In a race that would rival the famous match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938 in fan interest, Curlin and Big Brown were poised to meet in a Horse of the Year showdown at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 when the Oak Tree Racing Association hosts the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
One caveat: reigning Horse of the Year Curlin would have to train well over Santa Anita’s new synthetic Pro-Ride surface, over which the $5-million Classic will be decided at
1 1/4 miles. Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park Saturday, earning $450,000 and making the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike the richest North America-based Thoroughbred of all time with $10,246,800, surpassing Cigar’s mark of $9,999,815.
Oak Tree Director of Racing Mike Harlow said Curlin was due at Santa Anita this afternoon and would bed down in Barn 27.
Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown already has been committed to the Classic and is due in California several days prior to the race.
“Big Brown is doing good,” trainer Rick Dutrow said by phone Sunday morning from New York. “I was happy to see what I saw yesterday with Curlin, and I can’t wait to get out there and put him (Big Brown) in the gate. We still plan to ship around the 20th, 21st, 22nd (of October), something like that.”
Asked how he felt as a “fan” to see a race between Curlin and Big Brown, Dutrow said, “Oh, we’re excited as we can be.”
Ditto for Sherwood Chillingworth, director and executive vice-president of Oak Tree. “I think the American public is focused on those two horses running against each other,” Chillingworth said. “This would bring much-needed attention back to racing. Jess (Jackson, majority owner of Curlin) is a sportsman, and giving the American public an opportunity to concentrate again on horse racing is the most important thing of all right now.”
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 present the Championships in 2009 on Nov. 6 and 7.
For the third straight year, ESPN will televise the Breeders’ Cup live.
MITCHELL WEIGHS CAL CUP CLASSIC FOR FILLY ROMANCE IS DIANE
Mike Mitchell has nominated Romance Is Diane for the $250,000 California Cup Classic at 1 1/8 miles against male horses on Oct. 5. The trainer also nominated the 4-year-old filly for the $150,000 California Cup Matron for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, a race she won last year.
“Right now, I don’t know which race she’ll run in, but I do have a commitment from (Rafael) Bejarano in either case,” Mitchell said. “She won the Matron last year (leading throughout to win by 6 ¼ lengths), but I want to see who’s running and the weights of the races before I decide where she’ll run.”
A 4-year-old In Excess filly owned by Senji Nishimura of Compton, Romance Is Diane was fourth in the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar last out on Aug. 2. In 15 career starts, she has never raced against male horses, but has five wins, three at Santa Anita.
“She’s training great, and if she can handle this track the way it’s playing now, the way speed is holding up on it, she’ll like it even more,” said Mitchell, who won the recent Fairplex Park training title for his 17th overall in Southern California. “It doesn’t look like anybody’s coming from out of it on this track . . . It seems like you’ve got to be laying up close to win on it, so with her speed, that alone should help her.”
Romance Is Diane worked six furlongs Saturday at Hollywood Park in 1:14.40, breezing.
In other Cal Cup news: trainer Jay Robbins said Malibu Stakes winner Johnny Eves would run in the Sprint.
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. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.
The Oak Tree Racing Association and the California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association will host the post position draw breakfast for California Cup XIX at 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 2, at Clockers’ Corner.
VETERINARIAN TO THOROUGHBRED STARS DOC JOCOY DEAD AT 82
Dr. Jock Jocoy, veterinarian to several of the greatest horses in Thoroughbred racing history, including champions Swaps, Ack Ack, Cougar II and Buckpasser, passed away Saturday afternoon at his home in Del Mar after a lengthy illness. The native of New London, Connecticut, was 82.
Earning his degree as a veterinarian at the University of California at Davis in 1954, “Doc” Jocoy had a highly successful private practice on Southern California racetracks from 1955 until 1983, employed by such Hall of Fame trainers as Charlie Whittingham, Hirsch Jacobs, Meshach “Mesh” Tenney, Eddie Neloy, Horatio Luro and D. Wayne Lukas. He also was resident vet for owner-breeder Rex Ellsworth early in his career. Additionally, for many years he served as track veterinarian at Del Mar.
He also was a successful breeder in California. Stakes winners he bred included D'Artagnan, Windy Kate, Queen Janine, Jan Jessie, Sheila Jan and Kirrary. The major stakes winner Doc Jocoy was named for him by owner Lionel Sternberger.
Survivors include wife Katie, daughters Jan and Sheila, sons Kelly and Jock Sterling, plus five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
‘LIVING LEGENDS’ AT OAK TREE ON OCT. 18
The Living Legends Race, an unprecedented event in which eight retired Hall of Fame jockeys are scheduled to return in the profession that brought them gold and glory, will take place on Oct. 18 during Oak Tree’s prelude to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships the following weekend. The race will feature live pari-mutuel wagering, which has been approved by the California Horse Racing Board.
Contested at a sprint distance, the race will feature 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. 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.
ANIMAL PLANET DOCU-SERIES ‘JOCKEYS’ BEING FILMED AT OAK TREE
An unprecedented inside look at the world of race riders, entitled, “Jockeys,” is being filmed at Oak Tree this meet at Santa Anita.
Premiering in early 2009 on the Animal Planet network, which is presenting the series in conjunction with entertainment producer Go Go Luckey and in association with The Jockeys Guild, “Jockeys” follows the fortunes of a competitive group of riders in pursuit of success in their profession.
The Oak Tree Racing Association and Santa Anita Park are working with the production company on the compelling 12-episode series.
FINISH LINES: Garrett Gomez was two wins shy of career victory No. 3,000 through Saturday. “I hope I can do it today,” Gomez said Sunday morning. The 37-year-old Tucson native is well on his way to winning the national money title for the third straight year. Through Sept. 25, Gomez had banked $16,382,419, nearly $3 million more than runner-up Edgar Prado . . . Oak Tree’s popular on-line handicapping contest ShowVivor began Sunday with 602 contestants . . . Best wishes to prominent horse owner and founder of Public Storage B. Wayne Hughes, who celebrates his 75th birthday today.