What better way to spend a Saturday than splattered with mud from the Santa Anita Park training track?
Carrie Lynn Barker
I started my day shooting the Santa Anita Derby Day 5k run-walk, which finished on the training track. I snuck out amongst the volunteer staff, camera in hand, only to get sucked into the wet dirt, and that mud is still stuck to my boots. I’ll call it a souvenir for now until I get them cleaned off.
The rain that had created a sloppy track the night before never let up. It never poured, but it was enough to ensure that anyone who ventured outside stayed wet. When you can’t see a horse’s hooves in photos because they are so deep in the mud, you know it’s wet! Slop or no, it was one of horse racing’s biggest days, and nothing would stop the running of the Santa Anita Oaks and the Santa Anita Derby. Chief Lion and Tyler Baze after the Fourth.
Stakes racing started in the 5th, but the first four races were not without excitement. Heavily favored Wild About Deb took charge under jockey Tiago Pereira in the First, but favorite Passau missed the mark in the Second, being well beaten by Navy Hymn and Rafael Bejarano.
The favorite again could hit home in the Third, when Eric the Trojan took the lead mid-stretch and ran clear. Flavien Prat had the mount on Eric the Trojan.
Trainer Philip D’Amato’s gray Glacken Too battled with Richard Balta’s gray Chief Lion in the Fourth, with Chief Lion and Tyler Baze getting up to place first. Glacken Too’s rider, Martin Pedroza, lost his whip in the final stretch run, and the five year-old horse just held on for second over rival Top Fortitude and Kayla Stra. Songbird and Mike Smith – alone before the wire
The Providencia Stakes (Grade III) was fifth on the racing card and was the first of two very nice wins for the Desormeaux brothers. Decked Out with Kent aboard gained the lead at the final 16th pole and held clear to win over Jeremy’s Legacy and Nodiac, both Irish-bred horses who broke poorly but showed some guts in their second- and third-place finishes.
Oh Great Idea and David C. Lopez paid $20.60 to win as they upset the Sixth over additional longshot Smart Win and Joseph Talamo, creating an $85.00 exacta. The heavy favorite, Ready to Hula Lula, couldn’t seem to handle the slop and finished last. Kent Desormeaux on Exaggerator in the paddock
The Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I) was a given, with Songbird heading the field in betting at 1/9. There was no stopping the three year-old filly as she once again won in dominating fashion under jockey Mike Smith. Every other horse in the field was just second best to Songbird, who came back with a clean jockey and just a little mud on her legs.
The big feature race on the card, the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) gave the winner 100 Kentucky Derby points and an almost guaranteed spot in the Derby field, barring injury or other circumstances that would keep the horse out of the race. All eyes were on Mor Spirit and Gary Stevens as the odds-on favorite, with Danzing Candy and Mike Smith second choice, but no one saw the winner, Exaggerator; he was so far behind he literally was not visible on the big screen. When asked by jockey Kent Desormeaux, Exaggerator hit the gas and charged through the field to hit the wire over Mor Spirit. The Keith Desormeaux-trained colt looked very impressive in his win and I hope to see him and Nyquist in a West Coast duel for the Kentucky Derby. Mike Smith celebrates.
The Santa Anita Derby didn’t end the stakes day though, as Kent Desormeaux took yet another win on What a View in the Thunder Road Stakes (Grade III) for four year-olds and up.
The Echo Eddie Stakes, the 10th race on the card, had 5-to-1 shot Tough it Out doing just that as he started off slow, came five wide around the far turn then rallied to hit the wire under Joseph Talamo.
Pacific Heat and Flavien Prat, the odds-on-favorite, took the win in the 11th, the Evening Jewel Stakes. Rafael Bejarano wipes away the mud.
Last, but certainly not least, favorite American Freedom and Rafael Bejarano inched away to win in the 12th and final race.
Sunday April 10 will be closing day for the 63-day Winter Meet that began on Dec. 26 but races will soon resume when Santa Anita re-opens for the 41-day Spring Meet in just four weeks on Thursday, May 5. Until then, I’ll be at the track most Wednesday and Friday mornings shooting workouts and awaiting the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby. Go Nyquist!
— By Carrie Lynn Barker, who shares her thoughts, observations and photos of the horse-related activities from her near-weekly visits to Santa Anita Park on Saturdays during racing season (all photos by Carrie). Carrie is a photographer who lives in Monrovia with her screenwriter husband Brandon and is Chief Member Concierge at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce. Carrie has written seven stories published as ebooks and has produced several films. She has also been Operation Manager of Barfly Staff Monitoring Services since 2010.