Mokat will be coming late
ARCADIA, Calif. – There will be no cause for panic if Mokat is toward the back of the field in the first half-mile of Saturday’s Grade 2 Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita.
“She doesn’t like to be too close,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “I know she wants to be more out of it.”
Mokat finished last of 12 in the Grade 1 American Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf against 3-year-old fillies here Dec. 31. She surprised Baltas by being as close as third with a quartermile remaining and faded from contention in the final furlong.
“She had a wide trip that day,” he said.
Mokat will have her first start against older fillies and mares in the $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes at a mile on turf. Baltas is hopeful that Mokat can repeat her effort from the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at a mile on turf at Del Mar last summer, when she closed from eighth in a field of 10 to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
The San Clemente is Mokat’s only stakes win in 12 starts.
The Buena Vista is the leading race at Santa Anita next weekend. Sunday’s main race is the $100,000 Spring Fever Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs. There is racing on Monday, Presidents Day, led by the $75,000 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds on the hillside turf course.
Baltas also plans to start Hillhouse High in the Buena Vista. Hillhouse High was third in the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes here in early November and has not raced since.
Other candidates are Do the Dance, Evo Campo, Juno, Pretty Girl, Prize Exhibit, and Wild at Heart.
Juno, a Group 1 winner in Brazil in 2015, was recently transferred from trainer Richard Mandella to Neil Drysdale, according to racing office records.
Royal Albert Hall to Qatar
Royal Albert Hall, who was third in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland last April, will start in the $1 million Emir’s Trophy in Qatar on Feb. 25, trainer Doug O’Neill said Sunday.
The Emir’s Trophy is run at 1 1/2 miles on turf and is worth $570,000 to the winner. The race is part of a weekend of rich stakes for Thoroughbreds and Arabians in Doha, Qatar. The Qatar season runs from late November to early April.
A 5-year-old gelding by Royal Applause, Royal Albert Hall has won 2 of 22 starts and earned $234,233. Owned by Steven Keh, Scott Knight, Mike Ryan, and Mark Verge, Royal Albert Hall was third in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Jan. 2.
O’Neill said Alan Garcia will ride Royal Albert Hall.
Jockeys play ball for charity
For the 50th year, the Santa Anita jockeys and a team of seventh and eighth graders from nearby Holy Angels School will meet in a charity basketball game at LaSalle High School in Pasadena, Calif., on Feb. 23.
The event benefits the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, the Holy Angels athletic program, and the Eye on Jacob Foundation.
This year, individual jockeys are being sponsored by racing entities such as owners and trainers. On Sunday, a friendly bidding war broke out regarding advertising privileges for Hall of Famer Mike Smith. The West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate had purchased a sponsorship for Smith for $250, but trainer Bob Baffert offered $750 to sponsor Smith. West Point Thoroughbreds will now sponsor Victor Espinoza, the rider of retired Horse of the Year California Chrome.
Tickets for the game are $5, and the event is expected to attract a large crowd. Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay Jr., Alex Solis, Gary Stevens, and Smith will conduct an autograph session at 6:30 p.m. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.
◗ Big Hit, who finished third in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 7, is out of training with an undisclosed injury. Trainer Phil D’Amato said last week that Big Hit will be aimed at races “in the latter half of the year.”
Owned by Gary and Mary West, Big Hit won a maiden race at Del Mar on Nov. 19. In the Sham Stakes, Big Hit was beaten 13 lengths by Gormley.
Mokat will be asked to make a late run in the Buena Vista.