CYPRESS, Calif. –Class relief and a cut back in distance proved the winning formula for favored New Karma in the $17,190 feature Sunday, the final day of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival at Los Alamitos.

The come-from-behind victory for the 6-year-old Decarchy gelding had significance for apprentice jockey Heriberto Figueroa.

The win gave – for about 30 minutes - the 18-year-old native of Puerto Rico sole possession of the riding title. However, fellow apprentice Asa Espinoza, the 18-year-old nephew of Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, won the final race aboard favored Artistic Ab, so the teenagers shared the crown. Each finished with 12 victories.

Owned by Battle Born Racing Stable and Nick Ferrara, New Karma, who is out of the Snow Ridge mare Stellina, collared Fort Lewis Rivers, the pacesetter and 2-1 second choice, in the closing yards to prevail by a half-length.

The victory was the seventh in 37 starts for New Karma and he increased his earnings to $194,766. He paid $3.40, $2.20 and $2.10 after completing the five furlongs in 57.53 seconds.

Fort Lewis Rivers, who was seeking his 14th lifetime score, returned $3 and $2.80 while finishing four lengths clear of 21-1 shot Adriatic Son. The show price on Adriatic Son was $4.60.

Devils Informer, Vodka Texted You and Moose On the Loose completed the order of finish.


Impressive graded stakes victories by Marley’s Freedom and Once On Whiskey, the continued emergence of apprentice jockeys Asa Espinoza and Heriberto Figueroa and a spectacular debut by the highly-regarded 2-year-old Instagrand highlighted Los Alamitos’ Summer Thoroughbred Festival.

The three-week season concluded Sunday, wrapping the first of three daytime meets in 2018 at Los Alamitos.

A 4-year-old daughter of Blame owned by Cicero Farms LLC, Marley’s Freedom swept past defending champion Skye Diamonds late to win the Grade II, $200,000 Great Lady M., the second graded victory in as many starts since she was transferred to the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

The manner in which Marley’s Freedom, who is 5-for-11 in her career, has won her last two starts – she romped by 7 ¼ lengths in the Grade III Desert Stormer May 27 - suggests she has the potential for the same Great Lady M.-Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint parlay that Finest City completed in 2016.

One week later, Once On Whiskey rallied late to defeat Draft Pick by a head in the Grade III, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby, giving Baffert his third win in the race in four years. He also won with Gimme Da Lute in 2015 and eventual 3-year-old champion West Coast last year.

Figueroa, 18 and Espinoza, the 18-year-old nephew of Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, shared the riding title with 12 victories apiece. Espinoza earned the tie in the meet’s final race, scoring with favored Artistic Ab about 30 minutes had taken sole possession of the top spot with a win on favored New Karma in the eighth.

Figueroa, a native of Puerto Rico, and Figueroa, who was born in Arcadia, tied for the title in the first meet either had ridden at Los Alamitos.

Baffert won the training title, edging Steve Miyadi 5-4.

It was the sixth time Baffert has either shared or captured the title outright at Los Alamitos since daytime thoroughbred racing returned in July, 2014.

Purchased for $1.2 million at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale in March, Instagrand, a son of Into Mischief, won by 10 lengths in his June 29 debut, completing five furlongs in 56 seconds while geared down late by jockey Drayden Van Dyke.

Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer for OXO Equine LLC, Instagrand could surface in the Grade II, $200,000 Best Pal Stakes Aug. 11 at Del Mar.

F. Jack Liebau, the vice president of the Los Alamitos Racing Association, said average all sources handle increased for the Summer Thoroughbred Festival more than 4% over 2017, which was an eight-day meet.

“Comparisons between the two meets are difficult because they were of different lengths, although we did have six races cancelled (Friday, July 6 when jockeys deemed it unsafe to continue for heat-related reasons),’’ said F. Jack Liebau, vice president of the Los Alamitos Racing Association. “In hindsight, I wish we could have been able to fill some of the higher quality races, but a lot of small owners and trainers got the opportunity to successfully run horses here that they might not have otherwise.’’

Thoroughbred racing will return to Los Alamitos in September.  The 12-day Los Angeles County Fair meet will begin Thursday, Sept. 6 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 23. Racing will be conducted on a Thursday-Sunday basis.




         Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert continued his run of success in the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby, but not with the 3-year-old many anticipated would be in the winner’s circle late Saturday afternoon.

Once On Whiskey, a Bodemeister colt making his first start beyond seven furlongs, scored a 7-1 upset in the $150,000 race, rallying late to defeat 2-1 second choice Draft Pick by a head.

Ax Man, the 7-10 favorite trained by Baffert, was a distant third. The Patti and Hal Earnhardt-owned homebred, despite showing the way through moderate fractions, offered little resistance after being headed early in the stretch.

Ridden for the first time by jockey Flavien Prat, Once On Whiskey, who is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.83. He paid $16.60 and $5.40. There was no show wagering.

A $150,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale in 2016, Once On Whiskey is 2-for-4 with earnings of $140,300. He broke his maiden going seven-eighths of a mile as the 7-10 favorite March 24 at Santa Anita.

Draft Pick, who had a 1 ½ length advantage with about an eighth of a mile to run as he sought his third consecutive victory, returned $4.

The win was the third in the last four years for Baffert in the Derby. He had scored previously with Gimme Da Lute – also for Pegram, Watson and Weitman – in 2015 and eventual 3-year-old champion West Coast in 2017.

“(Once On Whiskey) has been working well and we’ve been wanting to stretch him out, so we decided to put him in here,’’ said Baffert. “In the stretch I could tell Ax Man was starting to get tired.

“I saw a horse coming and I said, ‘That’s me,’ so that was good. He needed the whole stretch to get there.

“I’m happy for the whole (Pegram, Watson and Weitman) gang. I like what I saw from him today. Coming in I really thought Ax Man could do it, but on the turn, I could see them ganging up on him and he just didn’t respond.

“I have to give credit to (Prat). I told him just to be patient with him.’’

Ax Man finished a head in front of King Cause, the longest shot in the field at 54-1, and Blended Citizen, the 5-1 third choice, trailed.

Heriberto Figueroa rode three winners Saturday to move into a tie with fellow apprentice Asa Espinoza atop the standings entering the final day of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival.

Figueroa is scheduled to ride four horses Sunday while Espinoza has three mounts. Both riders have 11 victories.

Figueroa, an 18-year-old native of Puerto Rico, swept the early double Saturday with Chiefs Lil Pearl in the first and Sheza Factor in the second before taking the ninth race with Typhoon Harry.

Baffert holds a 5-4 lead over Steve Miyadi in the trainer’s race.

Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 1 p.m.






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