$500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (Grade II) 3-Year-Olds & Up 1 3/4 Miles
Bob Baffert (Fed Biz, Dirt Mile) – The 4yo colt Fed Biz galloped at the Santa Anita Wednesday morning as trainer Bob Baffert looked on from the track’s apron. The Hall of Fame conditioner liked what he saw.
If that proves true, he’ll run well indeed. Fed Biz, a son of Giant’s Causeway, came flying late to best 11 rivals in the Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar going 7f. It was his fifth lifetime victory and pushed his bankroll past the half-million mark. His rider that day was Baffert’s “go-to” jock, Martin Garcia, and he’ll once again have the call Friday.
Shug McGaughey (Hymn Book, Dirt Mile) – Stuart Janney III’s Hymn Book galloped 1m at Santa Anita Wednesday morning in preparation for his final career start in Friday’s Dirt Mile.
“He’s been good to us. He’s 7 years old. We’re taking a shot here,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “There’s no sense pressing him. We’ll use him as a pony at some point.”
The veteran gelding, who has earned just shy of $1 million, is winless in 2013, but has finished on the board in all four starts, including a close third in the Kelso at Belmont last time out.
“He’s had a very good year. In the Kelso, the pace didn’t turn out the way we thought it would be. He didn’t get him out until too late and he comes running and just gets beat,” McGaughey said. “He’s 15-1 in the morning line, and he just got beat by Graydar, who would have been the favorite in this race.”
Doug O'Neill (Goldencents, Dirt Mile) – Dave Kenney, co-owner of both Goldencents and Juvenile Fillies Turf entrant Clenor, watched both horses gallop on the main track Wednesday. "They are back-to-back races; they could have spread them out a little better," joked Kenney. "I could be in a winners' party for the first and not get to the paddock for the second."
Trainer Doug O'Neill and assistant Steve Rothblum hope the owner encounters that enviable problem. Rothblum thinks Goldencents, a 3yo colt who won the Santa Anita Derby in April, should excel at the mile distance. "He's tailor-made to be a miler," said Rothblum. "His natural speed comes into play."
Jerry Hollendorfer (Blueskiesnrainbows, Marathon) – Blueskiesnrainbows, who has spent his career under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer, galloped 1 1/2m on Santa Anita’s main track Wednesday as he moved one day closer to his Friday test in the 1 3/4m Marathon.
With all the serious work done, all that remains for the son of English Channel is some Thursday morning exercise and a schooling session in the paddock Thursday afternoon, Hollendorfer said.
Jo Hughes (London Bridge, Marathon) – see European report
Kelly Breen (Pants On Fire, Dirt Mile) – Trainer Kelly Breen can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but whatever has made the difference this year with Pants On Fire, he’s just hoping it continues into Friday’s race where the 5yo Jump Start horse will be among the favorites. Pants On Fire has three wins and three thirds from six starts this year, the best record of his four years on the track.
“I wish I knew what has made the difference this year,” said Breen. “We’re still doing things the exact same way we have since he was two. For some reason, he’s just decided to put it all together this year.
“After his last race at Churchill (a win in the Ack Ack Handicap), we decided that we wouldn’t try to make another start before the Breeders’ Cup. He seems to run well fresh with space between his races. He’s stayed healthy and is really doing excellent.”
Kiaran McLaughlin (Alpha, Dirt Mile) – Dual Grade 1 winner Alpha, who was bred by Darley and carries the colors of Godolphin Racing, galloped 1 3/8m and went to the gate under exercise rider Rob Massey on Wednesday morning for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The 4yo son of Bernardini, who was eased before finishing last in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic, has acclimated beautifully since arriving from New York and his connections are pleased with the way he’s coming into the Dirt Mile.
“He’s got a good look out of his eye and he’s very bright,” said Jimmy Bell, Godolphin’s representative on the scene and head of operations for Darley Racing America. “It was great to see him get another Grade 1 win (in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in August).”
Bell cautioned against overlooking the earner of $1,779,167 in this race.
“This is a dangerous horse who is capable at any time of springing a major performance,” he said. “I am sure that he will give a good account of himself.”
Whether the colt will race again this year, or next year, or head to stallion duty at Darley has yet to be decided.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this race and assess his performance to see what’s there or isn’t,” Bell said. “We’re considering the Cigar Mile this year and if he runs there, these next couple of races will determine his future.”
Mark Casse (Pool Play, Marathon) – With 40 starts on his resume, Pool Play has gone to the gate more times than any other competitor in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. At age 8 and the oldest of all the contenders, he qualifies as an equine senior citizen.
“Does he still have the desire to go out there and do this? I guess we’ll find out on Friday,” said Will Farish Jr. who owns the gelded son of Silver Deputy, who is a multiple Graded stakes winner with a bankroll of $1,313,371. “This may be his last race, but we’ll let him tell us.”
Pool Play, eighth in the Classic last year, no longer has any speed in his repertoire but trainer Mark Casse said that he’s still got plenty of endurance. Anyone looking for clues to solving the mystery of the Marathon should note that he is the only one in the field who has won at the 1 3/4m distance, and even longer.
Should the Marathon be his last stand, Pool Play will surely be missed by Team Casse.
“He’s such a cool old guy with a great personality. He’s like the barn pet,” said assistant trainer David Adams. “He’s been doing this for so long and knows the routine so well that nothing fazes him. He’s a real pleasure.”
Ron Ellis (Centralinteligence, Dirt Mile) – Trainer Ron Ellis is not worried about Centralintelligence's second career start around two turns in the Dirt Mile. The 5yo gelding, who has sprinted in 12 of his 13 starts, finished a non-threatening seventh at 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar in 2011.
"It was only the third start of his life and he didn't show anything at all," said Ellis. "He didn't like the surface. I'm not worried at all." Centralintelligence rallied from just off the pace to win the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at 7f at Betfair Hollywood Park in June, a relaxed style that Ellis is confident will suit him well in the Dirt Mile as well.
Centralintelligence galloped on the main track under exercise rider Cesar Cerrano after being shipped from Betfair Hollywood Park Tuesday.
Tom Proctor (Old Time Hockey, Marathon) – Trainer Tom Proctor was not on the grounds on Wednesday morning and instead was at his base at Betfair Hollywood Park, where he supervised the preparations for the Glen Hill Farm homebred.
Winless in eight starts since taking the La Jolla Handicap at 1 1/16m on the turf at Del Mar in August 2012, the 4yo son of dual Classic winner Smarty Jones will make his first start on the dirt since a maiden special weight effort in February 2012 at Gulfstream Park.
Todd Pletcher (Verrazano, Dirt Mile) – The Todd Pletcher-trained Verrazano galloped at Santa Anita Wednesday morning for a start in Friday’s Dirt Mile. Pletcher confirmed that the 3yo son of More Than Ready is scheduled to be retired after the Dirt Mile.
“I think this will be his last start. He goes to stud at Ashford after that,” Pletcher said.
Verrazano has captured six of eight starts in brilliant fashion, his only two losses coming in the Kentucky Derby and Travers at 1 1/4m. Seventh in the Travers last time out, Verrazano convinced his connections to opt for the Dirt Mile instead of the Classic.
“We just felt like he’s always had that brilliance about him. Had he won the Travers, we would have looked at it a little differently,” Pletcher said. “But after the Travers, we decided the (Dirt) Mile would be the right spot for him.”