John Shirreffs

Express Train On Top After Big 'Cap Battle

After four Grade I placings in addition to four graded wins, C R K Stable's Express Train (Union Rags) finally got a Grade I to call his own when he captured the Santa Anita H. presented by Yaamava' Resort & Casino in dramatic fashion Saturday. He was also rectifying another overdue omission in giving trainer John Shirreffs, who was nominated to the Hall of Fame this week, his first Big 'Cap win. The victory didn't come easily though, as Express Train had to battle the length of the stretch with...

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This Side Up: An Oath to Share the Secret of Eternal Youth

It stands to reason, I guess, that the fountain of youth--the quest for which supposedly brought the first conquistadores to the shores of Florida--should instead turn out to be in Hot Springs. Certainly it seems as though there must indeed be something in those celebrated Arkansas waters, judging from the eternal vigor of an 86-year-old trainer based at Oaklawn this winter. For a moment last Saturday, D. Wayne Lukas was going to sweep both Classic trials, Ethereal Road (Quality Road) just losing focus in the final strides of the GII...

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Express Train Seeks Elusive Grade I in Big 'Cap

Placed no fewer than four times at the top level, C R K Stable LLC's Express Train (Union Rags) looks to get over the hump in Saturday's GI Santa Anita H., the last of six graded events on a blockbuster program at the Great Race Place. Runner-up to Charlatan (Speightstown) in the 2020 GI Malibu S., the $500,000 Keeneland September acquisition filled the same spot behind Idol (Curlin) in this event 12 months ago. Third to recent G1 Saudi Cup second Country Grammer (Tonalist) in the GI Hollywood Gold Cup...

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'Meaux' Brilliance at Del Mar

Twenty-four hours after producing Say the Word (More Than Ready) from last to scoop the GII Hollywood Turf Cup, jockey Kent Desormeaux rode a perfect race from the front to upset Saturday's GI Hollywood Derby with the appropriately named Beyond Brilliant (Twirling Candy) for Lee Searing's C R K Stable and trainer John Shirreffs. Midwest shipper Santin (Distorted Humor) was given a peach of a ride from the 14 hole by Umberto Rispoli and was getting to the winner late, while Cathkin Peak (Ire) (Alhebayeb {Ire}) checked in third. Desormeaux...

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Hard Not to Love To Gainesway/Whisper Hill

Hard Not to Love (Hard Spun--Loving Vindication, by Vindication), victorious in the 2019 GI La Brea S. at Santa Anita, was the latest mare to shine at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale Tuesday, selling to a partnership consisting of Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway for $3.2 million. The Ontario-bred, cataloged as hip 184, was consigned to the sale by Lane's End and is a half-sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d'Oro) and SW & GSP Solemn Tribute (Medaglia d'Oro). Her second dam is GSW/GISP Chimichurri...

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Solid Field of Eight Set for Oaklawn Handicap

A deep field of eight--headed by 5-2 morning-line favorite and Southern Californian invader Express Train (Union Rags)--will line up for Saturday's $1-million GII Oaklawn H. The well-built bay, second in last term's GI Runhappy Malibu S., followed a breakthrough victory with a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the GII San Pasqual S. Jan. 30 with a second-place finish after leading in the stretch in the GI Santa Anita H. Mar. 6. John Shirreffs trains the C R K Stables colorbearer. The rail-drawn Silver State (Hard Spun), second and third...

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The California Series: John Shirreffs, Part Two

Great expectations don't necessarily begin with lofty intent. Most new licensees start out hungry for that one lionheart of any stripe to announce their arrival. Those trainers who are routinely sent the big weekend warriors learn to acquire a more refined palate, to remodulate their ambitions accordingly. But scant few are fortunate enough to have harnessed the sort of thunderbolt that doesn't just electrify a trainer's career but leaves a patch of scorched earth for posterity. And really, how many ever expect to? In part one, we deconstructed some of...

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The California Series: John Shirreffs

In a new TDN series, we curry lessons and wise counsel from veteran Californian figures who, like gold nuggets panned from the Tuolomne River in the High Sierras, have unearthed career riches on arguably the toughest circuit in the States. We begin this series with John Shirreffs. Born at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Shirreffs was raised around horses on his family farm, and was deployed to Vietnam with the Marine Corps before embarking on a career in racing, using a 10-year stint at the Loma Rica Horse Ranch in Northern California...

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This Side Up: John Keeps Bob Honest In Sham

We all trust that life must be better in 2021. But the immediate question is whether it will be 'Good' or maybe 'Sweet'? Right now, I'd settle for either. But it certainly looks an auspicious coincidence that the first race to sharpen focus on the Triple Crown trail--the opening leg of an adventure that reliably sustains us year in, year out--should include, among just five runners, one colt named Life Is Good and another out of Life Is Sweet (Storm Cat). Their respective trainers, Bob Baffert and John Shirreffs, dominate...

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Tamarkuz Colt Dominates Bob Hope to Become Sire's First Stakes Winner

Tina and Jerry Moss's Red Flag became the stakes winner for his freshman sire, 2016 GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile victor Tamarkuz (Speighstown), with a romping 7 1/4-length score in the GIII Bob Hope S. at Del Mar Sunday. Sent off at 10-1, the chestnut colt was widest of four scrambling on the front end early, with Weston (Hit it a Bomb) down along the rail and favored Spielberg (Union Rags) and Coastal Kid (Coast Guard) all to his inside. Weston took a slim advantage after a quarter in :22.37,...

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Honor A. P. Retired, Ships To Lane's End Tuesday

The GI Santa Anita Derby winner, Honor A. P. (Honor Code--Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush) has been retired following a fourth-place finish in the GI Kentucky Derby during which he suffered an injury, according to trainer John Shirreffs. He is scheduled to arrive at Lane's End Farm Tuesday afternoon to take up stud duties. The 3-year-old colt retires as the top earner of his leading second-crop sire Honor Code. In his most recent start, Honor A. P. dealt with an unlucky trip to finish a closing fourth in the Kentucky...

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Honor A. P. Sharp in Del Mar Drill

C R K Stable's GI Kentucky Derby contender Honor A. P. (Honor Code) worked five furlongs prior to the first race at Del Mar Saturday, covering the distance in :59.40 (4/96) with jockey Mike Smith in the irons. The dark bay sophomore clipped off fractions of  :23.80, :36.00 and :47.40 on a fast Del Mar track with trainer John Shirreffs watching the move from the frontside. Del Mar clocker Toby Turrell, who timed the move, caught Honor A.P. going six furlongs in 1:11.40, seven-eighths in 1:23.80 and a mile in...

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