Santa Anita news: Mucho Unusual has pedigree for Cal Cup Oaks

Ed Golden, Santa Anita
February 17, 2019 04:59pm
Mucho Unusual_horse_615x400
Photo: Benoit
Mucho Unusual has the pedigree to succeed in Monday’s $200,000 California Cup Oaks at one mile on turf.

A bay daughter of the Macho Uno sire Mucho Macho Man out of the Unusual Heat dam Not Unusual, Mucho Unusual makes her grass debut in the Oaks, which is a part of the lucrative Golden State Series for California-breds.

“She’s a half-sister to Big Score who earned more than $600,000 ($635,372) on the turf, so I would say the grass pedigree is there,” said Tim Yakteen, who trains the filly for long-time owner/breeder George Krikorian, also the owner/breeder of Big Score, winner of the Transylvania (G3) at Keeneland in 2017 and on the board in eight other graded stakes.

“The Unusual Heat gene has definitely emerged from her pedigree for turf in the past. She seems to have a real fluid action, and we’re excited to see her stretch out on turf.”

Mucho Unusual not only will be making her turf debut in the Oaks, it will mark her first race beyond seven furlongs, which came in the Golden State Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

She was second in that race after breaking her maiden with an 8 ¼-length romp going 6 ½ furlongs against state-breds in her previous outing at Santa Anita last Oct. 4.

The Cal Cup Oaks, race five: Lippy, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Mucho Unusual, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Tiz a Master, Heriberto Figueroa, 12-1; Kookie Gal, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Silk From Heaven, Eswan Flores, 12-1; Hot On the Trail, Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1; Creative Instinct, Geovanni Franco, 12-1; Lakerball, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Apache Princess, Kent Desormeaux, 9-5.


Jeff Lifson, career race tracker and executive president of West Point Thoroughbreds, was an enthusiastic visitor Sunday morning at Santa Anita, where Galilean runs in Monday’s $200,000 California Cup Derby.

West Point is part-owner of the Uncle Mo colt, Jon White’s 2-5 morning line favorite to win the mile and an eighth race for California-breds.

“My title carries a hefty amount of letters but not a lot of responsibility, as far as that goes,” Lifson said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “I’ve been part of West Point’s buying team for a number of years now and we have approximately 100 partners.

“Nancy Dollase (wife of trainer Craig Dollase) is out here full time for us, but I’m the guy who rotates all over the country, comes here for Del Mar and Santa Anita because a lot of my partners have horses with Jerry (Hollendorfer, trainer of Galilean).

“I’m here often during the year because it’s my territory. I’m in charge of the happiness quotient for my partners on the West Coast, and anytime I’m here, I’m happier. I love it here.”

The 54-year-old Lifson, who resides in Louisville, Ky., was with TVG for five years after it launched in the late 1990s. “I kind of tell people I was the Bob Lee of TVG,” he said. “I started there, kept rolling with all its ups and downs, but I haven’t stayed like Bob Lee stayed with ESPN. I started in ’99 and left in 2004. I commuted to the studios here in LA, which is how I ultimately hooked up with West Point.” 

In addition to Galilean on Monday, West Point and its partners saw Hard Not to Love win her debut in yesterday’s first race and have Bartlett Hall running in today’s eighth race.

Meanwhile, Lifson continues to absorb with passion every moment of a game he loves, punctuating his emphasis by saying this:

“Racing is the greatest game played outdoors.”

The field for the Cal Cup Derby: Loud Mouth, Joel Rosario, 8-1; Whooping Jay, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Irish Heatwave, Kent Desormeaux, 3-1; Galilean, Flavien Prat, 2-5; and Feeling Strong, Tiago Pereira, 12-1.

Victor Espinoza was back on the beat at Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning, blending in with the throng as he prepares for his return to the races in Monday’s first race aboard 5-2 morning line favorite Gallantlystreaming for trainer John Sadler.

“It feels good to come back and start again after such a long time,” said Espinoza, 46, who was sidelined almost seven months after suffering injuries in a training mishap at Del Mar last July 22. The regular rider of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, Espinoza has been working horses in advance of his comeback and breezed one for trainer Jim Cassidy this morning.

“I’m looking forward to winning some more races,” Espinoza said. “It’s great to see my old friends. I’ve been here so many years, and to suddenly disappear for a little while was hard, so it’s fun to be back.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to riding the next champion.”


Santa Anita’s popular 20 cent Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot went unsolved on Saturday, resulting in a Jackpot carryover into Sunday of $190,102. Although there was no Jackpot winner, there were 67 consolation tickets with six winners, each paying $1,443.05.

With $180,325 in “new” money wagered, Saturday’s total Single Ticket Jackpot pool totaled $329,144.

Sunday’s 20 cent Single Ticket Jackpot begins with race four, which has an approximate post time of 2:05 p.m. PT.


The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) has announced the winners of its 2018 statistical awards for leading California owners. For the second consecutive year, Hronis Racing LLC was leading owner in total purse earnings and also led all owners by number of California wins and number of stakes wins. Reddam Racing LLC took the award for most California starts.

Hronis’s campaigners earned $3,838,910 in California last year, with 40 victories from 253 starts, including 12 stakes wins. Leading was Horse of the Year runner-up Accelerate, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes, San Pasqual Stakes, Awesome Again Stakes and the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic.

Their other top stakes runners were Catalina Cruiser (winner of the Pat O’Brien Stakes and San Diego Handicap), Gift Box, Yuvetsi, Shenandoah Queen and Edwards Going Left.

Reddam Racing made a remarkable 300 California starts in 2018 for earnings of $3,000,690. Their top stakes runners included Mopotism, winner of the La Canada Stakes, How About Zero, winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint Stakes, B Squared, Blame the Rider, Lippy, and Listing.

Both winners will be recognized at TOC’s annual meetings, at Del Mar on Saturday, Aug. 10, and at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, Oct. 19.

FINISH LINES: The remarkable Vasilika worked six furlongs early Sunday morning in 1:14.40 for Saturday’s Buena Vista Stakes (G2) at a mile on turf. “She galloped out real nice,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of the 5-year-old Skipshot mare, winner of eight of nine starts on Santa Anita’s grass course with one second. “She’s doing great, looks great and is feeling good. She’s a happy horse right now.” . . . Hollendorfer also sent Triple Crown contender Instagrand six furlongs in 1:13.40 in preparation for the San Felipe Stakes (G2) on March 9. Going in company with Shining Through and Why Not Us, Instagrand broke behind that pair but overtook them while finishing on the rail. Another Hollendorfer Triple Crown candidate, Gunmetal Gray, worked four furlongs in 48.40 . . . Barbara Beatrice and S Y Sky each worked today for Phil D’Amato, who plans to run them in this Sunday’s $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older California-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs. Also ticketed for the Spring Fever is Show It N Moe It for trainer Gary Sherlock. In all there were 246 recorded works, 48 on the training track . . . At Tokyo Race Course today, Japanese-bred Inti won the February Stakes (G1) under Yutaka Take to secure the first automatic berth into the $6million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 2 through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge . . . Andrea Atzeni scored his second victory of the meet Saturday in the sixth race for Simon Callaghan aboard first-time starter Maxim Rate at a $59.40 win payoff. The native of Sardinia leaves for England on Feb. 25 but will return to ride Thunder Road winner True Valour for Callaghan in the Kilroe Mile (G1) on March 9, according to his agent, Matt Nakatani . . . The California Horse Racing Board has its monthly meeting 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Santa Anita. The public is encouraged to attend. An audio-only webcast can be heard through a link on the CHRB website (webcast).


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