Santa Anita kicked off its season with tributes to historic figures while more potential Kentucky Derby candidates popped up during the weekend.
Some owners and trainers already were looking at next fall's Breeders' Cup, too.
But for all of that, it was a relatively quiet weekend as racing, like the rest of the world, prepared to usher in 2014.
Here's what happened, along with a little history and a little vocabulary:
Enterprising rallied three-wide through the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds and got there first, 3/4 of a length ahead of Royal Banker. The pacesetter, Lucky Views, held on for third while the favorite, Craftsman, finished fifth in his first U.S. start after missing the break. Enterprising, a Florida-bred Elusive Quality colt, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:35.25 with Gary Stevens timing the move just right. He now has won two of his three starts. "He's going to have a very good year" in 2014, Stevens predicted, adding, "Knock on wood." Trainer Tom Proctor added, "I don't know what might be next for him. I really hadn't paid much attention. But I'm tickled to win this because Eddie Logan was special. He was the best executive in racing. He knew more than most." Logan was the track's shoeshine attendant -- an iconic and universally admired fixture -- from Opening Day on Christmas 1934 until near his death in 2009, just a few months short of his 99th birthday. He also was a former boxer and Negro League baseball player. In his obituary, Santa Anita staff said he frequently lectured about the hazards of wearing leather foot gear in the barn area. "This leather's got four things working against it on the backside," the track quoted Logan. "Salt, brace, alkali and urine." Brace is a liniment used in rubbing down a horse.
Customer Base and Stormy Lucy both came by the leaders in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes for fillies and mares with Customer Base gutting out the win by a nose. The favorite, Gulsary, was up late to get show money. Customer Base, a 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.45 with Mike Smith in the irons. Proctor, who had a good final weekend of 2014, also trains Customer Base and Gulsary. "I always thought the most of Frankel," he said of the race's trainer namesake. "We started out, we didn't like each other too much. Then I got to where I really thought a lot of him. He about put me out of the business, claiming everything I had the first year training, because I was running them where they could win." The late Bobby Frankel saddled 17,657 starters during his illustrious career and met 3,654 of those in the winner's circle, including victors in several Breeders' Cup races and the Kentucky Derby. He won the Eclipse Award five times, including a four-year string from 2000 through 2003.
Unbridled's Note came from off the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Daytona Stakes down the hillside turf course, caught El Commodore at mid-stretch and won the duel to the wire by a half length. Gallant Son finished well back in third. Unbridled's Note, a 4-year-old colt by Unbridled's Song, finished the about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:11.89 over firm going with Corey Nakatani up. He came into the race off a second-place finish in the Hollywood Turf Express on Dec. 8 and Scott Blasi, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen, said Unbridled's Note was happy to be back on the Santa Anita dirt. "He loves this course and he got a lot better trip than he did at Hollywood," Blasi said. "We'll have him here for the winter and hopefully we'll have a series of races to run him in." He added the colt also has run well on the dirt, giving him options.
Singanothersong shadowed the pace set by Star Harbour in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes, took the lead turning for home and had plenty left late, holding off Fort Loudon to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Star Harbour held on for third. Singanothersong, a 3-year-old Songandaprayer colt, got 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:09.92 with Juan Leyva at the controls. "We thought he could take the lead anytime he wanted," winning trainer Ron Pellegrini said. "We were pretty confident he would win." It was his second straight victory in his third race after a six-month layoff prompted by an injury. "Now we'll just weigh our options and see where we want to go from here," the trainer added. "Our ultimate goal is to get him to the Breeders' Cup Sprint next year."
Mr. Online led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 El Prado Stakes at the mile on the grass and the favorite, Salto, was just shy of catching him at the wire. The final margin was a diminishing head, with Utley 3 lengths farther back in third. Mr. Online, a 4-year-old gelding by Silent Name, finished in 1:39.60 over a yielding course with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons. Claimed for $30,000 last winter, the horse has blossomed. He was a close second behind the hard-knocking Ben's Cat in the Laurel Dash in September and also second in the Grade I Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine in October. Owner Tim O'Donohue said he and trainer Michael Pino had been looking for another sprint for Mr. Online and also had been hoping for firm going. "But everything worked out for the best," he said. "We know he can get a mile so it gives us more options."
Devil's Cave led early in Sunday's $100,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, was challenged and headed by Sweet N Discreet but re-rallied to win by 2 lengths over that rival. The odds-on favorite, My Pal Chrisy, made a move in the stretch but flattened out and finished third. Devil's Cave, a 3-year-old Put It Back filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:34.74 for jockey Joel Rosario. Marty Wolfson trains the first- and third-place finishers.
Calder Race Course
Saturday's $125,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap came off the turf, which made no appreciable difference to the odds-on favorite, Twilight Eclipse. The 4-year-old Purim gelding dictated a moderate pace, put away pace-stalking Dannhauser when asked and won off by 7 lengths over that rival. Flatter This finished third, 4 3/4 lengths farther back. Twilight Eclipse, with Jose Lezcano up, ran 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:35.66.
Joint Custody bobbled at the start in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship for state-breds, then got bumped around but still easily dictated terms to his five rivals before winning by 5 1/2 lengths. Fran's Buckaroo was second and Buck n' Ham Lane was another 7 1/2 lengths in arrears in third. Joint Custody, an Outflanker gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.19 with Wesley Ho in the irons. "You're always a little concerned when you see them stumble," winning trainer John Robb said. "But in this case, it might have been a blessing in disguise. This horse does not like being on his own." He said Joint Custody will get some rest.
She's Ordained rallied up the rail and caught pacesetting Five Star Momma in the late going of Saturday's $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 3/4 of a length over that rival. Lady Sabelia was a distant third. She's Ordained, a 4-year-old Ministers Wild Cat filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.58 with Angel Quinones up. "Everything was perfect," Quinones said. "She broke very well. She was very easy to rate down the backstretch. I had a lot of horse."
Commandante showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for New York-breds and shook clear in the stretch, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Moneyinyour Pocket. The favorite, Awesome Vision, finished just a nose farther back in third. Commandante, a 3-year-old Frost Giant gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:44.15 with Cornelio Velasquez up. "My horse is in good form. This was his third straight win," Velasquez said. "He was never under any pressure, even when the other horse came to him, and he had plenty left at the end."
In Sunday's $100,000, restricted Lord of the Night Stakes, Farhaan stalked the early pace, then took charge in the lane, winning by 5 lengths over pacesetter Colleen's Sailor. Praetero was close early but faded to finish third. Farhaan, a 4-year-old Jazil colt out of the Danzig mare Alshadiyah, got 1 mile and 70 yards over a sealed inner track rated good in 1:44.11. Irad Ortiz Jr. had the mount.
Proceed had to work around an uncontrollable rival in the turn in Saturday's $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, but once he got going he was easily best, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over D E Lover. Reaper was third. The problem horse, Outlaw In Town, blew the turn and was pulled up, then walked off. Proceed, a Desert God colt, finished in 1:38.10 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Mr. Wizard whizzed by the leaders late in Sunday's $85,000 Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap for state-breds and won by 3/4 of a length over pacesetter Attitude E Racer. On Down the Road was another half length on down the road in third while the favorite, That's Who, settled for fourth after a stumbling start. Mr. Wizard, a 4-year-old Premeditation gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.26 with Dusty Shepherd up.
The Best Glacier got moving late in Saturday's $65,000 Fremont Stakes but once rolling, was unstoppable. At the wire, the 5-year-old Three Wonders gelding was out front by 4 1/2 lengths with Runaway Stephen second and the early leader, Awesome Intime, holding third. The Best Glacier, with Diego Saenz in the irons, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:38.98. Tom Amoss trains for owner Maggi Moss.
My Rochester, a French-bred Sky Mesa gelding, came from off the pace after poor start to win Saturday's $35,000 Lost in the Fog Juvenile Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over J P Rocker. The early leader, Lotsa Mischief, finished third. My Rochester, with Kate Fales in the irons, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.23. My Rochester won at first asking over the course a month ago. He was bred by Qatar Bloodstock and is owned by Randy Howg.
Idling was up in the final strides of Saturday's $35,000 Arizona Juvenile Fillies Stakes to catch pacesetting Lazy Daisy May and win by a half length. The favorite, Jet Set Kitten, faded to finish third. Idling, a daughter of El Roblar, finished in 1:17.00 with Scott Stevens up.
News and notes:
"Jimmy," the 2-year-old half-brother to champion sprinter Black Caviar, was euthanized in Australia Sunday, his principals reported. The colt suffered a series of complications, culminating in laminitis, following what was believed to be a spider bite. He sold as a yearling for a record A$5 million, or about US$4.4 million. That deal, however, reportedly is in litigation unrelated to the colt's medical issues.
On a brighter note, the New York Racing Association has announced the purse for the Grade I Belmont Stakes will be increased from $1 million to $1.5 million, matching the purse for the Grade I Preakness Stakes at Pimlico which recently received a similar $500,000 bump. The purse for the Grade I Kentucky Derby is $2 million.