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Runaway Dancer looking for spark
ARCADIA, Calif. - Before Brother Derek dominated attention in the Dan Hendricks stable, Runaway Dancer was the main attraction.
A gray gelding, Runaway Dancer won the 2003 Carleton Burke Handicap and the 2005 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park, turf marathons that suited his late kick.
The win in the Jim Murray came on the day Brother Derek won his maiden. In the winner's circle after Runaway Dancer won, Hendricks said he was equally excited about Brother Derek's win.
Saturday at Santa Anita, they are both bound for stakes. Brother Derek, California's leading contender for the Kentucky Derby, will be favored in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. Runaway Dancer starts in the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at a mile on turf.
"I might be more excited if the gray horse won this time," Hendricks said, referring to Runaway Dancer.
The distance of the Arcadia is shorter than Runaway Dancer's ideal trip, but Hendricks said he was encouraged by Runaway Dancer's second-place finish in an allowance race at a mile here March 12. Making his first start of the year, Runaway Dancer rallied from eighth in a field of 10 to finish three-quarters of a length behind Silent Name, another contender for the Grade 2 Arcadia.
"It was a very encouraging race last time," Hendricks said. "He went wide and ran big. I was very surprised he ran that race."
Last year, Runaway Dancer finished fourth in the Arcadia in his first start of the year and followed with a 27-1 upset in the Jim Murray. This year's Jim Murray is on May 13, and it is firmly in Hendricks's plans for Runaway Dancer.
The Arcadia Handicap is led by Milk It Mick, the winner of the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile here March 4. Other probable starters include Becrux, Charmo, and Chinese Dragon.
Nakatani sits out to rest shoulder
Corey Nakatani, who has won 29 races at this meeting, including four stakes, took off his weekend mounts after being unseated in the post parade of Friday's seventh race.
Nakatani complained of nagging pain in his shoulder after he was unseated from Hendrix.
"When we started to jog off, he went down to his head," Nakatani said. "He stepped on my shoulder. I'm a little sore. Nothing is broken."
Nakatani will ride A. P. Warrior in the Santa Anita Derby.
"I think being 100 percent for that is the object," Nakatani said.
A. P. Warrior won the San Felipe Stakes on March 18 in his first start for trainer John Shirreffs. Nakatani was aboard A. P. Warrior for a six-furlong breeze in 1:12.80 last Friday at Hollywood Park.
"I think he came out of the last race better than he went in," Nakatani said.
Pimlico Special preferred race for Lava Man
Lava Man, the top older horse in California this year, is being pointed for the $500,000 Pimlico Special at Pimlico on May 19, trainer Doug O'Neill said.
There is a possibility that Lava Man could start in the $150,000 Khaled Stakes on turf against California-breds at Hollywood Park on April 30, but O'Neill and the partnership that owns Lava Man would prefer to try the more nationally prominent race.
"We're doing our homework, and we want to see how the Pimlico Special is shaping up," O'Neill said. "If it's not the Breeders' Cup Classic, we're leaning that way."
Claimed by his current connections, STD Racing and Jason Wood, for $50,000 at Del Mar in August 2004, Lava Man has won 9 of 29 starts and $2,184,706. The only blemishes on his recent record were poor performances in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last October and the Japan Cup Dirt in Tokyo last November.
O'Neill blamed those losses on shipping Lava Man to New York too late and sustaining a foot injury in Japan. Over the winter, O'Neill said he was reluctant to ship Lava Man, but on Sunday he said he has changed his mind.
"I want to show everyone that Lava Man can ship," O'Neill said. "I want to prove it to myself."
Martinez calls it a career at 41
Jockey Felipe Martinez ended his career with a cold splash on Sunday.
After riding Proud Suzett to a sixth-place finish in the eighth race, Martinez was doused with several buckets of ice water from friends and colleagues near the winner's circle. That was followed by handshakes and hugs.
Martinez, 41, announced last Thursday that he was retiring on Sunday. A winner of 464 races, he said he plans to retire to Montana with his family.
Martinez, who has been closely allied with trainer Doug O'Neill in recent years, was warmly received in the paddock before Sunday's Potrero Grande Handicap and when introduced before his final ride.
"That gave me chills," he said.
Martinez nominated the multiple stakes winner Whilly as his top mount. "He took me all over," Martinez said. "He was my big horse."
Over the weekend, Martinez finished fourth in Saturday's Florida Derby on Sam's Ace.
"I don't really have any plans," he said. "This is something we were planning three years ago, and it's time now."
Baze's day cut short after he is thrown
Jockey Tyler Baze took off the final three mounts on Sunday after he was unseated following the third race.
Baze's mount, J.P.'s Gayle, fell after the finish, throwing Baze. Both horse and rider remained on the ground for a few minutes. J.P.'s Gayle later walked off, accompanied by a pony.
Baze was taken to Arcadia Methodist Hospital, where he underwent tests on Sunday afternoon. He had hoped to return to ride his final mounts but was not able. He returned to the track late Sunday afternoon.
Valenzuela gets three-day suspension
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who led the standings here through Sunday, has been suspended for three days after causing interference in Saturday's second race.
Valenzuela rode American Influence, who finished first in a sprint for maiden claimers but was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Tabor in the stretch. Tabor finished fourth.
The suspension begins Sunday and runs through April 13.
New Joysey Jeff passing on Santa Anita Derby
New Joysey Jeff, sixth in the San Felipe Stakes here on March 18, will make his next start in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, trainer Mark Glatt said. Both races are on April 15.
Glatt said he wanted more time to prepare New Joysey Jeff for his next start and is therefore passing Saturday's Santa Anita Derby. New Joysey Jeff will wear blinkers in his next start.
"I think the blinkers will keep him a little more focused," Glatt said.