Irish-based Winchester, a Grade I stakes winner for trainer Dermot Weld, worked an easy five furlongs on turf Thursday at Hollywood Park in preparation for the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30.
“We just wanted him to get a feel of it,” said assistant Jeff Byrne after the drill under Thomas Daly, another assistant. The 3-year-old colt was shipped here Friday from Santa Anita after finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup’ Turf on Oct. 25.
Winchester worked a couple of lengths off Towzee from the Paddy Gallagher barn where both are stabled. “We don’t go fast; it’s a different system,” explained Byrne, satisfied with the drill. Winchester was clocked in 1:04.80 breezing.
“It’s been a lucky track for us,” said Byrne, an assistant to Weld for 20 years. “I’ve been here with Dress to Thrill when she won The Matriarch (2002) and a couple of American Oaks fillies.”
A Virginia-bred son of Theatrical owned and bred by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, Winchester began his career in Ireland, breaking his maiden in April and finishing seventh in the Irish Derby in June. He shipped to the United States to win the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August by 7 ½ lengths.
“I think the mile and a quarter should suit him better than the mile and a half,” said Byrne of the distance of the Grade I Hollywood Derby in comparison to the Breeders’ Cup. “He was in a tough spot against older horses in the Breeders’ Cup, but I couldn’t be happier with him now.
“He’s a pretty straightforward horse, sound, no problems, with a really good constitution and a great appetite,“ continued Byrne. “Not sending him home and keeping him here should help.”
Winchester must be supplemented to the race for $10,000.
PRECIOUS KITTEN SEEKS MATRIARCH REPEAT
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, making his first appearance of the meet at Hollywood Park Thursday, said defending champion Precious Kitten and at least one other horse would start in the $500,000 Matriarch on Nov. 30. The Grade I test is for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.
Frankel, spending most of the meet with a larger division at Santa Anita, watched several horses exercise on the track from a division overseen by assistant Sally Lundy.
“Precious Kitten, Visit, maybe Ventura,” said Frankel when asked about candidates for a race he was won a record eight times, including the last four.
Precious Kitten seeks to become only the second horse to win The Matriarch more than once in its 27-year history. Champion Flawlessly won it three straight times from 1991-93.
Precious Kitten comes off a fourth-place finish against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 5-year-old mare won the Grade I Gamely Stakes here in May. She has recorded eight firsts and nine seconds in 24 starts.
Visit, a Juddmonte Farms homebred from England, joined the Frankel barn after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf for Sir Michael Stoute.
Ventura, another Juddmonte homebred, finished second by a nose in the CashCall Mile here in July and comes off an impressive win in the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Frankel also said Fifteen Love and Midships, a pair of Juddmonte colts from Europe training at Santa Anita, are under consideration for the $500,000 Hollywood Derby the same day. He has won that race three times, one less than leader Charlie Whittingham.
Frankel added that he had not made a decision in the $400,000 Citation Handicap on Nov. 28, a race in which he nominated Mast Track, Out of Control, Proudinsky, Storm Military and Tybalt. The Grade I test is at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
The three races headline the six-race Turf Festival Nov. 28-30. Frankel is the runaway leader in Turf Festival victories with 17.
VICTORY PETE WORKS MILE FOR COMEBACK
Victory Pete, a third-place finisher in two Santa Anita 3-year-old stakes before going to the sidelines, neared a return to the races after working a mile on turf in 1:43.20 under exercise rider Paddy Dalton.
“He’s close to a comeback; I’m looking at the next book,” said trainer Alexis Barba. “He finished third in the California Derby and was third in the Sham Stakes behind Colonel John and El Gato Malo. I sent him to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby but he hurt his foot a day before the race and was scratched.”
Stakes-winning El Gato Malo, also on the comeback trail, worked four furlongs on Cushion Track in :48.60 for trainer Craig Dollase.
ARTISTE ROYAL WORKS FOR TURF CUP
Artiste Royal, unraced since winning the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap here in June, worked seven furlongs in 1:30 on turf Thursday in company with Obrigado, also on the comeback, for trainer Neil Drysdale.
“He has come back from a minor setback after the Whittingham,” said Drysdale of the 7-year-old veteran he is pointing to the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 6.
Drysdale said Obrigado and Cedar Mountain, who worked four furlongs on grass in :51, are also under consideration for the Turf Cup, a Grade I test at 1 ½ miles on turf. Cedar Mountain finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.
FINISH LINES — Owner Jerry Moss was a visitor to the John Shirreffs stable Thursday and watched Neko Bay exercise on the main track. Moss said he still had not come back to earth from unbeaten Zenyatta’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita. “We’re still up there somewhere,” said Moss with a smile…Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive, said the 3-year-old colt and stablemate Champagne Squall would be flown back to Japan Sunday. Casino Drive, unbeaten in three previous starts, faded to last in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Champagne Squall was unplaced in a maiden race on turf here Wednesday…Friday racing shifts under the lights this week with a 7:05 p.m. post. Night racing will continue the following two Fridays, Nov. 14 and 21, before returning to matinees the final four Fridays, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 12 and 19.