Amidst calendar-picture weather, a crowd of 27,713 marched forward on Dec. 26 to take in Santa Anita's seasonal opener, and there, standing front and center yet again, was Bobby Frankel, placing perhaps the final bow on his gift-wrapped year following Mizzen Mast's clear-cut triumph in the $200,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) in 1:22.13.
You can go home again. Sometimes, it's exactly what you need to perk up. That's all it took for Super Quercus and Men's Exclusive, a pair of Hollywood homeboys who cleaned house over the weekend of Dec. 1-2.
There were no fractures, deep wounds, or even sore muscles. As concerned peers drifted in and out of the Hollywood Park jockeys' room following the tragic conclusion of the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) on Nov. 25, Mike Smith admitted to having a single pain. "Just a broken heart."
Sure, he looked strong, and there seemed to be some promise in his bloodlines. Then again, the chestnut colt had hind ankles questionable enough that most buyers simply turned their backs. For trainer David LaCroix, the $10,500 price tag represented a bargain, a gamble, a chance. There really was no further reason for him to think, or to dream, any bigger. That horse, Fonz's, returned from a nearly six-month layoff to win the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) Saturday at Hollywood Park.
With a statewide industry fully galvanized by the latest exploits of Tiznow, Oak Tree trotted out California Cup XII on Nov. 3, a $1.275-million stakes feast for the Golden State's finest, and the dream year of trainer John Dolan kept right on rolling when Irisheyesareflying turned in the race of his career in the day's key event, the $250,000 Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic Handicap.
By Craig Harzmann -- Business is carrying on as usual these days at the Santa Anita stable of Tim Pinfield. The tears have long been wept. The smiles are starting to return again. There are now only subtle hints that the barn has lost its hero, that a pal is gone forever.
Kona Gold and Tiznow go down to defeat in their preps for the World Thoroughbred Championships
Patience and kindness pay off for trainer Darrell Vienna, as Janet wins the Yellow Ribbon...and some respect.
The Cal-bred Romanceishope takes it to the next level in winning the Del Mar Derby.
Trainers Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel keep stoking the fires with major winners Habibti and Timboroa
Trainer Bobby Frankel wins the Pacific Classic for the sixth time in 11 runnings, this year with repeat winner Skimming.
El Corredor's return is a winning one in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien Handicap.
Tranquility Lake is returned to the dirt and responds with a powerful effort in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap.
Skimming takes the San Diego Handicap for the second year in a row, this time against much deeper competition
In a much-anticipated showdown, Kona Gold defeats Caller One in the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap.
A crawling opening half-mile spells doom for Congaree's rivals in the Swaps.
Smile Again airs it out in the Bel Air for Sid and Jenny Craig
Disqualification in Hollywood Gold Cup gives victory to Juddmonte Farms' Aptitude
The Simon Bray-trained Astra wins the Beverly Hills Handicap over Happyanunoit
A persistent back ailment has raised doubts about the future of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow.
There is an air to Bienamado, a cocksure attitude laced with a dash of hubris, that exudes pride. That head held high, those white-rimmed eyes scanning the scene for anything of interest, he swaggers around like he owns the joint. If body language means anything, Bienamado knows he's the man.
If there were any doubts about who's queen of the hill out West these days, Lazy Slusan put 'em on ice on June 3, running away with the $254,300 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/16 miles.
Sheikh Maktoum's Irish Prize overcame traffic problems and won a stretch duel with stablemate Touch of the Blues as Neil Drysdale horses finished first and second in Monday's $475,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) before a crowd of 18,194 at Hollywood Park.
After sitting out the Kentucky Oaks, Golden Ballet rebounded from defeat in the Ashland Stakes to win the $150,000 Railbird Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs.
For some, it may be Mach-speed roller coasters or bungee jumping. Others run with the bulls in Pamplona or go crowd surfing at a punk rock concert. There are precious few experiences, however, that can match the rush of riding a hot-blooded Thoroughbred. Just imagine...you're alone on the lead at speeds beyond belief, riding low with your hair on fire. And then, without warning, your horse shifts direction. Ouch.
Bienamado leaned against the stall webbing, craning his neck down the shedrow. The sinews beneath his glowing coat were alluring, and there was no mistaking the urgent look cast by his white-rimmed eyes. As the stalwart colt strained for something to chow down on, nowhere were there signs that just an hour earlier he had been stretched to the limits of class and stamina. There was no trace of fatigue, no wrung-out guise you might expect from an animal who had not only pulled down the $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at about 1 3/4 miles, but did it fast. Faster than Cougar II or Exceller. Faster than John Henry, Kotashaan, or even his very own sire, Bien Bien. The small crowd gathered near his stall was simply awed.
The 7-year-old gelding Kona Gold had plenty to contend with when the $200,900 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) got underway on April 1. But in the end, the champ prevailed by a desperate neck. Hollycombe and Explicit finished in a dead heat.
It wasn't supposed to happen quite like this. There was nobody breathing down his neck. There was no target to home in on. All that remained up ahead was a quarter-mile of sun-baked Santa Anita dirt. With a quartet of weary rivals to his inside, Point Given, five wide and coasting, was in control of his own destiny. Atop the massive colt, Gary Stevens could sense an urgency. He felt Point Given waiting, pleading to be let loose. Turning for home in the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) on March 17, Stevens shortened his cross, putting the bit firmly in his colt's mouth. For Point Given, it was a cue to roll. His response was emphatic.
The pace was hot, and she'd been running hard from the moment the flag fell. Those who stayed close early had paid a painful price. Now, with just a quarter-mile left to run, Golden Ballet was being put to the test. A new challenge, the Seattle Slew filly Flute, had come peeling around the bend, braced to blow right on by. To that point in her career, Golden Ballet had sparkled. She had been flashy, breaking her maiden in a stakes and doing it in record time. She had been coveted, purchased privately by high rollers looking for the next superstar. She had been resilient, roaring back from a summertime illness to completely flatten her competition. And when she finally caught sight of Flute turning for home in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks, the daughter of Moscow Ballet let everyone know what she's made of.
The great ones find a way to get past it all. Enough commotion had swirled around Tiznow and his preparation for the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) that by the time the actual race rolled around, some were wondering why he was even there to begin with. As if his drab effort in last month's Strub Stakes (gr. II) wasn't reminder enough, Tiznow's days leading up to the Big 'Cap were like a roll call of mishaps, evil vibes, and plain bad karma. Lest we forget, this is the same horse who was a no-name last spring and Horse of the Year five months later, and the same animal whose grueling fall campaign left fans and hardboots alike in awe. No, he's not impervious to pain or the elements, but there may just be nothing that can stop him
Big-time races for fillies and mares and marathons for grass stayers usually have zero impact in the countdown to the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). There was, nevertheless, a million-dollar ring to both the $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 18 and the $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) the day before. By the time the weekend was in the books and the results began to sink in, the only thing anyone knew for sure was there really is nothing for sure.
Her name conjures up images of grace and wealth, elegance blended with strength. That glistening chestnut coat gets oohs and ahhs every time she leaves the comforts of the Jenine Sahadi stable. Her snow-white blaze puts an exclamation point on every stride, the power of which hits you like a Mack truck. Such is the wonder of Golden Ballet. But don't let her image deceive you. She's no monster. She just runs like one. She's no tank, either. She's only built like one.
So much being horse of the year. Tiznow found out the Eclipse Award he received Tuesday for last year's exploits didn't mean much in Saturday's Strub Stakes at Santa Anita. Wooden Phone led most of the way in upsetting Tiznow by two lengths, giving trainer Bob Baffert a coast-to-coast sweep of the day's $500,000 races.
When Kona Gold was scratched by trainer Bruce Headley, the Palos Verdes became a showdown between 8-year-olds Big Jag and Men's Exclusive.
Making his seasonal debut in the Jan. 13 San Fernando, 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic winnerTiznow beat Walkslikeaduck by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:42.05 as Wooden Phone held on for third. It was not the blowout most expected a potential Horse of the Year to serve up in his 4-year-old debut. For those clutching tickets at 3-10, the final margin was way too close for comfort. But considering the recent interruptions and the chore of sating a high-maintenance competitor, Robbins was satisfied--and thoroughly relieved.
It was a priceless moment of ecstasy. Freedom Crest, the erstwhile claimer and pride of the six-horse Richard Baltas stable, had just wrestled the lead from Bosque Redondo in the $200,000 San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II). Now, with just over a furlong to run, the game was over. But the real action was in the stands. His composure long lost, Baltas had broken into a windsprint, a spirited dash down the aisle interrupted only by an occasional glance at the track, a check to make sure his dream hadn't ended.
Not counting Manistique and Riboletta, who combined to clean the table of nearly everything in sight this year, only one man has been able to pick off anything of significance in the California division for older fillies and mares. With the late-season flowering of both Smooth Player and Feverish, the Dan Hendricks barn has jumped front and center with a proper one-two punch for 2001.
Alex Solis, decked out in fine threads and swathed in the thrill of Dixie Union's dynamite return in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I), was standing next to a childhood dream. His Porsche 911, the 2001 model. Mint-condition, just days off the lot. It's sleek and stylish, sporting a black coat just a shade darker than Dixie Union himself--and just as fun to steer.
"Certain horses send chills down the back of your neck when you feel certain things that they are capable of doing," jockey Gary Stevens said. "It takes really something special to give me that feeling." And it was exactly what he felt the moment he ascended the stately Point Given for the very first time. Stevens instantly admired the colt's competitive nature. Point Given, a troubled second last month in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender with an impressive one-length victory over Millennium Wind in the Dec. 16 $345,690 Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park.
If Laffit Pincay Jr.'s career is made up of a million small battles waged in the name of determination, skill, and endurance, then his victory aboard Men's Exclusive in the $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III) will be emblazoned in the mind forever. It was one of those rare, ineffable instances when sport
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