$2 Million Breeders’ Cup
Ladies’ Classic (Grade I)
Three-Year-Olds & Up Fillies & Mares
1 1/8 Miles
Awesome Feather – Stronach Stable’s unbeaten filly is one of several standouts in a star-studded field for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic that includes defending champ Royal Delta, the unbeaten My Miss Aurelia, and Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama winner Questing.
Awesome Feather shipped to California from New York Monday ahead of Hurricane Sandy. Brown said she shipped well and jogged on the track at Santa Anita on Tuesday morning.
The Ladies’ Classic will be Awesome Feather’s third start in 2012 and just her fifth race since she won the 2010 Juvenile Fillies. Frank Stronach purchased her at auction following that Breeders’ Cup win and turned her over to Brown, who soon after discovered that she had a bowed tendon in her left front.
Given time and therapy, Awesome Feather has come back from what is often a career-ending injury for a second run in the Breeders’ Cup. She returned after an 11-month layoff to win twice in late 2011. She won the Sunshine Millions Distaff in January 2012 but needed another long break. She won an overnight stake by 11 1/4 lengths on Sept. 20 at Belmont Park.
Brown said he could not compare her recovery from the injury to others he has seen.
“I’ve had tendons, but this is a totally different situation,” he said. “This horse is a special horse. On the average, you don’t see this type of thing happen with a tendon.”
Brown said the horse deserves the credit for getting back to racing.
“Not every soft tissue injury is black and white,” he said. “It depends where it is, the extent of it, or a horse’s own tolerance for pain or healing. Every horse is different and every injury is different. I don’t think there is a set formula for bringing a horse back like this. There is a lot of luck involved.
“The most important component to the whole equation is her, the filly. She’s overcome it. We’ve tried to help her along and stay out of her way.”
Class Included – Kay Cooper, the daughter and assistant to trainer Jim Penney, planned to only walk the 4yo filly on Tuesday morning, but the winner of four consecutive races, all stakes, had other ideas.
“She is awesome and doing so extremely well that we ended up jogging her while it was still dark and then taking a short duck through the paddock,” said Cooper, who is overseeing preparations for her semi-retired 78-year-old father.
Nicknamed “Blondie” since she was foaled for her flaxen-haired tail, the bay filly went through her final work for the Ladies’ Classic on Sunday and the move was vastly better than her previous one over the Santa Anita main track, when she traveled 5f in 1:01 3/5 on Oct. 22.
“She worked a half-mile (on Sunday) in forty-seven flat under Joey Steiner and it was the fastest at the distance,” said Cooper, who is being assisted in the barn by her husband and former jockey Bryson Cooper.
“That first work over the track here was not impressive and she did not get over the track. So we changed her shoes and it made a difference. It wasn’t our objective to have her go that fast (in her final work), but the main thing was that she was able to handle the track, and she sure did it. And then she galloped out strong. We couldn’t be happier with her.”
Class Included, the 2012 Emerald Downs Horse of the Meet and the winner of six of her seven starts this year, is Penney’s second Breeders’ Cup starter. The Washington Thoroughbred Hall of Fame member saddled Tortellini Roma, who finished ninth in the 1987 Juvenile Fillies at Hollywood Park.
Grace Hall – Unable to fly to California because of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, Grace Hall and her connections remained stuck on the East Coast Tuesday.
Trainer Tony Dutrow said that she is booked on a flight that is scheduled to arrive Wednesday afternoon, and it appears that the multiple graded stakes-winner may have an easier time getting here than he will.
“We’re trying to get out west, lots of cancellations,” he said via text on Tuesday morning when asked about travel plans for himself and his wife, Kim, plus the rest of the crew after their original plans to arrive on Tuesday were scuttled.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Delaware Oaks and Indiana Oaks by a combined 10 ½ lengths this year jogged 1 1/16m at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where her Delaware Park-based trainer maintains a barn.
“Grace Hall continues to thrive,” Dutrow texted with three exclamation points.
On Monday, after she drew the inside post for the Ladies’ Classic, Dutrow said he has never seen the filly “as good as she is right now.”
Include Me Out – The 4yo daughter of Include was shipped to Santa Anita from Betfair Hollywood Park Tuesday morning after working 4f in 49 2/5 on Monday.
Trainer Ron Ellis hopes the filly, who has won three of six starts on the main track at Santa Anita, including the Santa Margarita Stakes, improves upon a third-place finish in her last outing in the Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 29.
"She needed the last race, and it wasn't an important race for us (to win)," Ellis said, indicating that the Ladies’ Classic is the ultimate goal.
Jay Em Ess Stable owner Samantha Siegel said that post position seven should be no problem. “How can you get a bad post in a field of eight?" she asked rhetorically. "I'm happy to be in the gate.”
Siegel explained that the filly was named by her late father, Mace, after an old expression by movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn.
Love and Pride – The 4yo daughter of A.P. Indy was out for an early maintenance gallop Tuesday morning at Santa Anita, the site of her impressive victory in the Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 29.
“I think anytime you have a win over the track anywhere it’s a big plus,” said assistant trainer Mike McCarthy, who has overseen the Todd Pletcher operation here since the week leading up to that race. “The fact that she’s been able to ship, run, win and then come back and be able to train here is something that’s worked out well for us.”
Love and Pride won the Personal Ensign at Saratoga a month before winning the Zenyatta and appears to be in the best form of her career. The Green Hills Farm-owned filly has won four of eight starts in 2012, but her victory over champion Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign signaled a new level of success.
Pletcher took the blinkers off the filly following a fourth-place finish at Delaware Park behind Royal Delta in the Obeah in mid-June and the move paid immediate dividends. A solid performance in the eight-horse Ladies’ Classic field would make her a millionaire. She has earned $925,760 with seven victories from 16 career starts.
Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard for the Personal Ensign, returns for the mount after Martin Garcia rode her in the Zenyatta. She is listed at 8-1 in the morning line.
My Miss Aurelia – The 2011 2yo filly champion went to the track to jog Tuesday, two days after her work Sunday.
My Miss Aurelia did not make her 3yo debut until Aug. 8 when she won the Mandys Gold Stakes at Saratoga. That race was followed by a victory over Questing in the Cotillion Stakes.
When asked how rewarding it was to have My Miss Aurelia back to this level, trainer Steve Asmussen replied, “We don’t consider it back to this level because she’s always been at this level. She’s always been a special filly from the first time we got her in the barn.
“This may be deeper waters than what she faced last year (in the Juvenile Fillies), but she’s doing very good. The Cotillion was about as good of a race as you can ask for, and it was a wonderful feeling being there.”
Questing - Godolphin Racing’s Questing galloped 1m before schooling in the starting gate Tuesday morning at Santa Anita Park, where the 3yo filly is scheduled for a start in Friday’s $2 million Ladies’ Classic.
Questing, who began her career on turf in Europe with moderate success, finished a troubled fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last November for trainer John Gosden. The daughter of Hard Spun remained in the U.S. with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, for whom she finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in turf races at Gulfstream Park and Belmont Park.
Given another chance on dirt, Questing posted an impressive front-running victory in an entry-level allowance race at Belmont in June, which was followed by a pair of grade I victories at Saratoga.
“Her first race was very impressive on the dirt. She beat that good filly of Chad Brown’s (Book Review). From all figures we use and look at, she belonged with the best of them,” McLaughlin said. “That’s why we went straight into the Coaching Club American Oaks. That was a ‘wow’ race and then the Alabama was most impressive. Hopefully, we’ll go back to that form.”
Questing was beaten by a head by My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion at Parx Racing last time out. McLaughlin said Questing was taken out of her free-running style by a slow early pace and a deep track.
Royal Delta – Trainer Bill Mott said the champion and defending Ladies’ Classic winner went to the track Tuesday morning and was not having any problems with the small cut she suffered on her right rear hip while being shipped from Newburgh, N.Y., early Monday morning.
Mott said the 4yo filly received a tetanus shot when a vet repaired the problem.
“She had some sutures for a superficial laceration,” he said. “It appears as though it came together quite well and closed up nicely. It looked very good this morning, very dry. There was just a small amount of swelling around the area. It was just the first layer of skin. There was no puncture wound. The muscle and the tissue underneath it was very good before he closed it up.”
Mott said the cut happened when Royal Delta was entering the stall on the plane at Stewart Airport.
“I’m guessing that there must have been a pin or a latch that was not in the right position when she was backing into the stall,” he said. “One of them must have been swung in the wrong direction. That’s all I can figure. I wasn’t on the plane.”
Mott said he was pleased with the way the filly looked at the barn Tuesday morning.
“She’s good,” he said. “The site that was sutured looked really good. If it stays the way it is right now, it will be a non-issue as far as her performance. There are a lot of things that can happen to horses that we can’t see that are a lot worse than that. This is just a layer of skin that got sewn back. That’s it.”
Royal Delta has a 3-2-0 record in six starts this year. She won the Beldame by 9 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park on Sept. 29 at Belmont following a runner-up finish by a half-length in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 26 at Saratoga. Her only off-the-board finish in 2012 was a ninth against males in the Dubai World Cup in March.
“I think she is doing very well,” Mott said. “She was doing great when she got beat in Saratoga. She is doing great. She is healthy. She is sound. She feels good. She has been working great.
“She was that way when she got beat in Dubai. She was that way when she got beat in Saratoga. Do I have a response for that? Well, she had a little bit of a rough trip in Dubai and she gave the winner 10 pounds in Saratoga. But she put in a good effort there. The Saratoga race might not have been her best effort, but it was dang good. Would 10 pounds have made a difference that day? Perhaps. When you get beat a half-length, 10 pounds going a mile and an eighth could make a difference, I’d say.”