Memories Carry Mitchell into Barrera Stakes

(from Hollywood Park notes)
When trainer Mike Mitchell sends out Remembering Star in the $150,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park on Saturday, fond memories of both the horse after which the colt is named and the trainer after which the race is named will be rekindled.

Remembering Star, a 3-year-old gray/roan colt with one victory in four races is named in memory of Star Over the Bay, a popular gelding who became a grade I stakes winner before a fatal breakdown in an international race in Singapore in May 2005.

"He really was a neat horse," said Mitchell as he looked at a picture of Star Over the Bay, a gelding he claimed for $80,000 in 2004, that adorns a stable office wall in Barn 72 West Wednesday. "He won the Sunset (gr. IIT) here. I had such a wonderful Del Mar after that, winning my first Grade I with Kela in the Bing Crosby before 'Star' won the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT). Then he won a grade I in the Clement Hirsch at Oak Tree and the Sunshine Millions Turf."

Star Over the Bay was co-owned by Sean Gerson's Gerson Racing Stable. Mitchell had just bought a 2-year-old colt at a Florida sale for a partnership that included Gerson Racing when Star Over the Bay was euthanized on the track after shattering an ankle in Singapore.

The colt reminded Mitchell and Gerson of Star Over the Bay, and they decided to name him Remembering Star. "I just loved him," said Mitchell when first seeing the colt. "They announced that he had a chip in an ankle at an Ocala Breeders Sale, where he was a $47,000 buy-back.

"I talked to J.D. McKathen (a bloodstock agent), who had seen the X-ray, and thought the chip was in a good spot for surgery," continued Mitchell. "We bought him privately for $37,000, performed the surgery, and gave him six months off."

Racing for a partnership of Gerson Racing and Burton Smith, Remembering Star made his first start at Santa Anita in February. He recorded a fourth and two thirds at the Arcadia oval before breaking his maiden in his first try at Hollywood Park, drawing off to win by six lengths in a brisk 1:15.48 for 6 ½ furlongs on April 26. Several members of the large Gerson Racing Stable fought back tears after the triumph.

"He was a big heavy horse and needed a couple of races," said Mitchell. "He wore blinkers for the first time in his last race and I told Victor (jockey Victor Espinoza) to stay busy on him."

Mitchell, 57, also has warm memories of Hall of Fame trainer Barrera.

"My favorite Laz story is when I went to New York for the first time to work for Reggie Cornell with Calumet Farm in 1974," said Mitchell. "I was a California kid and got very homesick. I thought New York people were pretty tough, and I was very unhappy.

"Laz just knew me as the son of (California trainer) Earl Mitchell and someone who had worked out here for Farrell Jones," recalled Mitchell. "When he first saw me, he asked what I was doing in New York. After I told him, he said, 'if you need any help or any money, call me.' I'll never forget that."

Mitchell said he could not think of a more touching moment than accepting the Laz Barrera trophy with Remembering Star in the winner's circle.

Arson Squad, who stormed to victory in the San Pedro at Santa Anita Park April 9 in his stakes debut, could be favored in the Barrera. Trained by Bruce Headley for Mace and Samantha Siegel, the gelded son of Brahms has developed rapidly since debuting with a third-place maiden finish in January.

A field of nine is set for the seven-furlong Barrera.

Corazondelcampeon won the Harry Henson Stakes for turf sprinters at Hollywood on April 28. He won the Palo Verde Handicap on the main track at Turf Paradise in March.

$150,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Remembering Star (FL), 113, Aaron T. Gryder
2. Quietly Go (KY), 115, Victor Espinoza
3. Corazondelcampeon (FL), 120, Corey S. Nakatani
4. Ghazwan (FL), 113, David Cohen
5. Get Funky (FL), 113, Martin Garcia
6. Northern Soldier (KY), 115, Chance J. Rollins
7. Jealous Profit (FL), 113, Patrick A. Valenzuela
8. Arson Squad (PA), 120, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
9. Hey Slick (AZ), 117, Jon K. Court