“He’s doing really well,” Bob Baffert said by telephone from his Santa Anita base Sunday morning in an update on Liaison, who gave the Hall of Fame trainer a record sixth victory in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park Saturday.
Liaison, recording his third straight victory under jockey Rafael Bejarano, hopes to follow in the giant footsteps of Baffert’s five previous winners—Real Quiet, Captain Steve, Point Given, Pioneerof the Nile and Lookin at Lucky—who collectively went on to earn a Horse of the Year title and three Eclipse Awards while capturing one Kentucky Derby, three Preakness Stakes, one Belmont Stakes, one Dubai World Cup, one Hollywood Gold Cup and two Santa Anita Derbies, among others.
Baffert said Liaison, a son of Indian Charlie owned by Arnold Zetcher, would probably resurface at Santa Anita. “Nothing definite yet,” said Baffert. “We all need to sit down and see how he’s doing. He’s on the Derby program.”
Baffert also has several other promising colts on the Triple Crown trail, including Sky Kingdom and Drill, the fourth and ninth-place finishers, respectively, in the Futurity.
“They all came back in good shape,” said Baffert, who also has Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle and Hollywood Prevue Stakes winner So Brilliant in his barn.
The Futurity, continuing to serve as an important barometer for future greatness, also showed the significance of prep races at the same distance over this track. Liaison and Rousing Sermon, who finished a neck back, finished in the same order in the Real Quiet Stakes prep at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track a month earlier. A week earlier, Killer Graces and Charm the Maker finished one-two in the $402,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes for fillies, reversing the order of their finish in the Sharp Cat Stakes prep.
Trainer Mike Mitchell could not have thought of a better way to conclude 2011 than to win the Hollywood Park Autumn Meet crown, which he clinched with two firsts Saturday.
“It was just a great way to wrap up things,” said Mitchell Sunday as he took an insurmountable 18-15 lead over Doug O’Neill and Bob Baffert into the final program of the 26-day session.
“It’s been such a terrific year, I wouldn’t have been sad if I didn’t win the meet,” said Mitchell, who has won more than 100 races while clicking at a better than .333 winning average.
“I’ve gotten clients I wouldn’t have because of those numbers,” said Mitchell. “You get those calls the more you win. If you run horses where they belong, you have a chance for those numbers.”
One of those new clients, William J. Sims, was a winner in the sixth race Saturday with McKenzies Way, a 3-year-old colt who won a $48,000 allowance race at 6 ½ furlongs in his first start for Mitchell.
“Pacific Ocean won the Underwood (Stakes November 26) in his first start for new clients,” said Mitchell of another highlight during a meet in which he passed Charlie Whittingham for the number two position in career wins at Hollywood Park, where he trails only Bobby Frankel.
“New clients and old clients,” said Mitchell, not overlooking those who have remained faithful through the years. “Give credit to the old clients who got us here.”
Mitchell won his third Autumn Meet crown but first since 1996. He has also led the Spring/Summer Meet standings four times. Mitchell will send out five starters on the final card in an attempt to add to his numbers.
Jockey Joel Rosario holds a 35-31 lead over arch-rival Rafael Bejarano entering the final program of the 26-day Autumn Meet Sunday. Bejarano has eight mounts in the finale, Rosario seven.
Rosario is approaching records in Inglewood not seen in a quarter of a century. The 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic seeks his third straight Autumn crown and sixth in a row at Hollywood Park, including the last three Spring/Summer titles.
The marks are the best since retired Hall of Famer Chris McCarron won five straight Autumn championships from 1981-85 and nine Hollywood Park titles overall from 1980-84.
Rosario seeks his fourth victory in five stops on the major Southern California circuit this year and 10th in 14 during the past three years.
“It means a lot to my career,” said Rosario Sunday. “I’m just happy to be working every day and to be here at Hollywood Park, one of the greatest tracks in America.”
Rosario credited agent Ron Ebanks for putting him on winners that have generated more than $15-million in purse earnings for the year.
Rosario’s meet has been highlighted by $100,000 Grade III stakes wins on Pacific Ocean in the Vernon Underwood Stakes in the fastest six furlongs of the year here, 1:08.48, and Stoney Fleece in the Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds on turf.
“We’re riding for everybody and especially John Sadler,” said Rosario, giving special thanks for the trainer who has put him on many of his winners including Stoney Fleece.
FINISH LINES: Hollywood Park will reopen in 2012 for a Spring/Summer Meet from April 26 -July 15…For his final finish line, long-time Hollywood Park Stable Notes author Steve Schuelein announces his retirement from that post at the conclusion of this meet.
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