Three major players seeking gold and glory on Santa Anita's sensational stakes spectacular this Saturday, April 6, worked toward their goals this morning– Bellafina for the Santa Anita Oaks, Gift Box for the Santa Anita Handicap and Nolo Contesto for the Santa Anita Derby, prestigious Grade I races all.
As fellow Frenchman Brice Blanc deputized for Bellafina's regular rider, Flavien Prat, who was in Dubai, the daughter of Quality Road went five furlongs in 1:00.20 for trainer Simon Callaghan, while Gift Box went six furlongs in 1:13.40 and Nolo Contesto the same distance in 1:13.60, both for John Sadler.
“It was an excellent work; I couldn't be happier,” Callaghan said of Bellafina, winner of five of seven career races with earnings of $828,000 for owner Kaleem Shah. “She started off in 24 and change and Brice just sat into her the last eighth and she flew home.
“It was just what we wanted to see. She went a little easier last week (five furlongs in 1:04.60 on March 24) so we wanted to get something more today seven days out.”
Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Game Winner, Roadster, Instagrand, Nolo Contesto, Extra Hope, Sparky Ville and Synthesis. Sparky Ville worked four furlongs this morning in 49.80 for Jeff Bonde.
“Gift Box went very well in company with Acker,” Sadler said. “It was his last work before the race, and he has plenty of foundation so he didn't need much. Nolo Contesto schooled behind another horse. We wanted him to get used to having dirt in his face.”
In all, there were 179 recorded workouts Saturday, 30 on the training track. Among them was a five-furlong move in 1:01.40 by 11-year-old stakes winner Soi Phet, being pointed to a mid-April return by trainer Leonard Powell.
Also on the work tab this morning was Improbable, headed to the Arkansas Derby on April 13 for Bob Baffert, who had the son of City Zip drill six furlongs with blinkers on in a bullet 1:12.80, fastest of 24 moves at the distance. “Very nice; I liked it,” Baffert said.
Omaha Beach, who handed champion Game Winner his first defeat in the second division of the Rebel Stakes on March 16, worked four furlongs Friday in a bullet 47.80 for Richard Mandella, who has the son of War Front returning to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby on April 13. Omaha Beach went in company under retired Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis.
“I didn't realize it was a bullet,” Mandella said. “He went great.”
Fans will be treated to a stakes bonanza April 6, with seven added money events worth $2,750,000, topped by the $1 million Santa Anita Derby and the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino.
In addition to the 1 ¼-mile Big 'Cap and the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita will showcase the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for fillies at 1 1/16 miles; the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs; the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs; the Grade II, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf; and the Grade III, $150,000 Providencia Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
First post time for the biggest day in racing so far this year will be 12 noon.
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