You might say that Friday’s card at Santa Anita is a tale of two comebacks. While the track is officially cleared to resume racing, without spectators, for the first time since the COVID-19 clampdown of late March, Bob Baffert’s long-absent Tale of the Union resurfaces for the first time since his sensational debut in the summer of 2018.
Then a juvenile, the $925,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May purchase ran up to his 9-10 favoritism in his unveiling at Del Mar. Vying through swift fractions in the 5 1/2-furlong dash, Tale of the Union kicked away by eight lengths and earned a gaudy 101 Brisnet Speed rating.
Under consideration for the American Pharoah (G1) next, Tale of the Union was sidelined. The Union Rags colt didn’t reappear on the worktab until June 2019, only to disappear again after a couple of breezes at Los Alamitos. He strung together a consistent series of works last fall, but was shelved following a half-mile bullet in :46.20 at Santa Anita Dec. 15. The 4-year-old has posted six moves this spring, most recently a 6-furlong drill in 1:13.80 here on May 7.
Tale of the Union returns in Friday’s 3RD race, at the same 5 1/2-furlong distance as his initial start, and with Drayden Van Dyke back aboard. Pegged as the 8-5 morning-line favorite, he’s drawn in the outside post 8. (He was in post 9 until Zimba Warrior scratched.)
His leading rival in the allowance, Galilean, was briefly on the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail for original trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The Cal-bred dominated the King Glorious and Cal Cup Derby, but wound up third in the Rebel (G2) division won by Long Range Toddy and fifth in Omaha Beach’s Arkansas Derby (G1). Not seen again until Feb. 29, Galilean debuted for new trainer John Sadler and finished an encouraging third. The 2-1 second choice will break from post 3, with Flavien Prat now at the helm.
Strictly Biz, a son of Fed Biz and intercontinental wonder Ipi Tombe, is another comebacker of interest. The Brian Koriner trainee has raced just twice, romping in his Los Alamitos premiere in Sept. 2018 and rallying for fourth in a Santa Anita turf sprint last summer. Umberto Rispoli picks up the mount on the 12-1 chance. Silken Prince was last seen going last to first in a state-restricted allowance March 14, and Oil Can Knight likewise comes off a win but in starter allowance company on Jan. 31.
Baffert is also prominent in the nightcap, a 3-year-olds-and-up maiden, with 5-2 morning-line favorite American Code as well as firster Big Mel. American Code, who tired to second in his unveiling at 6 1/2 furlongs, shortens up to 5 1/2 and keeps Van Dyke. The Triple Crown nominee by American Pharoah might take after his dam, Grade 1-winning sprinter Harmony Lodge. Stablemate Big Mel, an $800,000 Keeneland September yearling by Quality Road, sports several bullets coming into his debut. J.C. Diaz Jr. has the call.
Big Mel’s owners, MyRacehorse.com and Spendthrift Farm, also have Lane Way who adds blinkers for Richard Mandella. The $550,000 Into Mischief colt has placed third in all three starts – behind the likes of Nadal and Charlatan, and most recently to Shooters Shoot. Also noteworthy are first-timer Valuation, a son of Liam’s Map and Grade 2 scorer Llanarmon for Kaleem Shah and Simon Callaghan, and 4-year-old Ka’nah who has gone close in his three prior outings.
Post time for the 1ST race Friday is 12:30 p.m. (PT), and there’s a Pick 6 Jackpot carryover of $75,660.