Tag: Horse Racing

Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Sunday Sept. 19

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Sept. 19 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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Horse trainer Cesar De Alba waits for his one big shot

Cesar De Alba sits in his barn at Los Alamitos and allows himself to dream occasionally. Maybe someday, somewhere, someone will give him the opportunity to train a top-notch race horse.

Until then, he shows up at the Orange County race track and trains thoroughbreds during the day and quarter horses at night, managing a 16-horse stable with the aid of three grooms that is not long on quality but never short on hopes and dreams.

“Without the horse power, it’s tough,” the 39-year-old De Alba said during a phone interview this week. “You can’t do much. It’s hard to keep the horses sound. Everything is just tough. What it comes down to is this: If you don’t have the clients, you ain’t going to make it.

“But everybody starts somewhere. I remember Pete Miller started off with just a few horses, he got up to about 15 or 20 and I was helping him gallop and helping him breeze horses, and look at him now. He’s got like 80 or 100 head. I think if I work hard enough, things will work out.”

De Alba, a San Diego native, never dreamed the training game would be as tough as it is when he retired as a quarter-horse jockey in December 2018 and decided to see how the other half lives.

He won 1,031 races as a quarter-horse rider, but he grew tired of the grind and hung ’em up at an age when many jockeys are just hitting their stride.

“The money wasn’t that great and I was tired of battling my weight,” De Alba said. “It was time to move on and do something different. I love racing, the racing part of it I love, but it was just all the political stuff and all the (expletive) before and after. When people ask me, ‘Do you miss riding?’ I tell them, ‘Yes, I miss getting on the horse in the paddock and getting off the horse, just the race.’ That’s what I miss. I don’t miss all the other (expletive).”

Now De Alba waits for the one big break that will get him started. Heading into Friday’s eight-race card during the L.A. County Fair meet at Los Alamitos, he’s 7 for 57 in his career (12%) with the thoroughbreds since taking out his trainer’s license in 2019.

Stay Happy, with whom he owns a 50% share with William Heck, won Saturday’s fourth race at Los Alamitos, a starter allowance, giving him his third victory of 2021 from 24 starts (12.5%). But in order to win more races, he needs more owners like Heck.

“(Heck) is very understanding, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s got a good mentality when it comes to race horses and winning races,” De Alba said. “Then you’ve got these other clients who think their horse is a superstar and you gotta run them way above their head. That’s when you go into the race hoping that the horse runs OK. Deep down inside, you know you don’t have a shot.”

De Alba sits in his barn and wonders if he’ll ever get some of the stock that other trainers with a similar or worse win percentage train. He’s not looking for Bob Baffert, John Sadler or Philip D’Amato-type horses. He’d be happy with a sound $50,000 claimer. He just wants the opportunity to show what he can do.

“Some of these trainers have 40 or 50 head, they hardly win any races, and they have their barns full of horses,” De Alba said. “I don’t know how they do it. I wish I had some of those horses and show people what I could do.

“You get those one or two occasional horses that are superstars for those trainers and then you don’t see the trainer on the map for another five or 10 years. If you gave those horses to Joe Schmo, they’d probably still be good horses.”

But De Alba can afford to be patient. His wife, Becky Fitzgerald, has a good job. She’s a track veterinarian at Los Alamitos. The couple has a home in Cypress, just a few miles from the track, and they have two young sons. Life is good for Cesar De Alba.

Four of his thoroughbreds are currently racing and all eight of his quarter horses are active. All he needs is that one break.

“With the thoroughbreds, I don’t have the stock I would wanna have one day,” he said. “It’s all just backyard horses, Cal-bred horses, and most of them come from the farm or layoffs. I don’t have much stock with the thoroughbreds. It’s harder with the thoroughbreds. I still need to find a way in, find somebody who will help me with some quality horses.”

But he’s not planning to move to a smaller circuit to get his foot in the door.

“I’m doing OK with the quarter horses so I’m staying here,” De Alba said. “I train a couple horses for (Los Alamitos owner) Doc Allred and he tells me I need to make up my mind which breed I want to train. But I think it’s possible to do both.

“I know my stats don’t look good, running these thoroughbreds over their heads, but if people will look, I’ll claim a horse and I’ll improve it. I know what I’m doing. I just need the clients. I need somebody who will bring me a $50,000 horse.”

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

Horse trainer Cesar De Alba waits for his one big shot

Cesar De Alba sits in his barn at Los Alamitos and allows himself to dream occasionally. Maybe someday, somewhere, someone will give him the opportunity to train a top-notch race horse.

Until then, he shows up at the Orange County race track and trains thoroughbreds during the day and quarter horses at night, managing a 16-horse stable with the aid of three grooms that is not long on quality but never short on hopes and dreams.

“Without the horse power, it’s tough,” the 39-year-old De Alba said during a phone interview this week. “You can’t do much. It’s hard to keep the horses sound. Everything is just tough. What it comes down to is this: If you don’t have the clients, you ain’t going to make it.

“But everybody starts somewhere. I remember Pete Miller started off with just a few horses, he got up to about 15 or 20 and I was helping him gallop and helping him breeze horses, and look at him now. He’s got like 80 or 100 head. I think if I work hard enough, things will work out.”

De Alba, a San Diego native, never dreamed the training game would be as tough as it is when he retired as a quarter-horse jockey in December 2018 and decided to see how the other half lives.

He won 1,031 races as a quarter-horse rider, but he grew tired of the grind and hung ’em up at an age when many jockeys are just hitting their stride.

“The money wasn’t that great and I was tired of battling my weight,” De Alba said. “It was time to move on and do something different. I love racing, the racing part of it I love, but it was just all the political stuff and all the (expletive) before and after. When people ask me, ‘Do you miss riding?’ I tell them, ‘Yes, I miss getting on the horse in the paddock and getting off the horse, just the race.’ That’s what I miss. I don’t miss all the other (expletive).”

Now De Alba waits for the one big break that will get him started. Heading into Friday’s eight-race card during the L.A. County Fair meet at Los Alamitos, he’s 7 for 57 in his career (12%) with the thoroughbreds since taking out his trainer’s license in 2019.

Stay Happy, with whom he owns a 50% share with William Heck, won Saturday’s fourth race at Los Alamitos, a starter allowance, giving him his third victory of 2021 from 24 starts (12.5%). But in order to win more races, he needs more owners like Heck.

“(Heck) is very understanding, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s got a good mentality when it comes to race horses and winning races,” De Alba said. “Then you’ve got these other clients who think their horse is a superstar and you gotta run them way above their head. That’s when you go into the race hoping that the horse runs OK. Deep down inside, you know you don’t have a shot.”

De Alba sits in his barn and wonders if he’ll ever get some of the stock that other trainers with a similar or worse win percentage train. He’s not looking for Bob Baffert, John Sadler or Philip D’Amato-type horses. He’d be happy with a sound $50,000 claimer. He just wants the opportunity to show what he can do.

“Some of these trainers have 40 or 50 head, they hardly win any races, and they have their barns full of horses,” De Alba said. “I don’t know how they do it. I wish I had some of those horses and show people what I could do.

“You get those one or two occasional horses that are superstars for those trainers and then you don’t see the trainer on the map for another five or 10 years. If you gave those horses to Joe Schmo, they’d probably still be good horses.”

But De Alba can afford to be patient. His wife, Becky Fitzgerald, has a good job. She’s a track veterinarian at Los Alamitos. The couple has a home in Cypress, just a few miles from the track, and they have two young sons. Life is good for Cesar De Alba.

Four of his thoroughbreds are currently racing and all eight of his quarter horses are active. All he needs is that one break.

“With the thoroughbreds, I don’t have the stock I would wanna have one day,” he said. “It’s all just backyard horses, Cal-bred horses, and most of them come from the farm or layoffs. I don’t have much stock with the thoroughbreds. It’s harder with the thoroughbreds. I still need to find a way in, find somebody who will help me with some quality horses.”

But he’s not planning to move to a smaller circuit to get his foot in the door.

“I’m doing OK with the quarter horses so I’m staying here,” De Alba said. “I train a couple horses for (Los Alamitos owner) Doc Allred and he tells me I need to make up my mind which breed I want to train. But I think it’s possible to do both.

“I know my stats don’t look good, running these thoroughbreds over their heads, but if people will look, I’ll claim a horse and I’ll improve it. I know what I’m doing. I just need the clients. I need somebody who will bring me a $50,000 horse.”

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

Horse racing notes: Los Alamitos hosting three stakes this weekend

LOS ALAMITOS LEADERS

(Through Thursday)

JOCKEYS / WINS

Abel Cedillo / 6

Edwin Maldonado / 5

Diego Herrera / 3

Drayden Van Dyke / 3

Kyle Frey / 2

TRAINERS / WINS

Steve Knapp / 3

Bob Baffert / 2

Andrew Lerner / 2

Peter Miller / 2

Jonathan Wong / 2

STAKES SCHEDULE AT LOS ALAMITOS

Saturday

• $75,000 Capote Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs

Sunday

• $100,000 Los Alamitos Special, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles

• $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile

DOWN THE STRETCH

• Trainer Cesar De Alba is a believer in 17-year-old apprentice jockey Diego Herrera, tied with Drayden Van Dyke for third in the L.A. County Fair meet jockey standings at Los Alamitos with three victories through the first three days of the 10-day meet. De Alba is putting Herrera on “95 percent of his horses.” “He comes out here when he doesn’t have any workers at Santa Anita and he helps me gallop and he helps other people gallop, not just me,” De Alba said. “He’s like family to me now. He’s a hard worker and he listens. Some kids nowadays, I’ve seen some that tend to know it all. You tell them (something) and they blow you off because (they think) they know what they’re doing. He listens, takes everything in.”

• Los Alamitos will card three stakes this weekend during its L.A. County Fair meet – the $75,000 Capote Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday and the $100,000 Los Alamitos Special for 3-year-olds and older and $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes for fillies and mares Sunday. Trainer Bob Baffert will send out a pair in the Los Alamitos Special, which has been shortened to 1 1/16 miles from its original 1 1/4 miles. Magic On Tap, last in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 21, and Leading Score will try to give Baffert his second victory in the race after he won the inaugural running with Dabster in 2018. Abel Cedillo will ride Magic On Tap and Edwin Maldonado has the mount on Leading Score.

• Santa Anita’s upcoming winter-spring meet that begins Dec. 26 will include 94 stakes races, 59 of them graded, with 10 Grade I events highlighted by the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9. In addition, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap’s purse has been raised to $650,000. The Big ‘Cap will take place March 5. Opening day will include six stakes, three of them $300,000 Grade I events – the Malibu, the La Brea and the American Oaks. In addition, three $200,000 Grade II stakes – Mathis Brothers Mile, San Antonio and San Gabriel – will also be run. Other major Grade I events during the meet will include a trio of $500,000 stakes – the Beholder Mile, Frank E. Kilroe Mile and Shoemaker Mile.

— Art Wilson

Horse racing notes: Los Alamitos hosting three stakes this weekend

LOS ALAMITOS LEADERS

(Through Thursday)

JOCKEYS / WINS

Abel Cedillo / 6

Edwin Maldonado / 5

Diego Herrera / 3

Drayden Van Dyke / 3

Kyle Frey / 2

TRAINERS / WINS

Steve Knapp / 3

Bob Baffert / 2

Andrew Lerner / 2

Peter Miller / 2

Jonathan Wong / 2

STAKES SCHEDULE AT LOS ALAMITOS

Saturday

• $75,000 Capote Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs

Sunday

• $100,000 Los Alamitos Special, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles

• $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile

DOWN THE STRETCH

• Trainer Cesar De Alba is a believer in 17-year-old apprentice jockey Diego Herrera, tied with Drayden Van Dyke for third in the L.A. County Fair meet jockey standings at Los Alamitos with three victories through the first three days of the 10-day meet. De Alba is putting Herrera on “95 percent of his horses.” “He comes out here when he doesn’t have any workers at Santa Anita and he helps me gallop and he helps other people gallop, not just me,” De Alba said. “He’s like family to me now. He’s a hard worker and he listens. Some kids nowadays, I’ve seen some that tend to know it all. You tell them (something) and they blow you off because (they think) they know what they’re doing. He listens, takes everything in.”

• Los Alamitos will card three stakes this weekend during its L.A. County Fair meet – the $75,000 Capote Stakes for 2-year-olds Saturday and the $100,000 Los Alamitos Special for 3-year-olds and older and $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes for fillies and mares Sunday. Trainer Bob Baffert will send out a pair in the Los Alamitos Special, which has been shortened to 1 1/16 miles from its original 1 1/4 miles. Magic On Tap, last in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 21, and Leading Score will try to give Baffert his second victory in the race after he won the inaugural running with Dabster in 2018. Abel Cedillo will ride Magic On Tap and Edwin Maldonado has the mount on Leading Score.

• Santa Anita’s upcoming winter-spring meet that begins Dec. 26 will include 94 stakes races, 59 of them graded, with 10 Grade I events highlighted by the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9. In addition, the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap’s purse has been raised to $650,000. The Big ‘Cap will take place March 5. Opening day will include six stakes, three of them $300,000 Grade I events – the Malibu, the La Brea and the American Oaks. In addition, three $200,000 Grade II stakes – Mathis Brothers Mile, San Antonio and San Gabriel – will also be run. Other major Grade I events during the meet will include a trio of $500,000 stakes – the Beholder Mile, Frank E. Kilroe Mile and Shoemaker Mile.

— Art Wilson

Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Sunday Sept. 12

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Sept. 12 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Sunday Sept. 12

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Sept. 12 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Saturday Sept. 11

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Saturday Sept. 11 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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Los Alamitos horse racing consensus picks for Friday Sept. 10

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Friday  Sept. 10 for horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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It’s early, but Flightline has horse racing fans buzzing

DEL MAR — All right, let’s try to temper the enthusiasm just a tad. We can’t go bonkers over a maiden special weight rout and a tour de force in an optional claimer, right?

We shouldn’t anoint this guy the next great one after just two victories, correct? I mean, it’s not like he’s Arrogate and won the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup in succession.

Nope, not gonna do it.

But … wow! Did you watch Flightline in Sunday’s eighth race at Del Mar?

It’s difficult not to get excited about a colt who won by 12 3/4 lengths and ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.05 while geared down over a track that could hardly be compared to Daytona Speedway this summer.

“He’s special. That’s a special horse,” co-owner Kosta Hronis told us right after his latest scintillating performance. “And he really geared down, otherwise he probably is right there with the track record.”

Hronis was not cooperating in trying to temper our excitement, and turns out he was right. King of Cricket (1973) holds the Del Mar record for 6 furlongs in 1:07.60. The track record was well within Flightline’s sight if jockey Flavien Prat had let the John Sadler-trained locomotive loose in the stretch.

There was much fanfare following Flightline’s debut victory by 13 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on April 24. Then the son of Tapit wasn’t seen in action again until Sunday, when Flightline Part II turned out to be the best sequel since Academy Award-winning “The Godfather Part II” in 1974.

“He had a foot abscess,” Hronis said. “We just soaked him in salt water and let it come out on its own and let him heal. We knew we had a nice horse and there’s no rush. He’s only 3. We got a long season.”

No telling what’s next for Flightline, but one thing’s for certain – if this guy stays sound (not an easy task in horse racing) – there’s no telling what he could do.

Hronis said the colt’s connections knew they had something special even before his first race.

“The way he worked out and traveled across the track, he definitely looked like he was something different,” he said. “I don’t know a lot about horses, but when I watched the workouts, he looks different.”

He went gate to wire in his debut, but his handlers wanted him to learn something in his next start. Prat had him sit right behind pacesetter Notre Dame up the backside until it was time to go, and then … well, you know the rest.

“His last race, he got out on the lead and really didn’t see anybody,” Hronis said. “This was better for him. It’s a good learning experience, another step for him. We’ll just hope that he continues to progress and puts on these kind of performances. He looks really special.”

There’s that word again – special. We used it when describing race horses like Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Beholder, Songbird, American Pharoah, Arrogate and Justify, to name a few who raced over the past decade or so.

There’s no way Flightline should be mentioned in the same breath with those elites, not yet. But he had Hronis holding his breath before his return last weekend.

“You can’t breathe and stuff,” he said with a chuckle when asked how he felt before the race.

“After his first performance it’s like, what’s next? And he did it again.”

But can Flightline go two turns? Both victories have come in sprint races, and the truly great ones can spread their wings and go a distance of ground. He’s bred to go two turns, but that and a few dollars will buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

“I just don’t see any limitations with him right now,” Hronis said. “He looks like a very talented guy. I guess you never know until you do it, but he looks like he’s definitely bred well.

“He’s a very talented horse with a lot of raw ability, so now you just gotta turn him into a race horse and that’s what John Sadler’s all about.”

Sadler said after Sunday’s race that the long-term goal this year is the Malibu Stakes on opening day of Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet Dec. 26.

“We’ll just see,” Hronis said. “We’ll see how he comes out of the race and let him and John decide. We don’t push ’em. Just let him come along at his own speed and we’ll see what he looks like tomorrow and the next day. We’ll get him back to Santa Anita and we’ll know in a few days. We’ll know in a week or so how he came out of the race.”

Meanwhile, Flightline Part III awaits.

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73