Citing his dissatisfaction with Santa Anitas racing surface, trainer David Hofmans has called an audible and will ship his leading Kentucky Derby candidate, Millennium Wind, 1,600 miles to run in the March 11 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds instead of the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita March 17.
"The first reason were going to Louisiana is to get him off this track," Hofmans said of Santa Anita. "I dont like it. Its too hard.
"Another reason is to get away from Point Given (the pro tem Derby favorite trained by Bob Baffert. Point Given is being pointed to the San Felipe).
"The purse for the San Felipe is $250,000; the purse in Louisiana is $750,000, and this will give us an opportunity to see how he travels when we ship him. We wont have to wait until the Kentucky Derby to see whats happening," he said.
Millennium Wind will be ridden by Chris McCarron in the Louisiana Derby, and is likely to face Dollar Bill, who won the Risen Star Stakes under McCarron. The Hall of Fame jockey obviously had to make a choice between the two colts and opted for Millennium Wind. Pat Day will ride Dollar Bill, a colt Hofmans respects.
"I saw the big 3-year-old races the other weekend," Hofmans said. "I think Outofthebox (second in Gulfstreams Fountain of Youth Stakes after a slow start that cost him several lengths) is pretty tough. Thats the one Im worried about. But I dont know how far hes going to run with his pedigree. And Dollar Bill was all right. He ran a good race after a layoff. He was most impressive in the Risen Star."
But Hofmans wouldnt trade his $1.2 million colt for any other 3-year-old. He has maintained from the outset that Millennium Wind is better than Touch Gold, the horse Hofmans conditioned to capture the 1997 Belmont Stakes, preventing Silver Charm from winning the Triple Crown.
"Hes a lot smarter than Touch Gold, thats for sure," Hofmans said of Millennium Wind. "And hes a lot faster. I think hes a better horse."
THE HOMESTRETCH: Tip to the National Racing Association: spend a portion of the $54 million budget approved for 2001 to contact the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, a world-class newspaper, and lobby for news space for horse racing. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the day after the worlds winningest rider, Laffit Pincay Jr., captured the Buena Vista Handicap on a 12-1 shot, not one word of that news appeared in the Times sports section. Granted, it doesnt rival the Kentucky Derby, but when the naming of a soccer coordinator at Concordia College receives at least mention in agate type and Pincays victory is snubbed completely, something is radically amiss. The Times even found an inch of space for results of the International Tokyo Marathon. The paper extended its spurn of racing even further. On the following Wednesday and Thursday, other than agate results and selections, there was no horse racing news. No wonder the game is becoming extinct Corey Nakatanis announced move from Southern California to ride in Kentucky when Keene-land opens on April 6 has more behind it than trying to "pick up a (Kentucky) Derby mount." The shift (if it does occur) will transpire under whispers of domestic problems and a waning work ethic. But the 30-year-old jockey says opportunities to win stakes races in Southern California "arent presenting themselves right now. I think if I go back East, Ill have more opportunities." Agent Ronnie Ebanks, who had handled Shane Sellers before he was sidelined by a knee injury that could force his retirement, will book Nakatanis business. Coreys present agent, Bob Meldahl, will still represent leading jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. Meldahl has no immediate plans to take on another rider. "I can use a break," Meldahl said Theres more gloomy talk about the future from Bay Area trainers, some of whom have cheap horses in their barns migrating east in an attempt to escape the bleak picture in Northern California. New gambling options, diminishing purses, labor board headaches and skyrocketing workmans compensation expenses are adding up to a no-win scenario for many Bay Area-based horsemen Pat Valenzuela presented his case for reinstatement to Santa Anitas stewards Saturday after serving a conditional suspension of more than one year for "engaging in use of a dangerous drug amphetamine." Stewards said after the session that the oft-suspended jockey did not present conclusive evidence that he has been drug free during his ban, and he must do so before they even consider granting approval for the 38-year-old jockey to ride again. Valenzuela, who last rode on Feb. 3, 2000, says his weight is down to 119 pounds Yes, that was Pete Rose at Santa Anita on Feb. 23. A source close to the former baseball great says he won six of the eight races and "crushed," winning an amount well into five figures Look for the promising Bobby Frankel-trained filly, Flute, to tackle Golden Ballet in the March 10 Santa Anita Oaks. Another Frankel monster, Chilean Triple Crown winner Lido Palace, will journey to Dubai for the $2 million UAE Derby at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt on March 24 Bill Spawr, who employs Pincay almost exclusively, explained why Alex Solis rode King La Boo in the geldings last six starts: "He won on the horse at Del Mar when Laffit was having surgery on his eyelids, so he kept the mount." Tyler Baze continues to win with regularity as he makes the transition from apprentice to journeyman jockey. The 18-year-old won 246 races and more than $14.1 million in purse money in becoming the first Southern California-based rider to earn an Eclipse Award as top apprentice since Steve Valdez in 1973. "Hes very polished for as young as he is," says fellow rider Garrett Gomez.