“It looks like she’ll be one of the speed horses in the field,” Mott said after Dynaforce returned from an early jog Thursday morning. “She was game in this race last year. She would have been more of a factor, but she ran into some trouble. She should be a factor this year.”
Dynaforce was unable to establish position in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf and was steadied on the inside when Halfway to Heaven interfered with her. She finished eighth, beaten only four lengths by the winner Forever Together, and was moved up to seventh by the stewards.
Forever Together – The defending Filly & Mare Turf champion followed her usual routine at Santa Anita Thursday morning, galloping 1 1/4m over the training track.
“To me she’s as good as she’s ever been,” trainer Jonathan Sheppard said. “Some people, some friends in the media, claim she’s lost a step, but I don’t actually think she has. She seems fine to me.”
Win or lose in Friday’s 1 1/4 turf race, Forever Together will likely be retired.
“This will probably be her last race. She’s going to be bred next year,” Sheppard said. “I’m going to miss her. In fact, I have mixed emotions when I even look at her, because I know I’m running on borrowed time. She’s been a big part of my life for the last three years.”
Magical Fantasy – The 4yo daughter of Diesis, the second-favorite on the morning-line for the Filly & Mare Turf at 3-1, galloped “about a mile and one half” Thursday morning at Santa Anita. Her transplanted Irish trainer, Paddy Gallagher, oversaw the exercise, then qualified some terminology for an interested bystander.
“Now here,” Gallagher said, “we call what she did this morning a ‘gallop.’ And that’s what I say, because ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ But if we were over in Europe, it would be called a ‘canter.’ I’d say she had a good ‘canter’ this morning.”
Call it what you will, Magical Fantasy, a winner of four straight graded races in Southern California, continues on her path to a possible championship in Friday’s 1 1/4m headliner.
In her four victories leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, the chestnut stretch-runner has had a notable spread between starts: nearly five weeks leading up to her tally in the Santa Barbara April 18; six weeks to her triumph in the Gamely May 30; 10 weeks to her next score in the John C. Mabee Aug. 16, and seven weeks to her most recent win in the Yellow Ribbon on Oct. 10. This time it will be less than a month between outings.
“The spread between her races coming into this was just a matter of how they came up,” Gallagher noted. “It is the way the grass race schedule for fillies and mares is around here. There wasn’t any great planning for it.
“This time she’s got a shorter time in between, so we’ll have to see how that works out. She’s doing fine, though. She’s happy in herself. I couldn’t want for her to be better.”
Alex Solis, who has ridden the filly in all 12 of her U.S. starts since she came over from England at the beginning of 2008, once again will be in the saddle Friday as they break from post 4 in the eight-horse field.
Maram – The winner of last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf galloped 1 3/8m under Richard Johnson Thursday morning at Santa Anita, in preparation for Friday’s Filly & Mare Turf.
When Chad Brown saddled Maram for victory in last year’s race, he became one of the youngest winning trainers of a Breeders’ Cup event at 31 years of age.
However, the Saratoga native brought a more extensive background into the Breeders’ Cup than his age might suggest. After graduating with a degree in Animal Science from Cornell University, Brown worked for Hall of Fame trainers Shug McGaughey and Bobby Frankel.
“I thought I’d be a vet. I thought about it. I’m sure that’s what my parents wanted me to do, and not be a horse trainer,” Brown said. “I wanted to try to learn as much from each area as I could – vet, science, training, whatever it was I tried to work in every area I could before I went out on my own.
“I hit a lot of areas. I worked for sales consigners; a vet. I worked for McGaughey and Frankel. I went to Cornell. I worked in a vet hospital. I tried to hit every angle I could, to learn as much as I could.
“I take pieces from everywhere and apply it, but the centerpiece of the whole operation is Bobby Frankel. It’s his program. I wouldn’t even be here without him. I may apply something I learned from Shug. I might apply something I learned from the vet, or something about the business I learned at Cornell, but the whole thing is Frankel’s operation.”
Midday – Juddmonte Farms’ Nassau Stakes winner had a little workout Thursday morning, the day before she goes to the post in the 1 1/4m Filly & Mare Turf. Trainer Henry Cecil had Midday, along with stablemate and Marathon entrant Father Time, canter for 3 1/2f and quicken up for two furlongs.
“It was a very easy blowout,” Cecil said. “I’ve been quite easy with them since they’ve been here. They’ve had light exercise and haven’t done too much because they had a long journey. The question is not doing too much with them, just doing enough.”
Midday was given a six-week break after a hard spring and summer series of races. She returned to competition on Oct. 4 with a third-place finish in the Prix de l’Opera.
Cecil said the conditions of the race are ideal for the 3yo daughter of Oasis Dream.
“She likes the faster ground; this is very fast,” Cecil said. “The distance is exactly right and she goes on the fast ground when one or two other animals probably won’t.”
Pure Clan – The Lewis Lakin homebred had an early morning gallop over the turf course and then walked the shedrow as trainer Bob Holthus and her owner watched on.
Holthus, who has been training since 1952, believes that a long campaign contributed to Pure Clan’s poor showing in the Filly & Mare Turf (10th) last year and gave the 4yo a lighter schedule by design.
“She’s matured a lot since last year,” said Holthus, who arrived in California on Wednesday afternoon. “She has probably put on 100 pounds. We also got a little later start with her this year, but it’s turned out well. This will be just her fifth race.”
The Pure Prize filly enters the race off an impressive win in the Flower Bowl Invitational, which Holthus believes may have been a turning point for the filly.
“She ran a big race,” Holthus said. “We were worried about the soft turf, but she showed real gameness in the stretch. I think it may have been the best race of her career. She didn’t always put it all out. This year, she’s put it all together. She’s much improved.”
On Friday, Pure Clan will be ridden by Garrett Gomez for the first time because regular rider Julien Leparoux has opted to stick with returning champion Forever Together. While one may assume that Holthus turned to Garrett because he won four Breeders’ Cup races last year, or because he’s one of the leading riders in the country, there is actually a long history between the rider and Holthus.
“I’ve known Garrett since he was this high,” said Holthus, holding his hand barely above his knee. “He was raised on my farm (Kilkerry Farm). His dad used to gallop horses for me.”
Rutherienne – The forecast for clear skies the next two days had trainer Christophe Clement all smiles Thursday morning as he discussed the chances of Rutherienne, a Virginia Kraft Payson homebred, in the Filly & Mare Turf.
“She loves fast ground,” he said. “The course will suit her.”
Clement thinks the distance will as well, even though the 5yo Pulpit mare has never traveled 1 1/4m in her 22 lifetime starts.
“This course is an easy mile-and-a-quarter and she has a remarkable turn of foot,” he said.
In racetrack parlance, Rutherienne would be known as “The Big Mare” in the barn this week, but one would never tag her that based on her stature.
“She’s a small filly but I’ve never had any problems with small horses,” said Mrs. Payson, who traveled here from the East Coast to watch her compete. “She’s a third generation horse of mine and I thoroughly enjoy her. I’ve been getting rid of some of my horses, but I intend to keep her.”
Whether this will be the last race for Rutherienne, who has finished in the money in 20 of those 22 starts, remains to be seen. Clement said she is under consideration for the Matriarch at Hollywood at the end of this month.
On Thursday, Rutherienne galloped 1 1/4m under assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul.
Visit – Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel seeks to become the first three-time winner of the Filly & Mare Turf when he sends out the 4yo Juddmonte Farms homebred Visit, who finished fourth last year.
Frankel won the race with Starine in 2002 and Intercontinental in 2005.
Visit galloped once around the main track Thursday with exercise rider Salvador Martinez.