Lookin At Lucky and Zensational, favorites for their respective Breeders’ Cup races, worked with alacrity typical of Bob Baffert runners Thursday morning, recording bullet drills under former jockey Joe Steiner on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride main track.
Lookin At Lucky, an unbeaten 2-year-old son of Smart Strike prepping for the $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles at Oak Tree, went four furlongs in :46 seconds flat, in company with the filly Always a Princess, who was given :46.60.
The Juvenile and the Sprint are on Nov. 7. They are two of 14 World Championships events worth $25.5 million, six on Friday, Nov. 6, and eight on Saturday, Nov. 7.
“The horses are right on schedule,” said Baffert, Oak Tree’s leader through 12 days with 10 wins from 32 starters, an average of 31 percent. He also has six seconds and three thirds, with purse earnings of $596,016.
“I worked Zensational from the gate because he drew the one hole twice down at Del Mar and want to make sure he’s comfortable,” Baffert said. “He flew out of there and cruised around the backside. I just wanted to wake him up.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird had an uneventful coast-to-coast trip in quest of victory in the $5 million Classic. The 3-year-old son of Birdstone, who defeated older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 3, arrived at Santa Anita Monday, galloped one mile Thursday, and is scheduled to work five furlongs Saturday.
“He shipped great, and so far, he’s been great,” trainer Tim Ice said on a picturesque Thursday morning filled with blue skies and sunshine. “It was about a six-hour flight, and he took the trip well. It didn’t take anything out of him. He ate up all his feed the night he got in and hasn’t been off of it since, so everything looks good.”
This is Summer Bird’s first extensive experience on a synthetic surface, but Ice has few, if any, qualms. “He seemed to handle the track fine,” Ice said. “He’s run every race on dirt, but he was out here from last October until I got him in January. He has nine workouts over this track as a 2-year-old, so it’s not totally new to him, but he’s never run on a synthetic.”
Defending Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion Desert Code worked three furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in :35.40. “He went nice and easy,” trainer David Hofmans said. “He’ll work five-eighths or three-quarters on the grass Wednesday with (Richard) Migliore.”
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped his customary two miles Thursday.
TALAMO HOPES ‘REBA’ IS REAL PHOTOGENIC IN SEN. KEN MADDY
Perhaps Joe Talamo would be unbeaten on Reba Is Tops if she had a bigger nose. The 19-year-old jockey and the 5-year-old mare have joined forces in their last four races, winning the Lawndale Stakes at Hollywood Park by a length on May 15, but suffering nose defeats in their other three efforts together, the Grade III Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita, the Great Lady M Handicap at Hollywood Park, and the Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar.
Talamo is banking on a more favorable result when he rides the sprint turf specialist in Oak Tree’s Grade III $100,000 Sen. Kenny Maddy Handicap Saturday at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf.
“They were definitely tough,” Talamo said of the frequent photo-finish flops. “It seems like when she gets to the lead, she kind of starts to mess around. I always hope there’s a horse she can track. In the Great Lady M, there was absolutely no speed, but she was messing around and wasn’t really herself.
“Then she got some time off (from June 19 to Sept. 3) and just got outfinished last time (losing to defending Maddy winner Queen Ofthe Catsle). But my horse always gets a good trip. She’s handy. If she’s not on the lead, she’s right off it. She always tries, but down the lane it’s just a matter of keeping her mind on business.”
A Washington-bred daughter of He’s Tops, Reba Is Tops has a 9-5-3 record from 18 starts, with earnings of $254,077 for owners Gordy Jarnig, Kenny Marshall and Eric Schweiger.
The Sen. Maddy, run as the Autumn Days Handicap prior to 1999, is named for the former California legislator and strong advocate for Thoroughbred racing who died Feb. 19, 1999, after a valiant battle with lung cancer.
The field for the Sen. Maddy: Pasar Silbano, David Flores, 112; Gotta Have Her, Tyler Baze, 122; Royal Taat, Joel Rosario, 117; Reba Is Tops, Talamo, 118; Tuscan Evening, Victor Espinoza, 121; Queen Ofthe Catsle, Mike Smith, 120; Annihilation, Jose Valdivia Jr., 112; Mohegan Sky, Richard Migliore, 115; Gadget Queen, Michael Baze, 115; Porto Marmay, Corey Nakatani, 117; and Flashover, Alonso Quinonez, 115.
JET LAG DIDN’T SLOW HIRSCH WINNER’S PASSION FOR SPEED
Presious Passion showed signs of jet lag after his coast to coast trip from New York to California last week. Fortunately, it didn’t happen during last Sunday’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship. It occurred after the 10-furlong race, while the 6-year-old Royal Anthem gelding was recuperating from his wire-to-wire, 2 1/2-length victory.
A committed front-runner, the son of Royal Anthem trained by Monmouth Park-based Mary Hartmann for owner Patricia Generazio of Tequesta, FL, has a 13-6-2 record from 41 starts, with earnings of $2,032,018. Next stop: the $3 million Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Oak Tree on Nov. 7.
“The horse came out of the race good,” said 38-year-old Fernando Espinoza, Hartmann’s long-time assistant, at trainer Paco Gonzalez’s barn, where Presious Passion currently resides. “He was a little tired after the Hirsch, not much, but I think it was due to the time change. He’s doing good and he enjoys his new surroundings.”
Espinoza, a native of Puebla, Mexico, has been with Hartmann for 16 years. “We were together with trainer J.J. Crupi part of that time,” he said. “Mary was his assistant and I was rubbing the horses.”
Now, in addition to her training duties, Hartmann finds time to bake her specialty, delicious chocolate chip cookies.
FINISH LINES: Favre N Away hasn’t come out of retirement as often as the man he was named for, former Green Bay and current Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre. The California-bred son of High Brite who runs in today’s second race is only a 2-year-old with two starts. “His breeder, Steve Rynders, was a big-time Favre fan,” explained David Bernstein, who trains Favre N Away. “At least he was until Favre switched teams. Then he got mad and gave the horse away.” . . . Tomorrow marks the third “Free Friday” at Oak Tree this meet. Free General Admission, free box seats, and $1 hot dogs, beer, soda, popcorn and coffee will be available. Special first post time is 2 p.m. . . . When Summer Bird’s trainer Tim Ice walked in to Oak Tree Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle’s office for the first time, there was an instant connection. Ice was wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers’ cap. Hammerle is a big fan of the NFL team. He has a Sports Illustrated photo of the Steelers celebrating their Super Bowl championship displayed on his wall . . . HRTV’s Millie Ball and Kurt Hoover will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Oak Tree is formulating a clothes drive to benefit backside workers and their families. Slightly used jackets, sweatshirts, jeans, shoes, socks, blankets, towels and sundry items for men, women and children are welcome and will be distributed free of charge to members of the stable community and their families. Barrels for drop-offs are available at Santa Anita’s Association Gate, the Paddock Bridge and the Executive Tunnel outside of the Operations Department. All clothes will be distributed to backside workers on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. . . . There were 328 contestants alive through Monday in Oak Tree’s popular online handicapping contest, ShowVivor . . . Mine That Bird and his Kentucky Derby win was an answer on the popular game show “Jeopardy” Wednesday night . . . Retired turf writer, handicapper and bon vivant Jack Karlik, affectionately known for many years as “The Dean” of Southern California public handicappers, was a press box visitor Wednesday, on the occasion of yet another birthday. As usual, he wouldn’t reveal his age, but it didn’t matter to one of his associates, who had a ready greeting. “Jack,” he said, “you look like a million bucks: wrinkled and green,”—to which Karlik responded, “I can’t disagree.”