JC / Railbird

California (Horse)

Noted and Noticed

Penn National chairman Peter Carlino and CHRB vice chairman David Israel don’t agree on the value of supplementing purses, but they do on racing’s demographic. “There aren’t sufficient numbers of racing customers in the world anymore because they died,” Carlino said today in an investors and analysts conference call. “The average age of our ontrack customer is deceased, and the average age of our satellite customer is decomposed,” Israel told attendees of the UA-RTIP symposium last December. At least Israel went on to talk about reaching out to potential un-dead fans.

HANA president Jeff Platt, a racing customer very much alive, talks to Jack Shinar about the month-long players’ boycott of California. “Right now I believe there are a number of people in track management that are considering going to the CHRB to ask that it rescind the takeout increase,” said Platt, who took part in recent meetings with track executives. “The TOC is being very tight-lipped about this. This was a horsemen’s idea, after all, not a track idea.” No comment on the boycott from the TOC to Shinar. (Are they just considering, or have they already had discussions about rescinding the takeout increase? That’s an interesting question, considering the depressed handle and what must be growing concern re: the purse account.)

The equine California makes his debut in race eight at Gulfstream on Saturday in the first race at Gulfstream on Sunday. Trainer Todd Pletcher scratched the Madcap Escapade colt from a race that included barnmate Cal Nation, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Bluegrass Cat, and re-entered him in a race that came up a little less contentious. John Velazquez is named to ride on Sunday, instead of Ramon Dominguez, who had the mount in Saturday’s race.

2/7/11 Addendum: California finished third in his first start.

Classy Kat

A Beyer speed figure of 90 for Kathmanblu, winner of the one-mile Sweetest Chant over the Gulfstream grass on Saturday (replay). “It may be sacrilege to say,” tweeted @BH_MaidenWatch minutes after the race, “but Kathmanblu is starting to remind me of a former Maiden Watch horse named Rachel.” I’m not quite ready to commit myself like that, but the 3-year-old filly did deliver a classy, controlled performance in her first start of the year, neatly gaining ground and picking off rivals in the stretch, finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Excited in 1:39.14 as the 1-2 favorite on a turf course labeled good.

[Jockey Julien Leparoux] said she was struggling with the turf, but she’s just that good,” said trainer Kenny McPeek. “I was never really worried,” said the rider. “Good horses run on everything and she’s clearly one of them.”

McPeek now faces the challenge of mapping Kathmanblu’s best route to the Kentucky Oaks. “I hate to disappoint Gulfstream but the only two-turn stakes they have for her is the Oaks in April and I don’t want to wait that long,” the trainer told Mike Welsch, indicating that a two-dirt race in February (possibly the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at the Fair Grounds) would most likely be the versatile filly’s next start, and that either the Gulfstream Oaks or the April 9 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland would be her final Oaks prep.

For the watch list: Check out Hout Bay, an impressive debut winner at Santa Anita on Saturday for trainer John Sadler. After breaking slowly and settling into a run at the rear, the 3-year-old Harlan’s Holiday filly flashed some late speed in the stretch, rallying to win race nine by 1 1/2 lengths … I’ve been following Madcap Escapade’s 2008 colt by AP Indy since he first popped up in training for Todd Pletcher at Belmont last July. After several weeks in which he didn’t appear in work reports, the half-sibling to stakes winner Mi Sueno turned up at Palm Meadows in November, where he’s been working steadily since, most recently over turf. And now he has a name — California. Could a start be near? … The 7-year-old Euroears looked like a different horse in his first start for trainer Bob Baffert, winning the six-furlong Palos Verdes in 1:07.23. Asked after the race if he had bet the horse, who hadn’t won since late 2009, Baffert replied, “When I saw he was 9-1, I had to take a shot.”

1/24/11 Addendum: Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson may wait for the Louisiana Derby, rather than start in the Risen Star, said trainer Neil Howard. Wilkinson was given a Beyer speed figure of 77 for the Lecomte — he’ll have to do better next out to be taken seriously as a Kentucky Derby contender.

Catching Up

Here we are, less than a month away from Del Mar and Saratoga, and interesting juveniles are starting to appear on the scene. In May, I made mention of Hornblower, the first starter for freshman sire First Samurai. He finished third in his debut at Hastings; “maybe he’ll improve next out,” I wrote. He did, winning his second start, a six-furlong maiden special, last Saturday, giving First Samurai his first winner. The sire scored his second winner on Sunday when Le Mi Geaux, making her second career start for trainer Rick Dutrow, won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special at Churchill Downs by 7 1/4 lengths. Third in her debut, Le Mi Geaux is the second starter from a May 14 Churchill maiden special won by the Ken McPeek trainee Salty Strike (likely favorite in this Saturday’s Debutante) to come back and win her next race. Blue Orleans, second that day, returned to win at the track on June 12, going wire-to-wire in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special. The filly, trained by Todd Pletcher, is by Bluegrass Cat, who has six winners already out of his first crop to race, and is a half-sibling to versatile graded stakes winner Pico Central.

Out at Belmont Park last weekend, photographer Easy Goer caught an unnamed 2-year-old working in company with stakes winner Munnings. The A.P. Indy colt with a distinctive blaze, bought by Coolmore for $1 million at the Keeneland September 2009 sale, is out of the brilliant sprinter Madcap Escapade and a half-sibling to G1 Debutante Stakes and Sorrento Stakes winner Mi Sueno. Once he has a name, he’ll be one for the watch list.