Monday, November 02, 2009

$5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic

Awesome Gem – The 6yo gelding jogged on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park Monday under exercise rider Juan Olivera before shipping to Santa Anita for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Saturday.

Assistant Sergio Martin supervised for trainer Craig Dollase, who was at Santa Anita.

David Flores, who rode the chestnut to victory in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in his last start on Oct. 3, has the call back.

Awesome Gem, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, will be making his third Breeders' Cup start. He finished third in the Classic in 2007 and sixth in the Mile last year. Dollase said the veteran came out of a 6f work in 1:13 here Friday in top shape.

He was cross-entered in both races this year but Dollase said he will go in the Classic.

"I liked the bigger purse and the mile and a quarter," explained Dollase.

Bullsbay – see Dirt Mile

Chocolate Candy – see Dirt Mile (second on preference list in Classic)

Colonel John – Trainer Eoin Harty said that Colonel John, who was pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Classic and the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile, definitely will run in the Classic on Saturday.

The 4yo son of two-time Classic winner Tiznow, who finished sixth here in last year's Classic, worked 5f in 59 4/5 handily at Santa Anita under regular exercise rider Yutta Lang after the break on Monday morning.

This was the final work for Colonel John, who will be "eased on up to the race" according to Harty. Garrett Gomez, the horse's regular jockey, will ride him in the Classic.

Einstein – Trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi reported that Einstein was doing well one day after working a half mile in 47 4/5 at Santa Anita on Sunday in his final major preparation for the Classic.

On Monday, the Santa Anita Handicap winner walked the shedrow and will return to the track on Tuesday to jog.

“Turf is probably his preferred surface and I know he loves Churchill, but I have to say this is his favorite track,” said Pitts-Blasi referring to Santa Anita. “I was happy with his work. This track plays fast and I never moved on him. He did it well within himself.”

Jockey Julien Leparoux was aboard for Einstein’s last seven races, including a second last time out in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, will be back aboard on Saturday.

Gio Ponti – The Classic-bound Gio Ponti galloped 1 1/4m on Belmont Park’s main track this morning. Gio Ponti, a four-time Grade I winner on turf this season, will be ridden by jockey Ramon Dominguez in the Classic Saturday.

Gio Ponti is flying to California Tuesday morning.

“The horse had his final workout Saturday (4f over Belmont Park’s Widener turf course in 52 2/5, breezing) and is doing very well,” trainer Christophe Clement said.

Gio Ponti is widely regarded as the most accomplished American-based turf horse currently in training and would have been one of the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. His connections, however, have opted to run the 4yo on a Pro-Ride surface that Gio Ponti won the Sir Beaufort over last December at Santa Anita.

“It’s a bigger question mark than running him on the turf that’s for sure, but he’s won over it before,” Clement said. “I’m very excited about running him Saturday and think he deserves a shot in the Classic.”

Girolamo – The 3yo son of A.P. Indy walked the Godolphin shedrow Monday morning following his final prep for Saturday, a Nov. 1 move through 5f in 59 1/5. This speedy frontrunner, unbeaten in his 2009 season, carries a three-race win streak into the Classic. His most recent score came in Belmont Park’s Oct. 11 Jerome Handicap.

That 3yo season has been much better than the bay colt’s 2yo campaign, when he broke his maiden at first asking but ran fourth in the Belmont Futurity in September of 2008, then finished sixth in the Champagne less than a month later after being bumped at the start. He missed nearly 10 months of training following that start.

“He was off from October of his 2-year-old year until August of his 3-year-old year, which left only a few options for bringing him back,” said Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee.

“It was either run him off the layoff in a race like the King’s Bishop or shoot for an allowance race, and we didn’t want to go into that tough of a race off that long of a layoff, so we picked a couple of easy spots for him for overall fitness and confidence reasons both.”

Jockey Alan Garcia, aboard for all but one of the colt’s six lifetime starts, will be in the saddle for Girolamo’s Breeders’ Cup start. He is cross-entered for the Classic and the Dirt Mile, with the Classic listed as his first preference. Mettee said his chosen race will be announced tomorrow at the post position draw.

Mastercraftsman – see Dirt Mile

Mine That Bird – The Kentucky Derby winner, with jockey Joe Talamo aboard, worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 on Monday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for his start in the Classic.

“He worked super, really super,” said trainer Chip Woolley just moments after watching the workout. “I was looking for 1:02, but it was just what we wanted. He really looked good getting over the ground and was just gliding out there. I was a little concerned after that last workout (58 1/5 on 10/26) that he would get into the bridle today, but he was nice and relaxed and galloped out really strong.

“The last work doesn’t look like it did any damage. Whenever you have a bullet workout, a horse tends to get into the bridle in a race. Let’s just say that I was really glad that that work was two weeks before the race.

“What really has helped him is that they’ve tightened the track. It’s really helped him fire off the ground. He’s like a jackrabbit with the way his hind end pushes him forward.”

Woolley said that Mine That Bird has really come around since finishing sixth in the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 10.

“He really needed that last race,” said Woolley. “He had gone flat on me and I trained him all I could, but it’s not the same as a race. He’s gotten stronger, you could see it a few days after that race. He has really blossomed. Even (trainer) Richard Mandella (who had the horse when he finished last in the Juvenile last year) said he looks good.”

Jockey Calvin Borel, aboard for the Derby win and the Goodwood, has the mount in the Classic.

Quality Road – Florida Derby winner Quality Road had an “easy jog” over Belmont Park’s main track this morning according to the colt’s trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Quality Road, who most recently finished a narrowly beaten second to Summer Bird in a thrilling Jockey Club Gold Cup Oct. 3 at Belmont Park, is flying to California Tuesday with the rest of Pletcher’s Breeders’ Cup horses.

Off his strong placing to Summer Bird in the 10f Gold Cup last month, Quality Road appears to be back on the top of his game. He did miss the Triple Crown series and a good chunk of his 3yo campaign because of foot/hoof issues earlier this season.

“The horse is doing great, I mean we’re really pleased with him,” Pletcher said. “We’re just like everybody else trying the synthetic for the first time, hoping he handles it.”

Jockey John Velazquez has the mount aboard Quality Road, who has never raced on the West Coast before.

Regal Ransom – The 3yo Distorted Humor colt walked the shedrow of Godolphin’s Santa Anita barn one day after clicking through a handy 5f in 59 1/5, seventh of 61 timed works at the distance.

His Nov. 1 move under jockey Richard Migliore was a hair slower than his previous drill at Santa Anita on Oct. 26 when he went 5f in 58 2/5 for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Assistant Rick Mettee said the UAE Derby winner was the most impressive worker of nine Godolphin Breeders’ Cup contenders sent through their final paces over the weekend.

“I think he’s impressed the most since he’s been here,” Mettee contended. “He seems to really grab this track. Of all the ones, he’s impressed the most, but obviously he’s in a tough spot.”

Regal Ransom shipped in to Santa Anita from New York on a Tex Sutton flight Oct. 19 along with stablemate Girolamo and several other New York-based runners.

“We had a group of nine or ten ship out about a month ago and then Girolamo and Regal Ransom came,” Mettee said. “Regal Ransom shipped about two weeks after he ran in the Super Derby and Girolamo had just run in the Jerome, so those two came via charter. We had a private plane bringing the first load out.”

Regal Ransom comes into the Classic off a Sept. 19 victory in the Super Derby with Migliore in the irons. The UAE Derby winner, who finished eighth in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, had one start at Santa Anita as a 2yo. He tired to eighth as the beaten favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk Stakes after pressing the pace into the stretch.

Although the Classic is listed as his first preference, Regal Ransom is also pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Mettee said the colt’s connections would wait until entry time to announce the call, but either way Richard Migliore retains the mount.

Richard's Kid – The Pacific Classic winner stepped onto the track around 6:45 a.m. under exercise rider Joey Steiner, breezing in company with stablemate Limestone Edge through 4f in 47 1/5.

He tracked the workmate through the head of the stretch, then passed him and drew off coming down to the wire. The 4yo son of Lemon Drop Kid has been training steadily at Santa Anita since Baffert purchased him for owner Arnold Zetcher in May. He last turned in a 6f breeze in 1:12.80 here on Oct. 27.

“The workmate was under control,” Baffert said of Limestone Edge, who broke off in front of Richard’s Kid under exercise rider Janell Gruss. “I had the radio on him so (Gruss) just held (Limestone Edge) a little. It wasn’t a race, just a little target for him to run at.

“He’s ready, that was just a nice little cruising to keep him fresh. All he runs is the last half of a mile anyways, that’s his style, so I don’t have to do too much with him.”

Richard’s Kid comes off an Oct. 10 third-place finish behind Gitano Hernando and Colonel John in the Goodwood at Santa Anita. He won the Pacific Classic Sept. 6 at odds of 24-1.

“I wish I had bet on him,” Baffert joked. “I had no idea (he was going to win), are you kidding me? But he looked great today, everything went well. I’m so relieved right now, as long as they can all come out of their works great, we’ll be in good shape.”

Jockey Alex Solis, who rode Richard’s Kid in the Goodwood, will have the mount for the Classic. Richard’s Kid will walk the shedrow in Baffert’s Barn 5 Tuesday morning.

Rip Van Winkle – The Sussex Stakes winner trained by Aidan O’Brien arrived at Santa Anita at 7:15 Sunday evening with the Coolmore contingent of seven horses. The 3yo colt will be eligible to clear the 42-hour quarantine Tuesday and is expected to visit the track for the first time on Wednesday morning.

O’Brien was traveling from Ireland on Monday and is expected at Santa Anita on Tuesday.

Summer Bird – The 3yo son of Birdstone returned to the track for the first time after drilling 5f under exercise rider Leo Atempa in a speedy 59 2/5 on Oct. 31, his final work at Santa Anita in preparation for the Classic.

He stepped on following the maintenance break around 8:15 a.m. and jogged a simple circuit under the watchful eye of trainer Tim Ice, who said he will gallop Tuesday and two-minute lick a quarter of a mile Wednesday morning.

Ice has been tightening his colt up for his first race over the Pro-Ride surface since the Belmont Stakes winner arrived via Tex Sutton flight from New York on Oct. 12 after an Oct. 3 score in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He quickly got a chance to check out the Santa Anita oval, jogging over the surface Oct. 13.

“He’s a good shipper,” Ice said. “It wasn’t a long flight, the trip was pretty easy, and he looked great when he got off the plane. He was feeling too good to leave him in the stall another day, so we just took him out and jogged him.”

Summer Bird’s most recent work was fourth of 72 timed at the distance and his third over the Pro-Ride surface – he turned in 5f works in 1:00 2/5 and 1:02 on Oct. 25 and Oct. 17 respectively, the former between races at Santa Anita with regular rider Kent Desormeaux in the irons, the latter with jockey Alonso Quinonez up.

“I thought he handled the October 17 work well, he got off the pole a little slower than I would have liked but he picked it up,” Ice said. “The rider was just unsure because it was his first time getting on him, but once he got him into the work I thought he worked great. We weren’t looking for anything faster than that anyways, and overall, I thought the work was great because he handled the track; he just looked smooth going over it. Our big work was when Kent worked him and he told me he handled it well, like a duck to water.”

Summer Bird is a leading Eclipse Award contender in the champion 3yo male category after his sweep of the 2009 Belmont, Shadwell Travers Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, a feat that had not been accomplished since Easy Goer’s trio of wins in 1989.

Twice Over – The recent upset winner of the Champion Stakes arrived at Santa Anita Saturday afternoon following a flight from England. He cleared the 42-hour quarantine Monday morning and went to the track.

The 4yo Juddmonte Farms colt trained by Henry Cecil arrives at the Breeders’ Cup on a three-race winning streak. He returned to the races on Sept. 9 after a two-month break between starts and scored a win in a conditions race at Doncaster.

He followed that victory with a win in a listed stakes at Goodwood on Sept. 23 and then won the Champion on Oct. 17 at Newmarket at odds of 14-1.

Zenyatta – The unbeaten 5yo mare jogged twice around the 4f training track adjacent to trainer John Shirreffs's barn at Hollywood Park Monday morning to the satisfaction of her conditioner.

Shirreffs said a final decision as to whether Zenyatta runs in the Classic or Ladies’ Classic will be reached Tuesday after he confers with owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

“The Mosses were in New York the last couple of days and flew home last night,” said Shirreffs of the Beverly Hills residents. “They stopped on the way back and picked up two poodles in Tennessee. Cocoa, their old dog, just passed away.”

Shirreffs said Zenyatta would gallop on the main track here Tuesday and, if she is entered in the Classic, ship to Santa Anita Wednesday. Regular rider Mike Smith has the call.

Zenyatta worked 6f in 1:12 4/5 under Smith at Hollywood Park Saturday.

Zenyatta, undefeated in 13 starts, won the Ladies Classic last year. She has never raced against males and would seek to become the first female to win the Classic if she starts in that race.

Zenyatta went to the training track at 9:40 with her regular team. Groom Mario Espinoza led her out of her stall, and pony boy Fred Wilson escorted her to the track with exercise rider Steve Willard.

The champion mare was easy to spot with four blue bandages and her name printed on a purple Breeders' Cup saddle towel.

“She looked good,” said Shirreffs.

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