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Mr. Hot Stuff may opt for Peter Pan
ARCADIA, Calif. - The Kentucky Derby hopes for Mr. Hot Stuff essentially ended with a third-place finish in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.
Mr. Hot Stuff has $114,000 in graded stakes earnings, which leaves him 23rd among Derby prospects. If more than 20 horses enter, the field for the Kentucky Derby is determined by graded stakes earnings.
"If he gets in, we'll give it a shot," trainer Eoin Harty said. "If he doesn't get in, he doesn't get in. I'd love to see what he could do over a mile and a quarter with a legitimate pace."
In the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Mr. Hot Stuff closed from last in a field of seven to finish two lengths behind race winner Pioneerof the Nile. Mr. Hot Stuff finished one length behind runner-up Chocolate Candy and that margin may keep Mr. Hot Stuff from the Kentucky Derby.
Chocolate Candy earned $150,000, while Mr. Hot Stuff earned $90,000. The $60,000 difference may prove to be about the sum that Mr. Hot Stuff needs to secure a Kentucky Derby berth.
As an alternative, Harty said the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 9 may suit Mr. Hot Stuff. Harty said the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 16 is an unlikely goal for Mr. Hot Stuff, who has 1 win in 6 starts and earnings of $150,560 for WinStar Farms.
"I'd look at something like the Peter Pan," Harty said. "The turns at Baltimore are sharp and the stretch isn't that long. I don't think that's conducive to his style of running."
Crowd's cheers fool Valdivia
The noise coming from an ontrack crowd of 50,915 on Saturday caught jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. by surprise as he neared the wire of the Santana Mile aboard the heavily favored Rail Trip.
Rail Trip had a three-length advantage with a furlong remaining and the growing cheers sounded to Valdivia like the chorus from an appreciative crowd. It was not until a few strides before the wire that he realized the crowd was hooting and hollering over the late threat posed by Dakota Phone.
"I thought they were applauding a good horse," Valdivia said on Sunday morning.
Rail Trip held on to win by a nose, stretching his unbeaten streak to five, and avoiding an embarrassment for Valdivia. On most days, when crowds are small, Valdivia said he can hear Trevor Denman's commentary during a race, which provides a tip when a front-runner is threatened by a closer.
That commentary was drowned out on Saturday.
"We had such a big crowd, you couldn't really hear," Valdivia said.
By the time, he returned to the jockeys' room, the grief from fellow riders was in full voice, Valdivia said. "All the guys were telling stories about the time they got beat," he said. "How they were posing on one and they got caught."
The Santana Mile was Rail Trip's stakes debut after a win in a maiden race in November and three allowance or optional claimers from late December to late February. Valdivia has been aboard for all five wins.
"His stride is so fluid," Valdivia said.
Trainer Ron Ellis and owners Mace and Samantha Siegel have three races in mind for Rail Trip at the upcoming Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, with the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 9 as the first goal.
Valdivia said he thinks that Rail Trip is better over Hollywood Park's surface.
"I feel like he's more confident at Hollywood Park than Santa Anita," Valdivia said. "Ron said we were always a week or two behind the Santa Anita stakes schedule. It will fall in line at Hollywood Park."
A race after Rail Trip's win, Valdivia rode Canonize to a three-length win in a six-furlong maiden race for the Siegels and Ellis. Canonize ($49.20) closed from fifth in a field of 11 to win easily in 1:09.31.
"I worked him at Hollywood Park and he acted like a nice horse," Valdivia said. "Ron told me he was a nice mover. I was very impressed with the way he ran."
Dixie Chatter ends losing streak
Dixie Chatter made up for his narrow losses earlier this year with a come-from-behind victory in Saturday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap. The Grade 2 Arcadia was Dixie Chatter's first graded stakes win on turf and the second major victory of his career. More importantly, it ended a streak of four losses dating back to a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last July.
"That's what we've been waiting for," Mandella said. "You can't complain. He just got beat a little bit each time."
The Arcadia Mile victory has led Mandella to consider Dixie Chatter for the $250,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 25.
A 4-year-old colt by Dixie Union, Dixie Chatter races for breeder Herman Sarkowsky and Marty and Pam Wygod and has won 4 of 12 starts and $458,196. He won the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita at 2.
Gomez's grip on title slipping away
Garrett Gomez remained the leading rider at the winter-spring meeting through Sunday, but his hold on the title is tenuous at best.
Gomez will begin riding at Keeneland on Wednesday and is scheduled to return to Santa Anita for only one more day, Sunday's Easter program when Keeneland does not run.
Through Sunday, Gomez led all riders with 86 wins, three more than Rafael Bejarano. Gomez rode the first race on Sunday, but took off the rest of his mounts complaining of neck pain, according to track stewards.
Bejarano had three wins on Sunday.
Square Eddie working into shape
Square Eddie, who has sufficient earnings to gain a berth in the Kentucky Derby but has not raced since January, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 at Hollywood Park on Sunday.
Square Eddie was sidelined by a cannon bone injury in early February. His workout on Sunday was the third of an intended comeback.
Trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam are trying to prepare Square Eddie for the Kentucky Derby by workouts and not through a conventional prep race in late March or early April.
O'Neill said Square Eddie actually worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 under exercise rider Tony Romero on Sunday and was given credit for a longer workout and time by track clockers.
Romero "let him get into a nice, comfortable pace and never moved his hands," O'Neill said. Square Eddie galloped out seven furlongs in "28 and change," O'Neill said.
Square Eddie will work again next weekend and will be sent to Churchill Downs at the end of April for a final major workout, if he continues to show progress. Square Eddie has won 2 of 7 starts and $787,366. He won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last October and was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.