Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we begin the final countdown.

When you’re away for a few days, there is always news to catch up on. So, let’s get to it.

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–The buzz started to grow when Bloomberg wrote on Tuesday that The Stronach Group was getting ready to sell some of its assets. That started up the rumor, yet once again, that TSG was going to sell Santa Anita and it would be turned a real estate purchase. I was able to reach Aidan Butler, chief operating officer of TSG’s racing division on Wednesday morning and he was very unequivocal. The race tracks are not for sale, he said. Now, this isn’t a forever declaration but where things stand now. And I believe Aidan when he says this. He actually had more to say, which I wrote about in The Times. Just click here. So, breathe easy for now, until the rumor starts circulating again.

–The latest legal wrangling over the positive test by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit advanced a baby step Wednesday. It was the expected move, for sure, but is one kick to the can as it works its way down the road. Frank Angst of the Bloodhorse had a brilliant lede (first paragraph), which I will just cut and paste: “In a decision Thomas Wingate likely never imagined in law school, the Franklin (Ky.) Circuit Court Judge outlined plans [Wednesday] for several adults to travel with a urine sample collected from a Kentucky Derby winner on a flight to a New York lab.” (I tend to keep my urine samples in my bladder when I fly, but that’s just me.) The strategy for the Medina Sprit team is to, first, prove that betamethasone was administered to Medina Spirit by a topical ointment and not by injection. And, secondly, that the rule was intended to cover only interarticular injections. You can read Frank’s full story. Just click here.

–Most interesting in Wednesday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting was how the Board was not satisfied with Santa Anita’s reason for not being compliant on fire prevention methods (i.e. sprinklers) at San Luis Rey Downs. Santa Anita’s GM, Nate Newby, explained that because of COVID the repairs were way behind schedule. The Board didn’t rubber stamp the extension and expects a more detailed report next meeting.

The other big issue was the continual lack of a contract between the big tracks, in this case Del Mar, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). There hasn’t been a signed new contract for a couple of years and in every case the details of the previous contract were instituted. That benefits the CTT. At issue is the track’s ability to rule trainers off with or without due process, such as Santa Anita did to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in 2019. (Depositions are currently being taken in that case.) Commissioner Wendy Mitchell has been the bulldog on tracks seeking licenses without having everything signed and in place. I applaud her for that. It would be interesting if the Board were to say there has to be a new contract between all tracks and the CTT and nothing gets grandfathered in. We would get to see who blinks first. We’re guessing the tracks.

–The Breeders’ Cup announced that all seating capacity will be used for their Nov. 5-6 event at Del Mar and it is holding out hope that general admission may also be added to the lineup closer to the actual event. Tickets to the seats will be available on July 16 at 9 a.m. PDT on the website. There will be no dollar beer promotions those days. Premium dining for two days will cost you between $775 and $1,875 a seat. Box seats will go from $375 to $975 a seat either in a one or two-day option. And reserved seating, either one or two days, will go from between $100 and $475 a seat.

Newsletter information

On Monday, I announced that this week would be the last for the four-plus-year publication. I was blown away by the notes of support from all of you. Thank you very much. I apologize for not getting back to most of you. Just know I appreciate the gesture of you taking time out to write the email and lie your tail ends off. There were a couple of folks who were unclear about who made the decision to end the newsletter. It was not me or my immediate bosses. In fairness, there are 33 newsletters done by the L.A. Times. This one is 29th in number of subscribers but second in open rate, the metric that determines how many people actually open the email and read it. That is a testament to you, a very loyal group of subscribers. Thank you for wanting to read it most days. (OK, there are some days I wouldn’t want to read it and certainly not write it. But those days were few.) Again, if you have an opinion on this or any other decision the Los Angeles Times makes about its coverage, you are welcome to contact our readers’ representative. They can be reached here.

Santa Anita preview

You’ve got to give Santa Anita credit for trying not to leave a horse that wants to race behind. There are 11 races on Friday and Saturday and nine on closing day, all with a 1 p.m. start. Eleven races on a Friday? When does that happen? So, how do you find the feature? (Three questions in a row, that’s just bad journalism.) The answer: look for the smallest field size. Ouch. The feature on Friday is a $70,000 allowance for horses going a mile for a high purse of $70,000. The field size is listed as five, but don’t be surprised if the favorite, at 7-5, Ax Man, is scratched. (I could be wrong on this, but don’t think so.)

The second favorite is Midcourt at 9-5 for trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Edwin Maldonado. Midcourt’s last 10 races have been graded stakes, so an allowance is a step down. Reason might be that he’s been off since Dec. 26, when he was fifth in the San Antonio. Last year he was third in the Pacific Classic (won by Maximum Security) and the Awesome Again (won by Improbable), so he’s used to running in rarefied air. Post is around 5:36 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 9, 8, 12, 5, 8, 5, 10, 8, 8, 5, 10.

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

TENTH RACE: No. 4 Cupid’s Claw (6-1)

Cupid’s Claw is my 6-1 upset special in this race with Flavien Prat jumping back on. Last September here under Prat in a Grade 3, Cupid won by seven lengths. Shipped to a Grade 3 at Keeneland in November the horse misfired badly forcing a six-month benching. With a prep race last out now under the belt, Cupid is dropping in class today making the second start off the layoff, a move trainer Craig Dollase has s 19% win rate for a profit. The two Bob Baffert horses will likely take a lot of money but in a race that has been won by horses over 5-1 a whopping 45% we are ripe for a value upset Friday. My full card is Free for all L.A Times Newsletter readers today. Simply click over here https://californiapick4.com/la-times-free-play/

Sunday’s result: Hapi Hapi did exactly as I anticipated under a great ride by Tiago Pereira. The added distance was the difference maker with Hapi almost running into trouble at the top of the stretch but this time around had more yardage to correct and surge late. Hapi Hapi paid $14.20 for the win.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Los Alamitos weekend preview

Los Alamitos is the only game in town at night. So, let’s turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Owned and bred by M&G Farms, fastest qualifier Golden Boi will headline a terrific field of 10 juveniles in the running of Sunday’s Grade 1 $1,150,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity, which is the first million-dollar race this meeting. Golden Boi won his trial by a half-length thanks to a good start and a blazing finish in the 350-yard race. The effort earned the son of Favorite Cartel a time of :17.627, good enough to edge Black Coffeee’s second fastest qualifying time of :17.640. Ridden by Ruben Lozano for trainer Valentin Zamudio, Golden Boi also showed a powerful knockout punch in the final stages of his racing debut, when he posted a neck victory after trailing early on. In between his two victories, he finished fourth when facing winners in an allowance.

“ ’The horse has always shown us talent,’ Zamudio said. ‘He did well in his workouts and fortunately has done great in his races. He had some trouble in his second outing, but he still ran a very good race. I felt he was coming into the [Ed Burke trials] feeling good and a lot more focused. He can still improve in the gates. He is still getting better leaving there and fortunately, he is still improving that aspect of his game.’

“Trainer Jose Flores has four aces going into the Ed Burke, qualifying trial winners Black Coffeee, Eye On The Sky, Chizum, and Sweet Dasha Fire. They have combined to win seven of eight career starts with Sweet Dasha Fire’s runner-up finish by a nose the only blemish. Eye On The Sky has been the most impressive of the four, as he debuted with a 3 ½ length victory on April 24 before winning his Burke trial by daylight even after getting bumped at the start.

“Black Coffeee figures to be percolating in the starting gate, as he showed tremendous quickness in his trial victory. He had a 1 ¼ length lead at the start and cruised to win by 1 ½ lengths. Chizum and Sweet Dasha Fire are both well bred with Chizum coming from the family of All American Futurity winner AB What A Runner and Sweet Dasha Fire being a full-sister to 2015 AQHA World Champion Heza Dasha Fire, who won the Ed Burke in 2014.

“Among the rest of the field, Run By Your Cartel is unbeaten in two starts and Docs Fast Lane will be making his second appearance in a futurity after running fourth in the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity.

“On Saturday night, Los Alamitos remembers the late Fred Scane, a highly respected quarter-horse owner, breeder, and stallion manager, with the running of a stakes race for 2-year-old fillies named in his honor. The Fred Scane Memorial Handicap will have a $25,000 purse and will be run at 350 yards. The field will be headed by Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity finalists Val Frida and La Blue Amore plus unbeaten filly Hitters Count. Eight fillies will face the starter for this race.

“Scane was involved in quarter-horse racing for more than 40 years as he owned Scane Ranch in Chino, where leading stallion Merridoc stood. Scane was the breeder of the three-time national champion Griswold, who is best remembered for taking on the thoroughbred Valiant Pete in a thrilling $100,000 winner-take-all match race at Santa Anita in 1991.

“Things kick off Friday with an eight-race program starting at 6:35 p.m. A Dash Of Sign, who finished second by a nose in the Adequan California Derby Challenge, now takes on a group of sharp runners in the $13,000 allowance feature.

“Upcoming at Los Alamitos next week, three stakes highlight the Summer Thoroughbred Festival. The seven-day season will begin Friday, June 25 and continue through Monday, July 5. Racing will be Friday-Sunday the first week and Friday-Monday the final four days. Post time will be 1 p.m.

“The Grade 3 $150,000-guaranteed Los Alamitos Derby will be held on July 3rd, while the main event on closing day is the Grade II, $200,000 Great Lady M. Stakes on July 5. The meet will have a handicapping contest on July 4 featuring a cash prize and a pair of berths to the 2022 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Contest rules are available at LosAlamitos.com.

“This being the final edition of the Los Alamitos weekend preview as part of this newsletter, thank you John Cherwa and the Los Angeles Times for providing me the opportunity to be a part of this newsletter. I will miss reading it each racing morning.”

And thank you for your contributions, Orlando.

Chris Wade’s LA pick of the day

FIRST RACE: No. 1 Vastly Deep (4-1)

He should be a menacing contender down the backstretch. In his most recent outing three weeks ago, the gelding leaned back at the start to lose over two lengths of ground and had to race five wide down the backside and through the turn prior to finishing well for a tremendous third-place finish. The number earned on my charts gives this runner a big look to sit a nice stalking trip and then hopefully pounce on what could be a several tiring speedsters in the late going. Runner is trouble prone early, but he’s got the late kick to make up for it.

A final thought

As we head toward the final newsletter, remember you can always voice your concerns or praise about anything in the Los Angeles Times by contacting our reader’ representative. They can be reached here. After the newsletter goes away, make sure and check my twitter account for stories I might have written. So, follow me at @jcherwa.

And now the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, June 18.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 77th day of a 81-day meet.

FIRST RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Oviatt Class Kent Desormeaux 122 J. Keith Desormeaux 4-1
2 Lookout Point Flavien Prat 122 Peter Miller 7-2
3 Miss Bellatrix Umberto Rispoli 119 Doug F. O’Neill 8-1
4 Il Capitano Tyler Baze 122 Andrew Lerner 6-1
5 I’m Winning Juan Hernandez 122 Adam Kitchingman 6-1
6 Alois Trevor McCarthy 122 Michael W. McCarthy 8-1
7 Agador Spartacus Edwin Maldonado 122 Val Brinkerhoff 10-1
8 Mashhad Flats Emily Ellingwood 115 Ryan Hanson 8-1
9 Flash of Genius Abel Cedillo 122 Peter Miller 5-1

SECOND RACE.

1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $22,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Class Code Geovanni Franco 120 Carla Gaines 6-1 20,000
2 Mamas Got Cash Eswan Flores 126 Joe Herrick 12-1 20,000
3 Pancakes and Beer Abel Cedillo 120 Anthony K. Saavedra 6-1 20,000
4 Medusa’s Gaze Mario Gutierrez 120 Steve Knapp 4-1 20,000
5 Summer Rose Ricardo Gonzalez 126 Philip D’Amato 8-5 20,000
6 Circle of Honor Tyler Baze 120 Steve Knapp 3-1 20,000
7 Slewpys Last Song Tiago Pereira 126 Javier Jose Sierra 30-1 20,000
8 Queen of Love Jessica Pyfer 115 Jeff Mullins 12-1 20,000

THIRD RACE.

6 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Auspicious Style Kent Desormeaux 120 Dan Blacker 15-1
2 Harbor Sky Cesar Ortega 113 Sean McCarthy 30-1
3 Really Big News Umberto Rispoli 120 Tim Yakteen 7-2
4 Hot Spot Jose Valdivia, Jr. 120 Kristin Mulhall 12-1
5 Wilder Than Most Tyler Baze 126 Carla Gaines 5-1
6 Just About Enough Juan Hernandez 120 Mark Glatt 8-1
7 Surplus Trevor McCarthy 120 Peter Miller 6-1
8 Gone Somewhere Flavien Prat 120 Sean McCarthy 12-1
9 Sleight of Hoof Ricardo Gonzalez 126 Philip D’Amato 8-1
10 Donner Lake Mario Gutierrez 120 Richard Baltas 10-1
11 Talklessworkmore Jessica Pyfer 115 Shelbe Ruis 15-1
12 Constant Conflict Abel Cedillo 120 Peter Eurton 5-1

FOURTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $65,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Dr. Schivel Flavien Prat 120 Mark Glatt 8-5
2 Fight On Umberto Rispoli 126 John W. Sadler 6-1 62,500
3 Liam’s Pride Victor Espinoza 126 Doug F. O’Neill 8-1
4 Canadian Pride Abel Cedillo 126 Peter Eurton 9-5
5 Speed Pass Edwin Maldonado 126 Bob Baffert 5-2

FIFTH RACE.

6½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $36,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Little Bird Jessica Pyfer 117 Richard Baltas 8-1 22,500
2 A New Peace Jose Valdivia, Jr. 124 Steve Knapp 3-1 25,000
3 Miss Lucy Juan Espinoza 117 Peter Miller 4-1 25,000
4 Loud Loud Music Abel Cedillo 124 Steven Miyadi 7-2 25,000
5 Lavender Trevor McCarthy 124 James W. Glenn, Jr. 5-1 25,000
6 Invincibella Flavien Prat 124 Peter Miller 7-2 25,000
7 Madame Barbarian Umberto Rispoli 122 Jeff Mullins 8-1 22,500
8 Convince Tyler Baze 122 Bruce Dillenbeck 50-1 22,500

SIXTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Over Attracted Umberto Rispoli 124 John W. Sadler 6-1
2 She’s a Dime Alexis Centeno 119 Doug F. O’Neill 9-5
3 Shezaghost Flavien Prat 124 Mike Puype 8-5
4 Ole Silver Jessica Pyfer 121 Philip D’Amato 5-2
5 Last First Kiss Juan Hernandez 126 Gary Mandella 8-1

SEVENTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $28,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 to u year olds. Claiming Prices $25,000-$22,500.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Sugar Kisses Edwin Maldonado 120 Carla Gaines 20-1 25,000
2 Listen to Blue Geovanni Franco 126 James M. Cassidy 6-1 25,000
3 Katla Abel Cedillo 126 Carla Gaines 20-1 25,000
4 Brittle and Yoo Umberto Rispoli 126 John W. Sadler 3-1 25,000
5 Predictable Tully Tiago Pereira 126 Jeff Mullins 5-1 25,000
6 Buy Wave Buy Tyler Baze 126 Alexis Barba 6-1 25,000
7 Starship Sky Juan Hernandez 126 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 15-1 25,000
8 Bluegrass Sky Flavien Prat 126 Dan Blacker 7-2 25,000
9 Northern Gem Diego Herrera 113 Librado Barocio 30-1 25,000
10 Peace Pipe Jessica Pyfer 120 Richard Baltas 4-1 22,500

EIGHTH RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $36,000. Starter Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Mulligan Ricardo Gonzalez 126 Richard Baltas 6-1
2 Livingmybestlife Juan Hernandez 120 John W. Sadler 3-1
3 Sweet Soulmate Edwin Maldonado 120 George Papaprodromou 15-1
4 Dancing Dana Abel Cedillo 120 Craig Anthony Lewis 12-1
5 Flat Out Joy Jose Valdivia, Jr. 126 Ronald W. Ellis 5-2
6 Agreetodisagree Jessica Pyfer 115 Peter Eurton 7-2
7 Saturday Heist Tyler Baze 120 Val Brinkerhoff 15-1
8 Taming the Tigress Flavien Prat 120 Peter Miller 4-1

NINTH RACE.

1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $63,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds. Claiming Price $100,000.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Hudson Ridge Abel Cedillo 124 Bob Baffert 5-2
2 Airman Juan Hernandez 124 John A. Shirreffs 4-1
3 Vantage Point Umberto Rispoli 122 Clifford W. Sise, Jr. 6-1
4 Barraza Kent Desormeaux 122 Vladimir Cerin 6-1
5 The Beat Mario Gutierrez 122 Reed Saldana 20-1 100,000
6 Man Friday Jessica Pyfer 119 Doug F. O’Neill 8-1 100,000
7 Flashiest Flavien Prat 122 Leonard Powell 3-1
8 Law Professor Trevor McCarthy 124 Michael W. McCarthy 8-1

TENTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $70,000. Allowance. 3 year olds and up.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 Manhattan Up Tiago Pereira 124 Philip A. Oviedo 12-1
2 Ax Man Mike Smith 126 Bob Baffert 7-5
3 Mastering Juan Hernandez 124 Bob Baffert 5-2
4 Cupid’s Claws Flavien Prat 126 Craig Dollase 6-1
5 Midcourt Edwin Maldonado 126 John A. Shirreffs 9-5

ELEVENTH RACE.

1 1/8 Mile Turf. Purse: $61,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PP Horse Jockey Wt Trainer M-L Claim $
1 La Gioiosa Umberto Rispoli 120 Patrick Gallagher 5-1
2 Brooklyns Best Joe Bravo 120 Richard Baltas 8-1
3 Norma Jean B. Kent Desormeaux 126 Vladimir Cerin 7-2
4 Lookintogeteven Flavien Prat 126 Philip D’Amato 3-1
5 Cider Apple Juan Hernandez 120 Jeff Mullins 6-1
6 Undisturbed Abel Cedillo 126 Dean Pederson 12-1
7 Cielo d’Oro Trevor McCarthy 120 John W. Sadler 12-1
8 Assignation Jessica Pyfer 115 George Papaprodromou 30-1
9 Rhythm and Grace Mario Gutierrez 120 John A. Shirreffs 4-1
10 Ruby’s Orchid Tyler Baze 120 George Papaprodromou 30-1