Racing! Happy New Year!

January 1, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we predict the top stories of 2020 and look back at trainer Gary Sherlock.

We don’t often have a Wednesday newsletter but Santa Anita has a special New Year’s Day card that brings us back.

Since today is the first day of 2020, what better point to come up with predictions for the new year. Some of these I feel pretty strong about, some are just a guess and some I came up with just to fill out the list.

So, here are my 10 predictions for horse racing this year. The order is of no importance.

Synthetic course at Santa Anita. After the marathon winter-spring meeting, Santa Anita will announce that it is reconfiguring the track with a turf course closest to the grandstand and turf club and a new synthetic course on the inside of that. The downhill turf course will return with no dirt crossover.

Jockey colony gets stronger. The Southern California jockey colony has added Umberto Rispoli, who will quickly become a crowd favorite. He’s the new Abel Cedillo, who is the new Flavien Prat, who is the new Joel Rosario. And none of those guys are going anywhere. Oh, and Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza are still around. I’ll take that lineup.

More changes on CHRB board. Alex Solis will leave the CHRB board after gaining his trainer’s license. Gov. Gavin Newsom will replace him and the vacant spot held by Fred Maas, meaning that the only Jerry Brown appointment left will be Dennis Alfieri.

TSG to leave safety coalition. The Stronach Group will leave the recently formed Thoroughbred Safety Coalition over differences on safety measures. TSG will say that the proposals do not go far enough and Churchill Downs will say they are too strict.

State racing office gets traction. The idea to have a statewide racing office in California starts to become a reality. It would allow the same people to follow and know horses all year long. Tom Robbins of Del Mar will be drafted to head the office, if only on an interim basis.

CHRB report is inconclusive. The report on the Santa Anita fatalities comes out and there is no smoking gun or commonalities. It will show most of the horses had pre-existing conditions, which is something that’s we’ve always known. But medicine and available equipment isn’t at the point to detect and prevent many of these injuries.

Ballot initiative doesn’t get off ground. In light of new safety and veterinary regulations from tracks and the CHRB, it’s enough to keep animal rights’ activists from successfully getting a banning of horse racing as a ballot initiative in November. Plus, it’s expensive to get enough signatures.

Ed Burgart makes hall of fame. Retired race caller Ed Burgart is the first announcer named to the quarter-horse hall of fame after an intense lobbying effort by Los Alamitos and fans of Burgart. (Get the hint, readers? Orlando, you on that?).

Horse racing integrity act passes and then sits there. The bipartisan Horse Racing Integrity Act makes it to the floor, passes, and is forgotten. The Act, considered a Valhalla for reformers, is actually more of a concept with no real plan in how to enact the changes proposed. And Churchill Downs doesn’t support it, so that could slow any implementation.

CHRB meeting goes less than three hours. OK, we know this is just a pipe dream, but we thought we’d throw it out there just in case.

OK, we’ll find out how smart I am or if I’m more of a Nostra-dumb-ass.

Weekly handicapping lesson

It’s been a few weeks but Rob Henie of the WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report) and the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report) is back. Today’s analysis comes from the first race at Santa Anita and incorporates some handicapping angles into the mix. Rob, take it away.

“The first race of the day, but also of 2020, and things begin with a maiden special weight at a mile on the turf. These are brand new 3-year-olds, and we’re looking for horses who’ve got room to move forward early in their career, meaning, with any of the following variables aiding that process — moving out in distance, trying the turf for the first time, perhaps running over this Santa Anita sod for the first time, and just as important, understanding who’s been facing who? For example, and as we preach often, when we can look at a prior MSW race, and know that in actuality, it was nothing more than a $30,000 group. This is a huge attribute to have on our side, while the same could be said to know whether a runner exits a race was indeed on the stronger side. That’s the case we believe with the European invader JURGEN (#5). In his lone try at The Curragh, he finished seven lengths behind Mogul, a horse who won in his second start, which came after a second-place effort in his debut when defeated by Geometrical, a runner who went on to just miss in a Group 3 Irish Futurity race next time out. Bottom line, the talent we’ve just mentioned would be 4-5 to beat this particular group here today, and now, in his second start, first try in the U.S., he’s sent long by John Sadler, adding Lasix, and here’s Joel Rosario, always a great sign for the barn. PURE CAMINE (#3) debuts for Neil Drysdale, and it was around this time in January of 2018, when Neil and Drayden Van Dyke teamed for a nice $40 debut winner as our WCHR Top Pick, also debuting on the sod. The drills are on the slow side, but that’s typical for the barn, especially for a runner by Lemon Drop Kid, while the MSW placement along with the turf assignment, both are indicative of a horse who wants longer, and likely is at least somewhat well thought of by his connections, facing a group today which is not a legitimate MSW bunch, at least outside of the top selection.

Click Here: liverpool mens jersey

“Hot / Cold Race Trends: none

“Win Contenders (order of preference): 5-3

“X Out Runners (eliminating on the win end): 7

“Positive Notes:

“2 Frasard – Lasix, strings races together for the first time, over the Santa Anita sod for the first time.

“Negative Notes:

“7 Dominant Soul – Capestro is just terrible when it comes to placing her runners realistically.

“9 K P All Systems Go – Not a fan of Baze from off the pace on the turf.

“First Timers:

“6 Above the Rainbow – If he was live at first asking, Drayden would be riding.

“Morning Line Underlays / Overlays:

“5 Jurgen – Morning Line 6-1 / WCHR Line 3-1

“TOP PICK: JURGEN (#5 6-1 Rosario) $ Selected Win Wager

“SECOND CHOICE: PURE CAMINE (#3 8-1 Van Dyke) Debut $ Selected Win Wager”

The West Coast Handicapping Report can be found at It has been endorsed by leading trainers, handicappers and industry sources.

Gary Sherlock, RIP

Veteran trainer Gary Sherlock died on Sunday after fighting cancer for a while. He was 73. His 74th birthday would have been today. I did a story for our website. Just click here.

I didn’t know Gary well but often saw him at Clockers’ Corner. My memory is how he kept me from looking real stupid. Here’s the story I wrote at the time. Just click here.

Sherlock was at the Preakness in 2016 and I had talked to him on the phone in advance of meeting him in person. I go to the stakes barn where Tom Mansor, the principal owner of Uncle Lino, was holding court. Mansor and Sherlock had been friends forever and held this bond that exists in long-time friends.

Mansor, pointing into his entourage, said the mayor of Pleasanton was over there. I’m thinking, hmmm, Sherlock is from Pleasanton as is Mansor. Could make some color for my story.

I researched who the mayor was and was going to talk to him at the Preakness draw. I go up to Sherlock.

“Hi Gary, which one is the mayor?”

“Did Tom tell you the mayor was here?”

“He sure did.”

“Ah, he just made that up. You better tell me what else he told you.”

I did.

Here was a chance where Gary could have played along with the joke. (I might have.) But he didn’t, saving me from embarrassment.

It’s a pretty insignificant story but does get to what was in that heart of his.

Gary Sherlock, RIP.

Santa Anita preview

Wednesday’s 10-race holiday card starts at 11:30 a.m. It’s only the third day, so celebration is premature, but the Santa Anita racing office is writing races that seem to be drawing decent-sized fields.

Five of the 10 races are on the turf, with the rail set at 10 feet. The feature is the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes, for older horses going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. The race would normally be held on the 6 ½-furlong downhill course but Santa Anita has shuttered that course for sprints, at least for now.

The favorite, at 3-1, is Blitzkrieg for trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Rafael Bejarano. The O’Neill barn picked up the gelding five races ago in a claimer. He won that race and then the next three before a disappointing seventh in the Gold Cup on May 27. That was his last race. He has won five-of-14 lifetime.

True Valor is the second favorite at 7-2 for owner-trainer Simon Callaghan and Drayden Van Dyke. He won a Grade 2 and 3 before a 10th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He started his career in Britain and Ireland. This will be his seventh race in the United States.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 11 (3 also eligible), 7, 6, 11 (2 ae), 7, 10, 7, 10 (1 ae), 9, 11 (1 ae).

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE FOUR: No. 9 Mr. Unusual (10-1)

Mr. Unusual was claimed last out by trainer John Sadler and Hronis Racing and today they stretch out to a mile and move to turf for the second career race. The dam has two winners from six starters including a turf winner. Jockey Umberto Rispoli (my new jockey to watch) who already has three seconds from six races in the ‘States gets the mount Wednesday. In that last race going six furlongs the horse came from 13 lengths back into the stretch after a slow start to run sixth, only six lengths back. On the gallop Mr. Unusual cruised on by everyone including the winner. They jump the horse up in class today and give us a sharp workout. Watch the last race replay starting in the stretch, it was impressive. 10-1 is a great value for us!

Sunday’s result: Into Chocolate dropped to 5-1 post time and under an expert ride from Abel Cedillo got the job done winning easily with a great stretch run. It is amazing what a difference a jockey upgrade and no race trouble makes. Into Chocolate paid $12.40 for the win.

Final thought

If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter you can click here and sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email, nothing more. Tell your friends, or even people you don’t like that much.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now the star of the show, Wednesday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Wednesday, January 1.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 3rd day of a 60-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Goalie Flavien Prat 122 Philip D’Amato 6-1
2 Frasard Rafael Bejarano 122 Leonard Powell 6-1
3 Pure Carmine Drayden Van Dyke 122 Neil D. Drysdale 12-1
4 War Path J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 Bob Baffert 12-1
5 Jurgen Joel Rosario 122 John W. Sadler 4-1
6 Above the Rainbow Jose Valdivia, Jr. 122 Patrick Gallagher 20-1
7 Dominant Soul Tiago Pereira 122 Paula S. Capestro 30-1
8 Too Late Mario Gutierrez 122 Doug F. O’Neill 6-1
9 K P All Systems Go Tyler Baze 122 Jeff Mullins 7-2
10 Spanish Count Umberto Rispoli 122 Richard Baltas 12-1
11 Forever Poe Mike Smith 122 Don Chatlos 5-1
Also Eligible
12 Governance Abel Cedillo 122 Richard Baltas 4-1
13 Fredericktown J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 Michael W. McCarthy 20-1
14 Ekklesia Mario Gutierrez 122 Peter Eurton 20-1


6 Furlongs. Purse: $23,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $30,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Taco Waco Joel Rosario 122 Victor L. Garcia 3-1 30,000
2 Golden Victory Agapito Delgadillo 122 Victor L. Garcia 6-1 30,000
3 Handsome Michael Edwin Maldonado 122 George Papaprodromou 2-1 30,000
4 Affirmracer Eswan Flores 122 Steven Miyadi 8-1 30,000
5 Shootin Money Tiago Pereira 122 Philip A. Oviedo 4-1 30,000
6 Lizzario Rafael Bejarano 117 J. Keith Desormeaux 4-1 30,000
7 Code Gray Juan Ochoa 122 Jack Carava 20-1 30,000


1 Mile. Purse: $59,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 California Street Flavien Prat 122 Patrick Gallagher 3-1
2 Platinum Equity Tiago Pereira 122 Steve Knapp 7-2
3 Justinian Drayden Van Dyke 122 Bob Baffert 2-1
4 Federal Case Abel Cedillo 122 Michael W. McCarthy 6-1
5 Potantico J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 Vladimir Cerin 6-1
6 Instagrand Joel Rosario 122 Don Chatlos 4-1


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $36,000. Maiden Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $75,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Landaa Drayden Van Dyke 124 George Papaprodromou 20-1 75,000
2 Time to Testify Donnie Meche 124 J. Keith Desormeaux 20-1 75,000
3 Royal Suspect Joseph Talamo 124 Mark Glatt 12-1 75,000
4 Champers Abel Cedillo 124 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 3-1 75,000
5 Rip City Mario Gutierrez 124 Richard Baltas 5-2 75,000
6 Drasario Joel Rosario 124 Richard Baltas 6-1 75,000
7 Big Hoof Dynamite Brice Blanc 124 Jay Nehf 5-1 75,000
8 Jamason Evin Roman 124 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 30-1 75,000
9 Mr. Unusual Umberto Rispoli 124 John W. Sadler 10-1 75,000
10 Kadesh Geovanni Franco 124 Ryan Hanson 10-1 75,000
11 Extremely Wicked Flavien Prat 124 Philip D’Amato 10-1 75,000
Also Eligible
12 Brother Reid J.C. Diaz, Jr. 119 Vladimir Cerin 8-1 75,000
13 Blues Rapper Geovanni Franco 124 Carla Gaines 8-1 75,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $33,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Tapitha Bonita Tiago Pereira 122 William Spawr 7-2 25,000
2 No Wine Untasted Joseph Talamo 122 J. Eric Kruljac 6-1 25,000
3 Drift Away Flavien Prat 124 Andrew Lerner 7-2 25,000
4 Love a Honeybadger Joel Rosario 122 Peter Miller 3-1 25,000
5 Time for Ebby Assael Espinoza 122 Steve Knapp 8-1 25,000
6 South Boot Shirley Edwin Maldonado 122 Craig Dollase 6-1 25,000
7 Nomizar Tyler Baze 124 Ryan Hanson 4-1 25,000


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Courteous Joseph Talamo 122 Richard E. Mandella 7-2
2 Seaside Dancer Abel Cedillo 122 Peter Miller 5-1
3 Peter’s Kitten Joel Rosario 124 John W. Sadler 4-1
4 Coldwater Mike Smith 122 Patrick Gallagher 15-1
5 Kittyhawk Lass Drayden Van Dyke 122 Mike Puype 8-1
6 Opus Won Mario Gutierrez 124 Richard Baltas 5-1
7 Mulhima Flavien Prat 124 Anna Meah 20-1
8 Out of Balance Geovanni Franco 124 David E. Hofmans 5-1
9 Prima Valentina Brice Blanc 124 George Papaprodromou 15-1
10 Doc Yco Cheeks Rafael Bejarano 124 Peter Eurton 8-1


1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $38,000. Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Kenzou’s Rhythm Heriberto Figueroa 122 Jeff Mullins 5-1 40,000
2 Boogalute Flavien Prat 122 Mike Puype 4-1 40,000
3 Royal Insider Tiago Pereira 122 Steve Knapp 10-1 40,000
4 Secret Touch Abel Cedillo 122 Peter Eurton 6-1 40,000
5 Full of Luck Eswan Flores 122 Steven Miyadi 5-1 40,000
6 Winning Element Rafael Bejarano 122 Doug F. O’Neill 8-5 40,000
7 Cabin John Joel Rosario 122 Anthony K. Saavedra 6-1 40,000


5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $200,000. ‘Joe Hernandez Stakes’. 4 year olds and up.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Tribalist Ruben Fuentes 120 Blake R. Heap 10-1
2 Double Touch Victor Espinoza 120 John W. Sadler 8-1
3 Grinning Tiger Jose Valdivia, Jr. 120 Anthony K. Saavedra 12-1
4 Texas Wedge Flavien Prat 120 Peter Miller 6-1
5 Oiseau de Guerre Geovanni Franco 120 Michael W. McCarthy 15-1
6 True Valour Drayden Van Dyke 124 Simon Callaghan 7-2
7 Captain Scotty Joel Rosario 120 Peter Miller 5-1
8 Legends of War Abel Cedillo 122 Doug F. O’Neill 6-1
9 Blitzkrieg Rafael Bejarano 122 Doug F. O’Neill 3-1
10 Carnivorous Mario Gutierrez 120 Steve Knapp 20-1
Also Eligible
11 Bay Muzik Tyler Baze 120 Ari Herbertson 12-1


1 Mile. Purse: $55,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Kiss Today Goodbye Tiago Pereira 122 J. Eric Kruljac 20-1
2 Opus Equus Donnie Meche 122 J. Keith Desormeaux 30-1
3 Don V. J.C. Diaz, Jr. 117 David E. Hofmans 15-1
4 Snap Chap Mike Smith 122 Don Chatlos 5-1
5 Tizamagician Victor Espinoza 122 Richard E. Mandella 8-5
6 Divine Armor Joel Rosario 122 John W. Sadler 3-1
7 Midnight Luck Geovanni Franco 122 Adam Kitchingman 8-1
8 Blue Jays Jose Valdivia, Jr. 122 J. Keith Desormeaux 30-1
9 Much More Halo Drayden Van Dyke 122 Bob Baffert 7-2


1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $57,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 4 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Musawaat Umberto Rispoli 122 Mike Puype 9-2
2 Soberano Tyler Baze 124 Thomas Ray Bell, II 20-1 40,000
3 Farquhar Jorge Velez 119 Vladimir Cerin 12-1
4 Golden Birthday Victor Espinoza 124 James M. Cassidy 8-1
5 Shining Through Flavien Prat 124 Dan Ward 5-1
6 Crystal Tribe Abel Cedillo 124 Jeff Mullins 15-1
7 Southern King Joel Rosario 124 Peter Miller 10-1
8 Storm the Bastille Tiago Pereira 122 William Spawr 6-1
9 Red King Aaron Gryder 122 Philip D’Amato 5-1
10 M Town Gem Rafael Bejarano 122 Mike Puype 4-1
11 French Getaway Evin Roman 124 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 12-1 40,000
Also Eligible
12 Real Master Brice Blanc 124 Thomas Ray Bell, II 20-1 40,000