If Zenyatta faces males for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it would unquestionably generate a major PR boost for the World Championship event hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association for an unprecedented second straight year at Santa Anita on Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7.
Whether it would make a strategic difference in the outcome of the mile and a quarter test is open to speculation. At least that’s the opinion of Chip Woolley Jr., trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who is pointing to the Classic on Nov. 7.
“There’s no way in the world anyone could legitimize Rachel not being Horse of the Year. There’s no doubt she’s proved she’s the best horse in the world right now.”
That would include recently retired Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sea the Stars. “He never came over here and tried to beat her,” Woolley said, “and he and others had every opportunity to run against her in the Woodward (Stakes), rather than dodge her.”
Trainer Barry Abrams, who plans to run Lethal Heat in the Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles on Pro-Ride Nov. 6 and right back against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at about 6 1/2 furlongs the next day, is an unflagging supporter of Zenyatta, who beat his filly in the Lady’s Secret Stakes on Oct. 10.
“If Rachel Alexandra can beat the best older boys on the East Coast (in the Woodward), Zenyatta can definitely beat the best older boys on the West Coast,” Abrams said. “Except for the Europeans, Zenyatta would be facing the same boys in the Classic that Rachel Alexandra beat back East. All the best horses on the East Coast ran against Rachel Alexandra.”
A decision on whether Zenyatta will defend her title in the Ladies’ Classic or face males in the Classic is expected soon from trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
“The Mosses have been out of town, so we haven’t had a chance to talk with them about it,” said Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for the Mosses and the trainer’s wife. “Zenyatta went to the track yesterday, so she’s just starting back.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped his customary two miles Friday and is scheduled to work “probably a half-mile” on Monday under jockey Joe Talamo. “It will be real light,” Woolley said. “The horse is looking good.”
Pro tem male 3-year-old leader Summer Bird is scheduled to work five furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday for trainer Tim Ice.
Under the supervision of Henry Spiller, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin Racing’s Seventh Street and Sara Louise each worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Friday for the $1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs on Nov. 6. Seventh Street was clocked in :49.80, while Sara Louise went in :49.40 under Richard Migliore. The jockey is scheduled to work Godolphin’s Dirt Mile candidate Midshipman Sunday, probably a half-mile.
Seventh Street captured the Grade I Go For Wand Handicap on a sloppy Saratoga track last Aug. 2, and the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 4. Sara Louise has two Grade III stakes wins to her credit, and was second by a head to Indian Blessing last out in the Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park.
“I’m very happy with their first work over the track,” said the 24-year-old Spiller, a native of Ireland who has been with Godolphin for six years. “I think they handled the surface well.”
Oak Tree training leader Bob Baffert said Filly & Mare Sprint contender Indian Blessing is “totally awesome” as she prepares for this year’s renewal. “Right now, she thinks she’s the best filly in America,” Baffert said. “I’m training her totally different and she’s got a lot of confidence. That’s the key to this game.”
ESPINOZA HOPES UNFAMILIARITY BREEDS VICTORY IN MADDY
Victor Espinoza rides Tuscan Evening for the first time in Saturday’s Grade III $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap, but he’s confident they’ll be a successful team.
“I’ll talk with Jerry (Hollendorfer) before the race and see what he wants me to do and go from there,” said the 37-year-old jockey, who has finished second in the Oak Tree standings four times, in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2007. “I’ve never been on this filly, never even worked her, but it makes no difference.”
Tuscan Evening, a 4-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Oasis Dream owned by William de Burgh of Rancho Santa Fe, has a 5-3-4 record from 18 starts, with earnings of $377,408.
She has won five of seven starts in the U.S. since coming from her native country early this year.
It’s worth heeding Espinoza when he says familiarity is not necessary to winning. When he rode 20-1 shot War Emblem to a front-running victory in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, it was the first time he had ridden the horse.
“Not only had I never been on him before,” Espinoza said, “it was the first time I ever saw him.”
The Sen. Maddy, for fillies and mares at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, is named for the former California legislator and strong advocate for Thoroughbred racing who died Feb. 19, 1999, after a valiant battle with lung cancer.
The field for the Sen. Maddy: Pasar Silbano, David Flores, 112, 12-1; Gotta Have Her, Tyler Baze, 122, 3-1; Royal Taat, Joel Rosario, 117, 10-1; Reba Is Tops, Talamo, 118, 9-2; Tuscan Evening, Victor Espinoza, 121, 5-2; Queen Ofthe Catsle, Mike Smith, 120, 9-2; Mohegan Sky, Richard Migliore, 115, 12-1; Gadget Queen, Michael Baze, 115, 30-1; Porto Marmay, Corey Nakatani, 117, 12-1; and Flashover, Alonso Quinonez, 115, 20-1. Annihilation was scratched.
FINISH LINES: Jockey Richard Migliore was hoping to make a quick trip to visit his family back East yesterday, but bad weather forced him to abort those plans. While temperatures were topping 90 degrees in Southern California on Friday, rain, snow and cold temperatures were threatening cancellation of tonight’s American League Championship Series opening game at Yankee Stadium between the Angels and host New York. “My wife (Carmela) said it was snowing where we live, in Millbrook, about 90 miles north of New York City,” Migliore said . . . Oak Tree offers Carnival Days presented by K-Earth 101 FM Radio in Santa Anita’s infield next weekend, Oct. 24 and 25. Fun-filled activities for children will include a free giant inflatable slide and obstacle course. Pony rides and face painting also will be available . . . All THOROUGHBREDS members who scan their cards at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 will receive free a high-quality set of binoculars, featuring an 8x21 adjustable zoom, while supplies last. First post time next Saturday and Sunday will be 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. . . . Participants alive in Oak Tree’s online handicapping contest ShowVivor were trimmed to 289 through Wednesday’s races.