CYPRESS, Calif. –A successful return to action for Game Winner, a Grade II repeat for Marley’s Freedom and the first local riding title for 21-year-old apprentice Jorge Velez highlighted the Summer Thoroughbred Festival at Los Alamitos. The nine-day season concluded Sunday, wrapping the first of three daytime meets in 2019 at Los Alamitos.

The 2018 2-year-old champion, Game Winner toyed with three rivals in the Grade III, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby July 13, his first start since he finished fifth – via disqualification – after an extremely wide trip in the Kentucky Derby 10 weeks earlier at Churchkill Downs.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owners Gary and Mary West, Game Winner is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes Aug. 24. Owned by the Wests and trained by Baffert, West Coast won both the Los Alamitos Derby and Travers in 2017 en route to earning the Eclipse Award as the 3-year-old champion male.

The Los Alamitos Derby victory was the third in a row for Baffert and his fourth in the six years the race – which was called the Swaps Stakes when offered at Hollywood Park (1974-2013) – has been run at Los Alamitos. Besides Game Winner and West Coast, he also won with Gimme Da Lute (2015) and Once On Whiskey (2018).

A 5-year-old daughter of Blame owned by Ron and Barbara Perry’s Cicero Farms LLC and trained by Baffert, Marley’s Freedom made it back-to-back wins in the $200,351 Great Lady M. July 6.

The win was the ninth in 18 starts for Marley’s Freedom and pushed her bankroll to $1,233,935. She is scheduled to make her next start in the $500,000 Ballerina – a Grade I she won last year - Aug. 24 at Saratoga.

Velez, who was born in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, finished with nine victories, two more than runner-up Geovanni Franco.

Peter Miller won the training title, edging Baffert 5-4 after doubling Sunday with An Ocala Ten and 25-1 shot Edelman. It was the fourth time Miller has either shared or captured the title outright at Los Alamitos since daytime thoroughbred racing returned in July, 2014.

F. Jack Liebau, the vice president of the Los Alamitos Racing Association, said average all sources handle increased for the Summer Thoroughbred Festival over comparable dates in 2018.

“Even though we had hoped to run more days, it turned out to be a struggle to run three days a week,’’ he said. “Obviously, the Southern California horse population has shrunk and some categories of horses have just disappeared.

“Although we had trouble at the entry box, handle in all areas – including on track – was up 2% on a comparative day basis over last year.’’

Daytime thoroughbred racing will return to Los Alamitos in September.  The 12-day Los Angeles County Fair meet will begin Thursday, Sept. 5 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 22.




CYPRESS, Calif. – Prohibitive favorite Game Winner didn’t disappoint in his return to action, easily capturing the Grade III, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby Saturday.

The overwhelming 1-20 choice against three other sophomores, the 2018 2-year-old champion was reserved off the early pace set by stablemate Kingly early, then took charge in the final eighth of a mile to win by five lengths without being asked for his best by jockey Joel Rosario.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owners Gary and Mary West, Game Winner, a son of Candy Ride and the A.P. Indy mare Indyan Giving, won for the fifth time in eight starts and pushed his earnings to $2,027,500.

Making his first start since finishing fifth – via disqualification – after an extremely wide trip in the Kentucky Derby May 4 at Churchill Downs, Game Winner completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.30. He paid $2.10. There was no place or show wagering.

Supplemented for $4,000 by trainer Doug O’Neill for owner J. Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC, Parsimony, a maiden who was making his 13th start, finished second, four lengths ahead of Kingly. Feeling Strong was last in the compact field.

The win was the third in row in the Los Alamitos Derby for Baffert and his fourth in the six years the race – which was formerly known as the Swaps Stakes (1974-2013) at Hollywood Park – has been contested at Los Alamitos.

West Coast, the champion 3-year-old of 2017 for the Wests and Baffert, parlayed a victory in the Los Alamitos Derby into success the following month in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga. They hope the same scenario plays out this year.

A three-time Grade I winner in 2018, Game Winner will look to add another to his resume because he’ll now be pointed to the $1.25 million Travers Aug. 24.

“It’s good to have him back,’’ said Gary West. “He got knocked out and lost a little bit of weight after the Kentucky Derby. He had a horrible start that day and ran really hard, so (Baffert) just said he needed to freshen up.

“He seems to be back to his old self. We’re looking towards the Travers for his next start and I think this was a good prep race for him.’’

Game Winner, who has been worse than second only once in his career, wore blinkers Saturday for the first time since he scored by 5 ¾ lengths in his sprint debut last Aug. 18 at Del Mar.

“I put the blinkers back on him because I wanted to get him a little more focused leaving the gate and into the race a bit more,’’ said Baffert. “He was falling back a little too far.

“He had worked exceptionally well coming into this. I think that break really helped him. I love the way he finished the last eighth of a mile. I told (Rosario) to give him an easy out, but to try and get something out of the race and have a little foundation.’’

Heading into the final day of the Summer Thoroughbred Festival, apprentice Jorge Velez and Geovanni Franco are tied for the top spot in the jockey standings. Both have seven wins.

Baffert leads the trainer’s race with four, one more than Andrew Lerner, Peter Miller, Doug O’Neill and Jorge Periban.

Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time for the 10-race program is 1 p.m.



Ninety six entries played in the second NHC qualifying contest held during the Los Alamitos Summer Thoroughbred Meet on Saturday at Los Alamitos. The Los Alamitos Racing Association offered three qualifying berths to the 2020 NHC. The contest featured $9,600 in cash prizes. Every entry contributed $100 to the prize pool and Los Alamitos returned every single one of those dollars back in cash prizes. Here are the winners:



1st N. Newby                          

2nd  C. Kaufman

3rd  L. Hanson

4th  L. Constan

Highest Churn: M. Streiff

     Los Alamitos will host future contest during the Los Angeles County Fair Meet at Los Alamitos when Thoroughbred racing returns in September. The first contest awarded D. Weaver, S. Hartshorn, T. Noone and L. Rodriguez seats to the 2020 NHC.


CYPRESS, Calif. – Heavily-favored Marley’s Freedom made it back-to-back wins in the Grade II, $200,351 Great Lady M. Stakes Saturday at Los Alamitos.

              The 3-5 choice in the field of six, the 5-year-old daughter of Blame and the Formal Gold mare Relaxing Green was reserved off the early pace by jockey Drayden Van Duke, found room to rally between horses around the turn, got the lead inside the final quarter of a mile and went on to score by 1 ¾ lengths.

               Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Ron and Barbara Perry’s Cicero Farms LLC, Marley’s Freedom won for the ninth time in 18 starts and the $120,000 check increased her bankroll to $1,233,935. She completed the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.33 and paid $3.20 and $2.10. There was no show wagering.

               The victory for the six-time graded stakes winner ended a brief two-race losing streak. She had finished second in the Grade I Beholder Mile March 30 at Santa Anita and was runner-up as the 9-10 favorite in the Grade I Humana Distaff May 4 at Churchill Downs prior to Saturday.

               “We were hoping she would run like that,’’ said Baffert, who has now won three of the six runnings of the Great Lady M. at Los Alamitos. “When (Van Dyke) asked her to go he had a lot of horse.

               “I really thought she would run better last time at Churchill Downs, but (jockey) Mike Smith said she struggles on that surface. A lot of horses are weird on that surface.

             “I like coming here. Los Alamitos has a great surface and it is fair. Horses can win on the lead or from off the pace.’’

                Baffert indicated Marley’s Freedom would surface next in the Grade I, $500,000 Ballerina Aug. 24 at Saratoga. The Kentucky bred won that event a year ago by 3 ¼ lengths as the 19-10 favorite.

             “She broke well and it worked out perfectly,’’ said Van Dyke, who has been aboard for five of Marley’s Freedom’s victories. “She was fine tuned to put in a big race. It was nice to win this two years in a row.’’


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