Thursday, September 18, 2008
CURLIN VS. BIG BROWN LOOMS FOR BREEDERS’ CUP XXV AT OAK TREE
Curlin vs. Big Brown—the showdown the racing world is waiting for—remained a possibility Wednesday morning when Steve Asmussen left the door open for a meeting between the two superstars in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
“I don’t think it’s been eliminated by Mr. (Jess) Jackson,” said Asmussen, trainer of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, by phone from New York early today, referring to Jackson, majority owner of Stonestreet Stables, which races Curlin.
Asmussen`s immediate goal with the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike is the $750,000 guaranteed Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. Should Curlin win or finish second or third, he would surpass Cigar as North America’s all-time money winner. Curlin’s earnings stand at $9,976,800; Cigar earned $9,999,815. A Gold Cup victory would be worth 60 percent to the winning horse, or $450,000; second is worth 20 percent, or $150,000; third is 10 percent, or $75,000.
Curlin’s connections reportedly had not been considering the Classic, to be run on a synthetic surface for the first time, but Asmussen addressed whether the surface was a factor in their decision to run or not.
”Yes, it is,” he said. “The unknown is a deterrent.”
Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, meanwhile, was on schedule for the Classic after his neck victory on turf in the Monmouth Stakes last Saturday.
“Big Brown is doing good,” trainer Rick Dutrow said by phone Wednesday morning. “We’ll ship (to Santa Anita) around the 20th, 21st or 22nd (of October), something like that.”
While a Classic victory by Curlin or Big Brown could likely determine Horse of the Year for 2008, Dutrow understandably was concentrating solely on Big Brown.
“I’m only interested in us (and not whether Curlin runs),” Dutrow said. “We’ve got a big race ahead and we’re going to be putting everything into it no matter who shows up. I was happy with the outcome (at Monmouth) and I’m happy with the way he’s come out of the race. I just can’t wait for the 25th of October.”
With that news, anticipation is growing by the hour for the 40th Oak Tree campaign starting next Wednesday, Sept. 24, and intensifying a week from Saturday, Sept. 27, when the winners of six Grade I Breeders’ Cup Challenge races that day will earn the right to start in the championship race corresponding to the Breeders’ Cup division of the Challenge Races known as “Win and You’re In” events.
The Sept. 27 races are the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles; the $250,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 1/16 miles; the $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs; the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 ¼ miles on turf; and the $500,000 Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for three year olds and up.
Nominations for the aforementioned races on “Super Saturday” close at midnight Thursday, while nominations for the Grade II Oak Tree Mile and the Grade I Norfolk Stakes on Sunday, Sept. 28, also “Win and You’re In” affairs, will also close at that time.
Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface was installed in mid-July and completed late last month, when horses began galloping over the newly reconstituted surface. Oak Tree will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the fourth time and the first time under its two-day format, which features 14 races with total purses of $25.5 million. Oak Tree will also be the first-ever venue to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years. It will present the Championships in 2009 on Nov. 6 and 7.
On Tuesday, San Antonio Handicap winner Well Armed, a candidate for the Classic, worked six furlongs in 1:13 under regular rider Aaron Gryder for the Goodwood, the final local major prep for the Classic.
“He went well,” trainer Eoin Harty said. “We’re on course for the Goodwood.”
Travers winner Colonel John, also a Classic contender, worked four furlongs Sunday in :48.40, breezing. Harty plans to train Colonel John up to the race.
Mast Track, upset winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, worked five furlongs Tuesday in :59 seconds under Corey Nakatani. Owner/trainer Bobby Frankel is expected to nominate the son of Mizzen Mast to the Goodwood, according to assistant Humberto Ascanio.
For the third straight year, ESPN will televise the Breeders’ Cup live.
GEORGIE BOY WORKS TOWARDS RETURN TO THE RACES
Georgie Boy, a leading Triple Crown candidate last year until sidelined with a pulled muscle in his back, worked five furlongs Tuesday under jockey Iggy Puglisi on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride main track in 1:00.20.
Georgie Boy, a California-bred Tribal Rule gelding owned and bred by George Schwary and trained by Kathy Walsh, was unbeaten as a 3-year-old, winning the Grade II San Vicente Stakes last Feb. 10 and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 15 before being sidelined as he prepared for the April 5 Santa Anita Derby.
“He went unbelievable,” Puglisi said. “He got the last quarter in :23 and one (fifth).”
Added Walsh: “He galloped out strong but I have no race in mind for him at this time.”
POPULAR OAK TREE STEIN GIVEAWAY ON OPENING DAY
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita on opening day, next Wednesday, will receive a free commemorative Oak Tree stein with paid admission while supplies last. This is the 22nd consecutive year of the popular promotion, the longest running and most popular in Oak Tree history.
This year the steins, which have become prized collector’s items, feature the likeness of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, who won an unprecedented four Breeders’ Cup races at Oak Tree in 2003. His four winners, Halfbridled, Pleasantly Perfect, Johar and Action This Day, will also be depicted.
In addition to the stein, fans will receive two coupons redeemable for reduced admission on Saturday, Sept. 27. Opening day patrons also will receive two coupons good for free admission on weekdays.
Mandella took a typical self-deprecating approach on being acknowledged. “I heard that
several trainers plan to use the steins for target practice,” he said.
First post time opening day is 1 p.m.
‘LIVING LEGENDS RACE’ AT OAK TREE ON OCT. 18
The “Living Legends Race,” an unprecedented event in which eight retired Hall of Fame jockeys are scheduled to return for a last hurrah in the profession that brought them gold and glory, will take place on Oct. 18 during Oak Tree’s prelude to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships the following weekend. The race will feature live pari-mutuel wagering, which has been approved by the California Horse Racing Board.
Contested at a sprint distance, the race will feature Angel Cordero Jr., 65; Jacinto Vasquez, 64; Sandy Hawley, 59; Pat Day, 55; Chris McCarron, 53; Jerry Bailey, 51; Gary Stevens, 45; and Julie Krone, 45. Each rider’s mount will be a California-bred selected by draw and will be assigned 126 pounds.
The eight legends won an astounding 71,872 races combined and their mounts earned nearly $2 billion.
“I was with McCarron in Kentucky (during the Keeneland sales) and these guys are taking this real seriously,” said trainer Howard Zucker. “They’re meaning to win.”
ANIMAL PLANET DOCU-SERIES ‘JOCKEYS’ BEING FILMED AT OAK TREE
Go Go Luckey Entertainment, the creative team behind visually stunning unscripted series including MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” Fox’s “Nashville,” and A&E’s “Paranormal State,” is currently in production at Santa Anita in what is being described as their most ambitious unscripted series yet, entitled, “Jockeys.” The high-gloss Animal Planet docu-series will feature an intimate perspective of the exhilarating world of high stakes professional horseracing.
From the adrenaline inside the starting gate to the tremendous rewards and relentless pressure of the winner’s circle, “Jockeys” will give viewers unprecedented access to the lives of the people at the top of the sport.
Unfolding during the sport’s prestigious Oak Tree races at Santa Anita, “Jockeys” will combine human drama with tradition, pageantry and danger, unmatched in any sport. Who will advance to the Breeders’ Cup at the end of the series? Who will be the new star? Who will take love, glory, reward and reputation in the Winner’s Circle and beyond?
FINISH LINES: Chantal Sutherland, who captured the hearts of longshot players and the rapt attention of horsemen at Santa Anita last meet with 16 victories, will return from her Canadian base at Woodbine to ride at Oak Tree. “She’ll ride here that first week,” said agent Tommy Ball, who also represents Brice Blanc. “But she’ll return to Woodbine that weekend for stakes commitments, then return to ride out the Oak Tree meet. She’s excited and can’t wait to get back. When she left (Santa Anita last spring) she was riding for new clients she hadn’t ridden for and they seem enthusiastic about putting her on horses. It’s just a matter of getting here and working horses and getting business going again.” . . .
Street Boss worked five furlongs Wednesday in :59.80 for the Ancient Title Stakes; Surf Cat went six furlongs in 1:10.20 for the Goodwood; and Magnificience worked six furlongs in 1:12 for the $65,000 Pine Tree Lane at 6 ½ furlongs on Sept. 28. “They hit their marks perfectly,” said Karen Headley, daughter of trainer Bruce Headley, who is attending the Keeneland sales . . . Veteran rider Rene Douglas, who “has been dominating back in Chicago,” according to agent Tom Knust, will be on hand for opening day at Oak Tree and ride throughout the meet. Knust also has the book of Luis Contreras. Through Monday, Douglas had 102 wins at Arlington Park, 34 more than runner-up Jesse Campbell . . . Jay Robbins remains puzzled over the recent disappointing efforts of Johnny Eves, winner of the Grade I Malibu Stakes last year. The son of Skimming worked five furlongs Sunday in :59 seconds. “He worked well again, but we’re all still mystified,” Robbins said. “We can’t find anything wrong with him. He continues to work well, but he’s not running (in his races). Right now I’m between two or three races on Cal Cup day (Oct. 5).” . . . Richard Mandella hopes to run Into Mischief in the $100,000 Damascus Stakes at seven furlongs on Oct. 25. The son of Harlan’s Holiday won the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last December, defeating Colonel John in a 10-1 upset, but was sidelined with foot problems as he prepared for the Triple Crown. Mandella said Dixie Chatter would be pointed to the Grade II Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Oct. 25 . . . Barry Abrams reports Las Virgenes Stakes winner Golden Doc A, who worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride track Monday in a bullet :46.40, is en route to Kentucky where she is scheduled to run in the $75,000 Weekend Delight Stakes at six furlongs on Saturday. “If all goes well after that, we’re considering the ($400,000) Indiana Oaks (at 1 1/16 miles at Hoosier Park on Oct. 3) or the ($300,000, Grade II) Lexus Raven Run at Keeneland (Oct. 18),” Abrams said . . . “The Taste of Arcadia,” which offers flavorful fare from local restaurants, cafes, wineries and breweries each Fall, will hold its annual event at the Los Angeles County Arboretum next Monday, Sept. 22, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For further information, contact the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce at 626 447-2159, or . . . Nomadic longshot specialist Julio Garcia has moved his tack from Fairplex Park to Kentucky Downs, where he won two races Monday, his first day there.
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