The 5-year-old gelded son of Unusual Heat—one of 15 by that prolific sire entered on Sunday’s program at Oak Tree—is owned by some two dozen racing newcomers who would like nothing better than to grace the winners’ circle with their recent acquisition. This will be Great Friends Stable's first start ever in a stakes race.
Mr. Chairman is trained by Doug O’Neill and owned by the Great Friends Stable, comprised of more than 20 investors headed by Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith Jr., the latter of San Diego Charger fame. They host the Scott and BR Show on the Mighty 1090 AM in the San Diego area and created the stable in 2007 with the help of Craig Dado, Del Mar's vice president of marketing.
Mr. Chairman was purchased privately in June as part of a dispersal of horses owned by the estate of the late Merv Griffin. Mr. Chairman is the only horse GFS did not obtain via claim. He remained in O'Neill's care and has raced four times for GFS, winning twice and finishing second twice. His most recent victory came on Aug. 24, Pacific Classic day, providing the biggest thrill yet for the investors. Though initially considered for the Cal Cup Mile, plans changed when defending Classic champion Bold Chieftain committed to that race.
"We are very fortunate to be a part of this horse,” Lies said. “Doug, Dennis (O’Neill) and (assistant trainer) Leandro Mora have done a terrific job with him and the timing was right for us to be along for the ride. The surface switch is a bit of a question mark but the extra distance (from the Mile) is certainly to our advantage. And we love that Michael (Baze) knows our horse."
The field for the Classic: Add Heat, Alex Solis, 116, 7-2; South Coast, Joe Talamo, 114, 12-1; Top This and That, Garrett Gomez, 114, 6-1; Mr. Chairman, Michael Baze, 115, 3-1; Romance Is Diane, Rafael Bejarano, 115, 5-2; Top Emblem, Aaron Gryder, 113, 10-1; One Chin Again, Joel Rosario, 111, 15-1; and Cheroot, Pedroza, 115, 6-1.
LEGENDARY LAVA MAN TO LEAD CAL CUP CLASSIC POST PARADE
Lava Man, the only horse to sweep the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade I Pacific Classic in the same year—2006—will lead the parade to the post for the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Oak Tree on Sunday. His regular exercise rider, Tony Romero, will accompany the 7-year-old California-bred gelding, who was retired from racing this past July.
A son of Slew City Slew, Lava Man joined the immortal gelding Native Diver as the only other three-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup in 2007, his third consecutive triumph in the prestigious 1 1/4-mile affair.
The greatest claim in Thoroughbred history, Lava Man was haltered for $50,000 in August of 2004 at Del Mar for the STD Racing Stable of Steve, Dave and Tracy Kenly and Jason Wood. Trained by Doug O’Neill, Lava Man made over $5 million for his new connections and retired with 17 wins and earnings of $5,268,706.
Lava Man is currently residing at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez. “He’s doing great,” said O’Neill at yesterday’s Cal Cup Draw Breakfast at Oak Tree. “He’s just kicking back and enjoying time away from the barn.”
Lava Man raced in two California Cup races, finishing second in the 2004 Classic and sixth in the 2007 Classic.
First post time for California Cup XXIX this Sunday is 12 noon.
FREE CAL CUP WATCHES, $500,000 GUARANTEED PICK FOUR SUNDAY
The official Cal Cup wrist watch in both men’s and ladies’ styles will be free to all paid admissions while supplies last on Cal Cup day. There will be a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick Four beginning with race eight on the 11-race program.
CURLIN GALLOPS, SCHEDULED TO WORK ON MONDAY
Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin took another step closer Friday morning to a possible meeting with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and other equine elite in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25.
The big, red chestnut had his usual sunrise saunter under the watchful eye of Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.
“He just galloped a mile and an eighth,” Blasi said. “I spoke with Steve on the phone, and he’s just happy the horse came out of the race (the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last Saturday) so well. That’s the main thing. Steve is expected here Sunday evening, and Curlin is scheduled to work a half-mile on Monday.”
Curlin’s stablemate, Student Council, also a candidate for the Classic, galloped a mile and a quarter this morning. “He’ll breeze on Sunday or Monday as well,” Blasi said.
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Brian Koriner is pointing two horses, Black Seventeen and California Flag, to Breeders’ Cup races on Oct. 25.
Black Seventeen, a candidate for the $2 million Sprint, gave the 42-year-old trainer his first Grade I victory when he won the Vosburgh under Clinton Potts at Belmont Park last Saturday. California Flag punched his ticket to the $1 million Turf Sprint with a victory in the Morvich Handicap on opening day at Oak Tree, Sept. 24.
“He’s (back) here at Santa Anita, but he’s got to feel good to run,” Koriner said of Black Seventeen, a committed front-runner in previous races. “He’s got to be doing well. He’s tired right now. I don’t think he came from off the pace so much in the Vosburgh as it was that the post draw was an advantage for him. Clinton sent him along; the horse wasn’t fast enough to get to the lead. It wasn’t planned. He asked him to go to the lead. The horse wasn’t fast enough. The post draw was the difference, I think, being outside.”
The Vosburgh was not the first Grade I win for Potts, however. The 37-year-old Texas native won the Grade I Princess Rooney Stakes at Calder in 2007 aboard River Prayer.
Multiple graded stakes winner Daytona worked seven furlongs Friday on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in 1:25.40 under Francisco Alvarado.
“He went very well,” trainer Dan Hendricks said of the contender for the $2 million Mile. “He started off easy, :37 and four, and finished up steady and strong. It was just what we wanted. We’re on schedule.”
Bob Baffert said, “right now, we’re leaning towards the Filly & Mare Sprint” with champion Indian Blessing.
Oak Tree will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the fourth time and the first time under its two-day format, which features 14 races with total purses of $25.5 million. Oak Tree will also be the first-ever venue to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years. It will also present the Championships in 2009.
The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live by ABC and ESPN.
‘LIVING LEGENDS’ PREP FOR RETURN AT OAK TREE ON OCT. 18
For Gary Stevens, Oct. 18 can’t come soon enough. One of eight retired Hall of Fame riders named to compete in an unprecedented event in which the eight are scheduled to ride in a sprint race featuring live pari-mutuel wagering, Stevens says he’s race-fit.
But the three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby adds that just because he’s been working horses when he’s not lending his expertise to HRTV and NBC, doesn’t necessarily give him an edge.
The race will feature Angel Cordero Jr., 65; Jacinto Vasquez, 64; Sandy Hawley, 59; Pat Day, 55; Chris McCarron, 53; Jerry Bailey, 51; Stevens, 45; and Julie Krone, 45. Each rider’s mount will be a California-bred selected by draw and will be assigned 126 pounds.
The eight Legends and three Living Legends Ambassadors—Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay Jr., and Jorge Velasquez--won an astounding 71,872 races combined and their mounts earned nearly $2 billion.
“Jerry is getting ready by just swimming, and everybody else is doing their own thing,” Stevens said. “But we’re all competitors, guys and gal. Hey, everybody’s going to be fit. I’m ready to go right now and there’s two weeks go. I’m itching, but as far as working horses before the race, I don’t know if there’s any advantage to that.
“We’re only riding one race, and consider this: the first day I got on a horse, I hadn’t been on any for five months. I worked one five-eighths right out of the box and felt great. But when I got back to the barn and got off, my legs were shaky.
“The point is, I could have ridden a race fresh out of the box, but I couldn’t have ridden a second one, and I don’t want to be in that position, because if something happens out there and a horse bolts with you or is running off with you, you’ve got to be fit to protect yourself and the other guys. We’re all aware of that.
“We might have an edge in timing from working horses, but my clock’s like it was when I was riding. It’s all going to boil down to luck of the draw.”
HRTV FEATURES WEEKEND WORLDWIDE RACING
HRTV will offer its viewers important races around the globe this weekend, highlighted by the following lineup: on Saturday, Carolyn Conley and Scott Hazelton will be onsite at Laurel. Scott will also host the on-track ceremony to salute Jim McKay, the founder of the Maryland Million. Portion's of HRTV's "inside Information" special on Jim McKay will also be played both on-track and at a banquet saluting McKay's Maryland Thoroughbred connection. The "Inside Information" premiered last Sunday on HRTV.
Saturday’s live programming also includes the Champagne and Frizette Stakes from Belmont Park; the Pattison and E.P. Taylor from Woodbine; the Sunchariot and Tattersalls Timeform Million Stakes from Newmarket; the $500,000 Indiana Derby from Hoosier Park; and in harness racing, the the final leg of Trotting's Triple Crown, the $700,000 Kentucky Futurity Final featuring Deweycheatumnhowe from The Red Mile.
On Sunday, the Prix de l'Arc de Triumph and Prix de Opera will be shown tape delay on Race Day America at 9 a.m. Sunday's Race Day America will be hosted by Millie Ball and Gary Stevens. Also Sunday, a new Inside Information show features steeplechase champion McDynamo; Dancinginmydream, who survived a catastrophic injury to become the dam of Grade I winner Dancing Forever; and an update on the new career of retired Hall of Fame rider Julie Krone, who will compete in the Legends race at Oak Tree Oct.18.
BARBARO VET DR. DEAN RICHARDSON TO VISIT SANTA ANITA
Dr. Dean Richardson, head of surgery at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, will be on hand this weekend. He will visit the Santa Anita stable area Saturday and will also visit Santa Anita’s Equine Hospital with Oak Tree Director and California State Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur.
Dr. Richardson was instrumental in the recovery attempt of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who suffered what ultimately proved to be a fatal injury in the Preakness.
On Sunday, Richardson will present the trophy to the winner of the John C. Mabee California Cup Mile.
FINISH LINES: Gary Stevens is one of a countless number anticipating a Breeders’ Cup Classic meeting with Curlin and Big Brown. “I talked to Scott Blasi Wednesday and he said Curlin skipped over this track like a ballerina, which was good to hear,” the retired Hall of Fame rider said, referring to Steve Asmussen’s assistant trainer. “Me as a fan, discounting the fact that I’m associated with IEAH (owners of Big Brown), I’m looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator running. This could be one of the best Classics that we’ve seen.” . . . Nownownow, third in Wednesday’s one-mile turf feature, is being pointed to the Grade II Oak Tree Derby on Oct. 25, trainer Jason Orman said. Jockey Julien Leparoux has the mount . . . Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher, reports that Wait a While came out of her victory in the Yellow Ribbon in good order and is on schedule for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Oct. 24. . . ShowVivor participants were pared from 492 to 404 going into Friday’s races.