Monday, October 13, 2008
CASINO DRIVE CONVINCING IN VICTORIOUS PREP FOR BREEDERS’ CUP
ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 12, 2008) – In an unorthodox approach to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Japan’s unusual 3-year-old, unbeaten Casino Drive, prepped for the $5-million Classic on Oct. 25 with a convincing victory in a $52,000 allowance race over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface.
With Victor Espinoza doing little more than sitting in the saddle, Casino Drive negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.14 to defeat runner-up Dakota Phone by three-quarters of a length after not having raced since a dazzling 5 ¾- length triumph in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 10.
The Peter Pan, following an 11 ¼-length maiden win in Japan, was supposed to set up a summit meeting with Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. A bruised foot, however, sent Casino Drive to the sidelines.
Traveling with little encouragement from Espinoza, Casino Drive took command on the far turn while racing on the far outside. The jockey, aboard for the first time, shook the reins and tapped Casino Drive nearing the wire. Dakota Drive, although closing resolutely, could not seriously menace.
“We had a slow pace early, and I kind of let him go at the three-eighths pole,” Espinoza said afterward while revealing that he has secured the mount for the Classic. “At the eighth-pole, I wanted to see how much horse I had,” said Espinoza. “I had plenty, believe me. I only tapped him once. It’s fun when you ride a horse like him, and I’m excited about riding him in the Classic.”
“Victor did a great job on him,” commented Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive’s owner, Hidetoshi Yamamoto. “The horse saved plenty of energy for the Breeders’ Cup. It was really a perfect prep race. He was ready to run, we knew, but he’s not at the top of his form. So we hope that after this race, he’s going to improve.”
One race earlier, the 4th running of the $81,275 Lure Stakes went to 7-5 favored Argentine-bred Global Hunter, who found a more comfortable level after six starts in Grade I or II stakes races since arriving from South America.
Jose Valdivia Jr. rallied Global Hunter from fourth in the field of ten to safely hold the fast-closing Vauquelin by one length while covering one-mile on turf in 1:33.82. Mr Napper Tandy got up for third, another three-quarters of a length back.
Prior to Sunday’s U.S. breakthrough for the 5-year-old trained by A. C. Avila, Global Hunter’s best efforts in this country had been third place finishes this year in Hollywood Park’s Mervyn LeRoy Handicap and the Del Mar Handicap, both Grade II events.
Global Hunter paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.20. Vauquelin, with Espinoza in the saddle, paid $5 and $3.80. The show payoff on Mr Napper Tandy, with Garrett Gomez aboard, was $3.40. Rebellion, the second choice on the morning line, was scratched earlier in the day.
Owned by L-Bo Racing and Monte Pyle, Global Hunter earned $48,765, which brought his career total to $204,365 from a 6-1-7 record in 20 races.
Oak Tree will present a Columbus Day card of holiday racing on Monday with nine races headed by the $65,000 Kangaroo Court Stakes. Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year, is scheduled to work between the fourth and fifth races in preparation for a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. First post is 12:30 p.m.
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