On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, America honors its patriotic veterans with a day of respectful remembrance.
Santa Anita, in a lesser sense, shares in that grateful reflection with the running of the Shoemaker Mile, one of three Grade I events that day offering a total of $1.5 million in purses.
The Shoemaker is named for the late, great racing veteran, Bill Shoemaker, who was and remains the gold standard among jockeys, 16 years after his death on Oct. 12, 2003.
Fittingly, Ron McAnally will have a horse in that race, a six-year-old Argentine-bred named Le Ken that has outrun his odds in each of his six United States starts. It would be fitting, too, if McAnally, 86 and a member of the Hall of Fame since 1990, would win the Shoemaker, captured five times by the rider when the race was run as the Premier Handicap.
After all, McAnally and Shoemaker started out together. They were here in 1948, when Santa Anita was in its infancy.
“Shoe was one of the greatest I've seen,” McAnally said. “We grew up together. He was mucking stalls when I was mucking stalls. He was a classy guy and a helluva rider.”
As for Le Ken, he was fourth in his U.S. debut at 80-1 in the Grade II City of Hope Mile; fourth at 19-1 in the restricted Lure Stakes; ninth after an eventful trip at 54-1 in the Grade II Seabiscuit; second in an overnight race at 21-1; third in the Grade III Thunder Road at 22-1; and fourth in the Grade III San Francisco Mile at 16-1.
“He's been right there in most of his races,” McAnally said. “He's been training really well. I'm real happy with the way he looks and how he's been doing. Hopefully, if he's in a photo this time, it will be for the win.”
Should he do so, it would add to McAnally's career stakes victories at Santa Anita, currently at 113, good for fourth behind Charlie Whittingham, Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel, and like McAnally, fellow Hall of Fame members all.
Likely for the Shoemaker, a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” Challenge Race providing the winner with a fees-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Mile on Nov. 2: Blitzkrieg, Bowies Hero, Catapult, Delta Prince, Desert Stone, Le Ken, Ohio, River Boyne, Sharp Samurai and Synchrony.
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