Mor Spirit, second to Dubai-bound Hoppertunity in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 4, worked four furlongs in company with his conqueror at 7:45 Thursday morning in a drill that could lead to a start in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap for four-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter on March 11.
Both horses were clocked in 47 flat.
“They looked good,” Bob Baffert said of the two Grade I winners, Hoppertunity in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last October and the Clark Handicap in 2014, and Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity in 2015. “They went together and did it the right way.”
Asked If Mor Spirit might run in the Big ’Cap, Baffert said, “We don’t know.”
Midnight Storm, on the other hand, is definite right now for Santa Anita’s marquee race that will be run for the 80th time. Midnight Storm worked six furlongs Monday in 1:12.20.
“His work was sensational,” trainer Phil D’Amato said of the Grade I winner on turf and dirt. “That was an ‘A’ work. He went out a mile in 1:38 and change. It was what I wanted to see and he still had plenty in the tank, too, so I’m very happy.”
Exercise rider Jose Dominguez was aboard for the drill.
Meanwhile, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup winner Arrogate, the answer to everybody’s question of “Where will he run next?” worked four furlongs Tuesday in 48.60 under Martin Garcia.
“It wasn’t much of a work,” Baffert allowed. “He galloped around here,” but Baffert offered no word on where Arrogate might run next.
Should Baffert win the Santa Anita Handicap, it would mark the sixth time he has done so. Previous winners were General Challenge (2000), Misremembered (2010) and three-time winner Game On Dude (2011, 2013 and 2014). The late Charlie Whittingham won a record nine Big ’Caps, first in 1957 with Corn Husker and most recently in 1993 with Sir Beaufort.
WORKOUTS SURPASS 400 IN ADVANCE OF STORM
With a heavy winter rain storm imminent, horsemen got in their last licks in anticipation of same with 416 recorded workouts on Santa Anita’s fast dirt tracks Thursday morning, 360 on the main track and 56 on the inner training track, a record for this meet.
According to Santa Anita clockers, the all-time mark of 495 was set several years back.
Among the more prominent workers was Las Virgenes winner Unique Bella, who went four furlongs in 48.20 for the March 4 Santa Ysabel in advance of the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 8 for Jerry Hollendorfer.
Also, champion three-year-old filly of 2015 Stellar Wind worked four furlongs for John Sadler in 48 flat as she prepares for her five-year-old debut.
WEATHERMAN HOLDS ACES IN BUENA VISTA
With the weatherman once again throwing a curve ball at locally-based horsemen, final decisions on which horses run in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes for fillies and mares, four and up scheduled for one mile on turf, were up in the air Thursday morning.
Richard Baltas, the meet’s leading trainer with 15 victories, has two entered, Hillhouse High and Mokat, but like others, was waiting to see the hand fate deals.
“I can’t make a decision until I see how the track is,” Baltas said. “If it’s on dirt and hard, I probably won’t run Mokat. If the track is safe I might run both of them.”
Mokat, a daughter of Uncle Mo, has run seven of her 12 career starts on turf, but was second to two-time champion Songbird in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on a sloppy track last April 9. Hillhouse High has run 16 of 20 races on grass, but ran third in the Wait a While at GulfstreamPark on a sloppy track in 2013.
The Buena Vista: Illuminant, Bryan Pena, 3-1; Lily Pod, Martin Garcia, 20-1; Mokat, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; Do the Dance, Tyler Baze, 12-1; Prize Exhibit, Mike Smith, 7-2; Hillhouse High, Santiago Gonzalez, 6-1; Evo Campo, Brice Blanc, 12-1; Jeremy’s Legacy, Nelson Arroyo Jr., 12-1; Juno, Luis Contreras, 12-1; Pretty Girl, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; and Wild At Heart, Flavien Prat, 12-1.
SANTA ANITA VS. HOLY ANGELS CHARITY GAME FEB. 23
The 50th annual Santa Anita Jockeys vs. HolyAngelsElementary School basketball
game will be played next Thursday, Feb. 23, at La SalleHigh School in Pasadena, with proceeds to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), Holy Angels athletic program and the Eye on Jacob Foundation.
Given the historic nature of the game, individual jockey sponsors, representing a wide array of racing industry stakeholders, will lend financial support to this worthy cause. Tip off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m., with admission doors opening at 6:15 p.m.
Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Gary Stevens will all be available at center court for an autograph session at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $5 per person, and for every two tickets purchased, individuals receive one free admission ticket to Santa Anita.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita offers Dollar Day on Presidents’ Day, this Monday, Feb. 20. Enjoy draft beer, soda and hot dogs for just a buck. First post time will be 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m. Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that week. Live racing will resume Friday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. . . . The racing community mourns the passing of California stallion Lucky Pulpit, sire of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, who died Monday of a heart attack at Harris Farms in Coalinga. He was 16 . . . On Saturday, March 11, when Santa Anita presents the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap, the Late Pick Four will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million, and the Pick Six pool will be guaranteed at $100,000.
Source: Santa Anita Park