A day of racing which showcases California-breds without a Nick Alexander owned or bred horse would be rare indeed these days, like an NFL game without a single review.
Not to worry Saturday when the 77-year-old native of Santa Monica has three horses he owns and bred entered on Santa Anita's nine-race program featuring runners from the Golden State: Desmond Doss in the $250,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic presented by City National Bank; Just Grazed Me in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint; and Lieutenant Dan in the $150,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint.
They are three of five stakes tomorrow focusing on California-bred runners, the others being the $200,000 California Cup Derby and the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.
Desmond Doss, Just Grazed Me and Lieutenant Dan were all sired by Alexander's prolific homebred gray stud Grazen, who stands at Nick's Horse Haven Farm in Santa Ynez for $6,000 live foal.
“Grazen is 14 now,” said Alexander, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC). “He set a personal record year last year when his offspring won nine stakes, including two graded stakes. S Y Sky won the Monrovia and Just Grazed Me won the Ken Maddy, both Grade III's.
“Desmond won a turf sprint at 5 ½ furlongs last out on Jan. 5. He ran there because that's all there was. We know he's a two-turn horse so we didn't expect him to win; we just expected him to pass a few horses and get something out of it. He surprised us and mowed 'em down (getting up by a head at odds of nearly 8-1).” The gray four-year-old's prior three races were at a mile or longer.
Desmond Doss is named for the United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in World War II, distinguishing himself in the Battle of Okinawa by saving 75 men, becoming the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the war. His remarkably heroic life has been the subject of books and the gripping 2016 film, Hacksaw Ridge.
Saturday is more than just a day at the races for Alexander, who resides on his 280-acre Santa Ynez ranch where he is an active and enthusiastic hands-on participant, from the birth of foals to their racing days, preferring to thrive on the highs and shun the lows.
“I was very, very lucky that my children were able to take over my (automobile) business and allow me to retire relatively early so I could spend full time at the ranch,” said Alexander, who graduated from Pasadena High School and spent two years at USC before he began hawking four-wheeled vehicles and later four-legged Thoroughbreds.
“The ranch life is what I enjoy most, staying up all night waiting for a mare to foal, seeing that little guy stand up and nurse. You're there for those moments, then you see them get weaned, you break them, send them off to the race track and hope they do well.
“You're never sure which ones are going to succeed and which ones aren't. Horses are incredible animals. They teach you patience and humility and they're so much fun to be around. They're family. We raise our own feed, so I've become a pretty decent farmer besides being a horse lover. We raise alfalfa and oats . . . I enjoy that part of it, too.
“The amazing thing is sometimes it's the more modest mares that produce your most successful race horses. Of the ones we have entered Saturday, Lieutenant Dan is out of mare (Excusabull) I think I paid $10,000 for. Just Grazed Me is out of a mare (Fairway Road) that was given to me by some people who raced but didn't breed.
“When the mare was done racing, they didn't want to put her in a sale; they just gave her to me and she produced Just Grazed Me, who's a graded stakes winner.
“You never know. Sometimes the expensive mares or the mares that are great on the race track aren't as good as broodmares, so there's a lot of unexpected good news and unexpected bad news.”
But for Nick Alexander, the glass always seems half full.
The Unusual Heat Turf Classic, race six of nine with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Ward 'n Jerry, Umberto Rispoli, 5-2; Cono, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Accountability, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; The Hunted, Tiago Pereira, 9-5; Wound Tight, Abel Cedillo, 5-1; Desmond Doss, Drayden Van Dyke, 5-1; Mobou, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; and Ashleyluvssugar, Flavien Prat, 7-2.
The Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, race three: Just Grazed Me, Geovanni Franco, 6-5; Into Rissa, Tiago Pereira, 50-1; Stealthediamonds, Agapito Delgadillo, 5-2; Show It N Moe It, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Apache Princess, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Lakerball, Abel Cedillo, 12-1; and Lippy, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.
The Cal Cup Sprint, race five: Baja Sur, Juan Hernandez, 5-2; Fashionably Fast, Tiago Pereira, 9-5; Oliver, Abel Cedillo, 4-1; Heck Yeah, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Brandothebartender, Umberto Rispoli, 15-1; Lieutenant Dan, Drayden Van Dyke, 7-2; and League of Shadows, Ruben Fuentes, 30-1.
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