- Interesting comment by trainer Mel Stute, the 80-year old So Cal-based trainer who, as one might expect from a grizzled old-timer, is opposed to synthetic tracks. In fact, he was pissed the other day when one of his horses broke down at Hollywood after having been shipped there to work due to the unavailability of the surface at Santa Anita. "I hope [Richard] Shapiro's happy," he said, referring to the CHRB chairman who advocated the mandatory installation of synthetics in California. Of course, the trainer was understandably emotional, and overlooked the fact that Hollywood has Cushion Track too.
Anyway, Stute told Art Wilson that Santa Anita should switch to Tapeta should the Cushion Track fail to hold up when it rains (there's a slight chance of precipitation on Friday by the way).
"The jocks all seem to like it,....I talked to two horsemen and they seem to like it. One guy said it might be tough on soft tissue, maybe tendons or something, but otherwise they all seem to like it." [Press-Telegram]I haven't really read much at all about the Tapeta Footing either at Presque Isle or at Golden Gate....and I guess that's a good thing. But Stute said of the newly-reopened surface at Santa Anita: "It was way better than I thought it would be."
Wednesday's opening card went off without a hitch. The times were fast, and by glancing at the charts, it looked kinda like old times, with horses failing to make up any kind of ground in the stretch. If you go to the sports web page of the LA Times, and you scroll down.....way down, past the Lakers, past the news of the Giants-Patriots game going from a virtual private screening to a worldwide simulcast (no word if Al Jazeera is picking it up), past the college football, hockey, the World Golf Rankings, the death of sportscaster Stu Nahan (a hockey guy), more college football....all the way to the bottom, you get to the story of the Malibu Stakes.
With all the recognizable names, both human and equine, in the field, it was a good ol' Cal-bred taking the money for trainer Jay Robbins. Johnny Eves paid $24 and led a parade of longshots that produced a superfecta of over $120,000. Since I'd written prior to the race that I'd certainly demand value far in excess of his 5-1 morning line, it's not redboarding for me to wonder how in the world Divine Park could have been 7-2 in this field, coming off an extended layoff. (Same goes for Great Hunter, who was 6-1 in his first start since the Derby.)
The owners of the winner were not in town for the Grade 1 win. They traveled to Hong Kong following the untimely death of their 7-year-old Scottish terrier. "They had already bought the dog a lot of presents and couldn't face being home for the holidays without him." [OC Register] Now, I hate dogs, so I probably should stop right here, before wondering which I find sillier, buying the dog Xmas presents, or taking solace via a trip to Hong Kong. But again, I hate dogs...
Anyway, I hope the win at least gives them some comfort, and I suppose they can return the gifts. (There I go again!! I'm mean, right?)
Johnny Eves is by the California-based stallion Skimming, who stands for $7,500. His second crop is two this year, and Johnny Eves is his first graded stakes winner, and a Grade 1 at that, nice! The stallion has an interesting pedigree, being very closely inbred, 2x3, to Northern Dancer. He earned over $2.2 million on the track, winning the Pacific Classic twice, and over some fine horses too - Ecton Park and Tiz Now (that's how it's spelled here [pdf file]) (and he was also trained by Robbins) in 2000, and Dixie Dot Com and Captain Steve in 2001.