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Golden Balls goes straight to stakes
ARCADIA, Calif. - Maybe the need for a prep race is overrated.
Earlier this year, trainer Jim Cassidy was looking for an allowance race for his European import Diamond Diva. When he failed to find a suitable race, Cassidy started Diamond Diva in the American Beauty Handicap last Sunday. She won convincingly and will make her next start in a graded stakes.
The same scenario has occurred with Golden Balls, the 4-year-old colt who is entered in Saturday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita. Cassidy wanted to start Golden Balls a month ago, but couldn't find a race for him.
Unlike Diamond Diva, who was making her U.S. debut, Golden Balls is accomplished in this country. In two starts last year, Golden Balls won the La Puente Stakes here and finished second in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap last June at Hollywood Park. He was sidelined for the rest of 2007 with foot problems, Cassidy said. With those minor injuries healed, Cassidy expects Golden Balls to develop into a top turf horse this year, beginning with Saturday's race, which is run over one mile.
Cassidy said he has been most encouraged by Golden Balls's recent workouts, including six furlongs in 1:16.60 on turf on Monday. Cassidy timed the final quarter-mile in 23 seconds.
"That was without a horse next to him," Cassidy said. "He's better with a horse next to him."
Golden Balls ended a six-month layoff last year to win the La Puente, making up 7 1/2 lengths in the final quarter-mile to score a remarkable win.
"It was an electrifying last eighth of a mile," Cassidy said.
In the Grade 2 Arcadia, which drew seven entrants, Golden Balls must beat Daytona, the winner of four consecutive stakes from October to February. Trained by Dan Hendricks, Daytona was third in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds March 8.
Cassidy said that Diamond Diva will make her next start in the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park on April 23 or the $150,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile on May 3, Kentucky Derby Day.
Johnny Eves works well despite hives
Saturday's 11-race program features four stakes, highlighted by the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. The $200,000 Potrero Grande Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs could be considered the sprint championship of the meeting.
The leading contenders are Johnny Eves, the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December, and Surf Cat and Greg's Gold, the first two finishers of the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap on Feb. 16.
Johnny Eves was battling hives earlier this week, which trainer Jay Robbins hoped would not affect the 4-year-old's performance. He has been encouraged by Johnny Eves's recent workouts, including a half-mile in 49 seconds on Tuesday under jockey David Flores.
"David liked the work a lot," Robbins said. "David said if he'd taken a hold, he would have gone in 44 and change."
The day's final stakes is the $150,000 Providencia Stakes, a Grade 2 race for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf. A field of 10 is led by Sweeter Still, the winner of the China Doll Stakes here on March 1.
Stiffer penalties for drug violations
The California Horse Racing Board has approved regulations to strengthen penalties for the most severe medication violations.
At its monthly meeting on March 27, the board approved rule changes that call for a minimum one-year suspension for trainers that have horses test positive for category A medication violations.
Medications in category A are performance-enhancing drugs that are not considered accepted for medical use for racehorses, according to a statement released by the board. Stricter penalties, including multi-year suspensions and fines of up to $100,000 to owners and trainers, would be enacted for repeat offenses for category A violations.
In addition, the horses involved in the positive tests could be banned from racing for several months and be forced to undergo additional drug testing at an owner's expense.
The new regulations are expected to go into effect in June after they go through the regulatory process, according to racing board officials. The rule changes previously had been approved by the board, but were amended after recommendations were submitted by the state's office of administrative law, which reviews regulatory changes submitted by state agencies.
Bejarano ready to resume riding
Rafael Bejarano, who has not ridden since sustaining fractures to two vertebrae in a one-horse spill on March 13, has resumed working horses. Bejarano is named to ride Medzendeekron in Friday's $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap here, but that gelding will be scratched, according to trainer Barry Abrams.
Bejarano, who did not have any other mounts on Friday, will travel to Oaklawn Park on Saturday to ride Santa Anita Handicap winner Heatseeker in the Oaklawn Handicap. He will return to Santa Anita to ride on Sunday and Monday and will ride at Keeneland from April 9-12, according to his agent, Joe Ferrer.
Bejarano led the jockey standings at this meeting from Feb. 27 to March 21 and is currently second to Garrett Gomez.
Purse from maiden race redistributed
The $27,000 purse of a maiden claimer here on Jan. 17 has been ordered redistributed after race winner Chicks Rule tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide.
According to a ruling issued by Santa Anita stewards last week, Chicks Rule was found to have 38.2 millimoles of total carbon dioxide per liter of plasma. The permitted level is 37 millimoles.
An excessive level of carbon dioxide is an indication that a horse may have been administered bicarbonate of soda, which is thought to increase stamina in a horse.
The $16,200 winner's share of the race has been redistributed to the original second- through sixth-place finishers - Catch Candy, Startjumpin Marnie, Quiet at the Top, Sidra Holland, and Song of Illinois.
Doug O'Neill, who trains Chicks Rule, could face a sanction for the positive test. A hearing in the case has not been conducted.