It’s crunch time for Garrett Gomez and his agent, Ron Anderson. They are in pursuit of their fourth straight national money title. Currently in third place some $2 million behind leader Ramon Dominguez, Gomez is in a favorable position to gain ground tomorrow at Oak Tree, where among his mounts are two unbeaten juveniles he rides in Grade I stakes he hopes will lead to Breeders’ Cup engagements on Nov. 6 and 7.
Gomez rides Always a Princess for owner Arnold Zetcher in the Oak Leaf Stakes, and Lookin At Lucky for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman in the Norfolk Stakes. Each race is at 1 1/16 miles and are “Win and You’re In” events. The winner will be entitled to automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6 and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 7, respectively. Both Always a Princess and Lookin At Lucky are conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Lookin At Lucky won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs last out, while Always a Princess won her debut race at 5 1 /2 furlongs at Del Mar.
Gomez and Baffert are a formidable team which has reached a comfort zone in their business relationship. But they keep the lines of communications open.
“Certain horses, you need instructions if he wants a particular thing done,” Gomez said of Baffert. “We work well together. I kind of know what he wants, and he usually puts me on the horses he thinks will fit me. When I give him information that will help a horse, he’s receptive. Bob’s been good to us.”
TWO FOR THE (OAK LEAF) MONEY SUNDAY FOR HOLLENDORFER
Jerry Hollendorfer fires both barrels in quest of victory in Sunday’s Grade I, $300,000 Oak Leaf Stakes, which he hopes will lead to a spot in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6.
Hollendorfer has Blind Luck and Softly Singing entered in the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf, and his assistant, Dan Ward, said the barn is confident.
Blind Luck was second to the recently injured Mi Sueno in the Grade I Darley Debutante on Sept. 5 in her second race for Hollendorfer. She was purchased privately after winning a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Calder by 13 1/4 lengths last June 21. She won at first asking for Hollendorfer, capturing an allowance race by 3 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on July 29.
Softly Singing is a daughter of Holy Bull who broke her maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Aug. 30 as the 3-10 favorite.
“We bought Blind Luck after the Calder race,” Ward said. She was eliminated at the start in her second race when she hopped at the break but still won by 3 1/4 lengths.
“It was a big step from starter allowance to Grade I,” Ward continued. “She had a lot of trouble, but it was a good race. She was wide and got knocked sideways coming out of the gate.
“Softly Singing was second in her first start, but she beat Pure Class, who was well regarded. Softly Singing broke her maiden next out by 4 1/4 lengths. Both fillies are training well. The Oak Leaf is a tough race, but we hope to do well and move on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
UNBEATEN ZENYATTA DRILLS FOR DEFENSE OF LADY’S SECRET TITLE
Undefeated distaff champion Zenyatta worked six furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Saturday in 1:13 for next Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes, a race she won in 2008 en route to a triumph in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last Oct. 24.
Regular rider Mike Smith was aboard for the drill. “Awesome,” was how the Hall of Fame jockey described the work. “She broke off behind three or four horses and finished strong like always.”
Trainer John Shirreffs has not decided whether Zenyatta will defend her title in the Ladies’ Classic or take on males for the first time in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7.
“It wouldn’t bother me one bit,” Smith said when asked how he felt about Zenyatta tackling the boys. “I wouldn’t mind it.”
Zenyatta, a 5-year-old Street Cry mare owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, has won 11 of her races on synthetic surfaces, three of them on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride. Her lone win on traditional dirt came at Oaklawn Park in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap on April 5, 2008.
“She’s run some pretty big races over this track,” Smith said, speaking of Santa Anita. “I don’t think the surface really matters. One of her best races was probably on the dirt at Oaklawn, but her Breeders’ Cup last year here was awfully impressive (winning by 1 ½ lengths as the 1-2 favorite in a field of eight). She seems to run over anything you put her on, and it doesn’t seem to matter to her whether there’s pace or no pace. She gets the job done every time, and I’m just blessed to be part of it.”
Agent Ron Anderson said Garrett Gomez has been given the call to ride Zenyatta’s stablemate Life Is Sweet in the Lady’s Secret.
TIAGO SEEKS SECOND GOODWOOD WIN AND RETURN TO BC CLASSIC
Tiago ran third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, closing strongly from 11th in a field of 12 to finish 2 1/2 lengths behind victorious Ravens Pass. He has run only twice since, finishing third in the San Antonio Handicap last Feb. 8 and sixth in the Brubaker Stakes on Del Mar’s turf course on Aug. 26.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Tiago in his last 16 starts, hopes the 5-year-old Pleasant Tap horse has returned to form for next Saturday’s Grade I $350,000 Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Tiago won the 2007 Goodwood, this year a “Win and You’re In” event that entitles the winner to automatic entry into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7.
“We’re just trying to get back on track with him,” Smith said before working Tiago six furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Saturday in 1:12.40. “He’s only run once in a long, long time, but he’s training really well and he’s doing good right now. Hopefully, this is the race that puts him back on track.”
Probable for the 28th Goodwood: Chocolate Candy, Victor Espinoza; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez; Gitano Hernando, Kieren Fallon; Informed, Michael Baze; Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel; Monzante, Joel Rosario; Parading, Rafael Bejarano; Richard’s Kid, no rider, Tiago, Mike Smith, and Tres Borachos, Joe Talamo.
In other Goodwood news: Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped two miles Saturday and probably will work Tuesday, five furlongs on Pro-Ride, under Joe Talamo, trainer Chip Woolley said Saturday morning. Woolley will be Becky Witzman and Scott Hazelton’s guest on Wednesday’s “Across the Board” show on HRTV.
Bob Baffert will “wait till the last minute” before naming a rider on Richard’s Kid.
Informed worked six furlongs Saturday on Pro-Ride in 1:13.60 for Doug O’Neill, while Monzante worked five furlongs at Hollywood in 1:00.60 for Mike Mitchell.
FINISH LINES: Probable for next Saturday’s Grade II “Win and You’re In” Oak Tree Mile on turf: Cowboy Cal, Garrett Gomez; Global Hunter, Corey Nakatani, and Whatsthescript, Joel Rosario . . . Probable for next Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes: Black Mamba, Mike Smith; Internallyflawless, no rider; Lemon Chiffon, no rider; Magical Fantasy, Alex Solis; Rosa Grace, Rosario; Rutherienne, no rider; and Visit, no rider . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Ancient Title Stakes at six furlongs: Delta Storm, Rosario; Gayego, Gomez; and Riley Tucker, no rider . . . Probable for Sunday’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship at 1 ¼ miles: Sir Dave, Rosario, and Spring House, Solis . . . Agent Ivan Puhich reports that nomadic jockey Julio Garcia begins riding at Oak Tree this Wednesday . . . David Flores and Joe Talamo ride Awesome Gem and Lowther Street, respectively, in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap today . . . Tyler Baze rides at Keeneland next Saturday. Among his stakes mounts are Battle of Hastings and Carlsbad for trainer Jeff Mullins, and Make Music to Me for trainer Alexis Barba. Make Music to Me worked seven furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Saturday in 1:25.20.