05/09/2012 3:57PM

Hollywood Park notes: Whirlwind days for O’Neill following Derby win

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Trainer Doug O'Neill answers questions from the media on the Churchill Downs backstretch the day after I'll Have Another's victory in the Kentucky Derby.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Doug O’Neill’s cell phone rang, as it does quite frequently, on the backstretch at Betfair Hollywood Park on Wednesday morning, interrupting a conversation with a ring tone that summarized the trainer’s recent weeks.

The song was “Life’s Been Good,” the 1978 rock classic by Joe Walsh.

“Hey, it’s been on there for a while, before the Santa Anita Derby,” O’Neill said in his defense.

The jingle should stay. Since Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby in a 15-1 upset last Saturday for Southern California owners Paul and Zillah Reddam, O’Neill has been trying to stay sane after all he’s been through.

His days have been a constant whir of activity at his 75-horse stable at Hollywood Park and a lengthy list of media appearances.

O’Neill was on Los Angeles-area radio and television on both Monday and Tuesday, including a five-minute appearance on the pregame show of the Los Angeles Lakers playoff game with Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez on Tuesday evening.

Many of the interviews were set up by Mark Verge, chief executive officer of Santa Anita, and a lifelong friend of O’Neill’s.

More of the same was expected Wednesday before O’Neill was scheduled to take an overnight flight to Baltimore to join I’ll Have Another at Pimlico in advance of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 19.

O’Neill admits the activity has been hectic, cutting him down to “four or five” hours of sleep a night.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said. “You learn how many people are interested in the whole journey.

“They want to relive it. It does go by so quick. It’s a way to extend the moment.

“It’s been so cool how many people have not really been knowledgeable [about racing], but they know the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “They are in awe of the race. It’s been cool to see people’s reaction.”

O’Neill said he will have minimal starters at Hollywood Park this week. The stable does not have a starter on Friday evening’s eight-race program.

The Black, fifth in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 28, was considered for Saturday’s $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes, but O’Neill said Wednesday that the colt needs more time for his next start.

“It was coming back a little too quick,” he said.

Sunday, the 4-year-old gelding Lumberyard Jack is a probable starter for O’Neill in the $70,000 Round Table Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on turf. Owned by Joel Meredith and T.C. Stable, Lumberyard Jack has won 3 of 13 starts, including an optional claimer over 1 1/2 miles on turf in a 15-1 upset at Santa Anita on April 20.

Apprentice jockey Eswan Flores rode Lumberyard Jack in that race and will retain the mount Sunday, O’Neill said.

O’Neill is not expected to be in California on Sunday. By then, he will be busy preparing I’ll Have Another for the Preakness Stakes.

NBA’s Bryant, Gasol buy into horse

One of O’Neill’s workers Wednesday was Siempre Mio, winner of a $25,000 claimer at Santa Anita on March 31.

Last month, at a charity auction event sponsored by the Los Angeles Lakers, Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol became co-owners of the 4-year-old gelding.

Bryant outbid Gasol during the auction, paying $8,000 for a 25 percent share, but Gasol later bought a share after talking with Verge, who owns Siempre Mio. Gasol’s portion of the purchase price also went to charity.

Bryant and Gasol will be owners through the end of the year, along with original owners Verge and Chris Quinn, Santa Anita’s director of marketing.

Siempre Mio has not started since the auction and worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Wednesday. He is expected to run in coming weeks, although it is unclear whether Bryant and Gasol can attend. The Lakers may still have playoff obligations.

Small field likely for Laz Barrera

The Grade 3 Laz Barrera, run over seven furlongs for 3-year-olds, is not expected to have a large field.

The leading contenders are Drill, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last September and the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes in February; and American Act, who won the Harry Henson Stakes here on April 26.

Bob Baffert trains Drill and also is expected to start Gun Boat, who was fourth in the Del Mar Futurity last September and second in an optional claimer in his 2012 debut at Santa Anita on April 22.

Gomez to ride Reneesgotzip in Acorn

Garrett Gomez has been booked to ride Reneesgotzip in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on May 28, trainer Peter Miller said Wednesday.

A winner of 3 of 5 starts and $261,200, Reneesgotzip won an allowance race at Hollywood Park on May 4 under Flores. Gomez rode Reneesgotzip to a second in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 31.

“He knows the filly,” Miller said. “He’s as good of a big-race rider as there is.”