Thursday, November 05, 2009

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint notes Thurs., Nov. 5

California Flag – The speedy gelded son of Avenue of Flags galloped Thursday morning, none the worse for wear from his run-off Wednesday during training, when he was spooked by another horse after schooling in the gate and dumped his rider before running the wrong way through the stretch.

He returned to the barn without further incident.

As for strategy in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, trainer Brian Koriner said, “I believe he’s a much better horse this year than last,” when he led much of the way in the downhill sprint before fading to 10th. Barring some sort of mishap, Koriner said he expects to see California Flag on the lead.

That’s where he’s been in his three races since last year’s Turf Sprint, including his victory in the Morvich Handicap in his most recent trek down the hill.

Cannonball – The veteran grass runner, whose resume includes two races at England’s legendary Ascot racecourse in June, galloped 1 ½ m Thursday.

Blake Heap, assistant to trainer Wesley Ward, doesn’t expect any early speed from the son of Catienus but is hopeful of the kind of fast finish that got Cannonball to within a neck of the winner in Ascot’s Group I Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Delta Storm – The 8yo gelding seeks to become the oldest winner of a Breeders' Cup race. The reigning golden oldies are 7yos Cardmania, winner of the 1993 Sprint, and Miesque's Approval, winner of the 2006 Mile.

Delta Storm galloped on the main track Thursday under exercise rider Jose Dominguez.

Desert Code – The reigning Turf Sprint champion galloped 1 1/2 m for trainer David Hofmans Thursday morning.

Of race strategy, Hofmans said, “I don’t expect to see him much before they cross the main track,” which is pretty much the way the race developed in 2008 before Desert Code roared down the stretch to win.

“Post position is not much of a factor with him,” Hofmans added in regard to post 13 in the 14-horse field. “They’ll all be running away from him.”

As to instructions for rider Richard Migliore, Hofmans said, “He knows how to ride him. I don’t expect to have much conversation about that with him.”

Diamondrella – Diamondrella’s last race, a win in the First Lady at Keeneland on Oct. 10, was at 1m, but that shouldn’t matter when she contests the Turf Sprint at 6 1/2f.

“I think this distance is actually ideal for her. Turning back in distance won’t be any problem for her,” said Ruth Hargreaves, assistant to trainer Angel Penna, Jr. and the 5yo mare’s exercise rider. “Neither will be running against the boys for the first time in her life. She’s up to the task.”

Gender may still be an issue in American racing, but female and male horses competing in the same race is common in Europe and elsewhere.

“She’s all race horse,” Hargreaves said. “She’s pretty straightforward and is a real professional. And there are other fillies in this field.”

Hargreaves took Diamondrella out for a gallop this morning and she said future plans for the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar won’t be discussed until after the race.

El Gato Malo – Trainer Craig Dollase hopes the pattern of longshot winners continues after Desert Code captured the 2008 inaugural Turf Sprint at 36-1 odds. El Gato Malo should go off in that price range after getting in off the Preference List.

“There will be a decent pace, and if you're not in, you can't win,” said Dollase.

The 4yo gelding galloped on the main track under exercise rider Juan Olivera Thursday after shipping from Hollywood Park on Wednesday.

Get Funky/Noble Court – Trainer John Sadler’s pair for the Turf Sprint went out together at 6:30 a.m. and stretched their legs for a 1 ½m gallop on the Santa Anita main track. They’ll join the conditioner’s three other Breeders’ Cup horses --Whatsthescript, Evita Argentina and Cost of Freedom -- Thursday afternoon for paddock schooling with the horses for race 4.

Naturally enough, Sadler has high hopes for both his runners in the dash down the track’s unique hillside turf course, which features the only right-handed turn on a Thoroughbred racetrack in America. Noble Court has drawn the disadvantageous post 1 in the 14-horse lineup, while his stablemate will come out of post 5.

The trainer was asked to suppose he could only make one $2 bet on any of his five Breeders’ Cup runners where would he go with that deuce?

“Noble Court,” he said. “I know he’s got a tough post, but I also know what kind of horse he is. I’ve taken a pretty good look at that field, handicapped the competition and I believe he’s a fit. I’ve been pointing him to this race for a while now and I think he’s ready. He’s going to need some luck, but I think he could be tough.”

Regular rider Joel Rosario will guide Noble Court Saturday, while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Get Funky.

Lord Shanakill – The European import, who will be making his U.S. debut in Saturday’s Turf Sprint, put in a 1 ½ m gallop for it Thursday morning. He’ll have one more bit of exercise early Friday and then reunite with his European rider Jim Crowley to take on 13 rivals Saturday.

The 3yo son of sprint champion Speightstown put together a 12-race campaign in England and Ireland over the past two years, winning on three occasions, including a Group I turf mile (Prix Jean Prat) at Chantilly in France July 5.

Following a roughly run effort in England on July 29 in the Sussex Stakes – which he came out of with problems in his back legs – the colt was sent to trainer Richard Mandella at Santa Anita.

“When he came to us he had some aches and pains behind,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said. “Nothing major, but a bunch of smaller things. We were supposed to be pointing him for this race (Turf Sprint), but for a while there I didn’t know if we were going to make it. But then things turned around and he got going, including a couple of excellent works.”

The trainer was asked if he had introduced the horse to the unique downhill turf course where he’ll run 6 ½f Saturday.

“No I did not,” he said, “and that was by design. Remember now, he’s been a European horse, which means he’s seen all kind of courses going all sort of ways. You don’t need to school those Euros on right-hand turns and downhill runs. They know all about it.

“Also, I’ve seen it happen where you take a horse up there in the morning when they’re not racing and they learn bad habits. Maybe they see a gap in the morning and then when they’re racing in the afternoon they want to look for it again. Or they’ve got them outside around those ‘dogs’ in the morning and they figure that’s where they’re supposed to be in the afternoon.

“Let them just go over there on race day and race. It works out for the best.”

Silver Timber – Trainer Chad Brown called an audible Wednesday morning, when he decided not to train Silver Timber on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. Instead, the 6yo gelding galloped 1 3/8m under exercise rider Richard Johnson on the main track in preparation for a start in the Turf Sprint.

“I decided not to go on the turf course with him. I just didn’t want to change his routine too much. He’s sound and happy. I don’t think it will make a difference one way or the other,” Brown said.

“I didn’t want to take him up there and get him bent out of shape. He’s going to take to the hill or he isn’t. He handles everything okay in his races. I didn’t want to over-think things too much.”

Silver Timber, who has won three of four starts since being claimed for $25,000 last spring, will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.

Square Eddie – The 3yo son of Smart Strike moved toward his date on Saturday’s program in the Turf Sprint with a bit of leg stretching at 7:15 Thursday morning. The chestnut colt jogged 1m, then galloped 1 ½ m on the Santa Anita main track.

“He’s doing well; we’re happy,” said trainer Doug O’Neill.

Square Eddie prepped for his Turf Sprint try in the Ancient Title at 6f on the Santa Anita main track Oct. 11, his first start in nearly six months. He’s had two subsequent works for what will be the 10th outing of his career.

Last year he finished second to Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile here.

Frankie Dettori has the mount Saturday.

Strike the Deal – The 4yo colt by Van Nistelrooy, whose last Breeders’ Cup start came when fourth in the Juvenile Turf at Monmouth in 2007, was out on the track again Thursday morning after spending all of Wednesday in the barn.

Trainer Jeremy Noseda, who said the colt suffered “a little hiccup” on Wednesday, watched closely as Strike the Deal galloped on the main track.

“Things went well today,” the trainer said. “He’s back on track.”

Strike the Deal, who drew post 12 for the Turf Sprint, is coming off two consecutive stakes victories in England and has Kieren Fallon again named to ride.

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