Village News Reporter
San Luis Rey Training Center horses trained by Peter Miller finished first and second in the California Cup Derby stakes race Jan. 7 at Santa Anita Park.
Thirsty John won the 1 1/16-mile dirt race for California-bred 3-year-olds. He finished half a length in front of second-place Giver Not a Taker.
"Very close," Miller said. "They're very close in talent, and we were very happy to come up 1-2."
Thirsty John was foaled at Lovacres Ranch in Warner Springs on March 22, 2020, and was sired by Stay Thirsty out of Discreet Dee. Thirsty John had one race as a 2-year-old and won that 4 1/2-furlong May 2022 contest at Santa Anita by 3 1/4 lengths. Surgery to remove a bone chip in his ankle kept Thirsty John from racing again until Jan. 7.
Walther Solis had been Thirsty John's trainer, but Solis has returned to Loveacres Ranch as the farm manager. Terry Lovingier, who owns Loveacres Ranch and co-owns Thirsty John along with Tom London and Eugene Zondlo, transferred Solis' race-ready horses to Miller.
"It's good," Miller said of taking over Solis' horses. "So far we've done pretty well."
Kirk and Judy Robison bred and own Giver Not a Taker, who was foaled on April 8, 2020. Giver Not a Taker was sired by Danzig Candy out of Kittens Trip. He won his first two races, both during the 2022 Del Mar Thoroughbred Club summer meet. The second of those races was the I'm Smokin Stakes.
A ninth-place finish in the Oct. 9 Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita was followed by a second-place result in the Oct. 29 Golden State Juvenile Stakes at Santa Anita. Giver Not a Taker then won the Dec. 18 King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Juan Hernandez rode Thirsty John in the California Cup Derby while Flavien Prat was the jockey for Giver Not a Taker. Hernandez and Thirsty John broke last among the seven entries. Prat and Giver Not a Taker were the third jockey-horse combination out of the starting gate. Hernandez and Thirsty John would soon take the lead and remain in front for the rest of the race while Prat and Giver Not a Taker quickly moved into second and remained in that position.
"Pretty much went the way we expected it to go," Miller said.
The first quarter of a mile took Thirsty John 23.45 seconds. At that point, he led Giver Not a Taker by a length while Giver Not a Taker was half a length in front of third-place Crypto Ride, who stayed in third before falling to fourth as he approached the stretch.
Thirsty John covered the first half-mile in 47.68 seconds. He led Giver Not a Taker by a length while Giver Not a Taker was a head in front of Crypto Ride. Giver Not a Taker narrowed the lead to half a length by the time Thirsty John completed his first three-quarters of a mile 1:11.90 into the race.
Passarando took over third entering the stretch but was four lengths behind Giver Not a Taker. Giver Not a Taker trailed Thirsty John by two lengths. Thirsty John entered the stretch 1:38.32 after the starter's gate was opened.
The winning time for Thirsty John was 1:45.51. Giver Not a Taker finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Passarando.
"On the dirt, that's a really comfortable pace for the horses, especially for a horse that is returning from a big layoff. I have to give a lot of credit to Peter Miller because he brought this horse ready to win, and my horse showed a lot of heart. He showed that he can run and get the job done. This horse won pretty easy the first time, and he was really comfortable today. For the last stretch I just used motion and hand riding. In the end, he got the job done," Hernandez said.
"I was confident that he's a good horse. With all the rain and stuff, we couldn't get work over this track with him. But I thought if he's good enough, he'd be able to get it done and he is a very, very good horse and visually to look at him he's a pretty horse. Really well put together," Lovingier said. "He hung in there and without working on this track. He worked one time and shipped in and after a 7 1/2-month layoff to do this it's pretty impressive."
Thirsty John had no timed workouts between his May 14 race and Oct. 15. He had 11 timed workouts at San Luis Rey between Oct. 15 and Dec. 27 before a Jan. 2 timed workout at Santa Anita.
The $110,000 first-place share of the total $200,000 California Cup Derby purse brought Thirsty John's career earnings to $150,200.
"I told Terry Lovingier he's a good horse, but if he wins this race off of the layoff, he's a very good horse. I think he showed today that he's a really good horse. That's kind of what we thought about him, but I didn't know if we had him fit enough to do this off of an eight-month layoff and only one start," Miller said.
Giver Not a Taker earned $38,000 for second place. His career earnings are now $252,750.
"Giver Not a Taker gives it every time, and he gave it again today. I'm proud of him as well, he ran another big race," Miller said.
Miller and his owners have not yet decided on the next race for either horse. "Now we're going to kind of keep our options open on both of them," Miller said.