With more than 30 years in the business, Mike Mitchell has learned to roll with the punches. He took one on the chin Saturday when Grazen, the 4-5 favorite in the California Cup Classic, suffered a career-ending tendon injury to his right leg.
But the 61-year-old trainer was back at it Sunday morning, looking forward to the upcoming weekend when he plans to start horses in two of five Grade I races which could lead to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association on Nov. 6 and 7.
“Grazen is very comfortable this morning,” Mitchell said after visiting the 3-year-old Benchmark colt. “He’s walking great and he’s putting a lot of pressure on it as he walks. He doesn’t look as though he favors his leg at all. He is retired, though, and thank God we didn’t have to put him down. Hopefully, there’ll be a little spot for him as a stallion in California. That’d be nice.
“From here, he’ll go to Alamo Pintado (Equine Medical Center in Solvang) to help him recover. Then, probably Nick (owner Nick Alexander) will go to work on finding a place that will stand him.”
Meanwhile, back to the future and Monzante, who figures to be an outsider against the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner Colonel John.
“In his win here on Pro-Ride in the Santana Mile (on March 8, 2008), he ran a 106 Beyer,” Mitchell pointed out. “We’ve been wanting to get him back on this track because of that, but when we ran him in the Mervyn LeRoy at Hollywood Park, he ran absolutely terrible (sixth by 5 ½ lengths on April 26, 2008) on the synthetic, but it was the kick-back that he didn’t like.
“But his Santana was a really good race. I kind of babied him along and put a race under his belt.” Mitchell was referring to a second by a neck in the one-mile Windy Sands at Del Mar on Sept. 5, Monzante’s first start since in more than a year. “Now, I’m able to really drill him for the Goodwood. Joel Rosario is riding him, so he’s taken me over Chocolate Candy.
“I certainly think I could run in the Clement Hirsch and find an easier group if I wanted to, but I’m excited about facing the caliber of horses in the Goodwood.
“With Delta Storm, it was either running down the hill on turf against California Flag (in the Morvich) or going in the Ancient Title, and I think six furlongs is my horse’s better distance. He’s doing good, so I’ve got a couple of shots.”
In other Goodwood news:
Mine That Bird galloped his customary two miles Sunday morning and trainer Chip Woolley said the gelding would work five furlongs Tuesday with Joe Talamo aboard.
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 Borrachos, Joe Talamo.
Probable for the Ancient Title: Crown of Thorns, Victor Espinoza; Delta Storm, Joel Rosario; Gayego, Garrett Gomez; and Riley Tucker, no rider.
ZENYATTA SET FOR LADY’S SECRET, BUT CLASSIC STILL UNDECIDED
John Shirreffs said his undefeated champion Zenyatta came out of her six-furlong workout on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Saturday in 1:13 in good order and is on course to defend her title in next Saturday’s Grade I $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
But the trainer did not reveal the answer to the question on every racing fan’s mind: If Zenyatta fares well in the Lady’s Secret, would she take on males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7. “We have time to make that decision,” he said.
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, is scheduled to ship from her Hollywood headquarters for the Lady’s Secret either next Friday or the morning of the race.
SMITH HOPES THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM FOR ‘MAMBA’ IN YELLOW RIBBON
Zenyatta and Tiago are Mike Smith’s marquee mounts on next weekend’s Grade I stakes bonanza at Oak Tree, but another horse he’s scheduled to ride will not go on to the Breeders’ Cup races Nov. 6 and 7 no matter how she fares.
That would be Black Mamba, ready to make her third straight start in the Grade I $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on turf. Trained by John Sadler, Black Mamba was third in the Yellow Ribbon in 2007 and 2008. Smith has ridden her twice, winning at Del Mar last out and finishing fourth against males in the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 6, 2008.
“She actually ran a real big race against the boys,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “That was a great race that day, and I was fortunate enough to get her back. She’s training really, really well.”
Black Mamba, a 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare, worked seven furlongs on turf at Santa Anita Sunday in 1:30. Victory in the Yellow Ribbon would elevate her to millionaire status.
Probable for the 33rd Yellow Ribbon: Black Mamba, Smith; Internallyflawless, no rider; Lemon Chiffon, no rider; Magical Fantasy, Alex Solis; Rosa Grace, Joel Rosario; Rutherienne, no rider; and Visit, Garrett Gomez.
Magical Fantasy worked six furlongs Sunday on turf in 1:12.60 for Paddy Gallagher.
RENOWNED ARTIST FRED STONE TO SIGN ZENYATTA PRINTS SATURDAY
World-renowned equine artist Fred Stone will be at Oak Tree on Saturday to autograph his most recent subject, undefeated champion mare Zenyatta. Stone will autograph his Zenyatta prints from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon in the artist’s tent across from Champions! Gift Shop in the East Paddock Gardens.
Prints will be available for $25 each, or $40, with a print of super filly Rachel Alexandra added. As a special bonus, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Zenyatta’s regular rider, has signed each Zenyatta print.
FINISH LINES: Presious Passion, scratched from Saturday’s Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park due to wet weather, is scheduled to arrive at Santa Anita Tuesday for next Sunday’s Grade I $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship, trainer Mary Hartmann said. Elvis Trujillo rides. “He loves firm going,” Hartmann said of Presious Passion, who was second by a half-length in last year’s Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita. “We scratched yesterday because it was a deluge.” Probable for the Hirsch at 1 1/4 miles: Presious Passion, Trujillo; Rendezvous, Rafael Bejarano; Sir Dave, Joel Rosario; Spring House, Alex Solis; and Times Gone By, Victor Espinoza . . . Trainer Patrick Biancone said Allicansayis Wow is being considered for either the Lady’s Secret or the Oak Tree Mile. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry worked five furlongs on turf Sunday in a bullet :59.20 . . . 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, Rosario . . . Each Thursday at Oak Tree this meet offers free General Admission to seniors, 62 years and older.