Shirreffs A Triple Threat In Santa Anita’s Opening Day Stakes

John Shirreffs has done it all.

In a career spanning a quarter century, the 74-year-old native of Fort Leavenworth, Kan., won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005 and masterfully conditioned  the magnificent mare Zenyatta, who won 20 of 21 career starts including a victory over males in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. In 2010, she was named Horse of the Year.

But come Saturday’s opening day at the Arcadia, Calif., track, it will mark a new milestone for the former Marine who served in Vietnam, later heading to Hawaii to Hang 10 as a surfer.

Shirreffs will saddle horses in three straight stakes at Santa Anita for the first time when he sends out streaking Midcourt in the Grade 2 San Antonio, going as the fifth of 11 races; Giza Goddess in the G1 American Oaks, race six; and Hard Not to Love in the G1 La Brea, race seven.

(Shirreffs won the American Oaks with Harmonious in 2010 when it was run at Hollywood Park).

Noted for maintaining a low public profile when it comes to personal publicity, Shirreffs is in his comfort zone out of the limelight, shunning even winner’s circle photos. Often he’s less prominent than guys in the Witness Protection Program, so it was no surprise he was reticent about taking credit when addressing Midcourt’s success since taking over as trainer five races back, winning four including the Grade 3 Native Diver at Del Mar on Nov. 23.

“He seemed to rise to the occasion,” was Shirreff’s succinct explanation for the improvement. “He’s trained very well for this race. We’re happy with how he’s doing.”

Giza Goddess, a gray daughter of Cairo Prince, is back with 3-year-olds in the American Oaks after finishing eighth against older in the G1 Matriarch on Dec. 1. She gets a new rider in Victor Espinoza. The Oaks will be decided at 1 ¼ miles on turf.

“Only two of those entered have ever run beyond a mile and an eighth, so it’s a new distance for all of them,” Shirreffs pointed out. “No one knows exactly how their horse will run, so I think it’s worth a try.”

Hard Not to Love has three wins and a third from four career races despite compromising starts in three of them.

“She only has one eye (her right),” Shirreffs said of the daughter of Hard Spun. “She lost her left when kicked by another horse as a yearling when she was being broken. “I think she’s distracted in the gate. She’ll hear a noise, then turn her head to see what it is. The gate can sometimes be a little awkward for her.”

As for having horses entered in three consecutive stakes races, Shirreffs says it is a first for him. “I can’t recall that ever happening before,” he said, “so it’s a big day for us.”

Santa Anita’s opening week schedule continues after Saturday’s opening day with live racing Sunday, Dec. 29; New Year’s Day, Wednesday, Jan. 1; and Friday, Jan. 3, through Sunday, Jan. 5.

First post time opening day is 11 a.m. Admission gates open at 9 a.m.
The fields for Santa Anita’s opening day stakes: $75,000 Lady of Shamrock: Keeper Ofthe Stars, Abel Cedillo, 5-2; Brill, Flavien Prat, 3-1; Bodhicitta, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Mischiffie, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1; Angel Alessandra, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Lucky Peridot, Javier Castellano, 4-1; Sold It, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; and Lakerball, Joe Talamo, 12-1.

The G2 San Antonio, race five: Gray Magician, Javier Castellano, 4-1; Gift Box, Joel Rosario, 9-5; King Abner, Tyler Baze, 10-1; Draft Pick, Joe Talamo, 9-2; Mugaritz, Ricardo Gonzalez, 10-1; Midcourt, Victor Espinoza, 2-1; and Fight On, Abel Cedillo, 20-1.

The G1 American Oaks, race six: So Much Happy, Tiago Pereira, 30-1; Apache Princess, Javier Castellano, 5-1; Mucho Unusual, Joel Rosario, 4-1; K P Slickem, Jorge Velez, 15-1; Lady Prancealot, Joe Bravo, 2-1; Pretty Point, Mike Smith, 30-1; Giza Goddess, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; and Vibrance, Abel Cedillo, 3-1.

The G1 La Brea, race seven: First Star, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1; Del Mar May, Joe Bravo, 12-1; Free Cover, Abel Cedillo, 15-1; Stirred, Geovanni Franco, 20-1; Bellafina, Flavien Prat, 9-5; Bell’s the One, Javier Castellano, 7-2; Hard Not to Love, Mike Smith, 6-1; Motion Emotion, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; and Mother Mother, Joel Rosario, 6-1.

The G3 Robert J. Frankel, race eight: Tiny Tina, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Excellent Sunset, Joel Rosario, 7-2; Don’t Blame Judy, Victor Espinoza, 5-1; Streak of Luck, Jose Valdivia Jr., 5-1; Curlin’s Journey, Ruben Fuentes, 6-1; Harmless, Abel Cedillo, 6-1; Mirth, Mike Smith, 5-2; and Ms Peintour, Brice Blanc, 20-1.

The G1 Runhappy Malibu, race nine: Much Better, Flavien Prat, 12-1; Complexity, Javier Castellano, 5-2; Manny Wah, Channing Hill, 8-1; Roadster, Joel Rosario, 3-1; and Omaha Beach, Mike Smith, 4-5.

The G2 Mathis Brothers Mile, race 10: Sash, Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1; Originaire, Umberto Rispoli, 15-1; Ocean Fury, Flavien Prat, 12-1; Never Easy, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Mo Forza, Joel Rosario, 9-5; Neptune’s Storm, Abel Cedillo, 3-1; Kingly, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Proud Pedro, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Barristan The Bold, Javier Castellano, 12-1; Loafers Boy, Tiago Pereira, 50-1; and Bob and Jackie, Heriberto Figueroa, 6-1.

The post Shirreffs A Triple Threat In Santa Anita’s Opening Day Stakes appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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