John Shirreffs (Zenyatta, 1st, Classic and Life Is Sweet, 1st, Ladies’ Classic) – “This is as good as it gets,” said Shirreffs after a sleepless night from Hollywood Park Sunday, reflecting on his dream weekend and reporting that both females had been shipped back across town to their training base in good order.
“They both ate up and walked this morning,” said Shirreffs of the unprecedented double with Breeders' Cup stars that he affectionately calls the queen and princess of his barn.
“She could run again today,” said Shirreffs of how little the effort had apparently taken out of the 5yo mare.
Shirreffs said that owners Jerry and Ann Moss and jockey Mike Smith accompanied him and his wife, Dottie, to celebrate Zenyatta's historic victory at the Arroyo Chop House restaurant in Pasadena Saturday night.
The $2.7-million first prize nearly doubled her earnings to $5,474,580.
Life Is Sweet, a 4yo filly, also made a mark on the international map with the biggest victory of her career Friday under Garrett Gomez.
“Life Is Sweet is such a talented filly in her own right,” said Shirreffs of the 4yo who had raced in Zenyatta's giant shadow much of the year. Owner-breeders Marty and Pam Wygod will decide whether the filly is kept in training for another year or joins Zenyatta in the broodmare ranks.
Mario Espinoza, the groom for both horses, also recorded a less publicized double.
“You have to have a good supporting cast,” said Shirreffs, crediting his barn help headed by Espinoza and exercise rider Steve Willard.
Christophe Clement (Gio Ponti, 2nd, Classic; Rutherienne, 7th, Filly & Mare Turf) – Trainer Christophe Clement reported that his Breeders’ Cup starters came out of their races in good order. He was particularly pleased with Gio Ponti’s performance in the Classic, in which his 4yo drove to the lead in mid-stretch, only to be caught by the undefeated Zenyatta nearing the finish line.
“It was pretty exciting when he made the move in the stretch. I knew that the mare was nice -- obviously she’s great, the way she ran. She’s a great mare,” Clement said.
There are no definite plans for Gio Ponti, the country’s most dominant turf performer who took well to the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.
“He’ll have a day or two easy, then we’ll have a plan,” Clement said. “We’ll stay here a few days and speak to the owner.”
Clement was impressed with Gio Ponti’s demonstration of versatility in handling the track at Santa Anita.
“We always knew he was a very nice horse, but the way he ran yesterday, the way he produced his best form on the Pro-Ride, we have more options,” said Clement, who mentioned the Dubai World Cup as a possible goal for next year.
Clement took a moment to look back on Gio Ponti’s breakout year.
“He had a very nice career this year. He won four Grade Is and finished second in two other Grade Is,” he said. “He should look very good for (the Eclipse Award as champion turf horse) and champion older horse, maybe. But I’m just the trainer. I don’t vote.”
Tim Ice (Summer Bird, 4th Classic) – “He came out of the race good,” trainer Tim Ice said Sunday. “He left some feed last night, which is very unusual for him. Physically, he’s fine. It was a hard race. He ran hard and I think it took a little bit out of him, more than previous races. Overall, I’m very pleased with how he’s physically come out of the race.”
Ice said he has not decided on shipping plans for the Belmont Stakes, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, who has been invited to compete in the Japan Cup Dirt.
“We’ll look at him the next couple of days, talk to the owners and see what we’re going to do,” Ice said. “We’ll see how he does the next few days, see if he gets back on his feed and make a decision whether we want to go to Japan or give him some time.”
Ice will be based at Oaklawn Park again this winter and is planning to move to the New York Racing Association circuit in the spring. He has 35 horses in training.
Chip Woolley (Mine That Bird, 9th, Classic) – The Kentucky Derby winner has completed his season and will spend some time on co-owner Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch.
“I think probably Tuesday morning we’ll head back to New Mexico, turn him out and give him a rest,” trainer Chip Woolley said. “We’ll try to give him 60 days, give or take. Just give him a good break and let him decide.”
Woolley said the gelded son of Birdstone came out of the race without any problems.
“Luckily, he pulled up well, he looks good this morning; he jogged good,” Woolley said. “We feel like he’s in pretty good shape. Just a break, a mental break and a physical break.
During his breakthrough season on the national stage, Woolley sent Mine That Bird out to compete against the two female superstars, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, who won the Classic with an electrifying performance.
“They are both great, great, great individuals,” he said. “Both of them have done things that are pretty much unprecedented in racing. It’s tough to separate them in a way, but Zenyatta’s race (Saturday), the fans were truly blessed to be here to see the effort she put out and to see a race like that. At the same time, the fans have been blessed all year watching Rachel Alexandra perform, with running with the boys, traveling all over the country and running huge. She’s 8 for 8 on eight different racetracks. She beat the boys three times. She’s done it all -- run in the slop and on good racetracks. She did whatever was asked of her. She showed up, she beat the fillies by unprecedented margins; she beat the boys handily most of the time, all but the one trip (Woodward Stakes). It’s been a great year to watch the both of them.”
Jonathan Sheppard (Informed Decision, 1st, Filly & Mare Sprint; Cloudy’s Knight, 2nd, Marathon; Forever Together, 3rd, Filly & Mare Turf) – Trainer Jonathan Sheppard reported that his trio of Breeders’ Cup starters were all feeling well Sunday morning. The Hall of Fame trainer expressed pleasure with all of their performances, as well.
“It was memorable. It’s the type of thing that when I relax a bit over the winter and it sinks in a little bit more, I’ll probably appreciate it even more than I do now,” he said. “At the moment, I’m tied up with the details and trivia of trying to make all the transportation arrangements, talking to the owners and worrying about my other 95 horses I’ve got scattered around other places.”
Informed Decision put Sheppard in the Santa Anita winner’s circle with a thoroughly dominating performance in Friday’s Filly & Mare Sprint, in which she prevailed over defending champion Ventura by 1 ¼ lengths.
“I never had a particular nervous moment. She was always in the clear; she was always forwardly placed. The horse on the lead wasn’t one of the main competition, so I was fairly confident, she’d run by that one when she wanted to,” Sheppard said.
“It seemed that the fractions weren’t very fast and Ventura was a long way back. I know she has an explosive burst, but I know our horse is very strong in the stretch. I wasn’t counting my chickens before they hatched, but it was a crackerjack ride.”
Informed Decision will remain in training for a campaign next season, during which her trainer expects her to continuing at sprinting distances.
Forever Together was unable to defend her title in Friday’s Filly & Mare Turf, in which she finished third behind Midday and Pure Clan.
“She is 90 percent certain to be retired. We haven’t entirely pulled the plug on her, but I think so,” Sheppard said.
Cloudy’s Knight, who was nosed out by Man of Iron in Friday’s Marathon, will continue to race next year as a 10yo.
“We’re going to keep going with him. He didn’t run all of last season, and he’s only run three times this year,” Sheppard said. “He’s sound and just a gelding, so as long as he’s running well and staying sound and healthy, we’ll keep running him.”