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Santa Anita Is a Proving Ground

Stevie Wonderboy and Folklore can add to award-worthy resumes this weekend.

January 13, 2006|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

It won't be official until the Eclipse Awards are presented Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills, but Stevie Wonderboy and Folklore will be the male and female champion 2-year-olds of 2005.

This means that, for the second consecutive year, the 2-year-old Eclipse winners will begin the year at Santa Anita.

Declan's Moon, who won the juvenile championship in 2004, was successful in his 3-year-old debut, winning the Santa Catalina for trainer Ron Ellis.

Sweet Catomine, the 2-year-old filly champion in '04, won the first two races of her 3-year-old campaign, the Santa Ysabel and Santa Anita Oaks for trainer Julio Canani.

After those promising beginnings, though, things went downhill for both horses. Declan's Moon was injured, has not run since and isn't expected to return at Santa Anita's current meet, which ends April 23.

Sweet Catomine finished fifth as the even-money favorite against males in the Santa Anita Derby, was hurt and was subsequently retired after being switched to the barn of trainer John Shirreffs.

The handlers of Stevie Wonderboy and Folklore would like their horses to start the year the same way Declan's Moon and Sweet Catomine did, but are hoping for more longevity.

A 3-year-old son of Stephen Got Even who wrapped up 2005 with wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Stevie Wonderboy will make his first start in 11 weeks Saturday in the $150,000 San Rafael Stakes.

Folklore, who finished her 2-year-old season with victories in the Matron and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park, will begin the new year against a small field in the $150,000 Santa Ynez on Monday, Martin Luther King Day.

In the San Rafael, a Grade II at one mile, Stevie Wonderboy will be running around two turns for the first time, against only five opponents. The most accomplished is Brother Derek, the winner of the Norfolk Stakes locally last fall and last month's Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park.

A California-bred son of Benchmark trained by Dan Hendricks, Brother Derek has some catching up to do with Stevie Wonderboy. He finished 8 1/2 lengths behind the winner, running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Brother Derek does have the advantage of two-turn experience, however, his wins in both the Norfolk and Hollywood Futurity having been at 1 1/16 miles.

There is a possibility of rain on Saturday, which could change the complexion of the San Rafael. Stevie Wonderboy, who is doing very well, according to trainer Doug O'Neill, will run regardless, but Brother Derek could stay in the barn.

"The weather could definitely affect us," Hendricks said. "I don't want to run on an off track or a hard, sealed track. There's no reason to this early in the year. There's no reason to take a chance, that's all.

"I might look at the El Camino Real Derby [Jan. 29 at Bay Meadows] or might just wait until February. He's fresh and it's a long year."

Stevie Wonderboy galloped 1 1/2 miles at Hollywood Park on Thursday and will be transported to Santa Anita on Saturday morning. He is the 4-5 favorite on Jeff Tufts' morning line. Brother Derek is the 8-5 second choice.

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The richest race on the Saturday program at Santa Anita is the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes, a Grade II for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

The second leg of the Strub Series, which concludes with the $300,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 4, the San Fernando attracted nine runners.

The 120-pound high weight is Greeley's Galaxy, winner of the 2005 Illinois Derby.

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Chris McCarron, who retired in 2002 after riding 7,141 winners, will be honored Saturday when a bronze bust of his likeness will be unveiled in the paddock gardens.

In the ceremony after the second race, McCarron's statue will join those of Johnny Longden, Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay. Longden and Shoemaker were, at different times, the world's winningest rider, a distinction now held by Pincay.

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