Casino Drive, scheduled to make his Santa Anita debut in Sunday’s eighth race, had an easy gallop one lap around Hollywood Park’s 1 1/8-mile Cushion Track Saturday morning after working five furlongs there Thursday in 1:02, breezing.
“He should be at Santa Anita around 10 a.m. tomorrow,” said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive’s owner, Hidetoshi Yamamoto.
Casino Drive, a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, has not raced since winning the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont last May 10. A stone bruise in his left hind foot forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes and has sidelined him since.
“Victor was supposed to ride the horse the first time he ever ran in Japan,” said Espinoza’s agent, Tony Matos. “He wanted to go, but he had to ride Crown of Thorns here that day. Victor knew about Casino Drive before he even ran. He had his ticket and everything to go to Japan.”
Espinoza, a native of Mexico City, does not anticipate a language barrier.
“Mr. Tada speaks English very well,” said Espinoza, “and he’s the one who will give me instructions when I ride, so there will be no problem communicating.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said reigning Horse of the Year Curlin galloped a mile and a half Saturday and remained on course for his scheduled public workout at five furlongs in company this Monday, Columbus Day, between the fourth and fifth races.
Blasi said trainer Steve Asmussen was due in California Sunday night. Monday’s workout will be televised live on HRTV.
Oak Leaf Stakes winner Stardom Bound, the probable favorite for the Juvenile Fillies, worked five furlongs Saturday on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in 59.80, breezing. “I got her in :59 2/5 and she galloped out in 1:12 1/5,” said trainer Chris Paasch. “It was perfect.”
Santa Anita Derby winner and Goodwood Handicap runner-up Tiago worked six furlongs at Hollywood in 1:12.40 under Mike Smith. “He worked really well,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “He galloped out strong.”
Doug O’Neill has barely had Square Eddie long enough to know his routine, but the 40-year-old trainer knows this much: the winner of last Saturday’s Lane’s End Futurity can run. O’Neill won the 2005 Juvenile with champion Stevie Wonderboy for the late Merv Griffin.
“He’s training great and galloping super,” said O’Neill, who is readying recent acquisition Square Eddie for the $2-million Juvenile at Oak Tree on Oct. 25. “The only similarity I’ve noticed so far between Square Eddie and Steve Wonderboy is they’re both extremely classy individuals.”
Trainer Ron Ellis on Believe in Hope, who was third by less than a length in the Norfolk Stakes on Sept. 28: “We’re not in any hurry with him. He’s fit, so I don’t have to prove anything. It’s hard to tell how good the 2-year-olds are overall. All I know is, we match up with all the 2-year-olds that are here and I know that we’ve had a race over the track.
“Not all horses are going to like the synthetic, and mine showed that he can handle it, so that was a good thing. I’m not training day in and day out at Santa Anita, so I don’t know what the Pro-Ride is like in that regard, but the horses I’ve run have all come out really good. It’s made me really nervous, because any time horses are running as fast as they have been here, you worry about the track being too hard. All I can go by is the horses that I’ve run seemed to have come out perfect.”
Mast Track (Classic) and Ginger Punch (Ladies’ Classic) worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in :49.20 and :48.60, respectively, for Bobby Frankel, while Ventura (Mile or Filly & Mare Sprint) went five furlongs for Frankel in 1:00.60. “They all went good,” said Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio. Jose Valdivia Jr. was aboard Ventura, while Goncalino Almeida rode Ginger Punch.
Other Pro-Ride drills Saturday included: West Side Bernie (Juvenile) five furlongs in :58:80 for trainer Kelly Breen; Cost of Freedom (Sprint), four furlongs in a bullet :46.60 for John Sadler; and Whatsthescript (Mile), seven furlongs in 1:25.80 for Sadler.
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.
The Horse Racing Radio Network will air the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday, Oct. 24, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. HRRN’s radio broadcast links are: http://www.horseracingradio.net and at http://www.breederscup.com
PRE-ENTERED FIELDS FOR BREEDERS’ CUP TO BE ANNOUNCED THURSDAY
Pre-entered fields for all 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championships races will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 16. The 25th Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event, will be held on Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25, at Santa Anita.
Breeders’ Cup pre-entry is the first stage of a two-stage entry process for all owners intending to start a horse in a Breeders’ Cup race. The first payment is due by 12 noon on Tuesday, Oct. 14. The second payment is due on Tuesday, Oct. 21, when entries are taken for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races.
Past performances of all pre-entered horses, provided by Equibase and Daily Racing Form, will be distributed via email on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 8 a.m.
A Breeders’ Cup pre-entry national media teleconference will also be conducted on Thursday at 10 a.m.
DOLLAR DAY AT OAK TREE ON MONDAY, COLUMBUS DAY
There will be special holiday racing at Oak Tree this Monday, Columbus Day, which also is Dollar Day. General admission, programs, hot dogs, beer, soft drinks and popcorn are $1 each.
First post time Monday will be 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m.
LIVING LEGENDS JOCKEYS TO BE LICENSED OCT. 17 FOR NEXT SATURDAY’S RACE
In a prelude to competing in a one-of-a-kind live wagering race at Santa Anita next Saturday, Oct. 18, eight Living Legends jockeys will report to the California Horse Racing Board’s offices at Santa Anita this Friday morning, Oct. 17, to be licensed for competition.
The eight Hall of Fame riders, Angel Cordero Jr., 65, Jacinto Vasquez, 64, Sandy Hawley, 59, Pat Day, 55, Chris McCarron, 53, Jerry Bailey, 51, Gary Stevens, 45, and Julie Krone, 45, will be photographed and fingerprinted at 8:15 a.m.
A media briefing with all riders, including Hall of Fame Living Legends Ambassadors Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Jorge Velasquez, will be conducted at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner at approximately 9 a.m.
The 11 legendary jockeys have a combined 71,872 wins and nearly $2 billion in career winnings. All jockeys will be available for interviews.
With live pari-mutuel wagering approved by the CHRB, the race truly has the specter of being an Old-Timers Game that actually counts in the standings.
“It will be fun to get together with everybody again and to see the race, too,” said Delahoussaye, who won two Kentucky Derbies and seven Breeders’ Cup races. Delahoussaye retired due to injuries in January 2003, with 6,384 career victories.
“They were all tough to ride against,” he said. “Even though Laffit won’t be in the race, he was a strong rider and always tough to get by. Angel, he was a rider that always liked to maneuver everybody around the race track . . . I tell it like it is, and he knows it’s true, anyway.”
The Living Legends Race, an unprecedented event, is Oak Tree’s prelude to the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Oct. 24 and 25.
In addition to the race, there will be a Living Legends Gala at Santa Anita on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association in conjunction with Legends on Tour and will feature dinner, dancing, cocktails, comedy and a silent auction to benefit Jockeys’ Choice Charities.
The public is invited to this special event to be held in Santa Anita’s pristine Paddock Gardens area. For ticket information on the Living Legends on Tour Gala, call (818) 500-1649, or visit http://www.legendsontour.com.
MINT LANE, GOLDEN SPIKES WON GRADED RACES AFTER LOSING TO CASINO DRIVE
Casino Drive, who has been entered to run in Sunday's eighth race at Santa Anita in what his connections hope will lead to a start in the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25, has not competed since winning the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park last May 10.
"Not only did Casino Drive win the Peter Pan by a big margin (5 3/4 lengths) after a bad start, two of the horses he beat that day, Mint Lane and Golden Spikes, did quite well after that," notes Jon White, who provides television commentary from the paddock for the Oak Tree simulcast network.
"Mint Lane finished second in the Peter Pan. He won his next two starts, the Postponed Stakes and the Grade II Dwyer Stakes, both at Belmont Park.
"Golden Spikes finished fourth in the Peter Pan. He also won his next two starts, the Unbridled Stakes and the Grade II Carry Back Stakes, both at Calder."
Casino Drive is owned by Hidetoshi Yamamoto, who purchased the son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft for $950,000 as a yearling at Keeneland.
Casino Drive’s dam, Better Than Honour, produced back-to-back Belmont Stakes winners in Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007). Rags to Riches, whose first career win came at Santa Anita early in 2007, became the first filly to win the Belmont in 102 years. She was voted the Eclipse Award as the nation's champion 3-year-old filly of 2007.
Casino Drive had been entered in this year's Belmont on June 7 but was scratched the morning of the race due to a stone bruise in his left hind foot. He will go into Sunday's 1 1/16-mile allowance race having made only two career starts. Prior to the Peter Pan, Casino Drive won a race at about 1 1/8 miles by 11 1/2 lengths in Japan last Feb. 23 for trainer Kazuo Fujisawa.
Victor Espinoza rides Casino Drive for the first time Sunday. Yutaka Take rode the colt in his win in Japan. Kent Desormeaux was Casino Drive's pilot in the Peter Pan.
FINISH LINES: Todd Pletcher was at Santa Anita Saturday, operating from the barn of his former mentor, D. Wayne Lukas. “So far, everything’s in good order (for the Breeders’ Cup),” the four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer said at Barn 66. “I got in yesterday, and I’m going back Monday.” Asked how it felt to be back at the Lukas barn, Pletcher said, “We’re on the other end (of the barn), and actually, I never worked a day for Wayne in this barn. I was always on the other coast.” . . . Author Bill Finley will sign copies of his book, “Betting Synthetic Surfaces,” at Santa Anita on Thursday, Oct. 23. He will be at the Club House Breeders’ Cup Super Store near the paddock from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. . . . Only nine contestants were alive in ShowVivor going into Saturday’s races, down from 21 the previous day . . . Thursday was a good day for Mark Molina. The 50-year-old trainer, a native of Philadelphia who has only six horses, saddled Summer Shoot to win the fifth race at 6-1, then enjoyed the Phillies’ 3-2 comeback win over the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. But there was a caveat. “I lost my Phillies’ cap at Pomona,” Molina said. “I hung it up on a nail in the bathroom, walked out of there, went back about an hour later and it was gone.” In the meantime, Molina has resorted to wearing an Angels’ cap.