LIFE IS GOOD BREEZES IN BULLET 59.60
Undefeated Life Is Good worked five furlongs this morning for Bob Baffert in a bullet 59.60, breezing, for the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 6, a steppingstone to the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
Also firing bullets for Baffert Sunday were three-year-olds Freedom Fighter and Spielberg, who went six furlongs in identical times of 1:13 flat.
Elsewhere on the Triple Crown front, Baffert said he would “know next week” where Medina Spirit will run. Game neck winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Jan. 30, the $35,000 bargain Florida-bred worked six furlongs Saturday in a bullet 1:12.40.
San Vicente winner Concert Tour is confirmed for the Rebel at Oaklawn Park on March 13, while Freedom Fighter, second by a half-length to Concert Tour in the seven-furlong San Vicente, goes in the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 6.
Trainer Michael McCarthy, meanwhile, reiterated Sunday morning that “all options are open” for Rombauer’s next race, not committing specifically to the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, saying only that the colt’s next race would be at the distance of a mile and an eighth.
Rombauer, a son of Twirling Candy, came from 11 ½ lengths behind at the half-mile marker to win his three-year-old debut in the mile and an eighth El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 13.
CHARLATAN STILL A WINNER IN BAFFERT’S EYES
Charlatan did all the heavy lifting in the world’s richest race Saturday, but could not hold off Mishriff late, enduring a noble defeat in the $20 million Saudi Cup, finishing second by a length.
“He ran a big race,” trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning. “He put away Knicks Go, just ran him down, turned in a gallant effort and it’s too bad he got beat. That’s a demanding track. The stretch is so long, and he ran hard.
“It was an exciting race and I would have loved to have won it, but I was afraid of a speed duel between him and Knicks Go. They locked horns after a half-mile and really picked it up the second quarter.
“But the way he ran, it shows what a brilliant horse he is. He put away a really good horse (in Knicks Go, who finished fourth).”
As to the immediate future, Baffert said, “He came out of the race really well. We’ll get him back to the United States, play it by ear and see how he’s doing.”
CHARMAINE’S MIA COULD RETURN IN ROYAL HEROINE
Charmaine’s Mia, undefeated in two stakes under the tutelage of Phil D’Amato, is likely to seek her third victory with the trainer who turns 45 on March 11 in the Grade II Royal Heroine at one mile on turf April 3.
Offering $200,000 in purse money for fillies and mares four and older, the Royal Heroine has identical conditions of the Buena Vista Stakes which Charmaine’s Mia captured yesterday in facile fashion, albeit by a deceptively close margin of one length.
“She came out of the race in good shape and we’ll see how she trains, but I would say the Royal Heroine is a good possibility,” D’Amato said Sunday morning.
In the backstretch community of mostly unsung, hands-on laborers who work hard for their money with little or no public recognition, D’Amato rendered a rare but welcome gesture, singing the praises of Charmaine Mia’s groom after the Buena Vista victory, saying this about 71-year-old Ricardo Mejia:
“He might not even know this but when I see him at the barn, rubbing horses, it’s just like a security blanket knowing I’ve got one of the best grooms ever taking care of my horses.
“He rubbed every graded stakes winner that (D’Amato’s former mentor, the late) Mike Mitchell had when I worked for him, and decades before I worked for him, and he’s been with me since I started training (in April 2014 after 10 years with Mitchell).
“It’s just been a Godsend. Ricardo’s son is also one of my assistants so it’s a family affair. That’s part of the reason why he’s stayed with us.
“It’s just like family.”
BIG ‘CAP DAY OVERNIGHT PURSES BOOSTED BY $15,000
Santa Anita Park and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club have joined forces to create the $1 Million Wild West Bonus providing $1 million in additional money to winning connections of any horse that sweeps three of Southern California’s most prestigious Grade I races, the $400,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (at Santa Anita) on May 31 and the $750,000 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 21.
Including the $1 million bonus, any horse sweeping these three races would bank a total of $1,870,000.
All three races are run at the North American classic distance of a mile and a quarter.
Santa Anita has also increased the purses of the China Doll Stakes to be run March 6 from $75,000 to $100,000. Additionally, Santa Anita will raise purses on all overnight races on Big ‘Cap Day by $15,000 per race in an effort to ensure big fields and reward owners and trainers who continue to support Santa Anita on its most significant programs.
For additional information on the $1 Million Wild West Bonus, call Santa Anita’s Racing Office at 626 574-6352.
FINISH LINES: Zenyatta Stakes winner Harvest Moon, who worked five furlongs Saturday in 1:00.80, is scheduled to return to the races in the Grade I Beholder Mile on March 13, trainer Simon Callaghan said. Leading rider Flavien Prat will ride . . . Acclimate, second in the San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 30, worked four furlongs Saturday in 52.20 for the Grade III San Luis Rey Stakes at a mile and a half on turf March 20 for Phil D’Amato. There were 158 recorded workouts at Santa Anita Sunday, 18 on the training track . . . Santa Anita will be dark Tuesday through Thursday, with live racing resuming 12:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26.
Santa Anita Stable Notes by Ed Golden
Photo: Life Is Good, Benoit Photo