Songbird this morning (Zoe Metz Photo)
· SONGBIRD BREEZES FOR EAST COAST TOUR · BEHOLDER WORKS FOR HIRSCH AT DEL MAR · D’AMATO CLINCHES SECOND STRAIGHT TITLE · BEJARANO ZEROES IN ON ANOTHER CROWN · SLUGO RACING IS AT HOME ON ANY SURFACE
SONGBIRD IN ‘VERY GOOD’ WORK FOR EASTERN TRIP Superstar filly Songbird, who reels off fractions with the rhythmical precision of a metronome, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Saturday morning in 1:13.40, breezing, as the undefeated daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms prepares for an East Coast campaign expected to lead back to Santa Anita on Nov. 4 for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff. “It was a very good work,” Hollendorfer said. “She galloped out nicely in 1:26 (for seven furlongs) and out a mile in (one) 39 point ninety.” Exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez was aboard. Songbird is scheduled to run in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga July 24 followed by the Alabama Aug. 20. While the $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 24 has been mentioned as the finale on Songbird’s Eastern junket, Hollendorfer allowed as to how that was not written in stone. “We’ll see what happens after those (first) two races,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “But we could possibly do that. She will leave Santa Anita on the 19th (of July) and she will not work at Saratoga.”
BEHOLDER IN ‘TYPICAL’ WORK THIS MORNING Three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder worked seven furlongs in company Saturday in 1:26.20 for trainer Richard Mandella with regular rider Gary Stevens aboard in preparation for the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on July 30. Stablemate Volume was given a six furlong clocking of 1:14.40. “My company was supposed to go (five furlongs) in 1:01. I stayed four lengths off him, and Beholder did her thing through the lane,” Stevens said of the six-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes, a champion at two, three and five whose ultimate goal is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. “It was just a nice, steady work, nothing fancy,” Stevens said. “She ships Monday so Richard didn’t want anything too fancy. It was good, a typical Beholder work.”
D’AMATO ROLLS TO SECOND TRAINING CROWN Phil D’Amato has clinched his second straight Santa Anita training title, having won the Winter Meet crown with 41 victories. He now stands nine ahead of runner-up Bob Baffert at 25-16 with two racing days left in the 40-day Spring Meet. D’Amato also is the runaway leader this meet in purse earnings with $1,606,938, more than $600,000 in front of runner-up Jerry Hollendorfer. With 23 wins from 96 starters, D’Amato is winning at a 24 percent clip. Baffert, with 16 wins from 55 starters, leads in that category with 29 percent. D’Amato and Hollendorfer are tied for most stakes wins at four each. D’Amato won his first-ever title when he captured Santa Anita’s Winter Meet crown. “Everything’s been firing,” said D’Amato, who won two races Friday. “I’ve got great stock across the board, from younger horses to older horses, and most importantly, I’ve got owners who let me pick the spots to run them in and it’s working out great.” D’Amato has no horses entered at Santa Anita today and four on Sunday, including two in the seventh race. Baffert has one horse entered today and two on Sunday.
BEJARANO NEARS ANOTHER RIDING TITLE Like Old Man River, Rafael Bejarano just keeps rolling along. A change in agents a year ago didn’t impair the success of the 34-year-old native of Peru, who is about to capture his 15th riding title at Santa Anita, his 27th in California and his 32nd overall. With two days left in the 40-day Spring Meet, Bejarano held a 43-38 lead over runner-up Flavien Prat. Bejarano is named on six horses Saturday and five on Sunday. Prat is named to ride in eight of the nine races Saturday and in six of nine on Sunday, so mathematically, the title is still up for grabs, although Prat would appear to have a steep hill to climb. As for Bejarano, he loves his job. “I like the competition and I like to be No. One,” he said. “Like every jockey, my dream is to one day win the Kentucky Derby, but that’s the most difficult thing to achieve, because you only get one chance a year, if you’re lucky.” Bejarano’s agent is Tora Yamaguchi, a former member of the racing department who has represented Bejarano for about a year, following the retirement of agent Joe Ferrer. “I’ve had his book since the end of the Santa Anita meet last year, July of 2015,” said the soft-spoken Yamaguchi, who maintains a relatively low profile for such a high profile gig. “It’s always tough to stay on top,” he said, “but it’s always nice to stay on top. That’s what we strive for.”
SLUGO RACING & PUYPE ‘TOUCHING RAINBOWS’ IN JULY From the National Hot Rod Association to the Santa Anita Winner’s Circle, Steve Gasparrelli’s Slugo Racing is a good fit, as once again evidenced by Touching Rainbows’ impressive maiden $30,000 claiming win in last Saturday’s fifth race. Owned by Slugo, Esembee, Inc. or Strauss, the three-year-old Touching Rainbows is trained by Mike Puype and is a California-bred gelding by Aragorn who was making his third career start. Off at 5-2 in his first try around two turns, he won by 4 ¼ lengths under Flavien Prat and paid $7.80. Steeped in the vagaries of nitro, burning rubber, leaking oil and the inherent life- threatening danger of racing Funny Cars, Gasparrelli’s late father, Lou, was a nationally prominent Funny Car owner and driver who won 11 division titles before succumbing to cancer in 2011, his victories including Funny Car scores in the prestigious Winternationals in 1986 and 1993. “My dad’s business was automotive, but he loved horse racing as well,” said Steve, who grew up in nearby Monrovia and himself drives the Gasparrelli family Funny Car on the NHRA circuit. “We’ve got about 16 horses now–yearlings, two-year-olds and horses of racing age, and Mike’s become a great friend. We enjoy this so much and it is such a thrill to come to the races when we have a horse running. “I love coming out here in the mornings to watch the horses train and just about everything about the racing experience. Like drag racing, there’s a lot competition, but there’s also a lot of comaraderie and that’s what makes it fun.” (And, whether it’s on turf, dirt or a quarter mile strip of asphalt, it doesn’t hurt to win every now and again, either).
HALL OF FAME JOCKEYS TO SIGN ONE-OF-A-KIND POSTER TOMORROW Tomorrow, closing day of the Spring Meet, Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and Mike Smith will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to sign one-of-a-kind posters featuring three-time champion mare Beholder and the undefeated filly Songbird. Signings will take place in the shaded saddling enclosure. Families are invited to bring the kids, as Santa Anita mascots, Winnie and Lucky, will be on-hand to greet fans and offer Beholder peppermints, her favorite treat.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator worked a leisurely half mile this morning at Belmont Park in 51.63 under Kent Desormeaux in preparation for the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 30 . . . California Chrome worked a mile in company Saturday in 1:39.60 at Los Alamitos as the 2014 Horse of the Year readies for the San Diego Handicap July 23 at Del Mar. California Chrome broke well behind workmate Mishegas but was two lengths in front at the wire . . . Jockey Norberto Arroyo is back in California and expected to resume riding when Del Mar opens next Friday, July 15. The 37-year-old native of Puerto Rico renewed his California license yesterday. He will be represented by his 35-year-old brother, Nelson, who also handles Abel Lezcano . . . There will be mandatory payouts in the Pick Six and Super High Five at Santa Anita on closing day Sunday.