Grade I Winner Hit The Road Falters In Comeback

January 1, 2023

Hit the Road and jockey Umberto Rispoli win the Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes, Saturday, February 6, 2021, at Santa Anita. (Benoit Photo)

~ Johannes Serves Notice With Flashy Maiden Win For Yakteen 
~ Sunday Card Canceled After Heavy Rain Hits Santa Anita

Stable Notes By Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, Calif.—Making his first start since last January’s Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf, and trying the hillside turf course for the first time, Grade I winner Hit the Road finished last in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 Joe Hernandez.

The 5-year-old full horse by More than Ready was seventh after the opening quarter mile and held that position into the stretch under Frankie Dettori before being overtaken by the remainder of the 10-horse field. Hit the Road would cross the wire some seven lengths behind upset winner Air Force Red.

“He didn’t run a good race yesterday,” said trainer Dan Blacker, adding the horse was doing well Sunday morning. “There were a lot of variables as to why, but we will assess him over the next week or so. I’ll talk to the owners, and we’ll make a new plan going forward.” 

Hit the Road, who won last year’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, moved his record to 13-6-0-2 with earnings of owners $589,251. 

Johannes Serves Notice With Flashy Maiden Win For Yakteen 

Johannes, a newly turned 3-year-old colt by Nyquist, looks to have bright future for trainer Tim Yakteen following a dazzling maiden win going six furlongs on turf in Saturday’s fifth race.

Making his first start on the sod under Umberto Rispoli, Johannes broke inward and was bumped at the start, but soon ranged up to the front along the inside as the field reached the turn. Johannes quickly spurted clear of the field on the bend while completing a half mile in 45.11 seconds and from there it was just a matter of the winning margin.

Johannes would cross the wire an easy nine-length winner while stopping the timer in a swift 1:08.47 over a course listed as “good.” Four races later, with rain falling in the interim, the winner of an entry-level allowance going the same trip, the 4-year-old gelding Code Duello, got the distance in 1:08.81

On Sunday morning, Johannes was standing bright-eyed in stall one of Yakteen’s barn taking in the surroundings.

“He came out of it in good shape,” the trainer said. “This is a horse that’s always trained exceptionally well and has had high expectations.”

Johannes started his career in Kentucky with William Morey for owner-breeder Cuyathy LLC. He was made the 2-1 favorite when debuting on dirt June 9 at Churchill Downs but would beat just one horse to the wire. Subsequently transferred to Yakteen, Johannes made his first two Southern California starts on dirt as well. On Oct. 30 at Santa Anita, Johannes finished third beaten three lengths by the talented Fort Warren for Bob Baffert. Then a month later at Del Mar he was no match for winner Spun Intended, another highly regarded colt for trainer Mark Glatt

“He didn’t run well at Del Mar, but those are a couple of really nice horses,” Yakteen said. “We wanted to try turf with him because his mother (stakes-placed Cuyathy) had run well on grass and Nyquist has done well with turf runners.”

The surface switch for Johannes paid big dividends on Saturday. While the Kentucky Derby trail beckons this time of year for promising 3-year-olds, Yakteen said the plan for now is to keep Johannes on turf.

“He trains really well on dirt, and I’m not going to rule anything out, but for now we’re going to keep the consistency with the turf,” he noted. 

Benoit Photo

Sunday Card Canceled After Heavy Rain Hits Santa Anita

Hopes to conduct an eight-race all dirt card Sunday were dashed after heavy rain fell on Arcadia Saturday evening and overnight. Horsemen were notified of the New Year’s Day cancellation via text message at 6:30 a.m. today.

Santa Anita Director of Racing Chris Merz reported 1 ½ inches of rain fell on the Santa Anita main track, which was sealed at the conclusion of Saturday’s nine-race card. The feature on Sunday, the Grade III, $200,000 Santa Ynez for 2-year-old fillies, has been rescheduled for next Sunday Jan. 8. A field of seven was entered for the seven-furlong dash, including the odds-on favorite Justique for trainer John Shirreffs and a trio of prospects for Bob Baffert.

Merz said entries will be reopened for the seven-furlong Santa Ynez, which is a point-paying prep for the Kentucky Oaks, and the field will be drawn on Thursday. The Santa Ynez will share the spotlight next Sunday with the Grade III, $100,000 Sham for 3-year-olds going a mile on the main track. The Sham is an official stop on the road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby with 20 qualifying points split among the top five finishers with 10 going to the winner.

Four of Sunday’s overnight races that were canceled – races 3, 5, 6 and 8 — will be brought back as “extras” for Friday’s card, which is being drawn today. According to Merz, with another substantial rainstorm forecast to hit the area midweek, there will likely be no turf racing Friday

“We’re probably going to be stuck with another all-dirt card,” Merz said.

As for Monday’s 10-race New Year’s holiday program, Santa Anita is hopeful it will go as scheduled. There are six turf races on the card including the Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas for fillies and mares on the hillside turf course. 

Merz expects both the main track and training track to be open for training Monday after both were closed on Sunday.

Finish Lines: Santa Anita will host a special New Year’s Day holiday card Monday with 10 races featuring the Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas on the downhill turf course…On-track fans Monday will be offered$1 beers and sodas and $2 hot dogs…The Winter Corgi Nationals scheduled for Sunday has been postponed due to rain in the area. It will now be held on Sunday, Feb. 19. All corgi entries and online tickets will be automatically transferred…On Saturday, Jan. 7, Santa Anita will offer fans a mandatory payout in the 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot It is expected next Saturday’s total Rainbow Six pool will exceed $3 million…Morning Line MakerJon White advises that Taiba earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Grade I Runhappy Malibu on opening day. 

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