Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol The Latest Thoroughbred Owners

Stable Notes
Posted 04.25.12 at 2:12

Trainer Doug O'Neill. © Benoit Photo

Social media sites were buzzing Wednesday night with the news that Los Angeles Laker stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol purchased their first Thoroughbred.

“How exciting is that?,” said an excited Doug O’Neill, who has trained Siempre Mio for all five of his starts and will continue to handle the 4-year-old gelding for the new partnership.

“Mark Verge donated a quarter of Siempre Mio to the Laker Foundation and he’s friends with Jeanie Buss, who invited us to the charity dinner. Pau Gasol bid first, but then he and Kobe got into a little bit of a bidding war. Kobe won the bidding at $8,000. Afterwards, Mark went up to Pau and asked him if he wanted to buy into the horse, too and pretty soon Mike Sullivan also ended up buying in. So they wound up raising $24,000 for the charity and we got some new people into the game. This should be a lot of fun.”

“Part of the deal is that the new owners pay no bills, so these guys get the experience of owning the horse and not the burden of patience and bills,” O’Neill added. “I talked to Jeanie Buss about making Laker silks and she said ‘just make them, and we’ll use them as long as the legal team passes them. We’re going to design kind of Laker jersey silks.”

“Pau (Gasol) was really excited. He told me he loves horses and it was just a matter of time before he bought a race horse. Kobe can’t wait to see him run, barring playoff conflicts. I don’t have anything picked out for him yet, but there will probably be a race for him in the second (condition) book.”

Siempre Mio, a son of Dixie Union out of St. Kilda, has started five times, winning twice and finishing second once. The bay won his most recent start March 31st, capturing a $25,000 claimer at Santa Anita.

PAT VALENZUELA ENDS RETIREMENT, WILL RIDE ACCLAMATION IN FRIDAY’S INGLEWOOD ‘CAP

In a move that comes as no surprise to many, Pat Valenzuela will resume his career when Betfair Hollywood Park begins its 50-day run Thursday and step into the spotlight aboard Eclipse Award winner Acclamation in Friday night’s Inglewood Handicap.

The 49-year-old Colorado native last rode November 13th at Hollywood Park. After not honoring his engagements the next two days, Valenzuela announced his retirement shortly thereafter, citing gall bladder surgery and weight issues. According to agent Tom Knust, Valenzuela passed two blood tests at the time, but was fined $1,000 for taking off his mounts without contacting the stewards.

“He’s been getting on horses for a couple of weeks now and feels great,” said Knust. Pat hired a personal trainer and changed his diet, and it’s made a big difference. “He worked Acclamation a mile in 1:38 and change last week.” Knust added that the rider met with the stewards recently and was cleared to ride with the same ‘test anytime’ provision in effect.

Valenzuela has been named on a pair of first time starters Thursday; Family and Friends for Eddie Truman in the 6th race, and Jilly Baylee for Steve Knapp in the 8th. In addition to Acclamation in Friday’s 3rd, he’s scheduled to pilot Devils Afleet for Robertino Diodoro in the 4th, Silent Sue (Walter Solis) in the 7th, and It’s Time to Go (Don Warren) in the 9th..

In related news, Tyler Baze will meet with the Los Alamitos stewards Saturday in an effort to be reinstated. A conflict of interest prevents the Hollywood Park stewards from intervening in the process. Baze was suspended last summer at Del Mar after failing to show up for a scheduled breathalyzer test. He is currently enrolled in the Winner’s Foundation substance abuse treatment program.

ROSARIO AND BEJARANO BACK AT IT AGAIN

To say that Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano have dominated the Southern California rider standings over the last few years would be a gross understatement.

The two riders have led the rider standings 21 straight meetings at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar since 2008. Rosario has captured 11 titles, with Bejarano right behind at 10.

One thing Rosario, 27, has over his longtime foe is a recent dominance at Betfair Hollywood Park. The Dominican-born rider has taken 6 of the last 7 meetings in Inglewood, with his lone blemish the 2010 Oak Tree at Hollywood Park session, which was won by Bejarano.

When he hasn’t finished on top of the standings, 29-year-old Bejarano, originally from Peru, has almost always completed the exacta.

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER SET FOR FINALCALIFORNIA WORKOUT BEFORE KY DERBY

Paul and Zillah Reddam’s I’ll Have Another, game winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, will have his final California workout Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park before his next start in the Kentucky Derby. The Flower Alley colt is scheduled to leave for Churchill Downs Saturday.

“He’ll work 6 furlongs with a strong gallop out and fly out Saturday morning,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. O’Neill, who sent The Black ahead to Kentucky to run in the Derby Trial Stakes Saturday, also stated that multiple stakes winner-turned-stable-pony Lava Man, along with stablemates Handsome Mike and Tones, will accompany I’ll Have Another on the flight.

MYSTERY SOLVED; WARREN FINALLY FINDS REASON FOR ACCLAMATION’S INFIRMITY

Acclamation, who trainer Don Warren calls “the most exciting horse I’ve ever been around,” finally makes it back to the races Friday night after a mysterious foot injury kept him out of the Breeders’ Cup.

“We knew something was wrong with his foot, but we never really found out what it was,” explained Warren. “We shod him the other day and discovered an old bruise that finally got to the surface. It wasn’t bothering him any more, but we cleaned it out and at least we know now what it was.”

“It’s a shame that we weren’t able to compete in the Breeders’ Cup because he was really at the top of his game. We sure would like to get another shot at it this year because this time they’re bringing it to us.”

The trainer was referring to the fact that last year’s Breeders’ Cup was held at Churchill Downs and the 2012 Breeders’ Cup will be at Santa Anita. Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011, has not fared well outside California.

“I think I’ve got him pretty close right now,” added Warren. “He worked really well the other day for Pat (Valenzuela). The main thing I’m worried about is rain. I sure hope the race stays on turf, but we’d consider running him on Cushion Track because his next start would be the Whittingham (Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 9) and the timing is perfect.”

DRYSDALE HIGH ON OMAYAD, WHO MAKES AMERICAN DEBUT FRIDAY

Neil Drysdale, who has had more than his share of turf stakes winners through the years, might have another good one on his hands in Chilean bred Omayad, who makes his American debut Friday night.

The 4-year-old displayed freakish-type ability in his homeland, prompting the trackman to comment “much the best” in four of his graded stakes victories. Overall, Omayad won his first seven starts, in distances ranging from 5 furlongs to 1 1-4 miles, all on turf. His streak came to an end with a close second in the Chilean Derby in November and he was shipped stateside to Drysdale shortly thereafter.

“I saw him on a visit to South America last year and I was impressed,” said Drysdale. “I watched the replay of all his races and it’s evident he’s a talented individual. He’s trained very well, but you have to factor in the variables of his first start in this country and racing at night for the first time.”

Joel Rosario, who rode the Drysdale-trained Bourbon Bay to a nose victory in the San Juan Capistano closing day at Santa Anita, has the assignment..

CLOSING STRIDES —American Act and Koast have been installed the 2-1 and 5-2 respective morning line favorites in the opening day Harry Henson Stakes at 6 furlongs on turf. American Act defeated Kentucky Derby favorite Bodemeister in a maiden special weight and came right back to lose by a nose to Grade 1 winner Drill in the San Vicente Stakes. Koast is unbeaten in two starts on turf and lands top rider Joel Rosario …….Vice President of Racing Martin Panza reports that he’s pleasantly surprised the stable area is close to full capacity. “Between the two tracks (Betfair Hollywood Park and Santa Anita), there are between 2,800 and 2,900 horses, which is about the same as last year,” said Panza. “We’ve strengthened our 2-year-old program this year. In the past we’ve carded turf maiden races sporadically, but we’re going to make an effort to run more of those. Hopefully we can get more participation in juvenile stakes later in the meeting.”………Joining The Black in the starting gate for Saturday’s Derby Trial at Churchill will be Paynter, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby. Paynter is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Martin Garcia …….Agent Richie Silverstein passed along that Martin Pedroza , injured in a spill April 14th, will be back in the saddle Saturday with “4 or 5 mounts,” including Santa Anita Oaks winner Willa B. Awesome in the Melair Stakes……Several stakes horses worked at Hollywood Park Sunday, including Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie (5 f 1:02), Citation Handicap winner Jeranimo (5 f 100.40), likely Melair Stakes favorite Willa B. Awesome (5 f 1:00.60) and multiple stakes winner Unzip Me, who breezed 5 furlongs on turf around the “dogs” in 1:04.40……..Opening day is the first of “Free Box Seat Thursdays.”.……..Friday night, Pepper will open the “Friday Night Live” concert series. The San Diego-based band will play in the North Park following the races. The concerts are included for admission of $10, or $20 after 8:30 p.m……..Daily Racing Form correspondent Steve Andersen will be Kurt Hoover’s guest on the first Inside Scoop of the Spring/Summer meet Saturday, April 28 at Betfair
4/4/4/4

Hollywood Park. Andersen and Hoover will discuss several of the races on the California Gold Rush program, including the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes and the $300,000 Melair Stakes. The Inside Scoop begins at 12 Noon at the Paddock Tote Board.

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