ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2009) – Mine That Bird, the dramatic 50-1 shot who streaked along the rail to win this year’s Kentucky Derby by 6 ¾ lengths, and unbeaten 5-year-old mare Zenyatta, a paragon of perfection in 12 career starts while earning $2.5 million, provide the star power Saturday for Oak Tree’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Santa Anita Park.
Three Grade I stakes races and one Grade II-- “Win and You’re In” competitions ensuring each winner a starting spot in Oak Tree’s two-day, $25.5-million Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7 -- mark Saturday’s elite program consisting of 10 races that get underway at 12:30 p.m.
Reunited with jockey Calvin Borel, hailed for his rail-skimming ride at Churchill Downs on May 2, the Kentucky-bred gelding by Birdstone will be seeking to become only the third 3-year-old to capture the Goodwood. The race will be his first against older horses. He will break from the outside in post No. 10.
While Mine That Bird faces a contentious lineup that includes Pacific Classic upsetter Richard’s Kid and 2008 Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, Zenyatta will be a heavy favorite when defending her title in the $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, a race she won a year ago by 3 ½ lengths at odds of 7-10.
After her triumph in the Lady’s Secret, the stunning Street Cry mare went on to take last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita by 1 ½ lengths under Mike Smith’s hand ride, but her connections presently are leaving the door open for what could be the coda to her brilliant career in the Breeders’ Cup.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with trainer John Shirreffs, might opt for the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic next month instead of the $2 million Ladies Classic with the possibility of becoming the first female to win that pinnacle event against the likes of Mine That Bird. A decision will follow the 17th running of the Lady’s Secret.
Zenyatta drew post position No. 5 among eight entrants and will carry 123 pounds under the weight-for-age conditions. Her opposition includes Cocoa Beach, second last year in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, Anabaa’s Creation, who lost by a head to Zenyatta in Del Mar’s Clement Hirsch Stakes last August, and stablemate Life Is Sweet, runner-up to Zenyatta in a pair of graded stakes earlier this year at Hollywood Park.
Saturday’s array of top graded stakes is rounded out by the 33rd running of the $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf and the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile on turf.
Magical Fantasy, a winner of the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap, Grade I Gamely and Grade I John C. Mabee in her last three starts for trainer Paddy Gallagher, heads eight entrants in the Yellow Ribbon. Cowboy Cal, winner of the Strub Stakes and San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita earlier this year, is a leading contender among ten entrants in the Oak Tree Mile.
For Mine That Bird, it has been a most eventful year since he last appeared at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 of last year, finishing a nondescript 12th and last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Four races later and with Borel aboard for the first time, the Birdstone gelding made history as New Mexico-based trainer Chip Woolley Jr. watched on crutches as the result of a motorcycle accident. The Kentucky Derby odyssey over a sloppy track took Mine That Bird from 16 lengths behind in 19th place to over six lengths ahead crossing the wire under Borel’s bold ride.
Mine That Bird was beaten by Borel and the remarkable filly Rachel Alexandra by a diminishing length in the Preakness. Then, after leading the Belmont with Borel back aboard, he had to settle for third behind Summer Bird and Dunkirk. The Goodwood will be the second subsequent start for the gelding owned by Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen. He returned from a freshening to finish third in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 1.
Woolley is pleased with Mine That Bird’s preparations for the Goodwood. “I think he’s peaking now,” Woolley said following Tuesday’s final drill. Despite his poor showing in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Mine That Bird is 4-for-6 over synthetic surfaces. He will enter the Goodwood with earnings of $2,196,581 from an overall record of 5-2-2 in 12 career starts.
The complete field for the Goodwood Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Chocolate Candy, Victor Espinoza, 121; Tiago, Mike Smith, 124; Richard’s Kid, Alex Solis, 124; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez, 124; Tres Borrachos, Joseph Talamo, 124; Monzante, Joel Rosario, 124; Parading, Rafael Bejarano, 124; Gitano Hernando, Kieren Fallon, 121; Informed, Michael Baze, 124, and Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel, 121.
Arnold Zetcher’s Richard’s Kid ran the race of his career when the 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt rallied from tenth to defeat Santa Anita Handicap winner Einstein by a neck in Del Mar’s $1-million Pacific Classic on Sept. 6, with Smith at the controls. The Hall of Fame jockey, however, is committed to ride Tiago for Zenyatta’s connections, the Mosses and Shirreffs, in the Goodwood. Trainer Bob Baffert has named Alex Solis to replace Smith on Saturday.
Privately purchased by Zetcher and transferred to Baffert in mid-summer, Richard’s Kid won his first graded stakes in the Pacific Classic. It was his second start over a synthetic surface after having finished second by a nose to Unusual Suspect in the Cougar II Handicap over Del Mar’s Polytrack. “I bought him for the synthetics,” said Baffert.
The $600,000 that Richard’s Kid earned when victorious in the Pacific Classic qualified him for a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and dramatically increased his lifetime earnings from the $159,370 that he brought into the seaside event. His overall record now stands at 6-2-4 in 19 starts.
Colonel John, who finished a troubled fifth in the Pacific Classic, will attempt to get back on course for trainer Eoin Harty and WinStar Farm. In addition to last year’s Santa Anita Derby, the Tiznow colt won the Travers. He has banked $1,559,012 from an overall record of 6-2-1 in 13 races.
A newcomer to American racing, British-bred import Gitano Hernando makes his United States debut in the Goodwood for Team Valor and trainer Marco Botti. The 3-year-old chestnut colt, with a 3-2-0 record in six English starts, will be ridden by six-time British champion jockey Kieren Fallon. Gitano Hernando won both his starts over synthetics in England.
Zenyatta, freshened since surging to defeat Anabaa’s Creation two months ago at Del Mar, has been the odds-on favorite in her last eight starts. Her last 10 victories have been achieved in Grade I or Grade II competitions. She will be seeking her seventh Grade I win on Saturday. According to Smith, Zenyatta has been training “awesome” in preparation.
Trained by Julio Canani for Prestonwood Farm, Irish-bred Anabaa’s Creation was making her third start in the United States after being imported from France when finishing within a head of Zenyatta in the Hirsch. No other filly or mare has come closer than the 5-year-old bay who was making her second start over synthetics following an allowance race victory at Santa Anita on April 2 in her U.S. debut. “I thought I had it won,” said jockey Tyler Baze immediately after the Hirsch. With Baze riding out of town, Rafael Bejarano inherits the mount in the Lady’s Secret.
The complete field for the Lady’s Secret, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Cocoa Beach, Richard Migliore, 123; Sweet and Flawless, Rosario, 120; Made for Magic, Omar Berrio, 123; Life Is Sweet, Gomez, 123; Zenyatta, Smith, 123; Lethal Heat, Solis, 123; Briecat, Martin Garcia, 123, and Anabaa’s Creation, Bejarano, 123.
Magical Fantasy, a 4-year-old Diesis filly owned by David Bienstock, Paul Mandabach and Charles Winner, comes into the Yellow Ribbon on a roll capped by her one-length score in the Mabee at Del Mar on Aug. 16. Her nose victory over Black Mamba in the April 18 Santa Barbara began the streak and serves as her only experience over the Santa Anita turf course. Solis rides the chestnut with a 5-4-0 mark in 16 starts worth $859,231. “She seems like a different horse,” Solis remarked after the Mabee. “She seems so full of confidence.”
The complete field for the Yellow Ribbon with jockeys and weights in post position order: Magical Fantasy, Solis, 123; Lemonette, Bejarano, 123; Lemon Chiffon, Fallon, 123; Black Mamba, Smith, 123; Rosa Grace, Rosario, 123; Charming Legacy, Talamo, 123; Visit, Gomez, 123, and Internally Flawless, Espinoza, 120.
With earnings of $911,810 from six wins in 16 starts, Cowboy Cal is the most accomplished of the Oak Tree Mile contestants. Garrett Gomez, the nation’s leading money-winning jockey the last three years, will be aboard for the first time. Trained by Todd Pletcher for the Magnolia Racing Stable, the 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt just missed by a head to Einstein in the Grade I Turf Classic on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Four of his six victories have been accomplished on grass.
After finishing eighth at Del Mar in the Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 ¼ miles and third in the Grade I Bing Crosby at six furlongs, Global Hunter returns to turf over which the 6-year-old Argentine-bred won Del Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Corey Nakatani rides the son of Jade Hunter trained by A. C. Avila. Owned by L-Bo Racing and Monte Pyle, Global Hunter has winnings of $491,365 with a 7-2-8 showing in 27 lifetime starts.
The complete field for the Oak Tree Mile with jockeys and weights in post position order: Times Gone By, Espinoza, 119; Skyrush, Martin Pedroza, 119; Polonius, Aaron Gryder, 119; Global Hunter, Corey Nakatani, 123; Victor’s Cry, no rider, 119; Blue Chagall, Bejarano, 119; Monterey Jazz, Smith, 123; Allicansayis Wow, Fallon, 119; Cowboy Cal, Gomez, 123, and Whatsthescript, Rosario, 119.
The Goodwood is slotted as the seventh race on the card to be immediately followed by the Lady’s Secret. The Yellow Ribbon goes as the fourth; the Oak Tree Mile as the sixth. HRTV will televise the entire program.