Ventura vs. boys? Gomez isn't worried
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Garrett Gomez and Ventura, the millionaire mare, have become an exclusive team in the last year.
Gomez is the only jockey to ride Ventura in North America. They are on a two-race winning streak in seven-furlong sprints for females on the main track at Santa Anita - the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last October and the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan 31.
For her next start, in Saturday's $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile, Ventura goes back to turf, a surface over which she has won four times. She will be taking on males for the fourth time in her career.
Her rivals should be concerned about her presence. Gomez has nothing but confidence in Ventura's ability. "I have no worries," he said.
Ventura beat males twice in England in 2007, including the minor Hyde Stakes at a mile on Polytrack. On this continent, she ran one of her best races against males when she finished second to Rahy's Attorney in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last September.
The Woodbine Mile was on yielding turf, a surface that cost her the race, Gomez insists.
"If the ground would have been firm, I think she would have gotten there," he said. "She only got beat a length and a quarter."
Trained by Bobby Frankel for breeder Juddmonte Farms, Ventura has won 8 of 16 starts and $1,539,470. In North America, she has won 5 of 8 starts, including the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at a mile on turf at Belmont Park last June.
"She's really gotten stronger and more athletic," Gomez said. "She's got such a great turn of foot. I fell in love with her when she first got here."
In the Grade 1 Kilroe, a handicap, Ventura will carry 118 pounds. The other probable starters are Artiste Royal (119), Global Hunter (116), Dixie Chatter (115), Hewitts (114), and Mr Napper Tandy (113).
Nownownow, who won the Gradeo2 San Fernando Stakes in January, will not start in the Kilroe, trainer Patrick Biancone said. Biancone was unsatisfied with Nownownow's seven-furlong workout in 1:26.40 at Santa Anita on Saturday.
"He worked all right, but not great," Biancone said. "It wasn't as good as I expected."
Gio Ponti, who won the fourth stakes of his career in the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes here Dec. 26, may start in the Kilroe or the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 14, trainer Christophe Clement said.
Beltene may take on Stardom Bound
Reluctantly, trainer Jack Carava may risk Beltene's undefeated record in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks.
A winner of her first three starts, including the Sunshine Millions Oaks on Jan. 24, Beltene would make her graded stakes debut in the Gradeo1 Santa Anita Oaks, which is run at 1 1/16 miles. The trouble for Beltene is that the Oaks is on the schedule of 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound, who will be seeking her fifth consecutive Grade 1 win.
Carava does not envision that Beltene can beat Stardom Bound. He is hopeful that Beltene can enhance her value.
"If she gets Grade 1 stakes-placed, it would make her worth more," he said. "I'm thinking of running if it's a five- or six-horse field."
Owned by La Canada Stables, Beltene began her career with a win in a $40,000 claiming race for statebred maidens at Hollywood Park in December and followed with a win in a starter allowance here in January.
After the Sunshine Millions Oaks, Carava said he would wait for the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs on March 29.
"The next obvious spot is a month away," Carava said. "She seems like she wants to do something now."
Zenyatta returns to work tab
Zenyatta, the unbeaten champion older female of 2008, had her first workout of the year Saturday, breezing a half-mile in 48.80 seconds at Hollywood Park.
Trainer John Shirreffs said Zenyatta galloped out five furlongs in "a minute and change. She galloped out so strong," he said. "She'll get ready pretty quick."
Shirreffs has not decided on a race for Zenyatta's 2009 debut. He did not rule out a defense of her win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 4, pending his impression of her next few workouts.
"Until she [works] five-eighths, we won't really know," he said.
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has won nine races and earned $2,144,580. During her championship season, she won seven stakes. In 2007, she won a maiden race and an allowance race at the end of the year. The long campaign led Shirreffs to give Zenyatta November and December off after the Breeders' Cup. She stayed at Shirreffs's Hollywood Park barn during those months.
"She ran pretty solid for one year," he said. "It was good to give her a little time off."
Medzendeekron wins first stakes
Medzendeekron has essentially crammed a year's worth of success into the first two months of the year. The highlight was a victory in Saturday's $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for statebred turf milers.
The win was worth $60,000 to the partnership that owns the 6-year-old gelding, improving Medzendeekron's 2009 record to 2 wins in 5 starts and earnings of $119,254. For most horses, that would be enough success to cover an entire year.
Trainer Barry Abrams already is plotting where to start Medzendeekron in coming weeks. The options include the $75,000 Golden Gate Fields Sprint on March 21, the $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap here on March 29, and the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland in April.
Medzendeekron won his first stakes in the Crystal Water, closing from sixth to win by a head over Liberian Freighter. Earlier this year, he was sixth in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for Calfornia-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park, a loss that still irks Abrams.
"He's getting stronger and stronger," Abrams said. "He likes to run free. In most of his races around two turns, he was rank. If he would have relaxed in Florida like he did [on Saturday], he would have won."
Joe Talamo gets three-day ban
Jockey Joe Talamo has been given a three-day suspension for causing interference in the eighth race last Friday.
Talamo was cited for his ride on Irish Torrent, who finished fifth in a one-mile turf race for maidens. The suspension runs from Saturday through Wednesday.
The suspension allows Talamo to ride in designated races, such as graded stakes. He is booked to ride I Want Revenge in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.
Trainer charged with animal abuse
Trainer Zvi Henry Kriple, who is based at Fairplex Park in Pomona, has had a felony complaint lodged against him for animal abuse, according to the California Horse Racing Board, which brought the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
According to the racing board's website, Kriple had custody of a pony and "did unlawfully subject said animal to needless suffering, inflicted cruelty upon said animal, and failed to provide said animal with proper food, drink, and sustenance."
CHRB investigators developed the case, took the matter to the district attorney for prosecution, obtained an arrest warrant, and arrested Kriple on Feb. 21.
The pony was subsequently euthanized, Mike Marten, a spokesman for the racing board, said Monday.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman
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