12/23/2009 1:00AM

Santa Anita roundup



The big three - Joel Rosario, Rafael Bejarano, and Garrett Gomez - get the publicity, but another rider may be coming into his own.

Joe Talamo looks ready to make it a big four. After missing a week because he was riding in Hong Kong, Talamo returned without missing a beat, topped off by a hat trick last Friday. He came back with a big Sunday, clicking with four of his mounts, earning second in the standings. His fine meet may be the launching pad for a strong Santa Anita run and a chance to challenge the big three.

Felipe Valdez made a statement Thursday with a hat trick. Gomez also posted a three-bagger Saturday, including wins in both stakes - the Stuka with Tiz Chrome and the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity with heavy favorite Lookin at Lucky.

Bob Baffert continued his surge in the second-half of the meet, capping it off with a huge Saturday with four wins, including the CashCall Futurity with Lookin at Lucky.

Bejarano won the riding title at Oak Tree over Rosario, but Rosario turned the tables here. His 37 wins brought him home well clear of Talamo's 31 and Bejarano's 30. This marked Rosario's third title in the last four major Southern California meets. At Oak Tree, Baffert won the training title over John Sadler, but here it was reversed, with Sadler nipping Baffert for the title, 15-14.


This isn't so much a case of being cold as it is one of being quiet for big trainers Dick Mandella and Neil Drysdale. In this age of year-round racing you have to take a break at some point, and it seems these two strong stables made the Hollywood fall meet the calm before the storm and are cranking up for Santa Anita.

Drysdale gave notice that he may be ready to make noise at Santa Anita when he got a smart win from Universal Peace on Dec. 18. A son of BC Mile champ War Chant, Universal Peace had been knocking on the door on turf, with three seconds in his previous four starts. He put it all together in a 1 1/16-mile turf race with blinkers added and scored his first win. The soon-to-be 4-year-old may be ready for an ascent and could help lead Drysdale to a bigger profile at Santa Anita.

Drysdale's old warrior, one-time graded stakes performer Obrigado, may not be what he once was at 6 and was off the board in a 1 1/4-mile optional claimer Dec. 19. His Ridge Dance ran on well to be second in that race and may be primed to do well in Arcadia.

Mandella's fortunes may pick up. It's possible last year's budding star Matto Mondo will begin working again after suffering an injury last spring. Mandella got more ammo with the addition of Kapo Di Tutti, a 4-year-old who was Brazil's champion miler of 2008-09. He has won 8 of 17, including a Group 1, and most recently ran third in an Argentine Group 1 on Dec. 12.


Hollywood closed out the meet playing quite fair. Speed dominated the first half of the season, so you will have to consider that when handicapping the upcoming Santa Anita meet. If the Arcadia track plays like it did during Oak Tree, those speed types may not fare as well. During Oak Tree, the prevailing win profile was rally-wide.


Misremembered, who comes off a terrific effort in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last month, will turn back to seven furlongs for the Grade 1 Malibu on Dec. 26, according to Baffert, who bred and is co-owner of the colt.

"I want to be able to say I've bred a Grade 1 winner," Baffert said.

Misremembered worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Dec. 15 with jockey Martin Garcia aboard.

Jockey Tyler Baze, who has not ridden since Nov. 15 after undergoing hand surgery in mid-November, is set to return for Santa Anita's opening day, Dec. 26, when he is scheduled to ride Papa Clem in the Grade 1 Malibu at seven furlongs. Papa Clem won last year's Grade 2 Arkansas Derby and ran fourth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

Chantal Sutherland, who finished second in the jockey standings at Woodbine earlier this year, has returned to Southern California for the winter. Sutherland, 33, finished 11th in the standings at Santa Anita last year with 18 wins.


Baffert skipped the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity with Conveyance, opting to wait for an easier spot in which to stretch him out, possibly the Grade 3 San Rafael at a mile Jan. 16. Conveyance romped in an allowance sprint at Hollywood in November.

Other stars figure to be seen at Santa Anita soon. Treat Gently, Group 1-placed in Europe, may carry the Juddmonte banner for trainer Bill Mott in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio on Jan. 2. That race also figures to attract Diamondrella, a multiple Grade 1 winner who finished third in the Grade 1 Matriarch.

Proviso, Treat Gently's stablemate and first-place finisher in the Grade 1 Spinster, is working and may target the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31. Meanwhile, Diamondrella's new stablemate Stardom Bound, the 2-year-old filly champ of 2008 who was fifth in her comeback in Aqueduct's Grade 1 Gazelle last month, is to return west to try to recapture her previous glory. The Grade 2 El Encino on Jan. 16 is her initial goal and will go a long way toward determining whether she stays in training and targets the Grade 2 La Canada on Feb. 14.

The Usual Q.T., the top 3-year-old turfer out West, may target the Grade 2 San Marcos here Jan. 18 or the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 30. He has wins in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Life Is Sweet skipped Hollywood's Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap - won by her stablemate Zardana - and will target the major distaff races this meet. She was the dominant filly here last year, winning the Grade 2 El Encino, Grade 2 La Canada, and then the Grade 1 Santa Margarita. She, of course, topped off her year with a dazzling victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Oak Tree on Nov. 6.


Baffert already has Derby aspirations with the likes of Lookin at Lucky and possibly Marcello and Conveyance. Add another name to his list - Tiz Chrome.

A son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, he looked super in a four-length victory in the Stuka Stakes, improving to 2 for 2. He stalked Camp Victory in the 6 1/2-furlong race, took over on the turn, and drew off to win with authority. The Grade 2 San Vicente at seven furlongs Feb. 15 at Santa Anita could be his next target, according to Baffert.

Tiz Chrome won his debut at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1 for trainer Allen Crupper but was purchased privately afterward and transferred to Baffert.



Trainer: Mel Stute

Last race: Dec. 17, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

The juvenile did everything right in this starter allowance route but just got beat in the final yards. He bided his time toward the back, made a strong run into the lane, looked like the winner in deep stretch when he pushed past Straightomidnight, but got nailed in the final strides by deep closer Bradio Station. Still, it was a most encouraging run and his style may actually play better at Santa Anita than it did at Hollywood.

Ridge Dance

Trainer: Neil Drysdale

Last race: Dec. 19, 3rd

Finish: 2nd by neck

The one-time European runner, whose career has been hindered by a couple very long layoffs, appears back on track. After a decent Del Mar debut in August 2008, he wasn't seen for another 14 months. However, he's come back this fall with three smart outings, including this most recent and maybe his best. The 4-year-old bided his time early in a tough 1 1/4-mile optional claimer, commenced a smart run on the far turn and into the lane, doggedly chased Dynamic Range through the final furlong, but just ran out of ground while well clear of the field. He may be ready to blossom at Santa Anita.

Saint Paul

Trainer: Mike Puype

Last race: Dec. 20, 7th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/4

The 5-year-old gelding may have turned the corner. He flashed ample ability early in his career, enough to run third in the 2007 Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis. However, he was then sidelined for nearly two years and after a few modest races, he seems to have found his game. He romped by 7 1/4 lengths over $20K claimers at Hollywood on Nov. 14 and moved up out of the claiming ranks for this much tougher optional claimer. While unable to fend off smart winner Turf and Sky after setting the pace, he ran very well to hold second. He handled Santa Anita's surface nicely in October, so there's no reason he can't take this momentum right into the upcoming Santa Anita meet.