Ashleyluvssugar is set for next Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes for older horses at a mile and a half on turf, and he’ll be reunited with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who missed riding the six-year-old in the California Cup Turf Classic Jan. 28 while still recovering from hip replacement surgery.
Stevens had ridden Ashleyluvssugar five straight times and nine times in his last 10 starts before Flavien Prat took over to win the Cal Cup Turf Classic. Prat rides in Dubai next Saturday.
Ashleyluvssugar, a California-bred son of Game Plan out of the 16-year-old dam Ashley’s Folly, who resides at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday in 1:01 under exercise rider Jose Aragon.
“I got him a little bit quicker than that, but I like the way he did it,” said Peter Eurton, who trains Ashley for owners/breeders Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing, LLC.
Ashleyluvssugar has been a mainstay with Team Eurton since day one. Not only did the bay gelding win the San Luis Rey under Stevens in 2015, overall he has a 9-3-3 record from 20 starts with earnings of $1,145,004.
Understandably, it’s become more than a business relationship between trainer and horse.
“There’s always an emotional attachment for a horse you’ve had since he was a baby,” Eurton allowed. “We raised him and we’ve had his brothers and sisters. I’m going to have three other siblings (Ashley’s Sassy, Ashley’s Bambino and Ashley’s Cutie) at the race track at the same time.
“I would love to take a photo of those four galloping together down the lane. That would be so cool.
“They’re all different, every single one of them, but he is obviously the best of the bunch. The four out of that mare all won maiden special (weight races). There was a horse years back that got loose and jumped over the fence at HollywoodPark and almost wound up in the infield lake. That was his brother, Ashley’s Bambino. He came out of that episode to win another race.
“Ashley’s Folly is just a good mare and we’ve got a lot of emotion involved with her.”
Just like all her siblings.
OKLAHOMA-BRED MAKES DEBUT SUNDAY FOR MANDELLA
If Taxman’s Quest comes anything close to Rogers and Hammerstein’s smash musical hit “Oklahoma,” Richard Mandella can expect rave reviews after Sunday’s $75,000 Pasadena Stakes for three-year-olds at a mile on turf.
Taxman’s Quest, a son of Euroears bred in Oklahoma by his owners, the Litsch Family LLC, is unbeaten in his only two races, both sprints on dirt at Remington Park. He hasn’t raced since last Oct. 21, but has been firing bullets for Mandella at Santa Anita in preparation for the Pasadena.
“A friend of a friend asked if I would be interested in him, and I looked up his races,” Mandella said in explaining how he acquired the chestnut gelding. “Yes, the races were against Oklahoma-breds, but pretty impressive, I thought.
“We got him here and he’d had a little rest, but he’s trained very well up to this race.”
Master of the understatement, Mandella might have outdone himself with that one. On March 14, Taxman’s Quest went five furlongs in 59.20, fastest of 23 drills at the distance; March 8, six furlongs in 1:12.40, fastest of 19; and March 1, five furlongs in 59.80, fastest of 42.
“I wasn’t looking to run him on the turf,” Mandella said, “but it was the only option I had, so I’m going to try and get a race into him and see what we’ve got. I don’t know why he wouldn’t handle the turf.”
While Oklahoma-breds racing in California are about as rare as snow in Pasadena, there have been at least two of note, 1986 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Lady’s Secret, and 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Kip Deville.
The Pasadena, race eight of nine: Big Sky Logan, Corey Nakatani. 30-1; Taxman’s Quest, Flavien Prat, 8-1; Ritzy A.P., Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Ky. Colonel, Mike Smith, 6-1; Taco, J.M. Rios, 6-1, Cistron, Tyler Baze, 4-1; Monster Man, Rafael Bejarano, 20-1; Conquest Farenheit, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 5-2; Zakaroff, Joe Talamo, 6-1; and Bird Is the Word, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1.
FINISH LINES: Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day program ended on a fitting note, as favored Irish Dame powered to a 3 ½ length win for trainer Vann Belvoir, giving leading man Flavien Prat his third win on the card and his 51st overall, through 44 racing days . . . With Spring Training in full swing in both Florida and Arizona, Nick Alexander’s homebred Pee Wee Reese got the ball rolling yesterday, capturing the first race, a $56,000 allowance at 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course, by 5 ¾ lengths under Joe Talamo. Named for the Dodgers’ legendary Hall of Fame second baseman, “Pee Wee” notched his third consecutive win for trainer Phil D’Amato. Alexander will hope to be in the Winner’s Circle again following’s today’s 10th race, as his homebred Catfish Hunter, a 3-year-old half brother to Pee Wee Reese, stretches out to a mile on turf with Tyler Baze up for trainer Steve Miyadi . . . Mike Smith compiles Frequent Flier mileage over the next week. The Hall of Fame rider pilots American Anthem for Bob Baffert today in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, returns to his home base of Santa Anita to ride Sunday, then heads halfway around the world to the Middle East where he rides Arrogate in the $10 million Dubai World Cup next Saturday. Agent Brad Pegram said Smith should be back in California next Sunday, March 29, but not in time to ride at Santa Anita. Baffert leaves Santa Anita this afternoon to hook up with Arrogate . . . There is a single ticket Jackpot Pick Six carryover today of $289,904.62 . . . Apprentice jockey Evin Roman has been suspended five racing days (March 23, 24, 25, 26 and 30) for interference aboard Candy Boss in last Sunday’s seventh race, which resulted in a disqualification from third to fourth.
Source: Santa Anita Park