Horse racing notes: Victor Espinoza off to quick start at Santa Anita

SANTA ANITA LEADERS

(Through Thursday)

JOCKEYS / WINS

Juan Hernandez / 5

Victor Espinoza / 4

Four tied / 3

TRAINERS / WINS

Bob Baffert / 4

Doug O’Neill / 3

Five tied / 2

WEEKEND STAKES AT SANTA ANITA

Saturday

• $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles

• $300,000 Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/4 miles (turf)

• $200,000 Grade II Chandelier Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles

Sunday

• $200,000 Grade III Zuma Beach Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 mile (turf)

• $200,000 Grade III Surfer Girl Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 1 mile (turf)

• $80,000 Swingtime Stakes, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile (turf)

DOWN THE STRETCH

• Justique, a 2-year-old daughter of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, will face six others in Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. Trainer John Shirreffs is not known for having his horses cranked to win at first asking, but Justique did just that, winning her debut in come-from-behind fashion by 2 1/2 lengths on July 31 at Del Mar. Even Shirreffs was surprised. “She’s always been an OK worker,” Shirreffs told Ed Golden of Santa Anita publicity. “She’s done nothing spectacular in the mornings, so it was very surprising and exciting to see her run as well as she did.”

• Ce Ce regained her winning form in Sunday’s Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita, staging her usual late kick to win by 2 1/4 lengths under regular rider Victor Espinoza. The 6-year-old Elusive Quality mare went into the race off a dull fifth-place showing at Saratoga in the Grade I Ballerina Stakes on Aug. 28. “I knew you could draw a line through that last one,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “I think she is as good as she was last year. I knew that last race at Saratoga was too bad to be true.” Ce Ce will be at Keeneland on Nov. 5 in an effort to successfully defend her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint title.

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• Espinoza is off to a quick start during Santa Anita’s 18-day fall meet. He’s second in the jockey standings with four victories, behind only Juan Hernandez’s five, heading into the second week of the meet. Espinoza, 50, scored two stakes victories last weekend, winning aboard Beyond Brilliant in the City of Hope Mile and Ce Ce in the Chillingworth Stakes. “It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m always excited to start the meet with the right horses and win a couple of races and go forward. It makes my job easy.”

— Art Wilson