“You just hope your horse shows up,” Mott said after Courageous Cat returned from a morning gallop and quick trip to stand in the starting gate. “This is a very deep race, but I think he fits there. Next year I’m sure he’ll fit even better.”
Courageous Cat comes into this race the least experienced of 11 contenders. Garrett Gomez will be his third rider in his last three starts.
Court Vision – Winless in his first five starts to begin this season, the 4yo son of Gulch broke through in his first try for Rick Dutrow Jr., winning the Shadwell Mile in game fashion.
“When he first came to us, I don’t know if it had to do with him changing tracks, but he’s really turned the corner,” Dutrow said. “Aqueduct isn’t the prettiest track in the world for a horse to be living, but maybe he just likes it over here.”
Last season Court Vision won two Graded stakes, both in the fall.
“Maybe he’s not a summertime horse,” Dutrow said. “When he first came here (Aqueduct), it was hot and he just had no life to him. He was in a new place with new people and maybe it was just time to back off him and let him come around on his own. He sure did at Keeneland.”
Dutrow won the 2007 Mile with Kip Deville, and finished second behind Goldikova with the same horse last year. Can he turn the tables with the more lightly regarded Court Vision?
“Goldikova is obviously a very, very nice filly,” Dutrow said. “I was happy (Kip Deville) ran well against her in this race last year, but I definitely don’t want to get beat by her again. She’s definitely the horse to beat, but she did get beat in her last race.”
They’re both turf horses, but at this point Dutrow finds it tough to compare Court Vision to Kip Deville.
“I was around ‘Kip’ for three or four years, and at this point I’ve only had Court Vision about three or four months,” Dutrow explained. “Neither horse is crazy about people around them and people petting them. They’re both very business-like and want to be left alone in the barn.”
Cowboy Cal – The 4yo son of Giant’s Causeway has been competitive on turf and synthetics, and he comes into the Mile as the shortest-priced North American entrant at 6-1 on the morning line off his Oak Tree Mile victory on Santa Anita’s turf course.
“We had a choice between the race at Keeneland (Shadwell Turf Mile) and this, so we figured he had run so well on the synthetic surfaces that we’d give him a try on the Santa Anita grass to see if he’s better on that or better on the synthetic,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who had the colt out for a Thursday gallop.
“We thought that (Oak Tree Mile) was his best race, so that kind of clarified the decision of whether to run in the turf Mile or the Dirt Mile.”
Surprisingly, none of the horses who finished behind Cowboy Cal and first-time rider Garrett Gomez in the Oak Tree Mile are running in this race. Three of the Shadwell runners, including winner Court Vision, are in the Mile field.
“The fact that he won the Oak Tree Mile is a great sign,” Pletcher said. “He seemed to like the distance and the course, so we’re pretty encouraged.” Regular rider John Velazquez will be back aboard.
Delegator/Gladiatorus – The two Godolphin hopes in the Mile came out separately Thursday for some light exercise.
Delegator was out at 6:45 a.m. in company with Mastery ( Marathon). Both horses schooled in the gate and galloped around the main track.
The English-bred colt won at Goodwood in August and was third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last out behind Classic starter Rip Van Winkle and Zacinto, a colt he will meet again Saturday. Frankie Dettori will again be aboard the 3yo, who goes from post 4.
“He came out of his last race very well,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “I’m very pleased with the way he’s coming up to this race. I expect him to sit behind the pace and make his usual good run.”
Gladiatorus, a 4yo by Silic, was out on the track at 9 a.m. with stablemates Buzzword and Vale of York, who go in the 2yo events Saturday. The colt is coming off a front-running, 4 ½-length victory in a Group I stakes at San Siro in Italy on Oct. 11. He drew post 9 for the Mile, with Ahmed Ajtebi again in the irons.
“He’s doing well here, and I expect him to go right to the front in this race,” said bin Suroor.
Ferneley – Versatility seems to be the key to Ferneley’s performance in Saturday’s Mile, says trainer Ben Cecil.
“He’s a very versatile horse,” Cecil said, “and I expect him to run his race the way it comes up. His rider [Rafael Bejarano] knows how to ride him.”
The 5yo grandson of Danzig, who finished a strong second to Ventura, the 2008 Filly & Mare Sprint champion, in the Woodbine Mile in his most recent start, went for a 1 ½ m gallop on Thursday.
A special sidelight for Cecil this Breeders’ Cup week has been the appearance of his uncle, legendary British trainer Henry Cecil, at Santa Anita with three Breeders’ Cup prospects.
Cecil got together with his uncle, who is the twin brother of Ben Cecil’s father.
“It was very nice, and we’re hoping to get together again while he’s here,” Ben Cecil said. “He doesn’t send many horses over here [for the Breeders’ Cup]. It would be fun to see him win here. I think all three of them have a chance.”
Henry Cecil’s trio -- Twice Over, in the Classic; Midday, Filly & Mare Turf, and Father Time, Marathon -- all are owned by Juddmonte Farms.
Goldikova – The 4yo Anabaa filly will try to become the seventh horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race in consecutive years when she goes to the post in the Mile Saturday.
The previous repeat winners are Bayakoa, High Chaparral, Lure, Midnight Lute, Miesque and Tiznow. In addition, Da Hoss won the Mile in 1996 and won the race again two years later, while Ouija Board won the Filly & Mare Turf in 2004 and 2006 and was second in 2005.
Trainer Freddie Head said it’s too early to say whether Goldikova, bred and owned by Alain and Gerard Werthheimer, whose nom de course is Wertheimer et Frere, will compete again next year.
”We don’t know yet,” he said. “The Wertheimers are talking about it. Maybe. It could be. We’ll see how she comes out of the race and what she does. After that we’ll know. They’re not against running her again next year.”
Goldikova is 9-2-0 in 11 starts at 1m on turf. She will be ridden in the Mile by her regular jockey Olivier Peslier.
Justenuffhumor – Before galloping 1 3/8m at Santa Anita Thursday morning, Justenuffhumor was schooled in the starting gate in preparation for his start in the Mile.
“He was a little rambunctious. We’re going to put him in (the gate) early on race day. He just needs a little bit of time to settle, so we’re going to go in with him early,” said Neil McLaughlin, brother and assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“They use the quarter pads here which he’s run with in New York. We’ve found he’s a little bit better with the blanket going into the gate, but we can’t use it here. So, we’re using the pads, which he used in New York for his three wins there. I’m not that worried about it, but it is better to let him go in early and get settled, because he gets a little goosey behind and leans on the gate a little bit, and then he settles.”
Justenuffhumor, whose six-race winning streak was snapped over a soft Keeneland track in his most recent start in the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 10, will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Karelian – The veteran 7yo gelding went to the track to gallop around 6:30 a.m. and was later relaxing with his front legs in an ice bucket, a popular regimen for racehorses, by 9 a.m.
Karelian enters the Mile off a narrow loss in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in which he set the pace and just lost by a nose to Court Vision. It was his first race since winning the River City Handicap in a dead heat last November at Churchill Downs.
“He came out the race great,” said Sarah Arnold, wife and assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold. “I think between the soft turf and the layoff, it just caught up with him late. He was very sharp that day, but he is rateable. He’s won races a lot of different ways. You just have to let him do what he wants to do. He always runs well. He might not always get the best trip or the best ride, but he always runs his race.”
Whatsthescript – The stretch-running Irish-bred horse galloped 1 ½ m Thursday morning as he moves steadily forward toward his Saturday appointment in the Mile. Trainer John Sadler indicated that his charge also would paddock school with the horses for Thursday’s fourth race.
The conditioner noted that Whatsthescript “hasn’t had that big breakout race yet this year,” (he has three thirds and a fourth in four starts), but that “he’s eligible” to do it. “He’s never really run a bad race for me,” Sadler noted, which comprises a run of nine starts going back to the summer of 2008. “He tries hard and gives his best every time. With his style, he just needs a little luck. If you remember, he was drawn all the way outside (in an 11-horse field) in this race last year and took all the worst of it when it came to saving ground. He wound up third, but with a better post he’s going to be second that day. We weren’t going to beat Goldikova in that one -- nobody was.
“But he’s gotten a much better draw this time around (post 2 in an 11-horse field) and I’m hoping that’s going to work to our advantage.”
The 5yo son of Royal Applause will be hooking into chief nemesis Goldikova once more this year, but there will be a notable role reversal to start off the proceedings. Whereas Whatsthescript had the 11-hole and Goldikova had post 4 last year, this time around Whatsthescript is inside and Goldikova all the way outside in post 11.
Zacinto – The 3yo by Dansili, who earned his Breeders’ Cup berth when second to Rip Van Winkle (a Classic starter) in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last out, galloped over the turf course Thursday morning in company with stablemate Conduit, who goes in the Turf.
Trainer Michael Stoute said the colt’s last race was his best of the season so far, and that he is progressing well in his training here.
Zacinto will have regular rider Ryan Moore aboard as he seeks his first victory in a Graded/Group event.