Eblouissante, who was scratched from Saturday’s fourth race following an incident in the receiving barn, has apparently avoided serious injury.
The 3-year-old half-sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta appeared fine Sunday, according to trainer John Shirreffs.
“She’s good this morning,” said a relieved Shirreffs. “It was a contusion or abrasion. It took some hair off and it’s bruised. We’re treating it topically now. We iced it about four or five times (Saturday). She’s walking good on it so we’re going to take her out and train her and see how she handles it.”
Shirreffs explained how the accident happened. “The horses go to the receiving barn and the man says put your horses in the stalls,’’ he said. “They come out of the stalls in post position order, and sometimes they get a little anxious because they see the horse leaving in front of them. Sometimes they want to come out of the door a little more on the muscle than they should. She didn’t jump through the door or anything, she just wiggled through the side and leaned a thousand pounds into her hip on the edge of the door. She bruised it pretty good.”
“I called the vet over because when she came out of the door, she didn’t want to put her foot down. She bruised it, so it was stinging her a little bit. We walked her a couple of steps and she wasn’t walking properly. That’s when I asked the vet to come over and take a look at her and said to scratch her.”
MALDONADO POISED FOR FIRST MAJOR RIDING TITLE
A year ago, few knew who Edwin Maldonado was. Now, with 11 races left in the Betfair Hollywood Park Autumn meeting, the native of San Juan, Puerto Rico is on the verge of capturing his first major Southern California riding crown.
Maldonado, who turned 30 Dec. 1, has 25 winners, three more than Rafael Bejarano heading into the closing day program.
Maldonado and his agent, Vic Lipton, present a tale of redemption fit for the holiday season.
As is the story of most “overnight sensations,” Maldonado actually began riding in 2002. He got his first victory in August of that year at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Canada before becoming a regular on the Louisiana circuit (Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, Louisiana Downs, Fair Grounds). The rider recalls finishing “fourth or fifth in the standings a couple of times.”
In September, 2010, Maldonado traveled to Fairplex Park, where he hooked up with veteran jockey agent Lipton. The pair teamed for five wins from 44 mounts on the bullring. They struggled at Oak Tree with just one win and picked up another five victories at the Betfair Hollywood Park Autumn meet.
As 2011 rolled in, Maldonado was getting on more horses, but his win percentage didn’t improve. He went 10-for-157 at Santa Anita and 12-for-121 at Hollywood Park. At that point, the wheels were starting to come off.
“After that meet at Hollywood Park, Vic had some personal problems and that’s why I left him,” explained Maldonado. In four meetings the rest of the year, Maldonado went 18-for-206.
“After I split with Vic, I went through two agents, but nothing clicked. My business was really going down fast and for a time during Santa Anita this year, I didn’t have an agent for two weeks. “One morning I was working horses for Jorge Periban and he told me he has an agent in mind for me.” Unbeknownst to Maldonado, Periban had told Lipton earlier that he has a rider Vic might want to take. “Jorge didn’t know that Vic had been my agent before,’’ said Maldonado.
“So when we arrived in Jorge’s barn and met face to face, we both laughed. We talked for a while and a week later he took my book.”
From there, both rider and agent described what happed next as “magic.”
“What Edwin and I created is a miracle,” said Lipton. At the beginning of this year we were two dead men walking. I was very sick for a while, but I cured myself.”
Lipton credits his belief in “theoretical quantum physics” as the reason he was able to get healthy. “I truly believe that anything’s possible and that we’re setting an example,” said Lipton. “Not a day goes by that we’re not urged on by grooms, hotwalkers, everyone on the backstretch.”
“Vic is a believer,” concurred Maldonado. “He believes it can be done. It’s really amazing. We started from zero—nothing. I’ve always worked hard and have been dedicated, but you can work hard and you won’t get results without focus. When Vic and I got together again, I was really focused.”
“All of the sudden, we started winning, and the pieces just came together.”
Indeed, whatever force was with them, the winners started coming. In their first full meeting back together, Maldonado won 25 races at the Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer stand, took another 24 at Del Mar, then did the unthinkable at Fairplex Park by unseating Martin Pedroza, who had captured 13 consecutive riding titles at the Fair.
What makes Maldonado’s rise so improbable is the lack of a big barn. “We ride for everyone,” said Maldonado. “It’s true that I have been riding some for Doug O’Neill, but he likes to spread it around. We’re hoping as we go along that more of the big barns will ride us.”
Though Maldonado has the advantage going into the meet’s final day, he is by no means a slam dunk to win the title. Bejarano had a triple Saturday, while Maldonado blanked. Bejarano has eight mounts Sunday, while Maldonado has seven, and the former is on four morning line favorites.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s been a dream-come-true meeting for the rider. “This has been unbelievable,” said a humble Maldonado. “It’s still sinking in.”
VIOLENCE, GRANDEUR RETURN IN GOOD SHAPE AFTER STAKES WINS
Violence, who remained undefeated following an impressive victory in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 CashCall Futurity, emerged from the victory in good shape, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He cooled out real nice and is on a plane heading for Palm Meadows (in Florida),’’ Pletcher said by phone Sunday morning. “He left at 2:00 this morning.”
On the same plane were the D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Optimizer and Oxbow. Optimizer finished third in the Grade II, $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, while Oxbow checked in fourth in the CashCall Futurity.
Paddy Gallagher reported that Turf Cup winner Grandeur “seems fine this morning.”
“He’s about the same,’’ said Gallagher. “The horse is so laid back. He’ll be leaving for a quarantine facility in a day or two. He’s going back to Europe, so he’ll need 30 days in quarantine.”
CLOSING STRIDES— Heading into closing day, favorites have won 54 of 146 races (37%) over Cushion Track and 22 of 58 races (38%) over turf… Bob Baffert has a stranglehold on his third Autumn training title. He has 17 victories, four more than Doug O’Neill and John Sadler …….The six two-time winners at the meet are Siempre Esperanza, Doinghardtimeagain, Tribal Custom, A Toe by Three, Flashy Delight and Bluegrass Reward. None are entered closing day…….The Hollywood Park Casino will be available for simulcast wagering Dec. 17-20. With Los Alamitos and Cal Expo offering daytime racing Friday, Dec. 21 -23, the Players Club at Betfair Hollywood Park will be open for those two tracks, plus Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Hawthorne, Tampa Bay Downs and Turf Paradise.
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