The last time Gary Stevens rode at Betfair Hollywood Park, he guided Alphabet Kisses to victory in the 2005 A Gleam Invitational Handicap.
“I didn’t know that,’’ said Stevens in response to the information.
Alphabet Kisses is long retired, but Stevens is in the midst of a highly successful comeback which began in January and continues over the Memorial Day weekend. The biggest of the mounts for the Hall of Famer is the Tom Proctor-trained Marketing Mix in the Grade I, $250,000 Gamely Stakes.
Stevens, 50, has won the Gamely on three occasions – Northern Aspen (1987), Metamorphose (1992) and Donna Viola (1997) and is on a contender in this year’s renewal.
Marketing Mix won the Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes last Sept. 29 at Santa Anita and returned to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf a month later.
“I worked (Marketing Mix) at Keeneland about a month and a half ago and I can’t wait to get on her back,” said Stevens.
The six-time Betfair Hollywood Park riding champion has been deluged with reporters’ questions since his surprise victory aboard Oxbow in last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
“I’ve done loads of interviews since Saturday,” remarked Stevens, who has spent the last couple of days recharging on the golf course.
“It’s good to be back home. I’m definitely sticking around Southern California. I’ll ride the rest of the (Spring/Summer) meet, then move on to Del Mar.”
In addition to Marketing Mix, agent Craig O’Bryan has booked Stevens to ride Purim’s Dancer – also for Proctor – in the $70,000 Great Lady M. Stakes Sunday and Tiz Tee Time for trainer Cody Autry in the Grade III, $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap, also on Monday’s Memorial Day Card. Tiz Tee Time won an optional claimer by 2 ½ lengths April 13 at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start.
BAFFERT REMEMBERS RICHARD LIES
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has nothing but fond memories of Richard Lies, who passed away Monday at the age of 71 following a lengthy illness.
Lies, who retired from training in the mid 2000’s, had several ventures, but especially loved his job at Del Mar, where he worked as an usher for many years.
“I got to know him real well down there,” said Baffert. “He worked in the area (around our box). He always rooted for me and was always upbeat. He just enjoyed life.”
It wasn’t a secret that Lies had a favorite horse. “He absolutely loved Richard’s Kid,” recalled Baffert. “When I wasn’t training him anymore, I gave Richard his halter.”
John Lies, one of Richard’s four children and the track announcer at Lone Star Park, looked forward every summer to Del Mar, where he could spend some time with his father.
Baffert’s final conversation with Richard Lies concerned his son.
“When I found out he was sick, I called him,” revealed Baffert. “One of the last things he said to me was ‘be good to my kid.’”
STAKES STARS ON WORK TAB
Several stakes performers recorded workouts over the last few days, including Bob Baffert-trained Grade I winners, Game On Dude and Liaison.
Game On Dude, who won last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup, is on a four-race win streak. An earner of $4.7 million, Game On Dude went a leisurely half-mile in :50 3/5 seconds May 20 at Santa Anita.
“He just started breezing,” relayed Baffert. “He won’t run in the (Grade II, $150,000) Californian (June 1), but I think he’ll be ready for the ($500,000, Grade I Hollywood) Gold Cup (July 6).’’
Liaison, winner of the Grade I CashCall Futurity in 2011, recently captured the Grade II Mervyn Leroy Handicap and is scheduled to return in the Californian. The Indian Charlie colt worked six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 Tuesday.
Also on the work tab for Baffert was Drill, who was timed in a best of the morning 47 3/5 for a half mile May 20 at Santa Anita. Drill is entered in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 American Handicap at one mile on turf.
Other notable workers included Majestic City, (five furlongs in 59 3/5 on Cushion Track), expected to start in the Monday’s Grade III, $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap; Lady of Shamrock, who went seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5 in preparation for Monday’s Grade I, $250,000 Gamely Stakes; Time to Leave Stakes winner Teddy’s Promise, who worked a half-mile in :49 2/5; Melair Stakes winner Doinghardtimeagain, four furlongs in :51 2/5; and Schiaparelli, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 for Sunday’s Great Lady M. Stakes.
ESPINOZA ZEROING IN ON 3,000; ELLIS FIVE SHY OF 1,000
With a victory aboard Heat Trap in Sunday’s ninth race, Victor Espinoza is now three shy of 3,000 career wins.
Espinoza, who turns 41 today, will ride Foxy Boss for trainer Jim Cassidy in the fifth race and Warren’s Joe T for Jorge Gutierrez in the eighth.
The Mexico City native also has two scheduled rides Friday; Nevada City (Mike Harrington) in the opener and Iconic Spirit (John Sadler) in the fourth.
Trainer Ron Ellis, who won the Cool Frenchy Stakes with Teddy’s Promise May 4, is five victories away from 1,000 for his career.
ESCOGIENDO GANADORES, `INSIDER SEMINARS RETURN SATURDAY
Veteran jockey Agapito Delgadillo will be the guest of co-hosts Michael Burns and George Ortuzar at the next Escogiendo Ganadores (Picking Winners) session Saturday, May 25.
During the Spanish-language seminar, Delgadillo, Burns and Ortuzar will discuss the Betfair Hollywood Park card, including the $150,000 American Handicap, a Grade II for older horses at one mile on turf.
Escogiendo Ganadores will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Paddock Tote Board.
Also returning Saturday is the Hollywood Insider. One of the on-air personalities from
Television Games Network (TVG) will play host for the seminar, which begins at 12 Noon at the same location.
Handicapping tips, insights and other last minute information will be offered on the afternoon’s races.
CLOSING STRIDES—Doug O’Neill celebrates his 45th birthday tomorrow. The trainer’s only starter is Conkate in the seventh race……Betfair Hollywood Park begins a five-day racing week Thursday, which culminates with a special Memorial Day card Monday………..Jockey Garrett Gomez has picked up the mount on Halo’s Dolly in Monday’s Grade I Gamely Stakes. Gomez came open when Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella decided not to ship Jimmy Creed to New York……Apprentice Gonzalo Nicolas, who won with three of his first 12 mounts at Los Alamitos, makes his Betfair Hollywood Park debut Friday when he rides Sofos Quick Logic in the third race……Pick 6 Saturday returns this week. In addition to a guaranteed $150,000 pool, a single winning ticket purchased at Betfair Hollywood Park or through Television Games Network (TVG) receives a brand new Toyota Prius, courtesy of Toyota of Orange……Jockey Joe Steiner, who has been representing himself, will be handled by veteran agent Ivan Puhich beginning June 1…….Entering Thursday, 23 people remain alive in the $2,500 winner-take-all Show Me the Money Contest.
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