Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird took his first serious steps over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride main track Tuesday morning in pursuit of his ultimate objective, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association on Nov. 7.
Mine That Bird worked five furlongs under jockey Joe Talamo in 1:01.80, after which trainer Bennie (Chip) Woolley Jr. said the gelded son of Birdstone was on course for the $350,000 Grade I Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 10, a race that is expected to lead to the Classic at 1 ¼ miles.
“He looks good. That’s just what we were looking for. We didn’t want him to overdo it today, first time breezing on this surface. He’ll come back in a week (next Tuesday), and I probably won’t go over five-eighths.”
Mine That Bird went to the track shortly after 8 a.m., the focus of a contingent of media and photographers as the countdown for the 26th Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6 and 7 nears. Woolley anticipates a favorable pace scenario in the Classic.
“A big field with lots of speed is excellent for him,” Woolley said. “That will set up good for him, and give him a chance to close. That’s his game and what we’re looking for. The good thing out here (Southern California) is, there’s always a lot of pace, always.”
Woolley is inclined to dismiss Mine That Bird’s 12th-place finish over Pro-Ride in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he experienced a wide trip after running within striking distance into the stretch.
“He won four straight races on Polytrack at Woodbine last year, and he handled it (synthetic) here well last year,” Woolley said. “But we just bought the horse too late last year and sent him out a little late for Dick (Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, who saddled Mine That Bird for the Juvenile), and it just didn’t really work out to give him ample opportunity (to prepare).
“He didn’t get a very good trip around there. He was wide all the way and pressed the pace. This year, we’ll change things up. Hopefully, it’ll work.”
Added Talamo: “He’s a very nice horse. He got over the track real well. It’s been pretty deep the last few days, but I love the way he got over it. He was nice and relaxed, and he finished up pretty good. Mr. Woolley said just let him cruise along, maybe let him pick up a little bit down the lane. He said definitely don’t push him and make him go too fast . . . the way he did it was fantastic. He relaxed real early . . . and he’s almost like a turf horse. He relaxes with a nice, long rein, and picks it up right when you want him to.”
Mine That Bird has a 5-2-2 record from 12 starts, with earnings of $2,196,581 for owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Allen.
“I’ve been with horses since I’ve been 12,” said Allen, a native of Farmington, N.M., who met Woolley when they teamed up in a bar fight and went on to accomplish something beyond their wildest dreams in winning the Kentucky Derby.
“We bought him to try and win the Sunland Park Derby,” Allen said, “but we decided to go to Kentucky, where I figured we might run fifth or sixth--maybe. I sure wasn’t expecting to win.”
Probable for the 28th Goodwood: Chocolate Candy, Victor Espinoza; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez; Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel; Parading, no rider; and Tiago, Mike Smith. Bob Baffert said Richard’s Kid is a possibility. Colonel John worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Tuesday in 1:14.80 with Gomez aboard, while Chocolate Candy went the same distance in 1:12.80 under Espinoza.
“He had a real nice workout today,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of Chocolate Candy, who was second in the Santa Anita Derby and fifth behind Mine That Bird in the Run for the Roses. “He galloped out real nice, and we think he’s just about ready to go.”
SADLER HOPES TO CONTINUE SURGE INTO BREEDERS’ CUP
Trainer John Sadler, a consistent winner since he began his career 30 years ago, has attained national prominence. The 53-year-old Long Beach native expects to continue his surge during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita which starts tomorrow.
Sadler, directing a stable of some 80 horses, will be seeking his sixth Southern California training title, having won Hollywood Park’s autumn meet in 2007, the 2008 Del Mar and Oak Tree crowns, Santa Anita’s 2008-09 winter/spring title, and the recent Del Mar championship in runaway fashion.
Sadler has never won a Breeders’ Cup race but hopes to add one to his extensive resume this year on his home course. He plans to run both Privilaged and Dave in Dixie in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes this Sunday, Pure Class in the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes the same day, and Cost of Freedom in the Grade I Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 11, all in preparation for possible Breeders’ Cup engagements. Dave in Dixie worked seven furlongs Sunday in 1:27.
“I hope to train Noble Court up to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but that could change,” Sadler said, adding that promising 2-year-old Sidney’s Candy “won’t make the Juvenile. He had a little shin (problem) and won’t be ready until the fall.” Noble Court worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:00.80.
Multiple graded stakes winner Black Mamba, who is not Breeders’ Cup-eligible, is being pointed to the Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes on Oct. 10. She worked seven furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:27.
“We have great help, lots of nice horses, and good clients to train for,” Sadler said in explaining his prosperity. “I’m blessed to be going pretty strong in a national economy that’s not very great, so I’m kind of lucky.”
POPULAR OAK TREE STEIN GIVEAWAY ON OPENING DAY
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita on opening day tomorrow will receive a free commemorative Oak Tree stein with paid admission while supplies last. This is the 23rd consecutive year of the promotion, the longest running and most popular in Oak Tree history.
This year’s collector’s stein features the likenesses of 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Raven’s Pass and Ladies’ Classic winner Zenyatta, as well the racing colors of all 14 World Championship winners from last year. The late John Gaines, founder of the Breeders’ Cup, also will be represented through his Gainesway Farm colors.
The classic commemorative stein was commissioned by the Oak Tree Racing Association.
CALIFORNIA CUP DRAW BREAKFAST TOMORROW AT 10 A.M.
The Oak Tree Racing Association and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association will host the post position draw breakfast for California Cup XX at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Clockers’ Corner.
The post position draw will take place at 10:30 a.m. and will be televised live on HRTV. Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bennie (Chip) Woolley Jr. will assist with the draw.
The California Cup, highlighted by the $200,000 Classic presented by City National Bank, will be held this Saturday, offering 10 races exclusively for Cal-breds with $1 million in purse money.
OAK TREE TO OFFER ‘FREE FRIDAYS’ PROMOTION
For the first time in its 41-year history, the Oak Tree Racing Association will institute a full menu of “Free Fridays” throughout its six-week meeting, which begins tomorrow and concludes Nov. 8.
This Friday will mark the first of five “Free Fridays” and will get underway with a special first post time of 2 p.m. All fans attending Fridays will receive free general admission with the exception of the first day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Friday, Nov. 6.
In addition to free general admission, fans will be offered free box seats, while supplies last, along with $1 beers, sodas, hot dogs, popcorn and coffee.
FINISH LINES: Teenage riding star Joe Talamo enjoyed his appearance on NBC-TV’s “Tonight Show” hosted by Conan O’Brien Monday evening. “He asked me about I Want Revenge, and who the hot horses were right now, and I told him Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta,” Talamo said. “He asked me about Elizabeth (Ellis, daughter of trainer Ron Ellis, and Joe’s girlfriend). They had a picture of her in (high) heels and she was like six inches bigger than me, but really, she’s only about two or three inches taller than me. It’s hard to remember everything, because it was such a blur.” . . . Del Mar Debutante winner Mi Sueno suffered a condylar fracture to her right leg on a gallop out at Hollywood Park Tuesday after a four-furlong blow out in :47.60, preparing for Sunday’s Oak Leaf Stakes, according to trainer Eric Guillot . . . Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity winner Square Eddie worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Sunday in 1:14.20. “He’s probably one work away from a race,” said Dennis O’Neill, brother and associate of trainer Doug O’Neill. “He could run in the Ancient Title (Stakes on Oct. 11).” . . . Eric Kruljac has relocated full time to Southern California. The 56-year-old San Jose native had his base of operations at Turf Paradise for three decades. “I was there for the last 30 years, and would have been out of there 10, 12 years ago if it hadn’t been for my two boys, who were young at the time,” Kruljac said. “Now, the last one’s off to college, so I’m full time in Southern California. All of what’s going on in Arizona is being handled by my little brother, Jay, and I’m concentrating on what I have here.” That would include La Nez, third in the Grade I Darley Debutante at Del Mar, and promising maiden Whispering Hush, second as the 17-10 favorite in the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar. Both 2-year-old fillies are pointing to the California Cup Juvenile Fillies this Saturday.