Lucky J Lane should move forward from his last race when he runs in Saturday’s $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
The five-year-old Lucky J.H. gelding was third on Feb. 7 in his first race since late last August, so Richard Baltas expects a natural progression in the Golden Sate Series race that drew 11 starters.
“He’s fresh now,” Baltas said. “He’s ready to run. They don’t write these Cal-bred stakes very often. I’m shortening him up, so it will be interesting to see how he runs.”
In 15 career starts, Lucky J Lane has sprinted only once, going six furlongs on Hollywood’s Cushion Track in November of 2013, finishing fifth by nearly nine lengths. He has a 4-3-1 record in 13 turf starts.
The Sensational Star: Image of Joplin, Agapito Delgadillo, 30-1; Solid Wager, Victor Espinoza, 15-1; Aotearoa, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; Pay the Fine, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1; Lucky J Lane, Santiago Gonzalez, 8-1; McHeat, Fernando Perez, 6-1; Forest Chatter, Mike Smith, 5-2; Richard’s Boy, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Alert Bay, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Boozer, Gary Stevens, 6-1; and Poshky, Joe Talamo, 10-1.
LEGENDARY ANNOUNCER HERNANDEZ REMEMBERED
Sunday’s featured Joe Hernandez Stakes, for older horses at 6 ½ furlongs down the Camino Real Turf Course, is named in honor of Santa Anita’s first-ever announcer, Joe Hernandez, who never missed a day’s work during his tenure, calling 15,587 races in a row.
Hired by Dr. Charles H. Strub as Santa Anita’s opening day announcer on Dec. 25, 1934, Hernandez served as the original Voice of Santa Anita from that point until he collapsed from internal bleeding while calling a race on Jan. 27, 1972. Hernandez would die several days later, on Feb. 2, 1972, at age 62. (Hernandez, who also toiled as a bloodstock agent, was kicked in the chest by horse at Hollywood Park on the morning of Jan. 27, and although in distress, insisted upon reporting to duty that afternoon at Santa Anita).
One of the most highly respected announcers of his era, Hernandez was revered for his accuracy and his ability to capture the equine and human drama unfolding beneath him. His legendary, “There they go,” will forever live on as his signature description of horses leaving the starting gate.
Perhaps no call more graphically illustrated Hernandez’s mastery of his craft than his call of Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden’s final race, the 1966 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap. Off at 6-1, Canadian-bred George Royal was last early in the mile and three quarter turf marathon and prevailed after a stirring stretch drive by a nose over Plaque, who was ridden by future Hall of Famer Bobby Ussery.
Broadcast live in 17 western markets, Hernandez correctly sensed that the combined massive on-track and television audience was riveted by the fact this race was “The Pumper’s” final dance and he gave them what they yearned for, detailing Longden’s bold move around the far turn and, in a decision that broke with California racing custom, declared George Royal the winner by a nose.
Known for his gravelly voice, rhythmic cadence, quick wit and disarming smile, Hernandez had been a sportswriter when he landed his first announcing job at Tanforan, which was located in the San Francisco Bay Area. A keen judge of horseflesh, his most notable achievement as a bloodstock agent was the importation of Chilean-bred Cougar II, who was trained by Charlie Whittingham and who won the 1971 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, the 1973 Santa Anita Handicap, and would go on to Hall of Fame induction.
A bronze bust of Joe Hernandez was dedicated on Dec. 26, 1974, and overlooks Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area adjacent to the track’s Kingsbury Fountain.
Source: Santa Anita Park