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Solis all set to ride in meet opener
Perhaps the clearest indication that jockey Alex Solis has recovered from a rib injury suffered earlier this month is that he spent part of the weekend on the golf course. Solis, who hasn't ridden in more than three weeks, will return to riding at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, which begins Wednesday.
Solis missed the last day at Del Mar after being unseated shortly after the start of the ninth race Sept. 4, a spill that resulted in bruised ribs. Solis did not ride during the Fairplex Park meeting at the Los Angeles County Fair this month.
"I gave it the best medicine - time off and plenty of Panamanian food," he said of his injury.
Solis said he spent nine days in his native Panama before returning to California last week. He said the break was a welcome addition to his schedule, allowing him more freedom with his diet.
"It would be so much different to have more breaks," he said of the crowded California racing schedule. "It's so much easier to take a week or 10 days off when you can eat and not feel guilty."
Solis said his weight rose to 122 pounds during the break, but had fallen to 118 by Sunday. He said he was hoping to be at 113 pounds for Wednesday's opening day of the Oak Tree meeting. He spent the weekend working horses at Santa Anita and the afternoons exercising.
"I'm working as hard as I can to get my timing and rhythm," he said Sunday morning.
Solis has rides in three of the four major stakes here this weekend.
Saturday, Solis rides Three Degrees in the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares on turf, T.H. Approval in the $250,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship, and Back in the Shade in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Solis has yet to gain a mount for Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares on the main track.
Paasch will start recent purchase in Oak Leaf
Back in the Shade was acquired privately last month by Charlie Cono and turned over to trainer Christopher Paasch. Back in the Shade has one win in two starts, a seven-length win in a seven-furlong maiden race at Calder on Aug. 26.
"I hope she can continue to improve," Paasch said. "She certainly improved from her first start to her second."
The Oak Leaf, run over 1 1/16 miles, is led by Point Ashley, the winner of the Del Mar Debutante earlier this month.
"Point Ashley looks like a wonderful filly," Paasch said. "We have to beat her. She doesn't have to beat us."
Back in the Shade has been based at Hollywood Park in recent weeks, training on that track's new synthetic surface. Paasch had first-hand experience with a synthetic surface at Turfway Park in Kentucky last year.
"Last year at Turfway Park, you didn't think you could get a horse fit enough," he said. Referring to Hollywood Park, Paasch said, "I think they have to work harder to get over the surface. So far, training on it has been wonderful."
Giacomo works at Santa Anita
Barring an unforeseen development, there are six weeks and two starts left in the racing career of Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner. He is scheduled to go to stud in Kentucky next year, but is expected to start in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap here on Oct. 7 and the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
Based at Hollywood Park for most of his career, Giacomo is based at Santa Anita this fall. Trainer John Shirreffs, who has divisions at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, said he brought Giacomo to Santa Anita this fall, not to avoid training on Hollywood Park's new synthetic track, but to better acclimate Giacomo to the Santa Anita surface.
"He's going to run here," Shirreffs said. "By bringing him here, I have a chance to school him in the paddock."
Sunday, Giacomo worked six furlongs in 1:17. He was ridden by jockey Patrick Valenzuela, but Shirreffs said that regular rider Mike Smith has the assignment in the Goodwood.
A 4-year-old owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo has won 1 of 4 starts this year, his victory coming in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 22. He finished fifth in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 20, never threatening race winner Lava Man.
The San Diego was Giacomo's first start since finishing fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.
"He ran hard the first time [back]," Shirreffs said of the San Diego.
Giacomo is not considered among the top contenders for the Breeders' Cup Classic, but he does hold one advantage. He won the Kentucky Derby over that track in a 50-1 upset.
Told that Giacomo was quoted at 20-1 for the Classic last week at some Las Vegas race books, Shirreffs smiled and said, "If I could get it up to 50-1, I'd be more comfortable."
Brother Derek, Cindago work
Brother Derek, who disappointed in his comeback race at Del Mar in the El Cajon Stakes, and Cindago, who scored the upset victory in that race for 3-year-olds, both turned in sharp works on Santa Anita's fast main track on Monday morning in preparation for races on Oct. 7.
Brother Derek is likely to take on elders in the Grade 2, $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, trainer Dan Hendricks said. Cindago is also eligible for the Goodwood, but will likely head to Hoosier Park for the Indiana Derby, trainer John Sadler said.
With Solis aboard, Brother Derek traveled seven furlongs in 1:24.80, the best time of six at the distance.
"He went real nice," Hendricks said. "Alex said he felt great."
Hendricks said he believes Brother Derek was short for the El Cajon.
"I didn't have him as tight as I thought I did," Hendricks said. "I take the blame. Don't blame the horse."
As for facing older horses such as Lava Man in the Goodwood, Hendricks said: "You're almost forced to. The only other option if you want to stay here is to run on turf in the Oak Tree Derby. We want to run at home. He's undefeated at Santa Anita, but we realize how tough the race is."
Cindago worked six furlongs in 1:11.40, the best time of 17 at the distance.
"He'll work again Sunday, then we'll check the list of both races and decide what to do," Sadler said.
Arroyo, Garcia start with suspensions
Jockeys Norberto Arroyo Jr. and Martin Garcia are suspended for the first part of the Oak Tree meeting as a result of infractions incurred elsewhere.
Arroyo was penalized by Maryland officials because of a disqualification in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on May 19 at Pimlico. He received a five-day suspension, then got another five days when he appealed the decision. Arroyo sat out four days at Fairplex and will miss six of the first seven days at Oak Tree, according to his agent, Jim Pegram.
Garcia is out until Oct. 18 to complete a 22-day suspension he received for several riding infractions during the Del Mar meeting.
Both Arroyo and David Cohen have three-day suspensions pending from the end of Del Mar's meeting, but both riders appealed those suspensions and have yet to serve those days.
* Star Parade, preparing for the Lady's Secret on Sunday, worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 on Santa Anita's training track on Monday morning for trainer Darrell Vienna.
* Oak Tree will introduce food and drink service to box-seat customers on weekends during the meeting. A similar service has been offered at Del Mar for several years and is common in higher-end seating areas at major sporting events. The service will provide a variety of food and drink options and should shorten the occasionally long lines that can form for such items on the track's mezzanine level.
* Sadler said the filly Jump on In, who disappointed last time out in the Del Mar Debutante, would skip the Oak Leaf and remain around one turn in the $65,000 Anoakia Stakes at six furlongs on Oct. 21. She worked six furlongs in 1:15.20 on Sunday.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman