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Respect has Hess, Desormeaux duo on top; Cal-breds in the spotlight next weekend
ARCADIA, Calif. – Hot Rod Charlie, who captured the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 29 for his first Grade I victory, worked four furlongs this morning at 7:45 as he prepares for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
With Mike Smith filling in for regular rider Flavien Prat, the son of Oxbow breezed wearing “a little set of French blinkers,” Doug O’Neill said.
“He went a half-mile in 48 and change and galloped out in 1:01 and three (fifths),” the trainer added. “He looked good. It was his first piece of exercise since the Pennsylvania Derby win.
“If all goes well and he stays injury-free, he’ll have three more works between now and Nov. 6.
“More than likely, he’ll wear a set of French blinkers in the Classic, but we haven’t made that official yet.”
French blinkers are used to reduce a small portion of a horse’s usual field of vision.
With committed front-runners Knicks Go, Medina Spirit and Art Collector ticketed for the Classic, it could set up well for Hot Rod Charlie, who has been in close attendance to the pace in each of his 11 races.
“We’ve got options,” O’Neill said. “He’s shown he can win on the front or from sitting behind, so I like where we’re at. He’s definitely a versatile colt.
“We’ll probably have two more works at Santa Anita and head to Del Mar on the 25th where he’ll have his last work.”
Hess, Desormeaux winners on any front
Bob Hess Jr. and Kent Desormeaux could have been winners in another sport.
Hess had aspirations as a Major Leaguer when pitching for Stanford University in 1983-84, playing for his college team with future Major Leaguers Jack McDowell, Mike Andrete and Ed Sprague before graduating with a degree in economics.
Louisiana native Desormeaux, 51, had visions of becoming another Pete Maravich but came up short, however not as a rider. In 1989, he won 598 races, a record that still stands.
Each went on to become established in their eventual profession, horse racing. All these years later, they remain one of racing’s most successful trainer-jockey combos, having enjoyed a magical run of some 500 victories at a nearly 35 percent average.
For bettors, it’s a winning formula that has evolved into Hess+Desormeaux=profit. Case in point: a classic ride by Desormeaux gave Hess another victory when Aloha Kitten purred home first by a half-length despite stumbling badly at the start in Friday’s opening race at an $11.80 payoff. It was the first start in more than five months for the daughter of Kitten’s Joy.
The latest stakes win came with Cairo Memories in last Sunday’s $200,000 Surfer Girl Stakes for two-year-old fillies at a mile on turf. Owned by long-time client Cathy Schroeder and David Bernsen, the $50,000 bargain daughter of Cairo Prince earned $120,000 and is unbeaten in two races, one more impressive than the other.
Next up, Del Mar’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at one mile on Nov. 5.
Bob, 56, is the son of a famous trainer, and Kent, a naturally gifted Hall of Fame jockey and three-time Kentucky Derby winner, reached the apex in a racing family that includes respected multiple graded stakes-winning trainer, Keith, his older brother.
Ultimately, the Bob and Kent show coalesced into one of racing’s winningest jockey-trainer combos, reminiscent of yesteryear when one jockey rode exclusively for one stable.
“Other than the obvious,” Hess said, “our relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. There are plenty of top riders out here. But with Kent and I, it all starts with being honest with one another, trusting each other and respecting each other.”
It’s a rock-solid foundation that more than three decades later still doesn’t seem to have a pebble in its path.
Cal-breds featured in weekend stakes
California-breds will be in Santa Anita’s stakes spotlight next weekend with the presentation of the $100,000 California Distaff Handicap Saturday and the $100,000 California Flag Handicap Sunday. Both are part of the lucrative Golden State Series for California-bred or sired runners.
Trainers Ben Cecil, Mark Glatt and Peter Miller each have two nominated among the 16 for the Distaff, for fillies and mares three and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course.
Doug O’Neill has three of the 19 nominated to the California Flag, for three-year-olds and up also at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
FINISH LINES: After four days, Flavien Prat is in a familiar spot atop Santa Anita’s standings with 11 wins, seven more than John Velazquez, while Peter Miller and Bob Baffert share the training lead at five victories each . . . There is holiday racing Monday, Columbus Day, Oct. 11, with first post time for a 10-race card at 1 p.m. On-track attendees 21 and over will be treated to one dollar beers. Two dollar hot dogs will also be available throughout the afternoon on Monday.
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Stable Notes by Ed Golded/Santa Anita Press Office
Photo: Hot Rod Charlie gets a work for the Breeders’ Cup. (Benoit Photos)