FRISCO, Texas – Stephen F. Austin’s Cayla Burch and McNeese’s Grace McKenzie are the Southland Women’s Indoor Track & Field Athletes of the Week, the conference announced Wednesday. All Southland weekly awards are presented by MidSouth Bank.Burch competed for the Ladyjacks at the Red Raider Invitational in Lubbock, Texas, over the weekend capturing a first-place finish in the 600-yard race. McKenzie shined for the Cowgirls at the Samford Multis in Birmingham, Ala., with a first-place finish in the Pentathlon.Women’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Week – Cayla Burch, Stephen F. Austin – Fr. – Minneapolis, Minn.The freshman led the 600-yard run at the Red Raider Invitational with a 1:22.96, a time that ranks 7th in the nation and first in the Southland this indoor season. Burch also served as a leg of the 4×400 relay team, which finished at a 3:50.60 clip marking the conference’s fourth fastest time this season.Honorable Mention: Aleyah Donald, McNeese; Valentina Campos, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; Ajah Criner, Central Arkansas.Women’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Week – Grace McKenzie, McNeese – Jr. – Cork, IrelandThe McNeese junior set a Southland Conference and McNeese record, in addition to an Irish national record, with 4,211 pentathlon points and a first-place finish at the Samford Multis. Her point total currently ranks her No. 2 in the nation for the Pentathlon. In addition, McKenzie set a new Cowgirl high jump record at 5-feet, 8 ½-inches. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the conference in the pentathlon, No. 2 in the high jump, No. 2 in the 800 meter, No. 3 in the 60-meter hurdles, and No. 3 in the long jump for the 2019 indoor season.Honorable Mention: Jasmyn Steels, Northwestern State; Sarea Alexander, UIW.Southland weekly award winners are nominated and voted upon by each school’s sports information director. Voting for one’s own athlete is not permitted. To earn honorable mention, a student-athlete must appear on at least 25 percent of ballots. read more
SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2019First-time gelding Coil to Strike, off the track since a poor debut run last February, could easily have returned in a modest maiden claimer without causing suspicion but instead trainer Billy Morey protected him in a straight maiden Cal-bred sprint in today’s fourth race, a sure sign that the barn still liked him. A bullet five-furlong gate work six days earlier gave a hint of ability, and the 4-year-old son of Coil ran quite well when third, beaten just over two lengths by the much more experienced Red Envelope. Coil to Strike had the misfortune of drawing the rail – a death trap so far this season – and after breaking slowly and then rushing up to establish the pace, he kept on nicely through the lane, instead of packing it in, which he easily could have done. With this race under his belt and facing similar foes (minus the winner) next time, he should be hard to beat.There are few angles more powerful than the route-to-sprint pattern when handicapping Hillside turf sprints. Players should always promote runners that are turning back in trip in these slalom events, especially when the horse in question already had proven his ability to handle the downhill assignment. Caribou Club fit the description perfectly and received strong play (3-1) in the eighth race, the Joe Hernandez Stakes-G3, despite having to face a three-pronged attack from the Peter Miller barn that included two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal. In his most recent start, Caribou Club was a clever winner of the 8.5-furlong Seabiscuit Handicap, but this return to sprinting was no issue, as half of the gelding’s 16 career starts now have come in sprints, four of which he’s won while never off the board in the other four. Benefitting from a blazing pace that complimented his late-charging style, Caribou Club was up in time to win clear while Stormy Liberal, despite having every chance, had to settle for second, beaten just over a length. It would be nice if they meet again down road, perhaps in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai over six furlongs in late March, but the current plan for Caribou Club has him staying home and pointing for the one mile Frank Kilroe Stakes-Gr. 1 at Santa Anita March 9.Yet another example of the strength of the route-to-sprint angle was highlighted in the 10th race, a downhill dash for entry-level allowance state-bred 3-year-olds. Irish Heatwave broke his maiden over a mile at Del Mar in early November but was a late scratch from the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes later that month. Making his first start in two months and returning to a sprint, the son of Unusual Heat was attractive at 7-1 and rallied to nose out stakes-winner Listing, with recent maiden winner Teacher’s Treasure a close third. The first three are good colts so we suspect this will prove to be a productive race SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – MONDAY, JANUARY 21, 2019 Gold Arrow had been working quite well according to her registered final times at Los Alamitos and then in her most two recent drills at Santa Anita leading up to her racing debut in today’s second race for older fillies and mares at six furlongs. So, it wasn’t surprising that the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 4-year-old received strong support at the windows, so much so that she eventually left as the favorite at 7/5. But, after breaking slowly and losing valuable early position, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro simply gave herself too much to do, and despite a strong late rally she had to settle for second behind the much more experienced Lady Mamba, who was allowed to coast through soft fractions while cruising gate-to-wire. Despite her defeat, Gold Arrow will be just fine with distance and experience. She won’t be any kind of price in her next appearance, that’s for sure, but Gold Arrow is very likely to graduate and then go on to better things.Here’s another first-time starter that didn’t run to her backing but shouldn’t be given up on. Tiz Felicity made her debut in today 10th race, a maiden turf miler for 3-year-old fillies, and she was bet down from her morning line of 6-1 to go favored at 2-1. However, the daughter of Scat Daddy never landed a blow, winding up a non-threatening third following a wide trip to be beaten more than six lengths. But she’s better than this. Victimized somewhat by a lack of pace and never asked for much when being allowed to finish on her courage by jockey Mike Smith, the Mike McCarthy-trained filly seems certain to step forward with this educational run behind her. We suspect she’ll also enjoy added distance. Give another chance next time. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2019Her victory in today’s Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint notwithstanding, S Y Sky clearly isn’t the same dominating California-bred mare that she’s been in the past, but in her current form at age five she would seem most effective on grass and we suspect trainer Phil D’Amato will do his best to keep her in state-bred races on the lawn. The daughter of Grazen got away with a soft opening 22 seconds quarter and then dug down deep when challenged by Queen Bee to You to secure the victory by a half-length, improving her career record to a highly-admirable five wins from nine starts (and two-for-two on turf). She had to be turned out for more than a year between her three and four-year-old campaigns, so full credit must go to the trainer for keeping her so productive and consistent throughout her abbreviated career. Actually, it wouldn’t be surprising if her connections choose to have her go out on a winning note and send her home. She should make a heck of a broodmare. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 27, 2019We expected Conquest Tsunami to win today’s eighth race feature – the Clocker’s Corner Stakes – and most of the punters did, too, as they knocked down the veteran gelding to 7/5 in the listed affair down the Hillside course. The Canadian-bred 7-year-old was clearly the controlling speed, he quickly made the running while appearing to go to much easier than the 21.06 and 42.65 splits would lead you to believe. The son of Stormy Atlantic then came home unchallenged through the lane to record a blistering 1:11.02 final clocking while registering the 4 ¼ length victory. It would seem that a performance such as this would set up the Peter Miller-trained sprint nicely for another crack at the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint, a six-furlong straightaway turf sprint in Dubai. Last year he finished a close third behind Jungle Cat and stable mate Stormy Liberal and seems at least as good now as he was then. The disappointment in the Clocker’s Corner was Hunt, who had now turned in three substandard races dating back to last July. Always one of our favorites, the Phil D’Amato-trained gelding never showed a thing when checking in seventh and clearly isn’t the same horse – not likely will ever be – as the one who captured the Shoemaker Mile-G1 last May. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2019Those of you who backed Speakers in today’s lid-lifter – a mile turf affair for restricted (nw-3) $35,000 claiming fillies and mares – may have been inclined to simply go home after experiencing the nightmarish trip the daughter of Unusual Heat suffered through when extremely well-meant at 5-1. It appeared jockey Flavien Prat had secured an ideal spot midway – he had cover behind the leaders and his mare was into the bridle – so her backers had to believe eventually she would extract herself from the box and roll home once clear. But it never happened. While the eventual winner Halo Darlin was cruising on the front end without being subjected to any pressure, Speakers remained buried in traffic, unable to produce any momentum. She never spent a nickel – Michael Wrona once described a similar trip that way – and the result was a thoroughly unsatisfying third place finish, beaten three lengths. It was the first time Prat had ever ridden her, and we suspect he’ll request a do-over from trainer Andrew Lerner when they write the race back in a few weeks. We’re thinking the result might be a bit different next time. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 20, 2019Prior to her debut in today’s fourth race, the whispers surrounding Flor de La Mar brought back memories of the chatter attached to Justify when the eventual unbeaten Triple Crown winner debuted almost a year ago. Trainer Bob Baffert had made no effort to hide either one in morning workouts that were readily available for viewing on xbtv.com, so Flor de La Mar, similar to Justify, was bet like she couldn’t lose when facing five other maiden sophomore fillies over six and one-half furlongs. Leaving at 20 cents on the dollar, the daughter of Tiznow pressed the pace 3-wide in hand, took control in the upper stretch when ready and drew clear to produce a five-length score over stable mate Blue Moonrise while earning a decent but certainly not scintillating 79 Beyer number. Truthfully, the performance didn’t register particularly high on the goose bump scale, but she was asked to do only what was required she seems certain to be even more dominant as the distances increase. Justify was an absolute slam dunk superstar from day one; Flor de La Mar isn’t anywhere close to being there yet. But she’ll have her chance.First-time starter Friday’s At Shady looked like he was going to be distanced during the early stages of the seventh race, a maiden $20,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. The Jeff Bonde-trained colt had received no action (20-1), so not much was expected, and after breaking slowly and appearing not to know what was going on, he fell back to be what looked like 20 lengths behind the leaders in the opening quarter. But then the light switch went on, and the son of Twice the Appeal suddenly accelerated on the mid-point of the far turn. Circling the pack and gobbling up the ground with every stride inside the furlong pole, he managed to wind up second, beaten less than a length, while four lengths clear of the others. Visually, it was a pleasing performance and the winner’s Beyer figure (60) wasn’t too bad. So, how much improvement is this Cal-bred capable of showing next time, and will Bonde protect him a bit by raising him a notch or two? It would seem like a hike to the maiden $30,000 level at, say, seven furlongs, would be the ideal spot. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019Top trainer John Sadler isn’t necessarily known for his expertise with European imports but he’s more than capable when a good one shows up on his doorstep. Ficanas, who had one start at Doncaster during her juvenile season (she finished a promising second and was subsequently acquired by Sadler’s main client Hronis Racing) looked like a star in the making in today’s fourth race, a maiden downhill turf sprint for older fillies and mares. Unplaced for Sadler two-turning in her U.S. debut last May and then turned out, she returned much better than she left while performing like a filly who can quickly move up the ladder. While she certainly wasn’t beating much, the daughter of Sepoy won by nearly three lengths despite being geared down, and her Beyer number of 76 hardly does her justice.Ax Man most likely won’t ever be as good as we thought he might be, but it was nice to see the 4-year-old son of Misremembered return to winning form in the featured seventh race, a rarely-written three-other-than seven-furlong allowance race. Taking all of the heat while setting the pace inside, the Bob Baffert-trained gelding shrugged off his rivals to hold sway over Edwards Going Left while earning a 97 Beyer speed figure, the same number he was assigned when breaking his maiden at first asking 13 months previous. Ax Man has won twice over a distance of ground – his Sir Barton Stakes victory by more than eight lengths over a sloppy track on the Preakness Day undercard was especially impressive – so Baffert has the option of stretching him out again. Ax Man is a superior off-track runner, but the rainy season won’t last forever in Southern California (duh!) and Ax Man has a history of not shipping well; otherwise, an Oaklawn Park invasion would make a lot of sense. It’ll be interesting to see what the barn decides to do. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019Enlisting has all the makings of a shrewd claim by trainer Bob Hess. In her third career start but her first on dirt and her first in a maiden seller, the daughter of Candy Ride left her previous modest form far behind by dismantling her rivals by more than 14 lengths in today’s fifth race while earning a Beyer speed figure of 73, a significant improvement off her previous race’s career top of 60. And the margin of victory (and the number) would have been greater had she not been allowed to coast home in the final furlong. She only brought $50,000 at the Timonium 2-year-old in training sale last May, so either she had issues or didn’t preview particularly well, but whatever the case she’s worth a lot more than that now. Hess, who is not averse to checking out the Golden Gate Fields condition book, might look to the north to find a much easier allowance spot than he’s liable to locate here. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2019Hard Not to Love, a one-eyed first-timer by Hard Spun and a half-sister to Tropical Park Derby winner Solemn Tribute, brought $400,000 at Keeneland as a yearling and had trained quite well for her debut in today’s first race, a maiden special weight sprint for sophomore fillies. She was expected to receive a ton of action on the tote, so it was somewhat surprising that she left at what appeared to be overlay odds of 3-1 in a field that, quite frankly, didn’t appear all that strong on paper. We can only surmise that the major punters were a bit reluctant to “send it in” on a first-time starter trained by John Shirreffs, whose record with debut winners is – how shall we put it? – lacking. But Hard Not to Love proved to be the exception to the rule and graduated at first asking in a very pleasing manner. Her 77 Beyer number was useful, not great, but hardly represents what she’ll be capable of with experience, distance, and even turf. She’s also Canadian-bred and her connections may choose to exploit that option down the road.We’re going to give Play Money another chance after the hot-shot first-timer from the Hofmans barn failed at 6/5 when facing an admittedly modest band state-bred maidens in the fifth race. The Triple Crown-nominated son of Unusual Heat appeared to be plenty fit and ready based on a series of sharp workouts, but when the latch sprung he simply stood there, and then, after rushing up wildly to press the pace, lost his air in the final furlong, eventually winding up fourth, beaten nearly six lengths. Let’s hope he leaves with his field next time. The winner turned out to be the second-timer Prodigal Son, himself a victim of trouble in his debut last month. However, the 62 Beyer number came up light, so he’ll be hard pressed to win on the raise. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2019First-time routing is a potentially lucrative angle. First time turf – especially with Unusual Heat on the bottom-side of the pedigree – also is a dangerous angle. Inheriting the role as the controlling speed from a good inside draw is a slam-dunk angl. Put them all together at 10-1 and you have a play, in this case Mucho Unusual, who dominated her rivals in the California Cup Oaks after setting slow splits and then kicking clear when turned loose into the lane. A beaten short-priced favorite in her last two starts sprinting on dirt, the daughter of Mucho Macho Man probably should stay on grass from now on and we suspect that’s what trainer Tim Yakteen is planning to do. Runner-up Lippy (Square Eddie), making her first start since last August, was a stakes winner on dirt as a 2-year-old, so trainer Doug O’Neill can probably look in both directions, though we suspect she’ll eventually prove best on the sod. As for the 6/5 favorite Apache Princess, she was wide throughout and not persevered with by jockey Kent Desormeaux through the lane while winding fifth, beaten seven lengths. She was being brought back in eight days and simply couldn’t handle the quick turnaround. Additionally, this was her fourth start of the meeting, so a vacation seems warranted. She can bounce back. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2018The last three times the devoted front-runner Fahan Mura was permitted to get away with a 47-seconds opening half or slower she proved impossible to catch. Yes, she can win even if pressured into a faster pace, but when the timer read :47.43 after the opening half of today’s fourth race, Robert J. Frankel Stakes-G3, the race essentially was over. Relaxing nicely in the nine-furlong affair in which nobody came within two lengths of her until the shadow of the wire, the daughter of English Channel held sway by three-quarters of a length over the race-shape-victimized Excellent Sunset to improve her record to six wins in seven career starts over the Santa Anita turf course. Her “lone on the lead” trip could easily have been predicted, which made her closing price of 8/5 seem like an overlay. As for Excellent Sunset, she deserves better luck. The Irish-bred filly had her number taken down when winning the Kathryn Crosby Stakes at Del Mar in November (she had to come down but was best), and with any kind of help up front today could have gotten up. Her day will come.We really liked Californiagoldrush in the American Oaks, poor draw and all, so it was equally surprising and disappointing that the Neil Drysdale-trained filly failed to fire an ounce when seventh of eight as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade-1, mile and one-quarter turf affair won smartly by the Chad Brown-trained Eastern shipper Competitionofideas. We now know that Californiagoldrush exited the race with what her trainer succinctly described a “knee injury,” and with the breeding season just around the corner and since the daughter of Cape Blanco is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1 placed, there may not be any urgency to bring her back. As for Competitionofideas, she was a bit late to the party, having taken four races to break her maiden, but this convincing win was no fluke. If the daughter of Speighstown probably was on Brown’s practice squad among his older filly and mare turf runners coming in, she’s definitely on the main roster now. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2019Kirk Herbstreit’s Soul Streit hadn’t been seen in the p.m. since finishing fifth in the 2017 Del Mar Futurity-G1 17 months ago in a race that had followed his highly-impressive maiden debut victory the previous month. Usually these types of long layoffs preclude an expectation that a promising young horse will return anywhere near as well as he left, and in today’s seventh race, a highly-contentious first-level allowance sprint, the son of Maclean’s Music was facing an extremely formidable task. That Soul Streit was able to perform as well as he did – he was beaten just over two lengths by the rapidly improving I Am the Danger while finishing more than five clear of the rest – indicates that the Bob Baffert-trained rig should have a highly productive 2019 and may yet fulfill the promise displayed during his brief juvenile campaign. His pedigree is sprint on sprint, so we have no expectations that he’ll ever be effective over a distance of ground, but Soul Streit has a chance to develop into a very good one-corner runner. Let’s hope he can stay sound this time around. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2019It’s never easy for a first-time starter to win around two turns, especially when it’s a filly being tackling colts. Bold Mongolian faced such a task in today’s sixth race, a maiden $30,000 claimer over a mile on the main track, yet she came within a whisker of pulling it off after losing a head-bob to the fifth-time starter, Forestation. Bold Mongolian, who was nine lengths clear of the others, certainly deserved a better fate. Receiving some early action on the tote but drifting up to 18-1 at post time, the daughter of Revolutionary found herself in a virtual match race every step of the way while racing along the rail. Though beaten close home her resolve was admirable, and she earned a Beyer number of 65, which would have won at least nine out of 10 such races restricted to fillies. So, one must ask, why did trainer Enebish Ganbat choose to face the boys? There was an identical race for fillies seven days previous that drew only seven entrants. Now, there are no two-turn maiden $30,000 races for 3-year-olds fillies in the next book, though there is one for maiden $40,000, but not until February 1. We suspect that’s the one her connections will choose.Lieutenant Dan lacked early speed but finished with interest to be a respectable third in his racing debut at Los Alamitos in December, so improvement was expected in today’s ninth race for state-bred maiden 3-year-olds, especially since trainer Steve Miyadi has excellent stats with second-timers. The son of Grazen was always within range outside to the head of the lane and then kicked away with power (though failing to change leads) while registering an eight-length romp and earning a stakes-quality 83 Beyer number. Winning owner Nicholas Alexander had to be just has pleased with the performance of his other starter, the third-place finisher, Satchel Paige. Another son of Grazen, Satchel Paige broke poorly and fell behind by as many as 17 lengths down the backstretch according to the official chart. But the light switch suddenly went on as the field approached the head of the lane and the Phil d’Amato-trained colt finished fastest but much to late to wind up a distant but willing third. Most of his sire’s offspring can get a mile but this colt – out of a mare by Old Topper – might have his best future as a late-running sprinter. He should be tough vs. similar next time but will need to learn to leave with his field. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2019Trainer Keith Desormeaux had a decision to make when rains forced the transfer of the sixth race, the Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-olds fillies, from turf to a wet/sloppy main track. After a pair of dirt track sprints to begin her career, Apache Princess had improved dramatically when given a chance to perform on turf as her pedigree suggested she would, missing by a neck in a two-turn turf maiden event before reeling off a pair of visually pleasing wins down the hill. Though today’s race offered valuable black type, many (most?) trainers would have kept the daughter of Unusual Heat in the barn rather than subject her to a surface that she had every right not to handle. Desormeaux didn’t blink. Despite taking plenty of slop in her face and having the trainer’s brother Kent drop his whip in the upper stretch, Apache Princess drew off with complete authority to register and more than three length score. Interestingly, she was winless in three races when matched with state-bred rivals but is unbeaten in three starts when facing open company. Desormeaux now knows he has many options, but a return to California-bred stakes competition on any surface or distance should offer easy pickings.After defeating maidens at first asking last November at Del Mar like a colt with Derby potential, the Bob Baffert-trained Coliseum has gone the other way and shouldn’t be on anybody’s list after finishing sixth of seven in the eight-furlong Sham Stakes-G3 last month at 60 cents on the dollar and then winding up a well-beaten third, again at 3/5, in today’s eighth race, the San Vicente Stakes-G2. The son of Tapit as yet to master the required skill of breaking with his company, and after leaving slowly yet again and then rushing up to press the pace, he gave way readily when the pressure was turned on entering the lane. The winner turned out to be a Candy Ride gelding that wasn’t among the original Triple Crown nominees, Sparky Ville, who wore down the unlucky (and no doubt best) Dessman to win by a nose in a race that earned a legitimate 94 Beyer speed figure. Dessman, the lesser-regarded of the two Baffert colts in the field despite having won his debut by more than seven lengths, was laying comfortably in the garden spot tracking the pace as the field entered the turn, but then was asked for run into the teeth of the hottest part of the race, put away the two front-runners entering the lane, pulled himself up when clearly in front inside the furlong pole, got nailed, but then galloped out far in front of the pack after the wire. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2019Omaha Beach had burned money in each of his first four career starts, failing as the favorite in each outing, so it was not easy to trust him at 70 cents on the dollar when the son of War Front made his fifth attempt to beat maidens in today’s fifth race. The Richard Mandella-trained colt had finished second in each of three previous starts while losing by a combined three-quarters of a length, while displaying a disturbing habit of getting beat when a more genuine colt would have found a way to seal the deal. Turns out, though, that Omaha Beach, wasn’t really displaying a lack of fortitude but simply failing to stay a distance of ground. Today, finally, after three middle distance grass races and another over a mile on the main track, the 3-year-old colt for the first time in his career was allowed to perform at a distance that best suits his style, namely, an extended sprint. The result was a pulverizing maiden breaking score by nine lengths in a race that was a assigned a superb 90 Beyer speed figure, 10 points better than his previous career top. Now the question is, will the colt’s connections do the right thing and reserve this potentially top class 3-year-old for one-turn races? Or, will they’ll chase the Derby dream by asking Omaha Beach to compete at distances beyond his range? Stay tuned.Unlike Omaha Beach, the other high potential 3-year-old to perform today – Mucho Gusto – appears to have no distance limitations, based not only on pedigree but on pure performance. Though previously not considered to be in quite the same stratosphere as Baffert’s two division leaders Game Winner and Improbable, Mucho Gusto appears to be equally talented if not more so than anything in the East right now based on his thoroughly authoritative victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes-G3 over eight and-one half furlongs. Relaxing beautifully behind what we’d term an average pace over the sealed/sloppy track, the son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man took complete control when ready turning for home and was mostly on his own courage through the lane before completing a nearly five-length romp over the recent Sham Stakes-G3 winner Gunmetal Gray while giving every indication that added distance won’t be an issue. Yes, it’s always difficult to take a result at face value when it’s accomplished over a wet track, but this colt had done some excellent work on fast ground in three prior starts. Now, he’s a candidate to hit the road, especially where there’s a reasonable expectation of an off track. Hello, Oaklawn Park?Following his superb victory in the opening day Malibu Stakes-G1, we opined that McKinzie, while certainly capable of winning major races up to a mile and one-eighth, probably would be most effective (and perhaps unbeatable) in races around one turn up to a mile, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that the son of Street Sense went down by a half-length to Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway in today’s eighth race, the nine-furlong San Pasqual Stakes-G2. This was supposed to a prep – or at least a steppingstone – to the Dubai World Cup at the end of March, but trainer Bob Baffert must concede the possibility that opting for the 1m Golden Shaheen – the same race Mind Your Biscuits won last year – would be in the colt’s best interests. As for the 2017 BC Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway – remember, he finished third in the Kentucky Derby-G1 as a 3-year-old – it would seem that the mile and one-quarter distance of both the Santa Anita Handicap-G1 and the Dubai World Cup-G1 should now be well within his range. Food for thought for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2019River Boyne carried a perfect record of six wins in six starts when competing over the Santa Anita turf course into today’s seventh race, the Thunder Road Stakes, so as expected he left as the 3/5 favorite in the one-mile turf event. But on pure numbers he didn’t have much of advantage over his rivals, and in fact was facing older foes for the first time, so we thought he might be vulnerable, and indeed he was. The Jeff Mullins-trained colt appeared to be going well enough entering the lane but then ran into a roadblock when attempting to rally inside the furlong pole and was forced to steady sharply, losing his momentum and eventually checking in fourth, beaten a length and one-quarter. Would he have won had he gotten through? Probably, though it would have been close. The winner turned out to be True Valour (11-1), a Group-3 winner in Ireland last year and a recent third place finisher in an overnight allowance race that signaled a possible return to top form in what was just his third U.S. start. However, jis lower-than-par assigned Beyer number was a disappointing 95, so you should be wary of runners exiting this race, especially if they are raised to higher graded level.Earlier in the program in the fifth race, True Valour’s trainer Simon Callaghan won the first of his two stakes races when the odds-on Bellafina captured the on-mile main track Las Virgenes Stakes-G2 over a mile on the main track. After taking considerable heat from pace-presser Mother Mother in the first six furlongs of the race, Bellafina found reserve energy that only the good ones have to fight off perfect tripper Enaya Alrabb in deep stretch to hold sway by three-quarters of a length. There’s no doubt that the daughter of Quality Road has immense ability and class, but there is considerable concern that continued success as the distances increase will be difficult, her victory in the mile and one-sixteenth Chandelier Stakes-G1 last fall notwithstanding. Her connections probably are still thinking Kentucky Oaks-G1; she would seem much better suited for the spring/summer program for 3-year-old fillies. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2018Magnificent McCool already had run five times entering the Friday opener, a nine-furlong grass affair for maiden juveniles, and his only prior outing on turf (a modest fourth vs. maidens at Del Mar in August), didn’t provide any evidence that he would be any better on grass than he was on the main track. A highly rated runner-up effort on dirt last summer at Los Alamitos, when he finished nine lengths clear of the others, gave a hint of ability, but two subsequent outings failed to verify that promise. Today, however, he looked like a monster, winning with a ton left by more than four lengths while displaying a turn of foot (final furlong in11.34 seconds) that only good horses have. A son of Giant’s Causeway from the dam of the hard-knocking local veteran Secreto Primero, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt was purchased for $625,00 in Ocala in April and may yet turn out to be worth that and more if he can duplicate this type of performance when facing tougher foes down the road.Iha Do Mel was making her racing debut in the fourth race, a downhill turf sprint for maiden two-year-old fillies. Not much was expected from the daughter of Awesome Again – she left at 132-1 – but there was nothing wrong whatsoever with her second-place performance and gives reason to believe that the Paulo Lobo-trained homebred will be more than useful with added experience and distance. She’s the first foal from the unraced Distorted Humor mare Sonhadora while the second dam was the high-class Delaware Handicap and Ruffian winner Swift Temper. As for the winner, Shut It Out is a very nice prospect, too, for trainer Doug O’Neill. The second-time starter by Violence finished with interest to be a close fourth in her debut over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar in November and built on that initial impression today. She’s another that most certainly will run on. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2019The fourth-place finish by Avalanche on opening day in a first-level allowance race over nine furlongs on grass was his best race ever – the 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast had rallied into the teeth of slow splits to finish fourth, beaten just a half-length – but could you back him with confidence in a today’s fifth under identical conditions when facing the basically the same group? The John Sadler-trained horse was just 1-for-14 in his career, and zero-for-10 lifetime over the Santa Anita turf course while developing a reputation of always being too late and a dollar short. But today, after trailing the field of nine approaching the quarter pole, he accelerated impressively when room developed to wear down The Hunted (who is better at a flat mile than nine furlongs) to be up in time by half-length while negotiating the final furlong in 11 and small change. With continued improvement as a relatively fresh 5-year-old, he might be able to win a decent race somewhere down the road. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – THURSDAY, JANUARY 31, 2019There are many changes a trainer can make to favorably alter the direction of a horse’s racing career. Trainer Tim Yakteen decided to experiment with Big Buzz in today’s third race, a maiden special weight downhill turf sprint that was transferred to the main track due to overnight rains. More accurately, Yakteen threw the kitchen sink at the 4-year-old son of Mr. Big, who at time of entry was a nine-race maiden with speed figures that was hovering in the mid-70s. Here’s what the trainer did: (1) gelded him; (2) added blinkers for the first time; (3) switched to Joel Rosario for the first time; (4) returned him to sprinting; and (5) though not by design, ran him on a wet track for the first time. The result was a last-to-first geared-down cakewalk by more than five lengths that earned a vastly improved Beyer figure of 83. It proves the old axiom, if first you don’t success, try, try again – but change everything. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2019Perhaps he was riding to trainer Neil Drysdale’s instructions or maybe he simply decided to do this on his own, but Joe Talamo failed to employ the type of strategy that gave Love and Peace her best chance to win today’s opener, an open allowance turf miler restricted to 4-year-old fillies. Breaking from the rail, the French-bred filly was not allowed to utilize her good inside post (with the rail set at 30 feet, no less) to any advantage and pretty much lost her best chance in the first 50 yards. Instead of nudging her leaving the gate to secure what should have been a perfect ground-saving, stalking position with cover, Talamo took great pains to wrangle her back to last in the six-runner field in a race that was certain to be slowly run early (see 23.55 second opening quarter). Not only did this guarantee that Love and Peace would take the worst of the race-flow, but it also insured the likelihood that Talamo would be forced to lose considerable ground when trying to rally into the teeth of the race-shape from the three-eighths pole to the wire. As it turned out, Love and Pace, who doesn’t really possess a massive turn of foot in the first place, could only manage to finish second, beaten just over a length behind Streak of Luck, while coming home in 23 and small change, and that’s without even factoring in the ground loss. Hopefully next time she’s allowed to participate in the fray from the start and then have far less work to do when the pressure gets turned on in the final quarter mile. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 2019What in the world happened to Qahira in today’s third race? So impressive in her racing debut in late November – she graduated by almost five lengths with an 87 Beyer speed figure in a race that already had proven productive (the runner-up came back to jog), the daughter of the hot young sire Cairo Prince was knocked down to 30 cents on the dollar in a race that seemed a mere formality. Perhaps resenting the stout rating tactics employed by jockey Drayden Van Dyke, Qahira stalked or pressed the pace to the head of the lane and then was spent, fading readily to wind up last of five beaten more than six lengths behind the progressive but not particular fast Calf Moon Bay. Maybe Qahira is simply a sprinter, or maybe she came out of the race worse than she went into it. Or, maybe short-priced runners from the Bob Baffert should be avoided for the time being. Through the first two weeks of the season the Baffert barn is 2-for-25, with 16 off-the-board finishes. Haters, enjoy it while you can. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2019Cajun Treasure had made our “Primed and Ready” list last month after turning in a series of impressive training track workouts while signaling his readiness for a top effort following a layoff of six months. Though he had never sprinted in his 3-race career, we expected the son of Treasure Beach to return in a Hillside turf dash, for he had given every indication in his prior outings that he had a bit of a move but simply didn’t stay. But trainer Peter Eurton opted for today’s fourth race, a mile event that was subsequently taken off the turf, and, not unexpectedly, we got the same Cajun Treasure that we saw last summer, a colt that simply can’t punch it in under pressure. After appearing to be a sure winner inside the furlong pole, he shortened his stride and wound up third, beaten almost two lengths by favored Sellwood. We’ll back him again next time, but only if he sprints, and preferably, on grass. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, JANUARY 12, 2019To steal a line from Blazing Saddles, Marine Layer has killed more people – or horseplayers – than Cecil B. DeMille. In her debut at Delaware Park last June, she left at 50 cents on the dollar, but despite having every chance wound up second. In her next start, the punters, undeterred, dove right back in, sending her off at 1/5. Same runner-up result, though she may have had a bit of an excuse after stumbling at the start. Put away and then brought back this winter by trainer Tom Proctor, the daughter of Into Mischief once again trained like a good thing and was bet accordingly (down to 6/5) in a maiden race originally slated for the Hillside Course but transferred to the wet fast (sealed) main track. This time she was completely non-competitive, winding up last of five, beaten more than 21 lengths. We supposed Proctor will opt for a similar spot on grass next time (there’s one in the book, Feb. 3), but we’ll let her beat us. Meanwhile, the race second choice Nomizar, a filly who had never received an ounce of wagering support in three prior starts (she’d been 12-1, 19-1, and most recently 68-1) established the pace and never looked back, holding sway over the first-timer Full Eclipse (27-1), who finished willingly while 11 lengths clear of the rest. The assigned Beyer speed figure of 70 was a career top for Nomizar but she’ll need better to be effective on the raise. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019The late-developing Bashful made it two-for-two in her burgeoning career by rallying from stone last to win by an expanding 3 ½ lengths in the sixth race, a first-level allowance extended sprint for fillies and mares. It had taken her until November of her 3-year-old season to make it to the post, but after a smart debut win over five furlongs on grass at Del Mar she didn’t miss a beat in training and came right back for the repeat score despite moving up in class and switching to the main track. Actually, her pedigree is much more dirt than turf, which is why trainer Richard Mandella had no qualms about switching surfaces. Today’s win, accomplished with a Beyer of 79, represented a three-point decline off her maiden victory, but no matter what metric you use, there is no way she didn’t run at least as good if not better today. As a daughter of Orb from a mare by Deputy Minister, she’s bred to be even better routing than sprinting and we suspect Mandella will cross that bridge next time.We weren’t alone when we expected Bellafina to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs; instead, she left at 9/5 and wound up fourth, beaten almost 10 lengths. For whatever reason, she simply didn’t show up. But she wasn’t the only California shipper to disappoint – Marley’s Freedom, Catalina Cruiser, Abel Tasman and McKinzie, all ran arguably worse than she did – so it was nice to see the real Bellafina return in today’s eighth race, the Santa Ynez Stakes-G2 over seven furlongs. Dueling the very talented Mother Mother into submission after the opening half, the daughter of Quality Road drew off rapidly to win by an eased-up eight and one-half lengths while earning a career top Beyer figure of 95. She even changed leads right on cue, something she’s not always done. The Kentucky Oaks is the ultimate goal but before then she’ll have at least another race or two in California, where she may hook up with American Pharoah’s Grade-1 winning half-sister, Chasing Yesterday. That will be interesting. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018We’ve always believed that a horse’s most telling race is his second career start, and the second most is the one that comes directly following a maiden win. Early on, things didn’t appear terribly bright for Giza Goddess – she didn’t show anything in her first, second, or even third start – so the prospects for justifying her $200,000 yearling purchase price seemed remote. But then she found grass. After finishing a solid third at 26-1 in a maiden miler over the Del Mar lawn in mid-November, the John Shirreffs-trained filly improved significantly again in her next start three weeks later over those same conditions when graduating by more than five lengths with career top (and very strong) 81 Beyer figure. Today’s Blue Norther – her first start since that maiden win – would tell us if she was going to be one-and-done, or a filly that had the potential to be somebody. Well, Giza Goddess is indeed somebody. After pressing a hot pace outside throughout and then finding more under pressure in the final furlong, she captured the Blue Norther with another career best 82 Beyer. She’s from the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile’s first major horse at stud Cairo Prince. This bodes well for American Pharoah’s first runners, who make the races this year.Speaking of Pioneerof the Nile, he was represented by a very nice debut maiden winner later in the sixth race when Anuket scored convincingly over six-furlongs by more than four lengths in while giving every indication that she’ll be even better as the distances increase. Another in an endless string of recent first-out maiden winners from the Bob Baffert barn, she seems certain to be of stakes quality after earning a very respectable 81 Beyer speed figure. A Juddmonte Farm $575,000 Saratoga yearly purchase, Anuket was a produced by the Tapit mare Rashnaa, who was stakes-placed in Canada but actually ran for a tag early in her career. It’s really a modest pedigree, so we can conclude that at that price Anuket was acquired much more for her looks than for her page.Apache Princess, yet another route-to-sprint Hillside winner, was impressive in graduating in the today’s finale for the Desormeaux brothers, drawing clear with power in the final furlong following a perfect trip/ride from mid-pack. She was beaten a neck in a maiden turf miler at Del Mar in November, so two-turns are within her scope, but with a such a heavy sprint influence on the bottom side of her pedigree (she’s out of an Indian Charlie mare) she might be best suited as a grass sprinter. Runner-up Unicorn certainly caught the eye and will be on everybody’s horses-to-watch list. The Richard Baltas stable has a low percentage with first-timers (according to the DRF, he was four percent from a sample of 72 going into the race) so we’re expecting Unicorn to produce a significant forward move. The daughter of Bodemeister galloped out like a filly who’ll definitely enjoy added ground. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2019Solomini was one of America’s premiere Kentucky Derby prospects last year following a superb juvenile campaign that included second place finishes in the FrontRunner Stakes (to Bolt d’Oro), the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (to Good Magic), and the Los Alamitos Futurity – all Grade One races. In fact, in the Los Alamitos Futurity, the son of Curlin actually hit the wire first from McKenzie, only to be disqualified on a controversial stewards’ decision. Over the winter he didn’t grow an inch, and then, while preparing for a Triple Crown bid during the winter, Solomini showed no progress when managing only minor awards behind Magnum Moon in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. His once promising continued to stall. He never threatened when splitting the field in the Kentucky Derby, was a dull third when 30 cents on the dollar in the Affirmed Stakes-G3, was turned out, and then returned no better than he left when ninth of 14 in the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26. Finally, In what was supposed to serve as a confidence building victory in the today’s eighth race, his first-ever appearance in an entry-level allowance event, the Bob Baffert-trained colt was knocked down to 30 cents on the dollar, but despite an absolutely perfect trip, hung under pressure in the final furlong and wound up third behind a former maiden-30,000 claimer Mongolian Groom and Beaumarchais, an ex-$12,500 plater. At one time, this was a very good colt. It wouldn’t surprise me if the connections are contemplating pulling the plug. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 2019One of the most difficult ways to win over the Santa Anita turf course – or on any turf course for that matter – is to be wide without cover every step of the way. As the field turned into the backstretch in today’s fourth race, Drift Away appeared condemned to that type of trip. The Andrew Lerner-trained filly found herself in a stalking position 1-off the rail behind the pacesetting Untouched Reality, who didn’t figure to back up, and thus we suspected that Drift Away would do just that – drift away – when coming under pressure from the quarter pole home. But to her credit, the daughter of Congrats clung to her rival until close home whereupon she managed to exert her superiority, winning by a neck while showing the resolve that now has carried her to four wins in just 12 career starts. The assigned Beyer number of 80 was a career top for the winner, but given the circumstance that it was earned, we’ll rate it at least a few points higher. Even after her victory in this starter’s allowance affair she remains eligible to the first condition and based on this performance she should be very competitive against that group next time.Maiden races for 3-year-olds at this time of the year can be weak, average, strong, or downright salty. Today’s sixth race clearly falls into the latter category after Nolo Contesto and Omaha Beach went toe-to-from the quarter pole home and wound up a half-length apart at the wire while leaving the rest of the field eight lengths behind. Nolo Contesto had a rough run in his sprint debut (the rider lost his stirrups early in the race) but showed enough when rallying to be fifth, beaten just over five lengths, to verify trainer John Sadler’s belief that he was the best young prospect in his barn. Stretching out to a mile off that one sprint and facing Omaha the more experienced and equally highly-regarded Omaha Beach from the Richard Mandella barn, Nole Contesto had to be everything his trainer hoped he would be to win. Despite losing ground throughout, the son of Pioneerof the Nile was relentless in his pursuit of Omaha Bunch and appearing a bit green inside the furlong pole, he managed to overpower his rival in deep stretch to earn his diploma. The Beyer number of 80 represented a 14-point improvement off his debut and was only two points lower than what Gunmetal Grey achieved in winning the Sham Stakes two days later.We’ve written several times about one of our favorite angles – the route-to-sprint maneuver when it applies to the Santa Anita Hillside course – so we believed Tonahutu was the logical top selection in today’s seventh race, a second-level allowance affair for fillies and mares. The Dan Blacker-trained mare had run five previous times since being imported from England and four of those races had come around two turns. But she finished an eye-catching second in her only sprint – a five-furlong dash at Del Mar – so when she showed up in the entries in this downhill affair she seemed like a logical winner and was bet accordingly. Tonahuto certainly ran her race, but A Little Bit Me, also shortening up from a mile, ran even better and was never really threatened in route to a 2 ½ length victory. It was probably not a coincidence that this visually impressive performance came in her first start since being claimed by high-percentage trainer Richard Baltas. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2018 He Will has not won since November of 2017, and he’s never been the easiest of rides, so it is entirely possible that the veteran of 25 races has lost a step or two. Still, the son of Cyclotron seemed primed for a big effort when returning to state-bred company in today’s third race, a stakes-quality allowance turf miler that appeared on paper to be well within his capabilities. But as the race soon developed, it was clear that the 2-1 favorite would never have a chance. Despite having the advantage of the inside draw that practically guaranteed an ideal, ground-saving trip, He Will was wrangled back after the break to lose his early position and then to compound matters was guided directly to no man’s lands – four-to-five wide entering the clubhouse turn without cover – while forfeiting the paint-scraping trip that was his for the asking. Entering the backstretch, He Will was for some reason permitted to lose contact with his six rivals, falling behind by nine lengths despite a modest early pace. Finally, recognizing the cause was lost, the rider simply went through the motions from the top of the stretch to wire while allowing He Will to finish on his own courage. Somewhat remarkably, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained horse still managed to wind up fourth, beaten only three lengths. Some observers might simply chalk it up as nothing more than a poor ride; I’d categorize the jockey’s performance as a blatant non-effort.Kudos to Vladimir Cerin for an excellent training job in having Count Alexander ready to win off a 13-month layoff in a highly-competitive first-level allowance turf sprint in today’s fifth race. The son of Scat Daddy was forced miss his entire 3-year season after a promising stakes-placed juvenile campaign but had a history of firing fresh (he won his debut), so at 6-1 on the tote he certainly could have been played. Older horses get saltier every rung up the class ladder – had his 85 Beyer speed figure will have to be improved upon – but with just six career starts Count Alexander has a much higher ceiling. If you’ve never seen it or simply forgotten, check out his nightmarish trip in the 2017 Juvenile Turf Sprint at Del Mar. Unlucky doesn’t even begin to describe it. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2019It’s not unusual for a horse to produce a significant forward move in his first start following a claim; often times the new trainer finds something to correct or tries something new with regards to equipment, distance, surface, or tactics. Blitzkrieg had just earned a career top speed figure for trainer Richard Mandella when he won a restricted (nw-2) $25,000 claimer down the hill in January but was claimed out of the race by Doug O’Neill. This stable has superior recent stats with the first-off-the-claim angle, so it was hardly a stretch to expect the son of War Front to produce a forward move, but not this much. Drafting into a perfect stalking position through the openeing half mile, Blitzkrieg accelerated suddenly and blew past the leaders with an unexpected turn of foot that only good horses have before hitting the wire six lengths clear of the stunned also-rans while earning a 90 Beyer figure, eight points better than his career best. The gelding has all of his allowance conditions and likely will use them, either sprinting or routing.Angel Alessandra, with the highly-popular route-to-spring angle in her chart, added blinkers for the first time and crushed her first-level allowance rivals in the third race, a Hillside turf affair for 3-year-old fillies. She gives the impression that she’s most comfortable as late-running sprinter, though she did break her maiden over a mile as a two-year-old last summer at Del Mar. If he believes it was mostly the blinkers that woke her up, trainer Peter Miller could again opt to stretch her out, where most of the money is. Third-place finisher Gallovie, making her U.S. debut after displaying some promise as a two-year-old in England, seemed poised to pounce on the leaders approaching the dirt crossing but was forced to steady sharply and lost all of her momentum. She wasn’t going to win but we would have liked to see how much of a late kick she would have been able to produce. The Baltas-trained filly probably will return in a similar spot next time. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2019 We’re not saying that he’ll be this good, but the first-timer Bump Bailey gave about as good of an impression of Roy H as trainer Peter Miller could have hoped for when winning at 12-1 in today’s eighth race finale for maiden 3-year-olds. Completely ignored on the tote at 12-1 – Miller had three in the field and they all trained at San Luis Rey Downs, so who knew? – the $190,000 auction purchase quickly made the lead in the five and one-half furlong dash and never looked like losing, checking in 3 ½ lengths clear of the pack without being asked for anything remotely close to his best. While most of the bettors didn’t latch on – they were probably mesmerized by Stretford End at 2/5 – there was evidence if you looked hard enough that Bump Bailey had plenty of talent. Last May at the Barretts two-year-old-in-training sale, the son of Fed Biz breezed a furlong in 10 1/5 and looked like a jackrabbit doing it. His 91 Beyer speed figure tells us he can leap into stakes competition immediately. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, JANUARY 5, 2019Stubbins had shown ability last summer on two occasions despite never appearing to be comfortable over the very deep Del Mar main track, so we were expecting the son of Morning Line to perform even better on turf in his first start in four months in today’s fifth race, a downhill dash for maiden 3-year-olds. Despite the rail, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt had enough early speed to gain a favorable ground-saving trip to the head of the lane, and then displayed courage to slip through a tight opening along the fence in the final furlong to edge pacesetter My Mandate by a desperate nose. On pedigree the winner should get at least a mile, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the colt’s connections seek a nw-2 affair on turf for this colt’s next appearance. Debuting Mountain Spirit caught the eye when finishing willingly to be third after looming a bold threat wide crossing the dirt. He’s by Point of Entry and therefore bred to improve going long; the Mullins-trained colt should get nothing but better with experience and distance.Jockey Flavien Prat was offered the mount on both Gray Magician and Gunmetal Gray in the featured Sham Stakes-G3 over a mile on the main track for 3-year-olds. It was his choice; he had ridden the former to a nine-length maiden win at Del Mar and had been aboard the latter when he finished a respectable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1. Prat opted for Gray Magician – we would have done the same – but once again proving that jockeys aren’t the best handicappers it was Gunmetal Gray who managed to rally from last of seven to record a one-length victory over recent Gold Rush Stakes Sueno. The Beyer number of 82 wasn’t anything to brag about – in this same race last year McKinzie’s figure was 98 – but at least the son of Exchange Rate was moving forward, not backward, in the final furlong. As for the race favorite, the talented by inexperienced Coliseum, his chances were dashed after the son of Tapit missed the break, lost position, and then failed to cooperate when asked to rate and settle behind the leaders around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch. He still has a lot to learn. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – SATURDAY, JANUARY 19, 2019Dessman had been outworked by hotshot stable mate Flor de La Mar on a couple of occasions leading up to his debut in today’s seventh race, but that didn’t stop the punters from sending it in on the first-time starter, who closed at 4/5. Settling just off the leaders to the turn, the son of Union Rags responded readily when given his cue and eventually drew off to win by more than seven lengths while earning a respectable 80 Beyer speed figure. Purchased for $750,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton March Sale, the Bob Baffert-trained colt accomplished the task stylishly and, as a son of a Belmont Stakes winner, surely should get at least a middle distance. We got the impression that Dessman had been considered to be in the second tier of the stable’s Derby prospects, and maybe he still is, but it will be interesting to see what this colt can do against tougher competition over a distance of ground. He might do a bit better than you think. SANTA ANITA POST-MORTEM – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2018 There’s always an intriguing opening day maiden two-year-old race carded at Santa Anita and it usually comes up fairly hot. We’re not sure how strong today’s edition in the fifth race will eventually turn out – the Beyer number assigned to debut winner Big Scott Daddy was a moderate 79 – but If we had to take one out of the race, it would be third place finisher One Bad Boy. Drawing the dreaded rail and lacking gate quickness to be in mid-pack early, he stayed on nicely through the lane and wound up beaten just 2 ¼ lengths. By Twirling Candy from the stakes-winning dam of the locally-raced good filly Ms. Bad Behavior, the Richard Baltas-trained ridgeling had been burning up the track at San Luis Rey Downs prior to this run but clearly needed the experience, as most first-timers from this barn do. While we always prefer the two-sprints-and-a-stretch pattern with young horses, One Bad Boy might not need another short race. In whatever race he shows up time, he’s very likely to move forward in a significant way.The wire came up at the right time for River Boyne in the sixth race, the Mathis Brothers Mile on turf in a race restricted to 3-year-olds. The victory by a head over Desert Stone enhances the Jeff Mullins-trained colt’s record over the Santa Anita lawn to a remarkable six-for-six (he’s 1-for-7 everywhere else), but all of those wins were accomplished when facing his own age group. The gravy train ends after the first of the year, when the Irish-bred son of Dandy Man must enter the real world comprised of older horses. Based strictly on numbers – his win today earned a 95 Beyer speed figure – River Boyne will find the jump challenging, even though the local turf contingent was been shallow for, like, forever. It will be interesting to see how he fits in open company.After McKinzie returned to winning form by blowing away the field in the ninth race, Malibu Stakes-G1, the inevitable talk about the possibility of a start in the mile and one-eighth Pegasus World Cup in late January came quickly despite the fact that the Son of Street Sense had finished 31 lengths behind Accelerate in his previous start, the Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1. While that performance clearly was not an indication of his true ability – and, yes, he does have prior Grade-1 win over nine furlongs in the Pennsylvania Derby – the evidence is mounting that McKinzie just might be most effective around one turn. The seven-furlong Malibu was just his second career start at a sprint distance; his previous attempt resulted in a runaway maiden win over the same trip during the fall of his juvenile career. Perhaps he’s similar to high class runners like Honor Code and Frosted – they could win going long but were far more effective up to a mile – but in the States there aren’t many big buck opportunities for horses that can’t stay more than a middle distance. read more
BAFFERT OK WITH POST POSITIONS ON OPENING WEEKEND RAIL IS NOT IDEAL FOR HIGHER POWER IN AWESOME AGAIN JOY SCOTT HONORED WITH MOONEY AWARD FOR COURAGE ESPINOZA SEEKS TO CARRY MOMENTUM AT SANTA ANITA VAN DYKE FRESH, FIT AND READY TO GO AFTER ACCIDENT LONGSHOTS REPRESENT TEAM O’NEILL IN THE CHANDELIER STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD IS UNVEILED TOMORROW BAFFERT FAVORITES READY TO GO AS SANTA ANITA OPENSRelatively speaking, Bob Baffert is satisfied with post positions his three favorites havedrawn as Santa Anita begins its world-class 23-day meet tomorrow which features seven graded stakes through Sunday, four of them Grade I’s, and five of them Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races, giving the winner a fees-paid berth to their respective Breeders’ Cup events, which Santa Anita hosts Nov. 1 and 2 for a record 10th time.Eight Rings, 9-5 morning line favorite for tomorrow’s Grade I, “Win and You’re In” American Pharoah Stakes, drew post three in a field of nine; 3-5 Bast will start from post four in a field of six in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Chandelier Stakes; and 4-5 McKinzie is in a similar spot, four of six in Saturday’s Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Awesome Again Stakes.“I would have liked to seen Eight Rings a little further out,” said Baffert, who trained 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah for whom the race is named. “But all the horses are doing well and we’ll see what happens.“You’ve got to break from the gate and get into it. The American Pharoah is a really competitive race, probably as competitive as I’ve ever seen it.”The American Pharoah, which goes as race eight on an impressive nine-race program: American Theorum, Tiago Periera, 5-1; Fore Left, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Eight Rings, John Velazquez, 9-5; Express Train, Mike Smith, 4-1; Storm the Court, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Defense Wins, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Shoplifted, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Nucky, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 10-1; and Collusion Illusion, Joe Talamo, 5-1.First post time opening day is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.HIGHER POWER DRAWS INSIDE POST FOR AWESOME AGAINHigher Power won a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita June 14 from the rail, and onSaturday, the Pacific Classic winner will have to overcome the inside post to win the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes for three-year-olds and up on the main track, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event at 1 1/8 miles that gives the winner a fees-paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.“At a mile and an eighth, you have time to work out a trip,” said John Sadler, who trains the four-year-old Medaglio d’Oro colt for principal owners Kosta and Peter Hronis. “I mean, I wouldn’t pick the one, it’s not good, but it is what it is and our horse is ready to go.”The Awesome Again: Higher Power, Flavien Prat, 2-1; Draft Pick, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Seeking the Soul, Brian Hernandez Jr., 4-1; McKinzie, Mike Smith, 4-5; Mongolian Groom, Abel Cedillo, 15-1;and Isotherm, Geovanni Franco, 30-1.BUSY OPENING FOR TEAM O’NEILL ON FRIDAYWith 10 horses entered in Friday’s nine races on opening day, including two in the Chandelier Stakes, Team O’Neill will have a busy afternoon.Take it from trainer Doug O’Neill’s trusted assistant of 19 years, Leandro Mora, who says Comical and Buyer’s Remorse have a longshot’s chance in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.“I was happy with how she ran,” Mora said referring to the second by Buyer’s Remorse in her debut race Aug.18. “She worked really awesome here so Doug and Mr. Reddam (owner Paul) decided to enter and see what happens.“Comical was well beaten at Del Mar (sixth in the Grade II Sorrento and third in the Grade I Debutante), but it might have been due to the climate down there or whatever. She seems to like it here where she broke her maiden last May before going to Saratoga and winning the Grade III Schuylerville in July. And she can route, too. The way she’s been training, I believe she can go more than a mile.”Entering 10 horses in one day at one track is not a record for O’Neill, according to Mora, whose extensive resume includes eight years with David Bernstein and 14 with the late Brian Mayberry, in addition to tours with Gary Jones and Tim Pinfield.“We had 12 entered one day on a Cal-bred program,” Mora said.The Chandelier, race five: Been Studying, Mike Smith, 9-2; K P Dreamin, Ruben Fuentes, 6-1; Comical, Abel Cedillo, 8-1; Bast, John Velazquez, 3-5; Buyer’s Remorse, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; and Leucothea, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 5-1.ESPINOZA HOPES TO KEEP ROLLING WITH TRIBALIST IN EDDIE DVictor Espinoza is back doing what comes naturally, the worst experience of his career well behind him.The 47-year-old Triple Crown winner and Hall of Fame member has recovered 100 percent from serious injuries suffered in a training mishap at Del Mar 14 months ago and is doing what he loves best–riding–and winning.“We were on a roll coming out of the Santa Anita meet in July and it carried over to Del Mar,” said his agent, Brian Beach. “He especially had a good last couple weeks, winning the Del Mar Derby and the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf on Yesterdayoncemore, a real nice Irish-bred filly from Europe, so things finished up well and we’re ready go for this meet.“Hopefully, the momentum will carry over.”For the 11th time in 13 races, Espinoza rides Tribalist for trainer Blake Heap in Friday’s Grade II Eddie D Stakes for three-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf.An eight-year-old Tribal Rule gelding, Tribalist has made fewer appearances at the race track than a member of GA, only 12 starts over a span of seven years, from his first race on Aug.18, 2013, to his most recent, on July 24, 2019.Out of the money only twice, Tribalist has a 4-4-2 record with earnings of $290,915.“He always feels great and when he’s ready he tries hard,” Espinoza said. “He’s an honest horse who still gives his best. It’s a tough race, but anything can happen and he’s got a good outside draw.”As to strategy, Espinoza said, “I’ll see how the race sets up, but plan to let him cruise early and ride him down the stretch. He always runs his race. When he comes on the track now, he’s jumping up and down, so it means he’s ready.”Meanwhile, Pee Wee Reese returns in the Eddie D after an absence of six months.“He’s training really well,” said Phil D’Amato, trainer of the six-year-old full horse of owner/breeder Nick Alexander, who named the son of Tribal Rule for the late, great Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Harold (Pee Wee) Reese.“I almost had him ready to run in the Green Flash at Del Mar (won by Mr Vargas on Aug. 17) but I thought I was a workout short, so we’ve just been saving him for this race. His works indicate he’s ready to go.”The Eddie D, race six: Eddie Haskell, Joel Rosario, 3-1; Pee Wee Reese, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Lombo, Geovanni Franco, 30-1; Boa Nova, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Stormy Liberal, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 4-1; Mr Vargas, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Double Touch, John Velazquez, 12-1; and Tribalist, Victor Espinoza, 5-1.VAN DYKE RESUMES RIDING TOMORROWDrayden Van Dyke returns to action tomorrow after recovering from an injury when unseated by Eight Rings following a bumping incident early in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 2.The 25-year-old Louisville native suffered a “crush injury” near the wrist on his right forearm, which still shows a bump, but he’s ready to go.“It was really deeply bruised and really swollen,” Van Dyke said. “It took time and minor therapy. I iced it and did everything I could to help the swelling go down and I’m looking forward to coming back big time.”JOY SCOTT EARNS MOONEY AWARD FOR COURAGEThe National Turf Writers and Broadcasters will present Joy Scott, a lifelong horsewoman who battled back from multiple serious injuries during her career as a jockey, with the Bill Mooney Award for displaying courage in the face of tremendous adversity.Scott launched her career as a jockey in 1981 and won 537 races riding in Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian and Mixed Breed events. She suffered severe injuries to her right leg in a five-horse accident at Los Alamitos in 2001 but returned to ride races 14 months later. “I’m a winner again,” said Scott, who continues to battle back from injuries suffered in a training accident in March, 2013. “What an honor; I’m thrilled and overwhelmed.”Scott joins three prior Mooney winners – the award’s namesake who died after a long battle with cancer in 2017: retired jockey and owner Rene Douglas, and last year’s winner, horsewoman Martine Bellocq.“She is the walking (miraculously) embodiment of what the Mooney Award has come to represent,” Eclipse Award-winning Turf writer Jay Hovdey said in his endorsement of Scott this spring. “Her desire to remain a viable part of the sport kept her competing until it was no longer possible, and her nightmare struggles with recovery from serious injury is, sadly, more typical of others in her situation than we would like to believe.“Yet she has soldiered on, raised a fine son as a single parent, and presents herself to the racing family with a positive outlook that is almost incomprehensible to those of us who have never faced such adversity.”Scott will be honored along with the NTWAB’s other four award winners at the organization’s 60th annual Awards Dinner at The Derby in Arcadia, California, on Wednesday, Oct. 30. The NTWAB will honor the late Rick Violette (Joe Palmer Award), Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas (Mr. Fitz Award), Caton Bredar (Jim McKay Award) and Tim Wilkin (Walter Haight Award), along with other writing award winners announced that evening.The NTWAB Awards Dinner is traditionally held during Breeders’ Cup week and is the organization’s only fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds from the event are used toward scholarships for prospective Thoroughbred racing journalists and to support Thoroughbred industry charities.NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART VIDEO BOARD AT SANTA ANITA Santa Anita has installed a new state-of-the-art LED Infield video board, which will offer viewers dramatically improved brightness and visual clarity beginning on opening day.Manufactured and installed by Daktronics, America’s leading manufacturer of outdoor LED (light-emitting diode) boards, this new 30′ x 54′ display contains 648,000 total 15 mm pixels, the optimum size for a board of this scope, ensuring an improved view of the races and all video content throughout the race day.Due to the breadth of this project, the previous board was removed in August and the new board was installed last month while the Santa Anita stable area was closed.Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics employs 2,500 people and parts are made in the USA. Daktronics is the preferred vendor for 21 of 31 NFL stadiums and 22 of 30 Major League Baseball parks throughout the United States.Santa Anita, which hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2, will also be offering fans other major new amenities, such as its Stretch Run Suites and Trackside Terrace Dining and Seating, at a cost of more than $5 million.(Santa Anita was the first racetrack in America to install an Infield video board in 2001).FINISH LINES: Saturday’s Late Pick 4 pool will be guaranteed at $500,000 . . . Bolo, who worked five furlongs on the main track Wednesday in 1:02.60, will use the Grade II City of Hope Mile Oct. 5 to prep for the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2, trainer Carla Gaines said. Bolo already has a fees-paid berth to the race thanks to his upset victory in the Shoemaker Mile last May 27 . . . Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who ships in on opening day to ride Bast (3-5) in the Grade I Chandelier, Double Touch (12-1) in the Grade II Eddie D and Eight Rings (9-5) in the Grade I American Pharoah, will enter the day tied with fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, each having 660 graded stakes wins and thus looms a heavy favorite to become North America’s all-time leading graded stakes winning jock . . . Question posed in the September-October issue of Midwest Gaming Magazine: What is the percentage of American adults who have gambled at least once in the past year? Answer: 65 percent.LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV: Stronach 5 All-Star Ticket for September 27th, 2019WORK OUTS:Nolde (Sherriffs) 9/25/19Lambeau (Outside) and Shear Class (Sherriffs) 9/25/19Roadster (Outside) and Anuket (Baffert) 9/25/19Draft Pick (Eurton) 9/22/19Mongolian Groom (Ganbat) 9/22/19Neptune’s Storm (Outside) (Baltas) 9/22/19Eight Rings (American Pharoah) and American Anthem (Baffert) 9/22/19Collusion Illusion (Outside) and City Rage (Glatt) 9/21/19 read more
99 AND COUNTING!! Santa Anita’s beloved Paddock Captain John Shear celebrates his 99th birthday in the track’s Runhappy Winner’s Circle following Friday’s third race. When asked what his secret to a long, vibrant life is, he quipped, “Chasing all those young chicks!” Employed at Santa Anita since 1961, Shear was joined by his wife Dianne, son Michael and a large group of family, friends and jockeys.
Premier League Big Six fighting Euro clubs to save League Cup – with new proposal to play FOURTEEN Champions League group games SOME of the biggest clubs in the Premier League could still be at the mercy of Europe’s elite before the continental transfer window ends on Monday.The Premier League decided to bring forward the end of the domestic transfer window ahead of last season, and Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has been amongst those that have criticised the decision.10 Paul Pogba has started all three of United’s league games so far this season – but is wanted at Real MadridCredit: PA:Press AssociationIt means that English sides could now lose star players to teams from mainland Europe – with no opportunity to replace them until January at the earliest.Big name departures from the Premier League this summer include Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Aaron Ramsey – and there are a number of others that could join them overseas in the coming days.PAUL POGBAThe rumour mill surrounding the World Cup winner has been raging all summer.Pogba first revealed he was after a “new challenge” while on a promotional tour of the Far East.Real Madrid have been interested in the Frenchman all summer, but the trail had gone cold until very recently.Los Blancos boss Zinedine Zidane has now urged club chiefs to fork out big money in a bid to bolster his squad in the 11th hour.But United are holding out for around £150-200 million for the former Juventus playmaker.CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN10 The Dane has made it clear that he wants to ‘try something new’Credit: Getty Images – GettyEriksen has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to leave Tottenham this summer.The 27-year-old told Danish press in July that he’d like to ‘try something new.’The creative midfielder has only started one of Spurs’ opening three games – and has just one year left on his contract in N17.Daniel Levy has been trying all summer to tie the schemer down to a bumper new £200k-a-week deal.But the Spurs chairman’s relationship with Eriksen’s agent has now allegedly deteriorated.Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona are reportedly amongst the clubs that Eriksen would like to move to.SHKODRAN MUSTAFI10 Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi is yet to feature for the Gunners this seasonCredit: Getty Images – GettyGerman World Cup winner Shkodran Mustafi has fallen way down the pecking order for the Gunners.The blunder-prone defender is yet to feature for Unai Emery’s side this season, and was booed by his own fans when he played against Lyon in pre-season.Arsenal are desperate to offload the £35million flop – and Roma are one side that have been interested in a loan move.TIEMOUE BAKAYOKO10 Chelsea flop Bakayoko spent last season on loan at AC MilanCredit: Getty – ContributorThen Chelsea boss Antonio Conte forked out £40million to bring Bakayoko to Stamford Bridge from Monaco – but the French international’s time in London has been a big disappointment.The 25-year-old spent last season on loan at AC Milan, and hasn’t featured for the Blues since the 2018 FA Cup Final.Bakayoko has been linked with returns to either AC Milan or Monaco – but only on another season-long loan.ALEXIS SANCHEZ10 Alexis Sanchez is expected to join Romelu Lukaku at InterCredit: Getty Images – GettyManchester United flop Alexis Sanchez is expected to join Inter Milan imminently.The Chilean won’t be the first United forward to swap Old Trafford for the San Siro this summer – with Romelu Lukaku having made the same switch earlier this month.Sanchez’s United career has been a disaster – with the Red Devils desperate to offload the 30-year-old.His loan move to Inter is now expected to not include an option to buy.MOMAHED ELNENY10 Mohamed Elneny has failed to make an impact in North LondonCredit: Getty – ContributorMohamed Elneny signed for Arsenal three-and-a-half years ago but has struggled to ever really make an impact in North London.The Egyptian midfielder has fallen well out of favour with Gunners boss Unai Emery, and has not made a matchday squad this season.French side Bordeaux are believed to be interested in the 27-year-old flop.NACHO MONREAL10 Arsenal will let Nacho Monreal go this week if the player wants to leaveCredit: Getty – ContributorArsenal will let Nacho Monreal leave the club this week if the defender wants to go – despite the 33-year-old having played every single minute for the Gunners so far this season.Real Sociedad are interested in bringing the Spaniard back to La Liga, and it would take a fee of £3m to secure the deal for Arsenal’s longest-serving player.Monreal has one year left on his contract – and is aware that he will not be offered an extension.WILLY CABALLERO10 Willy Caballero has made 22 appearances for the BluesCredit: Getty Images – GettyChelsea’s back-up keeper Willy Caballero has reportedly been the subject of shock interest from Real Madrid.The Spanish giants are expecting Keylor Navas to leave the Bernabeu, meaning Zinedine Zidane’s side will be looking for a new deputy for Thibaut Courtois.Caballero’s departure would leave Chelsea with only 19-year-old Jamie Cumming in reserve for Kepa.MESUT OZIL10 Mesut Ozil made just 24 league appearances under Unai Emery last seasonCredit: Getty – ContributorArsenal enigma Mesut Ozil could leave the Emirates after not even making the substitutes’ bench for their trip to Anfield.The German’s importance at the Emirates has decreased since the arrival of Unai Emery – having made only 24 league appearances last season.Ozil’s astronomical wages are an issue for any potential transfer away – and any departure from North London would most likely be on loan – with the Gunners still having to pay a significant percentage of his salary.MICHY BATSHUAYI10 Michy Batshuayi has never been Chelsea’s first-choice strikerCredit: Getty Images – GettyMichy Batshuayi is no stranger to a loan move – having been away on three during his time at Chelsea.The Belgian international has had mixed spells away at Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Crystal Palace – but finds himself back at Stamford Bridge this summer.The 25-year-old has yet to be involved in a matchday squad this season, however, and could find himself farmed out again – with Roma believed to be interested. read more
MORE SPURS STORIESHARRY ALL FOUR ITKane admits Spurs must win EIGHT games to rise into Champions League spotGossipALL GONE PETE TONGVertonghen wanted by host of Italian clubs as long Spurs spell nears endBELOW PARRSpurs suffer blow with Parrott to miss Prem restart after appendix operationPicturedSHIRT STORMNew Spurs 2020/21 home top leaked but angry fans slam silver design as ‘awful”STEP BY STEP’Jose fears for players’ welfare during restart as stars begin ‘pre-season’KAN’T HAVE THATVictor Osimhen keen on Spurs move but only if they sell Kane this summerYOU KAN DO ITKlinsmann quit Spurs to win trophies but says Kane’s better off stayingTURBULENT PAIRINGDrogba and Mido had mid-flight brawl after stewardess prank went wrongGossipSPURRED ONTottenham table contract offer for Bayern Munich’s teenage starlet Taylor BoothExclusivePASS THE TESTEngland’s NRL-based stars urge bosses to make room for a Test this year And Galtier had his say, adding: “Luis is 200 per cent invested in the project and I don’t see a thousandth of a wish to look elsewhere. We’re close and looking forward.”Campos has been responsible for unearthing some of the top talent in world football during his career.Kylian Mbappe, James Rodriguez, Fabinho and Bernardo Silva are just a few gems he has unearthed.3Jose Mourinho shows he still has great comic timing in first press conference for Tottenham JOSE MOURINHO has been slammed by Lille boss Christophe Galtier for pinching his coaching staff to take with him to Tottenham.Galtier sarcastically hit out at “classy” Mourinho for taking Joao Sacramento and Nuno Santos from Lille to Spurs.3 Galtier has hit out at Mourinho for poaching two members of staff from LilleSacramento will serve as the Special One’s No2 in North London, while Santos will take on the role of goalkeeping coach.Mourinho is close friends with Lille sporting director Luis Campos and has regularly been seen their games since being sacked by Manchester United last December.And it appears the Portuguese boss has used his ties to the club to lure a couple of members of staff away from the Ligue 1 giants.But Galtier was left fuming, saying: “Everyone has their own way of doing things.”He sarcastically added: “But it’s really classy. Really classy to act like that.”Mourinho has now even been linked with signing pal Campos – but Lille’s president Gerard Lopez has warned the Portuguese chief he won’t be successful.Lopez revealed: “Luis and I, we are colleagues but above all friends and we are working on a project together with a huge trajectory.”And the project is far from finished. He will not leave the club. He stays with us.”3 Jaoa Sacramento has previously worked for Monaco and CardiffCredit: Getty – Contributor read more
Photo by: Charles Knight. Copyright: NRL Photos. (It’s taken them a long time, but the Broncos believe they’ve finally worked out how to get the best out of James Roberts). The Broncos announced the retention of Roberts to a long-term deal on Thursday morning that not only provides stability for the oft-troubled right centre but gives Brisbane try-scoring potency they believe can help break their 11-year premiership drought.”The club is proud of the support we have shown James, but also the responsibility he has taken on to earn this new contract,” said Broncos CEO Paul White.”The long-term nature of the contract is a show of faith by the Broncos in James, but also by James in the Broncos.”After arriving from the Gold Coast Titans on the back of a 16-try season in 2015, it took Roberts time to adjust to his new scenery, scoring just three tries in his first 11 games at the Broncos in 2016 as he looked to find his place in Brisbane’s attacking setup. It was a steady start that summed up much of his first year at the club, with patches of brilliance overshadowed by his inability to stay in the contest for the full 80 minutes.But 2017 has seen dramatic improvement in the former Titan and Roberts has been at his destructive best over the past two weeks, running for 170 metres or more against the Newcastle Knights and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, but that is not where his standout statistics end. The 24-year-old has also amassed four line breaks, 14 tackle breaks and three tries in his past two matches as he enters the best form of his Broncos career. Those three tries put him at 13 for the year, four more than he achieved in the whole 2016 season and just three behind his impressive haul in 2015. The man they call ‘Jimmy the Jet’ is now arguably Brisbane’s most damaging attacking threat and winger Jordan Kahu puts this down to his Broncos teammates altering the way in which they get Roberts the ball. “Having such a strike weapon with Jimmy out there you do obviously want to get him the ball but we were just throwing it to him willy-nilly when it kind of wasn’t on and just expecting him to do something,” Kahu said.”We know now when to give him the ball and his fitness levels have really improved. He’s been damaging at the latter end of each half [because of that]. “His fitness was worked on a lot and I think it is really starting to show with his energy on the field. He’s always communicating with me and his fitness is at another level.”Halfback Ben Hunt spends much of his time on Brisbane’s right edge, providing Roberts with plenty of his try-scoring carries. But Hunt himself admitted to forcing the ball to Roberts both last year and in the early stages of this season, something he has rectified in recent weeks. “The thing we’ve learnt with Jimmy is that we don’t really want to force the ball to him. We’ve got to let the game flow and once we get going into the game a bit we’ll find ways to get the ball out to his edge,” Hunt said. “We’ve just got to play our game first and if we get going through the middle and do all the right things through there the ball’s going to get to him in the right positions.”There were a couple of games where there were a few centres he was coming up against we knew he could do a pretty good job on and we were just trying to force the ball to him early and just not getting it to him in the right ways.”But perhaps the biggest influence on Roberts’ form has been his life outside of football. After a number of off-field issues over his career, Roberts has finally settled down and entered a positive headspace that has allowed him to play his best football. Kahu spends a lot of time with Roberts both on and off the field and he said he has seen a noticeable change in his teammate. “It’s a lot to do with [his headspace] as well. He’s sorted a lot of stuff off the field and it’s showing on the field,” Kahu said. read more
After waiting four years, the Pacific MMI Lewas have won back the number one ranking in the East Asia Pacific (EAP) region after beating Japan by 11 runs in yesterday’s final.The Lewas played Samoa in the semi-final on Sunday morning, beating them by 37 runs to set up a rematch with Japan.In the grand final match, the Lewas who batted first set up a target of 113 for Japan to chase down. The Lewas struck early in the game and soon had Japan struggling at 5/30 after 6 overs. However, Japan showed great spirit to fight it out to the end, only to be bowled all out for 102.It was a fitting end for the Lewas to beat Japan in the grand final after losing their number one ranking to Japan back in 2010.As an added bonus, the Lewas have now advanced to the World Cup qualifiers later this year. England will host the next ICC Women’s World Cup in 2017.The Lewas will return to the country tomorrow at 4pm. read more
Kaiwi is contesting in the under 90 kg light heavyweight men’s division.The 60 seconds freestyle event is currently underway on stage.
Goals1-0, 22 ‘: David Lopez, 1-1, 49 ‘: Luis Suarez, 1-2, 58 ‘: Vidal, 2-2, 87 ‘: Wu Lei ChangesVidal (45 ‘, Rakitic), Matias Vargas (61 ‘, Víctor Gómez Perea), Iturraspe (66 ‘, David López), Wu Lei (73 ‘, Oscar Melendo), Nelson Semedo (79 ‘, Griezmann) To try to change something, Valverde introduced Arturo Vidal on the break by Rakitic. Change that his agent counted as a game played for hypothetical lawsuits. That’s right. At the start of the restart, Barça met the flash that changed the scene of the game by pulling the most classic repertoire. Opening to Alba that focused on the area where Suarez appeared in the first dismissal of the Blue and Whites to tie the game. The Uruguayan can never be considered dead.Barcelona took advantage of its moment by pulling professionals because The game was for the seniors, for players with rennet and in that scenario no one like the Suárez-Vidal couple, who on the basis of thrust achieved the second goal in 59. The Chilean appeared out of nowhere to top off a Uruguayan center that changed the scenery of a party that began to play without a net. And before this set, De Jong was the one who came out pricing because the pace of the duel passed over him and he sinned from a pardillo and left his team with ten in 75 completing a pitiful game.The Spanish team took advantage of its superiority and achieved a deserved draw with somewhat sensational Wu Lei that left the feeling that the locals have recovered their pulse to save themselves and that Valverde’s people continue to live from the charisma of their stars, but there they continue, leading the table. Wu Lei hooked the new Espanyol to LaLiga with the goal in the 88th minute that earned him a draw against Espanyol against Barça (2-2) which is a brutal adrenaline shot for the parakeets in their fight for permanence against a Barça that a great match was allowed to match, from which no one was completely satisfied, although everyone clings to the positive. Barça finishes winter champion and Espanyol gave a great image in a madness duel. Both teams have a lot of history left to write.The Barcelona of 2020 insisted on the mistakes of 2019 and before Espanyol again showed that away from home is an absolute barefoot dog. It was clear that the departure to Cornellà to face the derby was a very dangerous cocktail in which the agonizing situation of the parakeets, the new coach, the Christmas break and a service sheet outside the house that frightened the Blaugrana were mixed.All these notices went unnoticed by Barcelona players in the first part, while the locals knew how to pull what they had: Epic and lungs. The Espanyol de Abelardo was a superior team than Barcelona in which the blue and whites could beat the Blaugrana. They were better placed, they raised the game beautifully and from the minute one they knew perfectly what they had to play. On the other side, Valverde again repeated the same game away from home that we have been watching the whole course.It was enough for Espanyol to contain Barça and let the rival assume an inane possession in search of his opportunity. And at first, they sang bingo. An absurd foul by De Jong provided Abelardo with a strategy move that the Blaugrana defenders defended disastrously. David López combed the ball away from Neto, who was playing for Ter Stegen’s injury.He tried to react to Barcelona based on Messi’s starts. But they were isolated plays in which the Argentine could not surprise Diego López. The best occasion for Barça was a fleeting appearance of Suarez in 41 that shot to the post. Fogonazos of rebellion before a game that was played according to the script of Abelardo. The Uruguayan, who seemed absent from the game, was beginning to show signs of life. A notice that would materialize as soon as the second part begins. CardsReferee: Carlos del Cerro GrandeVAR Referee: Valentín Pizarro GómezJavi Lopez (35 ‘, Yellow) Marc Roca (61 ‘, Yellow) Frenkie De Jong (65 ‘, Yellow) Frenkie De Jong (74 ‘, Red read more
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