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Greg's Gold makes it back
ARCADIA, Calif. - Greg's Gold had progressed by the summer of 2005 to be one of the leading sprinters on the Southern California circuit. Then he disappeared. But after being away from the races for nearly 19 months, he showed up over the weekend and proved that he still belongs. Greg's Gold's dazzling comeback victory in an allowance race at Santa Anita convinced his trainer, David Hofmans, that he's back.
It was a long time getting there. Greg's Gold, 6, bowed the tendon in his right front leg after winning the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar in July 2005. He then underwent a new treatment that required Greg's Gold to be out of training for a full year. That was not a problem for Greg's Gold, being as he's a gelding. He came back smoking, winning the six-furlong race in 1:09.05 under a confident ride from David Flores.
"He had stem-cell surgery on the tendon," Hofmans said. "He's the third horse I've run with the stem-cell procedure, and they all made it back. They take fat out of an area just above the tail, harvest the stem cells, and put it in the tendon. We waited 12 months before we started training him. We wanted to give him proper care."
Hofmans said Greg's Gold could make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Potrero Grande Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs on April 7.
Greg's Gold was the first of three winners for Hofmans on Saturday's card. He also won a pair of first-level allowance races for 3-year-olds, with Level Red going 1 1/16 miles on dirt, and Desert Code sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course.
Press people making news
The publicity department at Santa Anita does a great job of getting out the news. Lately, though, they've also been making it. Mike Willman, Santa Anita's publicity director, hit a home run last month when his homebred horse McCann's Mojave won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park. McCann's Mojave is expected to make his next start in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.
This weekend, though, one of Willman's assistants will try to get in on the action. Jack Disney, who has worked in racetrack publicity following a distinguished sportswriting career with the late Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, will try to win the Grade 2, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap on Sunday with turf specialist On the Acorn, who has won twice in three starts since Disney and his five partners claimed him for $40,000 in November on the recommendation of trainer Mike Mitchell.
Disney's group - which races as Indizguys Stable - includes his twin brother, Doug, as well as Buck Rodgers, the former manager of the then-California Angels baseball team; Ross Newhan, the Hall of Fame baseball columnist for the Los Angeles Times; Fred Krueger, an insurance agent; and Paul Salata, a former pro football player who has a successful construction business but is best known for organizing the cheeky Irrelevant Week, which honors the last person selected in each year's NFL draft.
Disney had a few cheap claimers at Los Alamitos in recent years with his brother and Rodgers, then enlisted the other three men and aimed higher.
"We started with $3,500 each in seed money to claim a horse for $20,000 with Mitchell," Disney said. "This is our fifth horse, all with Mitchell. We have just one at a time. Every one has won at least one race. We made enough money to claim this horse for $40,000. And now he's running in a stakes."
On the Acorn has won his last two starts, most recently going 1 1/2 miles, the same distance as the San Luis Obispo.
"We were skeptical about claiming him, but Mitchell convinced us," Disney said. "He had seen the horse in the morning. He said he was a run-off. He said if we claimed him, the first thing we would do is [geld] him. He also thought he could run all day. He's been borne out on both those scores."
The San Luis Obispo is expected to be headed by the Neil Drysdale-trained duo of Obrigado and One Off.
Loyalty to Arias pays off for Paasch
The loyalty that trainer Christopher Paasch showed to jockey Saul Arias following the controversial disqualification of Conveyor's Angel in last month's Tuzla Handicap paid off on Monday at Santa Anita, when Conveyor's Angel rallied to capture the Grade 2, $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap at odds of 22-1.
Conveyor's Angel ($46.40) was 48-1 when she crossed the wire first in the Tuzla, but she was demoted to seventh for interference in the stretch. Arias had just one win so far this year, but Paasch bypassed a chance to change riders for the Buena Vista.
"Saul's a good kid," Paasch said after Conveyor's Angel rallied to beat Singalong by a head in Monday's one-mile grass race for older fillies and mares. "He's never been given a good chance. He's young. He makes an occasional mistake. He made a mistake in her last race. But I would venture to say 95 percent of the public thought she should not have been taken down last time. He listens. He does what you want him to do."
For Arias, 27, the Buena Vista marked his first stakes win. He began riding in the fall of 2005, and won 54 races last year.
Conveyor's Angel, 5, has now won 5 times in 24 starts. Paasch trains the daughter of Conveyor for Charles Cono.
Attima, the second choice, finished third, one length behind Singalong. Mea Domina, the 2-1 favorite, faded to finish fourth in the eight-horse field after setting the early pace.
Conveyor's Angel completed one mile on firm turf in 1:35.77.
Jockeys hoop it up for charity
Several of Santa Anita's jockeys will play youths from Holy Angels School on Thursday night in the 40th annual charity basketball game to benefit the nearby middle school. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at LaSalle High School, 3880 E. Sierra Madra Blvd., Pasadena. Admission is just $5.
Kurt Hoover, an HRTV and Santa Anita intertrack host, coaches the team. Flores will be his assistant, as well as one of his players. The jockeys are considered serious underdogs this year, now that their best player from previous years, Kent "Kobe" Desormeaux, is riding in Florida.
ShowVivor, Part 2 begins Saturday
Santa Anita's online handicapping contest, ShowVivor, crowned a winner last Friday, when Michael Jacavage was the last man standing. The contest will begin anew on Saturday. As with the first contest, there is $10,000 in prize money, with $5,000 going to the winner.
Jacavage, of Shenandoah, Pa., beat out 4,013 other contestants. In ShowVivor, a handicapper must pick one horse per day before the day's first race, and that horse must finish in the money. If the horse does not finish in the money, the contestant is eliminated.
It is not as easy at it sounds. The first contest began on Jan. 10. By last Friday, only three persons were left out of a field of 4,014. Jacavage's selection was the only one that finished in the money that day, so he prevailed. Players can sign up at www.santanita.com.
* Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Las Flores Handicap for female sprinters is expected to include Dancing Squall, Hot Storm, Maryfield, Secret Scheme, and Selvatica.
* Santa Anita will have an official retirement ceremony for popular trainer Noble Threewitt during the races on Saturday.