Twirling Candy and Setsuko, two of the prime participants in a series of bumping incidents through the stretch of a roughly run Santa Anita Handicap March 5, are ready to resume their rivalry in the $150,000 Californian at Hollywood Park Saturday.
The Grade II test at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track serves as a major prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 9.
Twirling Candy, who was pinballed in the middle of the bumping and finished fifth as the 1-2 favorite, worked one mile in 1:38 Sunday. “Nice and smooth,” said trainer John Sadler. “We’re looking to run.
“Twirling Candy actually came out of the Big’ Cap in good shape physically,” said Sadler. “He had an abscess on his foot when he came to Hollywood Park but that was taken care of.”
Sadler also considered entering Gladding, 10th-place finisher in the Big ‘Cap, in the Californian pending a Monday work.
Trainer Richard Mandella hopes that Setsuko luck changes in the Californian. The 4-year-old colt finished second by a nose behind Game On Dude in the Big ‘Cap after being bumped in midstretch. The Hall of Fame trainer was disappointed by a “no change” decision by stewards after a lengthy inquiry.
Mandella hoped to run Setsuko in the $1-million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia April 16 but the 4-year-old colt, who has not won a stake, was bumped out of the last spot in a field of 10 by a late entrant with better criteria. Setsuko broke his maiden at Hollywood Park and has finished second in three graded stakes.
Trainer Paddy Gallagher said he planned to enter both Soul Candy and Aggie Engineer, fourth and ninth, respectively, in the Big ‘Cap. “Both have run well here before,” said Gallagher in reference to wins by Soul Candy in the California Cup Classic and Aggie Engineer in the Native Diver Handicap last fall, both at the Californian distance. Aggie Engineer worked six furlongs in 1:12.60.
As many as nine could participate. Probables include Twirling Candy (Joel Rosario), Setsuko (Victor Espinoza), Soul Candy (Garrett Gomez), Aggie Engineer (Joe Talamo), Victory Pete (Tyler Baze), Honour the Deputy and Spurrier.
Spurrier, fourth in the Californian last year, worked four furlongs in 47.60, while Victory Pete drilled six furlongs in 1:13.20.
Gladding and Informed, the 2009 winner, are possible.
STEINER, LEONARD REUNITED WITH EMOTIONAL UPSET
Trainer and co-owner Bob Leonard lifted jockey Joe Steiner off the ground with an emotional hug after a shocking upset by Slane Castle, who was nearly 71-1, in Saturday’s fifth race, a maiden test for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
Steiner, 46, had not won a race in more than six years. Leonard, who has trained throughout the country, last won a race in California in 1987.
Steiner was busy accepting congratulations throughout the stable area Sunday morning after winning with his 12th mount following a comeback this year.
“I’ve been doing a little bit of everything since I hurt my neck and shoulder in a spill at Santa Anita six years ago,” said Steiner. “After the injuries healed, I worked for the Jockeys Guild, then in real estate.
“The last two years I’ve worked horses for Bob Baffert,” continued Steiner. “That got the fires burning to come back and ride. This is a huge passion of mine. Working horses in the morning, putting it all together and winning in the afternoon is the ultimate.”
Steiner has been friends with Leonard since his youth in Washington state and rode Leonard’s previous California winner, Saratoga Passage, in the 1987 Norfolk Stakes during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.
“We’re from Seattle,” explained Leonard, with his wife Penley, after sending out his first winner at Hollywood Park. “We were at Longacres until it closed down. Joe won a lot of races for us there. His mom and dad, who run the kitchen at Emerald Downs, are dear friends. Joe’s won races for us in Illinois and Indiana as well as Washington and California.”
Leonard managed to juggle a career as an airline pilot with raising a family and traveling the country as a trainer. “I got started in racing in college in 1964 when five fraternity brothers including myself each put up $300 to buy two horses,” said Leonard. “We raced under the stable name Penta Bros.”
Leonard flew for Northwest Airlines for 30 years from 1966-1996 and has raced at more than 40 tracks in 20 states during his career. Leonard campaigned multiple stakes winner Phi Beta Doc, a multiple stakes winner who captured the Virginia Derby, set a course record for 1 3/16 miles winning the Saranac Stakes on the Saratoga turf and paid $89 winning a stake at Delaware Park.
“Nobody knew us there just like nobody knows us here,” explained Leonard of the lofty prices his winners returned. “Slane Castle probably should have been 10-1. She only finished 1 ½ lengths behind (favorite) Izshelegal in her last race.”
Leonard has three horses stabled in Hollywood Park’s Barn 53. Slane Castle, a 3-year-old Castledale filly, was making her sixth start.
“That was a rider’s race yesterday, and Joey timed it perfectly,” said Leonard of the photo-finish victory.
“What’s special to us is that Joey is back riding,” said Mrs. Leonard. The couple makes their home in Las Cruces, N.M.
GREGORY SAVORS FIRST WIN AT 78
Owner-trainer-breeder Bill Gregory stood next to the stall of Charlie’sboywins in Barn 60 North Sunday, still tingling with excitement after his first victory with the 4-year-old gelding in a maiden claiming race Thursday.
“I had a stroke last August; getting up each morning to see my horses keeps me going,” said Gregory, 78.
Gregory and his wife Nancy, the co-owner and co-breeder of the horse, live in Playa del Rey.
Gregory retired after spending 40 years as a veterinarian in Woodland Hills and Calabasas.
“I was born and raised in Kentucky and always wanted to be a horse trainer since I was knee-high to a duck,” said Gregory. “We always had show horses but my father said, ‘No, you’re not going to be a horse trainer. We want you to be a vet.’”
The dutiful son spent four years in college at Kentucky and four more at Auburn before earning his degree in veterinary medicine. “On graduation day, I asked my father why I couldn’t be a track veterinarian, and he said, ‘There’s a bad element on the racetrack,’” recalled Gregory. “I said, ’Dad, there’s a bad element everywhere.’”
After retirement, Gregory finally got his wish, learned the basics from trainer Gary Lewis and took out his trainer’s license eight years ago. When a mare Lewis trained named Spanish Gypsy was injured, she was given to the Gregorys, who bred her to Fruition.
The resulting foal was named Charlie’sboywins for Bill’s father. Making his seventh start, he won a seven-furlong race Thursday under Kerwin John to make Charlie’s boy Bill mighty happy.
Gregory also trains Philly Slew, a 5-year-old.
MALIBU PIER ALL IN THE FAMILY FOR BLANC
French-born jockey Brice Blanc practically salivated at the chance to ride Spendthrift Farm’s Malibu Pier in her last start in the Santa Barbara Handicap, which she won at Santa Anita last month.
Blanc had ridden the filly’s dam, the French-bred Blue Moon, to victory in the 2002 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita for owner B. Wayne Hughes, and found the similarities of mother and daughter striking.
“They looked like twins,” said Blanc Sunday as he prepared to ride the 4-year-old filly again in the $250,000 Grade I Gamely Stakes Monday. “I have the pictures of both winning, and their stride, everything looks just alike.
“I went to Spendthrift Farm last year to visit Blue Moon,” added Blanc. “She had another foal, a sister to Malibu Pier, who looks just like her too.”
Trainer A.C. Avila hopes to spring an upset in the Gamely with Celtic Princess, a 7-year-old Brazilian-bred mare who will be making her first start since winning her California debut in an optional claimer on the Santa Anita turf December 30.
“She came out of the race with a tibia fracture,” explained Avila of the time off. “But she’s been training great.’’
PUYPE EXPECTS SUPREME EFFORT
Trainer Mike Puype expects Supreme Summit to close powerfully in the six-furlong $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap Monday.
“We’re trying to get to the Triple Bend Handicap,” said Puype Sunday of the seven-furlong Grade I $250,000 test July 2.
“He caught a sloppy track at Santa Anita and then ran on the grass there,” said Puype of a sixth-place finish in the San Carlos Handicap and a third in the San Simeon Handicap in two previous outings this year.
“Now he’s back where he belongs, on synthetic sprinting,” said Puype of the 5-year-old horse, who drew post six in a field of seven with Rafael Bejarano.
FINISH LINES—Lilly Fa Pootz worked six furlongs in 1:15.40 for the $70,000-added Redondo Beach Stakes, in which she will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano. Other probable starters in the mile grass test for fillies and mares include Andina (Victor Espinoza), Bella Swan (Brice Blanc), Miss Pleasant (Chantal Sutherland), Talktoomuch (Joe Talamo), Tanda (Joel Rosario) and Ninth Infantry…Trainer Richard Mandella said that Meryn LeRoy Handicap winner Crown of Thorns will probably make his next start in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs June 18…Jockey Corey Nakatani is shifting his tack to Arlington Park in Chicago…Cambina worked five furlongs on turf in 1:01.20 for the Honeymoon Handicap June 11…Bourbon Bay drilled seven panels on turf in 1:27.80 for the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 11…Ryehill Dreamer, winner of the American Handicap Saturday, and Sidney’s Candy, who finished a nose back in second, are expected to resume their rivalry in the $250,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile July 2…A memorial service for jockey Michael Baze is scheduled here immediately after the races Thursday. The tribute will be held in the Sunset Room…Happy birthday to trainer John Shirreffs, who turns 66 Wednesday.
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