Thoroughbred racing sails right into the New Year this week with at least as much to anticipate as to remember.
With some fine 2-year-old prospects around the world awaiting next year's Classics and the Dubai World Cup just three months down the road, it's tempting to overlook the final races of the dying year.
But we don't succumb to those temptations. Next year's challenges will be addressed in due course but, first, let's attend to the end of an unusual 2012:
Actually, Santa Anita annually joins Florida and Louisiana in providing a bridge between years, jump-starting the season with the aid of warmer climes.
Book Review came from well back of the pace to post a minor opening-day upset win in Wednesday's $300,000, Grade I La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. With Rafael Bejarano up for trainer Bob Baffert, Book Review came three-wide in the lane to nip pacesetter Reneesgotzip by a neck. My Miss Aurelia, the odds-on favorite, was just another neck back in third between rivals after pressing the pace. Book Review, a Giant's Causeway filly, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.41. Baffert said he shipped Book Review from the East Coast because owners Gary and Mary West wanted to see her run "and this race really looked like the logical spot for her. She's a late-running sprinter. If you look at her form, she either shows up or she doesn't and today was a day to show up. I'm happy."
Johnny Creed rallied to the lead a furlong out in Wednesday's $300,000, Grade I Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds and prevailed by 3/4 of a length over pacesetting Private Zone. Unbridled's Note finished third and the heavy favorite, The Lumber Guy, faded to finish seventh of nine. Johnny Creed, a Distorted Humor colt, ran 7 furlongs on the fast main track in a quick 1:20.36 with Garrett Gomez in the irons. Trainer Richard Mandella said the winner's ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint was due to not liking dirt kicked in his face. He said Gomez "got him out of the two hole and just close enough to where he didn't get that big stream of mud kicked in his face." He said Johnny Creed will stay at Santa Anita for the Strub series for 4-year-olds.
Silentio bid for the lead at the furlong pole in Wednesday's $150,000, Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds and won a scramble to the wire by a half length over Battle Force. Press Baron was a length farther back in third. Silentio, a Silent Name colt, ran the mile on good turf in 1:34.27 with Bejarano riding. "There's no secret," winning trainer Gary Mandella said. "He's a good horse. The secret is to have a good horse and that's what this is ... . I hope for even better things to come if I get lucky."
Qaraaba rallied four-wide from last of nine to win Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares -- the final U.S. graded stake of the year -- by 1 1/4 lengths over Tiz Flirtatious. More Chocolate led briefly at the top of the lane but melted under the pressure, finishing third. Qarabba, a 5-year-old, British-bred Shamardal mare, ran 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:49.20 with Julien Leparoux in the irons for trainer Simon Callaghan. It was her main track with a passel of attendant scratches. Of the second straight win in the U.S. after an earlier campaign in England. "We thought the world of this filly from Day One," said Callaghan. "She's special. She'll get better as she goes further. You need to take her back and get her to relax, no matter what the pace is. Julien did a good job."
Saturday's $100,000 Daytona Stakes came off the hillside turf course and onto the wet-fast main track. Of the five starters left after scratches, Comma to the Top prevailed, working hard for the lead, then taking command to score by 1 3/4 lengths over Clubhouse Ride. Ain't No Other finished third. Comma to the Top, a 4-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.55 with Edwin Maldonado in the irons.
Teddy's Promise waited just off the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes for fillies and mares, moved when asked by jockey Victor Espinoza and quickly drew clear, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. Snow Fall was second and Great Hot finished third. Teddy's Promise, a
4-year-old Salt Lake filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the wet-fast main track in 1:14.72.
Avare led from the start in Saturday's $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds and the favorite, Gabriel Charles, could only chase, finishing second by 4 1/4 lengths. Will True Up finished third. Avare, a Kentucky-bred Johannesburg ridgling, ran the mile on the wet-fast track
in 1:36.39 with Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Indiano got by Off the Jak in deep stretch to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes by 3/4 of a length over that rival. The favorite, Action Andy, settled for third. Indiano, a 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.26 with Luis Saez up. He finished third in the same race last year and has not run out of the money in nine consecutive starts dating back some 13 months but finished behind Action Andy in their last start, the Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, coming off a four-month layoff. "It was different this time just having a race in him," winning trainer Marty Wolfson said. "He's a better horse than Action Andy. I knew that last time, but that horse was fresh and had been training at Tampa. My horse just got up there that day." He said he will space Indiano' races because, "He's kind of delicate."
Successful Song let the odds-on favorite, Golden Mystery, jump out to a big lead in Sunday's $100,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, then reeled her in down the stretch to win by a half length. My Pal Chrissy was well back in third and the Callmethesqueeze completed the order of finish. Successful Song, a 5-year-old Successful Appeal mare, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:31.71 with Angel Serpa riding.
Saratoga Snacks jumped quickly to the front in Wednesday's $75,000 Alex M. Robb Handicap for New York-breds, then held on gamely to win by a length over Socialsaul. Saginaw was 11 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Saratoga Snacks, a 3-year-old Tale of the Cat Ridgling, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:45.21 with Ramon Dominguez up.
Little Polka Dot pressed the pace in Friday's $70,000 Lookout Stakes for fillies and mares, got to the front in the lane and held off the late run of A Runnin Pop to win by a length. Esther Carl finished third. Little Polka Dot, a 6-year-old Orientate mare, got the mile on a muddy, sealed track in 1:41.14 with Diego Saenz riding.
Populist Politics rallied three-wide to the lead in Saturday's $70,000 B-Connected Stakes and kicked clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Idefromthebayou. Break Up was home third. Populist Politics, a 4-year-old Don't Get Mad colt, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.55 under Gerard Melancon.
Il Villano dueled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Dave's Friend Stakes, opened a big advantage turning for home and held well to win by 3 lengths over Immortal Eyes. Wolfcamp finished third and the favorite, This Ones for Phil, finished last of six starters. Il Villano, a
3-year-old Pollard's Vision colt, completed 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:11.20 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Alpha Mike Foxtrot was bumped out of the gate in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship for state-bred 2-year-olds, checked repeatedly during the run down the backstretch and then forced six-wide turning for home. Despite all that, the Two Punch gelding, a 10-1 shot, rallied down the lane to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Hanky Doodle. Peeds In a Pod finished third and the favorite, Lunar Rock, faded to finish sixth. Alpha Mike Foxtrot, with Forest Boyce riding, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:34.51.
Storms Surprise used a strong stretch run to spring a surprise win in Saturday's $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds. With Isaias Cardenas up, the Attila's Storm gelding kicked clear in the stretch run and the odds-on favorite and early leader, Attila's
Hurricane, was left 4 1/2 lengths behind in second. Indication N M finished third. Storms Surprise got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.54.
On Down the Road, always close to the pace, got to the front when it counted in Sunday's $85,000 Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap for New Mexico-breds, winning by 3/4 of a length over pacesetting Attitude E Racer. Nuggets Please got show money. On Down the Road, a 4-year-old Desert God gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.51 with Carlos Madeira in the irons.
Tampa Bay Downs
Appealing Stella overhauled pacesetting longshot Becausei'mworthit in the stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/14 lengths. The favorite, Nakano, finished 1 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Appealing Stella, a 4-year-old Closing Argument filly, ran 6 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:12.57 for jockey Angel Serpa.
Luzianna Man came from well back in the crowded field in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes, split rivals while driving through the stretch and got home first by a neck over Yankee Union. Gung Ho was third and the favorite, Ingenue, finished a dull eighth. Luzianna Man, a 3-year-old El Corredor gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:12.40 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard.