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Carava on big stage with American Act

Should Jack Carava win Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes with American Act, it would present a most appropriate storyline of “Hometown Boy Makes Good.”


Not that the 45-year-old Arcadia native hasn’t enjoyed a taste of success since he began his career in 1984, when he started working for Joe Griffin, then a trainer and now agent for high-riding apprentice Eswan Flores.


Carava has toiled long and hard since then, going on his own as a trainer in 1993 and making ends meet since mainly with blue collar runners, interspersed with the occasional stakes horse. Among them were former claimer First Intent, Pure As Gold, Epic Power, Beltene and Grade I winners Soul City Slew and Mr. Napper Candy. Jack learned the ropes early on from his father, Mike, who trained in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


American Act could put Carava on the national radar with a solid performance in the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe, a major stepping stone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.


“His last race was good and he showed that he’s got some quality,” said Carava, a Californian through and through. He now resides in Glendora with his wife, Cindy, and their two daughters, Brittany, 18, a pre-Med student at the University of San Diego, and Megan, 16, a student at Glendora High School.


That “last race” for American Act was a game second by a nose to the Bob Baffert-trained Drill in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 19. Prior to that, American Act broke his maiden on Jan. 16, defeating future smashing maiden winner Bodemeister, a member of Baffert’s seemingly infinite number of Triple Crown hopefuls, who is entered in the San Felipe.


“We’re just trying to map out the best plan for American Act to get to the Santa Anita Derby,” Carava said of the gelded son of Quiet American, owned by Howard and Janet Siegel (Mr. and Mrs.) of Hidden Hills, near Calabasas. “The San Felipe is one of the preps along the way. He’s run with some nice colts and has always acted and trained like a nice horse.


“He’s trained right here all along and he seems to like the track. He’s run well on it his last couple starts, but he’ll face a much bigger field on Saturday.”


Despite the late defections of Out of Bounds and Fed Biz, the San Felipe drew a field of 10: Blingo, Mike Smith, 8-1; Bodemeister, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; American Act, Martin Pedroza, 8-1; Midnight Transfer, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Groovin Solo, Alonso Quinonez, 20-1; Liaison, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Rousing Sermon, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Tiz Point, Garrett Gomez, 20-1; and Empire Way, Brice Blanc, 6-1.


Should fate allow following the San Felipe, American Act would go on to the Santa Anita Derby, marking another first for Carava. He has never run a horse in the West Coast’s major forerunner to the Kentucky Derby, this year on May 5 at Churchill Downs.


“We’ve had some nice older horses through the years and won some stakes with them, but not so much with 3-year-olds,” Carava said, “so it’s nice to have one like American Act and it’s a good position to be in.”


In other San Felipe news:


For the first time in his career of five races, Liaison will run without blinkers in the San Felipe.


“He got a little rank early (in the Robert Lewis Stakes, in which he clipped heels and lost rider Rafael Bejarano),” Bob Baffert explained. “I want him to relax and finish. He wants to come from behind.” In his four previous starts before the Lewis, Liaison closed from off the pace, recording three straight victories after a third despite a slow start in his first start last Sept. 3 at Del Mar.


Fed Biz, who will miss the San Felipe because he “tied up” a few days ago, “was back to the track this morning,” Baffert said. “He’ll have one start and it better be a good one,” alluding to the colt’s dearth of graded earnings. (Daily Racing Form has projected his “next likely race” to be the Sunland Derby on March 25).



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