ARCADIA, Calif.—Maxfield, an undefeated son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, carries top weight of 124 pounds in Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino, Santa Anita’s marquee event for older horses which will be run for the 84th time at The Great Race Place.
Winner of all five of his career races by daylight margins, coming from out of the clouds in his first three, Maxfield arrived at Santa Anita Wednesday from the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he had his final work Saturday for the mile and a quarter classic, going a half mile in 49.20.
“We’ve just been galloping and jogging him in the mornings since he arrived,” said his 47-year-old trainer, Irishman Brendan Walsh, who will be on hand for the race. The four-year-old colt is bedded down with trainer Simon Callaghan.
Maxfield won his debut race at Churchill Downs Sept. 14, 2019, coming from 10th at odds of 10-1 to score by three-parts of a length at a flat mile, then came back in his next start to capture the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland at 6-1 by 5 ½ lengths, again in Silky Sullivan fashion.
He was successful yet again using those dramatic tactics in his three-year-old debut at Churchill Downs last May 23, closing from eighth, ridden in all three races by Jose Ortiz Jr.
In his last two races, Maxfield, owned and bred by global racing and breeding giant Godolphin, has been much closer to the pace. He won a restricted stakes at the Fair Grounds by 2 ½ lengths on Dec. 19, 2020, and the Grade III Mineshaft in his four-year-old debut by 3 ¾ lengths on Feb. 13, each time under Florent Geroux, who will be aboard again in the Big ‘Cap. Maxfield’s last four races have all been at 1 1/16 miles.
It may be worth noting that Maxfield faced smaller fields in his last two starts than he did in his first three, which could have accounted to his having been in closer attendance to the lead.
“He’s just a stronger horse now,” Walsh said. “I think as a two-year-old he was a bit immature, maybe not that strong, and that’s why he wasn’t getting away from the gate super-fast, but that didn’t seem to have a negative affect upon him. That said, his last three starts he’s been a lot closer to the pace.”
Walsh, in his third year training for Godolphin, which owns and bred current undefeated Kentucky Derby favorite and Eclipse champion Essential Quality, concurred when asked if the mile and a quarter of the Big ’Cap seems ideal for Maxfield.
“Absolutely,” he said. “He’s bred to get the mile and a quarter and his running style suits it, too. This will be a good test for him, having to travel out here and running on a different track, but we feel he’s ready to take that next step.”
The Big ’Cap presented by San Manuel Casino, race 10 of 11 with a 12 noon first post time: Independence Hall, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Maxfield, Florent Geroux, 8-5; Kiss Today Goodbye, Mike Smith, 8-1; Coastal Defense, John Velazquez, 15-1; Express Train, Juan Hernandez, 3-1; Idol, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Tizamagician, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; and King Guillermo, Abel Cedillo, 12-1.
Dream Shakes goes from Maiden to Grade II
In what looks like a race of Baffert versus Baffert—Life Is Good against Medina Spirit, or speed versus spunk if you will–all eyes will be on the San Felipe Stakes Saturday when the West’s leading three-year-olds square off in a major steppingstone to the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
The Grade II San Felipe at a mile and a sixteenth not only offers $300,000 in purse money, but more importantly, 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four horses on a sliding scale of 50, 20, 10 and five.
Of the San Felipe entrees, Medina Spirit leads in Derby points with 14, while Life Is Good has 10 and The Great One and Roman Centurian four each.
There’s more to the race, however, than the two favorites for Baffert, who is seeking to add to his record seven San Felipe victories—much more.
One is Dream Shake, fresh from a debut maiden win by nearly five lengths on Feb. 7 at box car odds of 20-1 going 6 ½ furlongs, who steps up big time in the San Felipe.
“It’s a very salty race but we’ve had expectations for him,” said Peter Eurton, who trains the Twirling Candy colt for a partnership. “He’s always done things right, always shown stamina and done things pretty well within himself.
“We were always hopeful, but until they put it out there in the afternoon, it’s all hope. On the other hand, you have a pretty good idea when they can’t run, but in his case, he acted like he was going to be OK.”
Joel Rosario, who was aboard for the maiden victory, rides Dream Shake back in the San Felipe.
The San Felipe, race six: Life Is Good, Mike Smith, 4-5; Dream Shake, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Medina Spirit, John Velazquez, 7-2; None Above the Law, Flavien Prat, 30-1; The Great One, Abel Cedillo, 4-1; Govenor’s Party, Mario Gutierrez, 50-1; and Roman Centurian, Juan Hernandez, 8-1.
McCarthy eyes ‘Legitimate Grade I’ win in Kilroe
Smooth Like Strait, who has never failed to earn a check in 11 straight races, nine of them stakes, since his maiden outing on Aug. 17, 2019, seeks his first Grade I victory in Saturday’s prestigious $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf.
“This is a legitimate Grade I and we’ll probably see some of these horses as the best milers in the country later this year,” said Michael McCarthy, who trains Smooth Like Strait for owners and breeders Cannon Thoroughbreds, LLC.
“The trip is important in any race but Smooth Like Strait has shown he likes this turf course and this distance.”
A four-year-old bay colt by champion sprinter of 2007 Midnight Lute out of the Flower Alley dam Smooth as Usual, Smooth Like Strait has a 3-1-1 record from six starts on Santa Anita’s turf and a 3-1-0 record in five races at one mile on grass.
McCarthy is also “very happy” Umberto Rispoli opted to ride Smooth Like Strait in the Kilroe rather than Hit the Road.
The two-time champion in his native Italy has been the regular rider of both horses, five of the last six times for the former, winning three, and the last three for Kilroe contender Hit the Road, winning them all including the Grade III Thunder Road Feb. 6, which gave trainer Dan Blacker his first graded stakes victory.
The Kilroe Mile, race nine: Smooth Like Strait, Umberto Rispoli, 4-1; Hit the Road, Florent Geroux, 4-1; Social Paranoia, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; Royal Ship, Mike Smith, 15-1; Spirit Animal, Joel Rosario, 12-1; hunch bet Flavius, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Casa Creed, John Velazquez, 6-1; Count Again, Juan Hernandez, 12-1; Ride a Comet, Drayden Van Dyke, 7-2; and Flying Scotsman, Tyler Baze, 12-1.
Storm The Court on dirt again in San Carlos
Peter Eurton runs Eclipse Award champion two-year-old male of 2019 Storm the Court along with maiden winner Exaulted in Saturday’s Grade II San Carlos Stakes at seven furlongs.
Storm the Court, winless in nine straight races since posting a major upset at nearly 46-1 in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is coming off eight consecutive route races including four on turf.
“He came back extremely sharp from his last race (seventh by only 3 ½ lengths in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on Jan. 23), so this seemed like a good spot to try him back on dirt,” the trainer said.
The San Carlos, race eight: Storm the Court, John Velazquez, 5-1; Extra Hope, Juan Hernandez, 4-1; Major Cabbie, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Manhattan Up, Tiago Pereira, 20-1; Strongconstitution, Florent Geroux, 20-1; Brickyard Ride, Alexis Centeno, 3-1; Exaulted, Mike Smith, 10-1; Loud Mouth, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; and Tigre Di Slugo, Joel Rosario, 5-2.
Mandella hopes there’s ‘Golden’ China Doll
Golden, a chestnut daughter of Tapit, makes her stakes debut in Saturday’s China Doll Stakes for three-year-old fillies at a mile on turf.
The purse of the China Doll has been increased by $25,000, from $75,000 to $100,000.
Richard Mandella, who trains Golden for owner/breeder LNJ Foxwoods, said he didn’t know the origin of the filly’s name but did offer this quip: “As far as I know, Ed, it’s named after you.”
All seriousness aside, as the late comedic and musical genius Steve Allen was wont to say, Golden ran third at 9-1 in her debut going a mile on Del Mar’s turf last Nov. 27, then rallied like a pro to win next out as the 9-5 favorite at a mile on Santa Anita’s grass course Jan. 10.
Mandella also has Ivy League entered in the China Doll for LNJ Foxwoods. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was an impressive maiden winner on Feb. 6 at nine furlongs on turf.
Golden blew out three furlongs Wednesday in 37.60.
The China Doll, which goes as the first race: Absolute Scenes, John Velazquez, 15-1; Sweetest Angel, Juan Hernandez, 12-1; Golden, Florent Geroux, 5-1; Bleu Ballon, Jessica Pyfer, 4-1; Going Global, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Ivy League, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Closing Remarks, Umberto Rispoli, 12-1; Quattroelle, Tyler Baze, 7-2; and Carpe Fortuna, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1.
Rainbow Jackpot Pool could hit $6 million
Providing there is no Single Ticket winner today, there will be a mandatory payout in the popular 20-cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot on Big ’Cap Handicap Day Saturday. Track officials project the total pool could reach $6 million.
There was no single ticket winner last Sunday, resulting in a carryover of $509,265 into Friday’s eight-race card. Approximate post time for today’s third race which begins the Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot is 1:35 p.m. Pacific Time.
Big ‘Cap Day overnight purses boosted $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, Saturday’s $400,000 Santa Anita Handicap, 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, which increased the purse of Saturday’s China Doll Stakes from $75,000 to $100,000, also has raised purses on all overnight races 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.
Total purse money offered on Saturday’s program is $1,842,000, an average of more than $167,454 per race.
For additional information on the $1 Million Wild West Bonus, call Santa Anita’s Racing Office at 626 574-6352.
FINISH LINES: No rest for the weary or Santa Anita’s leading rider as Flavien Prat is named to ride in all 11 races tomorrow . . . Saturday’s local weather forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 68 degrees . . . There were 101 recorded workouts Friday including a bullet five-furlong move by multiple California-bred stakes winner Warren’s Showtime, who went in 59.80 for Craig Lewis. It was the fastest of 38 drills at the distance . . . Congratulations to 28-year-old Veracruz, Mexico native Juan Hernandez, who will turn 29 on Sunday, on posting his 2,000th career victory last Sunday aboard Peter Miller trainee Bedrock in the seventh race . . . The date of the March 17 California Horse Racing Board teleconference meeting has been changed to Tuesday, March 23, starting at 9:30 a.m. The agenda, including teleconference details, will be posted on the CHRB website on or before March 13 . . . Reminder: first post time Saturday is 12 noon.
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Jeff Siegel and Eddie Olczyk Discuss the Santa Anita Handicap
Masteroffoxhounds (Baltas) 3-5-21
Speech (McCarthy) 3-4-21
Ragged Rose (Sadler) 3-4-21
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Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Maxfield in a workout at Santa Anita for the Big ‘Cap, (Benoit)