Trainer Alexis Barba hopes for a smoother trip with Alphie’s Bet in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park Saturday than the colt had in his last start in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
“He just had a rough trip; he ran a mile and a quarter,” said Barba from a stand overlooking the backstretch on a cool Wednesday morning in reference to a sixth-place finish after being carried very wide in the 1 1/8-mile race.
Alphie’s Bet, winner of the Grade III Sham Stakes in his previous start at 1 1/8 miles in March, hopes to make amends in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief for 3-year-olds. The Snow Chief is the feature race of the California Gold Rush, a program featuring eight stakes restricted to California-breds worth $860,000 in purses.
Barba named Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to replace Alex Solis aboard Alphie’s Bet. Solis, who has shifted his tack to Kentucky, rode the colt in his last five starts. Smith rode him in his first two.
Alphie’s Bet, by Tribal Rule out of the Candi’s Gold mare Miss Alphie, has won two of six starts and earned $141,320 for co-owners Peter Johnson and breeder Teresa McWilliams of Montecito.
Alphie’s Bet drew post two in a field of eight under high weight of 124 pounds.
Barba’s recent attention has been divided between Alphie’s Bet and Make Music For Me, another stakes-winning 3-year-old colt who is at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby bubble for May 1.
“He’s two away from getting in,” said Barba who is on the outside looking in at the projected 20-horse lineup with $218,000 in graded earnings.
“If he doesn’t get in, he will run in the $175,000 American Turf the day before,” said Barba. “Either way, Joel Rosario will ride.’’
“I have to catch a plane Saturday noon in order to see Make Music For Me work Sunday morning,” said Barba, disappointed she will not be here for the Snow Chief. “Patty Johnson will saddle Alphie’s Bet.’’
Alphie’s Bet was expected to vie for favoritism with Caracortado, another graded stakes winner, but trainer Mike Machowsky elected to skip the Snow Chief. “He’d be running back in three weeks and would have to carry 124 pounds,” explained Machowsky. “We’re considering the Preakness or a race at Monmouth.”
Other six-figure stakes on the Gold Rush card are the $150,000 Melair for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, the $125,000 Tiznow at 7 ½ furlongs and the $125,000 B. Thoughtful for fillies and mares at 7 ½ furlongs.
COMPARI SEEKS SEVENTH STRAIGHT IN INGLEWOOD
Trainer Marty Jones hopes that April 25 agrees as well with Compari this year as it did in 2009.
On that date last year, Compari rose to prominence with a victory in the Snow Chief Stakes. The 4-year-old gelding has not lost since and will put a six-race winning streak on the line Sunday in the $100,000-guaranteed Grade III Inglewood Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
“We want to see how he runs on the grass here,” explained Jones. “If he likes it, he will probably run back in the Shoemaker.” The $250,000 Shoemaker Mile, a grassy Grade 1, will be run on May 31.
Compari, by Redattore out of the Dixieland Band mare Southern Charm, became a graded stakes winner in his last start, setting all the pace to win the Grade II Arcadia Handicap on the Santa Anita turf in 1:34.03 for one mile on April 3.
Compari has won six of seven starts and earned $422,640 for co-owners and co-breeders John Harris, Don Valpredo and John Nicoletti.
He will carry high weight of 120 pounds and be ridden by Garrett Gomez.
Other probable starters include Acclamation, Joseph Talamo, 116; Gallant Son, no rider, 115; Great Siege, Victor Espinoza, 114; Lease of Life, Tyler Baze, 114; Dark Islander, Joel Rosario, 113; and Glowing Praise, Brice Blanc, 112.
A list of possibles is headed by Aitcho (115) and Riviera Cocktail (115). Aitcho worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 Wednesday on Cushion Track.
PERDOMO RETURNS TO TRAINING IN CALIFORNIA
Trainer Pico Perdomo, best known for conditioning Gourmet Girl to an Eclipse Award as champion older female in 2001, has returned to training locally after an eventful seven-year hiatus.
“I traveled all over the world, but I’m happy to be here,” said Perdomo as he walked from Barn 63 South—the same barn he occupied before he left in 2003—to watch some of his horses gallop on the main track.
Perdomo, who maintained a home in nearby Mar Vista, initially traveled to his native Uruguay, where he worked primarily as a bloodstock agent.
“I have family in Montevideo, but I also traveled to Argentina and Brazil to buy horses,” said Perdomo.
“I sold some in England, Macao and Dubai,” said the international globetrotter. “I also owned some horses that I raced in Montevideo under the name Blue Diamond. I bought four 2-year-olds in Argentina that I raced and won about 45 races with them over two or three years.”
Perdomo, 68, explained that the collapse of the global economy two years ago forced him to make another career change. “I was hired by Prince Faisal in Saudi Arabia in 2009 and won about 40 races for him,” said Perdomo.
That assignment was interrupted suddenly last September. “One day I was feeling real bad at 3 in the morning and called my assistant to take me to the hospital in Riyadh,” said Perdomo. “I had a heart attack and they did emergency surgery, a triple bypass.”
After he recovered, Perdomo returned home in November, went back to Uruguay for 45 days earlier this year and came home for good to resume his training career on the Southern California circuit.
“It’s a little different game here,” said Perdomo, who regained his license three weeks ago. “There were 27 new rules that I had to study before I took my test. There is the new synthetic track. And I see less horses. It’s not like it used to be.”
But some things never change. Hope always spring eternal. “When my new horses came out of the trailer, a groom put a filly by Cee’s Tizzy in the same corner stall that Gourmet Girl had by coincidence,” said Perdomo. “I looked and said, ’That’s a good omen.’”
The filly, named Cee’s The Year, is one of six unraced two-year-olds that Perdomo is training for owners Ron and Barbara Perry of Montana. They also own a 4-year-old gelding, Atticus Pomponius, and a 3-year-old colt, Duplo Rapido, who should be his first starters in a few weeks. He projects that the 2-year-olds will begin to surface in June. He also plans to buy more 2-year-olds for the couple at the Barretts Sale on May 10.
ZENYATTA GALLOPS; VANITY UNDER CONSIDERATION
“The Big Z,” said trainer John Shirreffs to exercise rider Steve Willard aboard Zenyatta as the trio headed back to Barn 55 South following a gallop on the adjacent training track.
“She’s the bestest in the westest,” quipped Willard of the superstar 6-year-old mare.
The Z got bigger and in the eyes of many grew to the “bestest” anywhere after her 16th race without defeat in the Apple Blossom Invitational Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 9, pushing her earnings over $5.9-million.
Shirreffs said he and owners Jerry and Ann Moss are still undecided about Zenyatta’s next start. “We’ll see what the weights are,” said Shirreffs. “We’re thinking about the Vanity right now.” Winner of the Grade I Vanity Handicap here the last two years, Zenyatta could become the first horse to win the prestigious race three times when the $250,000 stake is run here on June 13 at 1 1/8 miles.
Shirreffs also took photos of some new arrivals at his barn, including his first 2-year-old by Giacomo, his Kentucky Derby winner in 2005.
PERUVIAN APPRENTICE CHAMPION TO BEGIN RIDING HERE
Johnny Gihua, the leading apprentice jockey in Peru last year with 42 wins,
will begin riding here immediately, according to agent George Ortuzar.
“He got here last week and when I brought him here the first time, he said, ‘Wow, this is Hollywood Park. I saw it at home on TV.”
Gihua, 24, is a graduate of the Jorge Bernardini Yori apprentice jockey school in Lima and hopes to follow in the footsteps of summa cum laude alumni Edgar Prado, Rafael Bejarano and Alan Garcia, all of whom have gone on to stardom in the United States.
“Bejarano encouraged him to come over and will be a good mentor for him,” said Ortuzar. “Johnny has worked horses for Doug O’Neill and Julio Canani. He weighs 103 pounds and is excited to be here.” Gihua will have a five-pound weight allowance until September 26.
KINSALE KING READYING FOR ENGLAND
Trainer Carl O’Callaghan was aboard Kinsale King, wearing a Dubai saddle cloth, as he walked along the backstretch like a stable pet.
Still ebullient after Kinsale King’s win in the Golden Shaheen Stakes—the only win by an American horse during the Dubai international festival in March—O’Callaghan said the 4-year-old gelding would seek to become a graded stakes winner on three continents when he makes his next start at Royal Ascot in England in June.
“I’m going to work him on the grass here next Thursday,” said O’Callaghan of the winner of the Vernon Underwood Stakes here last December and the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita in January.
“Then on May 15, we’re going to Michael Dickinson’s farm back east and work him twice on Tapeta,” continued. “Then we plan to ship to England on June 2 for the race at Royal Ascot on June 19.”
O’Callaghan said that Garrett Gomez would ride him back in England. He added that two objectives later in the year are the Hong Kong Sprint and Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.
FINISH LINES—Rail Trip, winner of the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup, worked seven furlongs in 1:26.60 for a probable return in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 8…Chocolate Candy worked one mile in 1:41.60 for the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30…Kerwin John has returned to the jockey colony for the first time in two years after riding last year at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania and last winter in his native Virgin Islands. Brandon O’Bryan handles his book…Craig O’Bryan, Brandon’s father and agent for David Flores, said that Flores would work American Lion for the Kentucky Derby Monday morning at Churchill and remain there for the week. Flores will also ride Zardana, who upset Rachel Alexandra in the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes on March 13 at the Fair Grounds, in the $400,000 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard on April 30.
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