the director's room. After the Classic, he walked through the box seat area and visited with horse owner David Shimmon and Oak Tree executive Sherwood Chillingworth.
Davis was recalled earlier this month and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
During his terms, Davis signed bills allowing for a reduction in the taxes that racetracks pay to the state to run race meetings. The savings were returned to the racetrack and the horsemen in the form of purses. In addition, he approved a measure in 2001 permitting betting via the telephone and Internet, but vetoed a similar measure in 2000.
At the same time, Davis irked many horse racing participants for his support of Native American casinos, which are perceived as a threat to racing.
Davis said he would have supported a bill to increase the takeout on exotic wagers from 20.18 to 20.68 percent in an effort to offset the high cost of workers' compensation insurance paid by trainers. The bill was introduced in August but did not reach Davis's desk after it failed to reach a vote in the Legislature.
"I would be open to that, but I'd like to look at the fine print," he said.
Ellis had his chance
In addition to training horses for owner B. Wayne Hughes, Ron Ellis is also one of two men in charge of buying horses for Hughes, the former Public Storage magnate. Ellis, along with Seth Semkin, bought Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day for $150,000 for Hughes last July at Keeneland. It was Richard Mandella, however, who trained the colt.
According to Ellis, there are three places where Hughes's yearlings are broken: California, Florida, and South Carolina. Ellis went to look at the yearlings in Florida - where he gets to pick five - and was scheduled to go to South Carolina, where Action This Day and Siphonizer were located. But a storm canceled his flight.
Ellis decided to return to California and called the South Carolina farm manager, Frank Wooten, to find out about how the yearlings were training. Ellis did not know Wooten well, so when Wooten told him that "they were all good," Ellis didn't know how much credence to give the information. Ellis elected not to select any of the ones in South Carolina.
"I won't make the same mistake again," Ellis said. "I'm happy, though. It's a team effort, and Dick's done a great job."
Ellis said he has several 2-year-olds for Hughes and hopes he can procure another Derby contender for him. This year, Ellis campaigned Atswhatimtalknbout, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
"I've got some nice ones that haven't run yet," Ellis said.
Hughes, said Ellis, "still has some bullets in the gun. I'm very happy for Wayne. He's been very good to me."
Frankel, Bailey near records
Despite a relatively disappointing Breeders' Cup day, both Bobby Frankel and Jerry Bailey edged closer to records Saturday.
Frankel, who earlier this year set the single-season record for Grade 1 wins with 23, closed to within $60,000 of D. Wayne Lukas's yearly trainer earnings record of $17,842,358. Though he was shut out on the card, Frankel's pursuit of Lukas's record was greatly aided by Medaglia d'Oro's second-place finish in the Classic, which earned $800,000.
Frankel has enjoyed a banner year, but he may come up second best in the Eclipse balloting after Richard Mandella's four-win Breeders' Cup day. The year in which Lukas set the earnings record, 1988, he was defeated in the Eclipse balloting by Shug McGaughey, who that year trained champions Personal Ensign and Easy Goer.
Bailey, who this year has already has surpassed his own North American jockey earnings record, is now within $571,000 of his overall earnings record of $22,871,814, which was set in 2002. Bailey's total last year was enhanced by the $3.6 million he earned riding Street Cry to victory in the Dubai World Cup.
Bailey won the Breeders' Cup Mile aboard Six Perfections Saturday, his 64th stakes win of the year, putting him four behind Mike Smith's record total of 68, set in 1994.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Irwin Cohen