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Stars will go head to head in San Rafael
ARCADIA, Calif. - An early-season showdown between the West Coast's two best 3-year-olds, Stevie Wonderboy and Brother Derek, is shaping up for the Grade 2, $150,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Stevie Wonderboy, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and probable 2-year-old champion colt of 2005, will be making his first start around two turns in the one-mile San Rafael. Brother Derek, who was fourth in the BC Juvenile, has won a pair of two-turn stakes: the Norfolk at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, and the Hollywood Futurity last time out.
Brother Derek worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Sunday at Santa Anita with his regular rider, Alex Solis.
"He was a little fresh, but he worked fine," said Dan Hendricks, who trains Brother Derek.
Few others are expected to challenge Brother Derek and Stevie Wonderboy in the San Rafael. Your Tent or Mine, the Hollywood Futurity runner-up, is getting a mini-vacation before a scheduled return to the races in March, trainer Neil Drysdale said. "I'm just letting him grow up," Drysdale said Monday.
Bob Baffert said he is considering both Bob and John, who was third in the Hollywood Futurity, and Wanna Runner, who won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Dec. 28. Bob and John had the fastest five-furlong work of the day on Sunday, 59.40 seconds. Wanna Runner worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Monday at Santa Anita.
Eoin Harty said A.P. Warrior, the fourth-place finisher in the Hollywood Futurity, was "still on the fence."
"But he probably won't run," said Harty, who is looking at the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows later this month.
A.P. Warrior worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Sunday morning at Santa Anita.
Folklore due back on Monday
In addition to Stevie Wonderboy, another likely champion and Breeders' Cup winner will run this weekend at Santa Anita. Folklore, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and heavy favorite to be named the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly, is scheduled to run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card.
Edgar Prado, who rode Folklore in the Breeders' Cup, is scheduled to fly in for the mount.
Few are expected to challenge Folklore. Talullah Lula and Trick's Pic are definite, and Fletchers Cove is possible.
Two other graded stakes this weekend
Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles is expected to include Canteen, Chips Are Down, Greeley's Galaxy, Osidy, Sort It Out, Unbridled Energy, and possibly Wilko.
Chips Are Down and Sort It Out both worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 at Santa Anita on Sunday for Baffert.
Osidy zipped six furlongs in 1:12.40 on Saturday at Santa Anita for Richard Mandella, who also trains Unbridled Energy.
Proud Tower Too, the California-bred who won the Malibu Stakes, the first leg of the Strub Series, was not nominated to the San Fernando.
On Sunday, the Grade 2, $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles is expected to have a small field, including Cream Donut Keith, Shimmer, Shipping Court, and Three Degrees. Cream Donut Keith worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Saturday at Hollywood Park for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Friday's feature is the $75,000 Paseana for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Girl Warrior, Healthy Addiction, Chilean newcomer Musica Si, and Valentine Dancer are scheduled to run. Valentine Dancer finished second in last year's Paseana prior to her second straight victory in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf. Her trainer, Craig Lewis, is following the same schedule this year.
"I want to get a little prep in her, then make the money run," said Lewis, who is hoping Valentine Dancer can pull off a three-peat in the $500,000 Filly and Mare Turf on Jan. 28 at Santa Anita.
Business way, way up so far
Good racing means good business for Santa Anita, which has posted double-digit increases in both attendance and handle for the first 11 days of its meet.
The average ontrack attendance is 10,560, an increase of nearly 26 percent from last year, when rain affected much of the first two weeks of the meet. The average ontrack handle of $2,399,891 is a 23 percent increase from last year, and the average out-of-state handle of $5,098,986 is an increase of 22 percent from last year.
With the exception of the New Year's weekend, the weather at Santa Anita has been ideal. Field size is up, and turf racing is back following a seven-week hiatus during Hollywood Park's fall meeting.
Chess pieces align for Baffert
Baffert entered both Excessively Nice and Domestic Dispersal in an allowance sprint on Sunday, but did not want to run them against one another. Things worked out Sunday morning, when a one-mile allowance race for Wednesday filled, enabling Domestic Dispersal to go there and not race her stablemate.
Excessively Nice won Sunday's fifth race, her third victory in four starts. Domestic Dispersal, a winner of her debut last month at Hollywood Park, runs in Wednesday's first race.
"I didn't wan to run Domestic Dispersal against Excessively Nice," Baffert said. "It took a long time to get Domestic Dispersal to the races. She had problems with her hind end. She's a kind filly. I think she will be fine going long, because she will rate. And I don't think she could have beaten Excessively Nice."
Excessively Nice is a candidate for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
"She ran pretty hard today," Baffert said Sunday, after Excessively Nice won. "We will see how she comes out of it."
Changes fail to make program
A first-time gelding, and a change of blinkers regarding another horse, were both announced just prior to their respective races on Saturday. In both cases, the changes had been properly denoted by trainers, but were not processed properly by either the racing office or track stewards.
Summer Survivor was properly denoted as a gelding in Saturday's second race in Daily Racing Form, but was not listed as a first-time gelding in Saturday's official program, and the announcement of his status was not made until less than a half-hour before his race.
On Friday afternoon, the stewards asked Summer Survivor's trainer, Bill Spawr, about the discrepancy. He submitted to stewards a faxed receipt showing that, back in October, he had sent information to the racing office on Summer Survivor having been gelded. Despite that exchange on Friday, Summer Survivor's status was not announced to the public until minutes before his race the next day.
Later Saturday, Swissle Stick was announced as putting blinkers on when the horses came on the track for the sixth race, long after multiple-race wagers in which he was an entrant, including the pick six, had closed. A quick stewards' investigation found that Swissle Stick had been properly entered with blinkers on at entry time on Thursday, but that information had not been processed and transferred to the overnight sheet or the program, nor submitted to Daily Racing Form.
Trainers are subject to fines if they do not properly list horses as being first-time geldings or making blinker changes, and officials, as licensees of the California Horse Racing Board, are also subject to discipline for conduct detrimental to horse racing. Yet as of Sunday, no racing officials had been fined by the stewards for these incidents.
* Wild Fit, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up, worked a half-mile in 49 seconds on Sunday at Santa Anita. Patrick Biancone, who now trains Wild Fit, said she would likely return in the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 11.
* The stewards made their first disqualification of the meet in Sunday's second race, demoting Trail Mix, ridden by apprentice William Antongeorgi III, from first to sixth.
* Racing board chairman Richard Shapiro and owner J. Paul Reddam are among the speakers for "Ownership 101," a free seminar regarding racehorse ownership, to be conducted to the Thoroughbred Owners of California on Jan. 21 at Santa Anita. The three-hour program begins at 8:30 a.m. For information, call (626) 574-6620.