Garrett Gomez has learned much in two rides on Grazen, the even-money morning line favorite for Saturday’s $200,000 California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank.
“In a word, he’s talented,” said Gomez, who won his second straight Eclipse Award last year as the nation’s outstanding jockey. “He’s a completely different horse from the first time I rode him to the last time I rode him.”
“Mike’s done a great job with him just getting him to settle,” Gomez continued, referring to Grazen’s trainer, Mike Mitchell. “He’s learned to be a race horse. The first time I rode him, he was very aggressive. He almost left me in the gate. He’s pretty quick and I didn’t know what to expect. I just went by his first race (10th after a slow start last Sept. 28). Nobody told me anything about him.
“His first race, he didn’t show anything, but when I rode him the first time, he left the gate so hard, he just dragged me around the race track. He matured a lot the last time I rode him; he learned how to be a race horse. He’s moving forward.”
Grazen, a 3-year-old gray son of Benchmark, has a 4-1-0 record from six starts, with earnings of $245,400 for owner Nick Alexander of Los Angeles.
The field for the Classic, which is the sixth race on a 10-race program: Bold Chieftain, Russell Baze, 122, 5-2; Star Nicholas, Michael Baze, 119, 4-1; Grazen, Garrett Gomez, 117, 1-1; Lethal Heat, Alex Solis, 118, 7-2; Blackbriar, Brice Blanc, 112, 30-1; and One Chin Again, Rafael Bejarano, 111, 30-1.
FALLON RIDES EUROPEAN INVADER FOR TEAM VALOR IN GOODWOOD
Kieren Fallon will be in Southern California to ride Team Valor International and Gary Barber's Gitano Hernando in the Grade I Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 10 in what is shaping up as a highly competitive field led by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner Colonel John.
Fallon, based in England, rode the 3-year-old colt to a track record-breaking win two weeks ago going 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack at Wolverhampton for Newmarket-based trainer Marco Botti.
Fallon will ride Gitano Hernando in his final work at Newmarket on Saturday before the Hernando colt is sent to California on Tuesday. Fallon and Team Valor have combined previously to win the Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester in England with Dr. Greenfield and the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs with River Belle.
"Team Valor likes Kieren and asked if he would ride the colt in California," said Botti. "Fallon was extremely complimentary of the colt after his win. He said he was very excited and said that the colt impressed him at Wolverhampton."
Gitano Hernando has run six times. After finishing sixth in his debut at two, he has three wins and two seconds. Two of his wins have come on Polytrack, one on turf. In his only stakes race, the chestnut was beaten a nose in the Group 3 Dee Stakes on grass at Chester.
Barry Irwin of Team Valor said, "Admittedly, it looks like we are putting the cart before the horse, but this colt may be special on synthetic surfaces. On turf he is probably a Grade 3 horse, but on the synthetics he may be better than that.
"The colt really wants a minimum of 10 furlongs in top company and has not even won a stakes. This is the colt we had earmarked for the Belmont Stakes until he was jarred on hard turf last May. We are bringing him out West to see how he acts on the Pro-Ride."
In other Goodwood news: Chip Woolley said Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped two miles Thursday and will work “either Monday or Tuesday.”
Probable for the 28th Goodwood: Chocolate Candy, Victor Espinoza; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez; Gitano Hernando, Fallon; Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel; Monzante, Joel Rosario; Parading, Rafael Bejarano; Richard’s Kid, no rider, Tiago, Mike Smith, and Tres Borachos, Joe Talamo.
IT TIZ SHOULD FANCY OAK LEAF DISTANCE ON SUNDAY
It Tiz has given trainer Mark Glatt good reason to think she will fare well in Sunday’s Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” race at 1 1/16 miles that will entitle the winner to automatic entry to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 6 at Oak Tree.
The 2-year-old daughter of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow won her debut race, at Del Mar going 6 1/2 furlongs, then finished a creditable fourth in the Grade I Darley Debutante at seven furlongs on Sept. 5.
“I think she has a good style to get a distance,” Glatt said. “Pedigree-wise, everything suggests she can go further. She ran in her sprint races like she’d appreciate more ground, and she trains like a filly with a lot of natural air. Hopefully, she’ll improve quite a bit going a distance.” It Tiz worked seven furlongs on Pro-Ride Saturday in 1:26.60.
“She had a perfect trip when she broke her maiden, but in the Debutante she kind of got trapped down inside from the eighth pole to the 16th pole,” Glatt continued. “There was a spot to go through, but she was a little intimidated about running through there. She just needed the experience. If she had clear sailing throughout the stretch, she’d have been real close to winning.”
Owners Allen and Susan Branch of Los Gatos paid $170,000 for It Tiz at the Keeneland yearling sales.
OAK TREE TO OFFER ‘FREE FRIDAYS’ PROMOTION WITH 2 P.M. POST
For the first time in its 40-year history, the Oak Tree Racing Association will institute a full menu of “Free Fridays” throughout its six-week meeting.
Tomorrow will mark the first of five “Free Fridays,” which all will have a special first post time of 2 p.m. All fans attending Fridays will receive free general admission with the exception of the first day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Friday, Nov. 6.
In addition to free general admission, fans will be offered free box seats, while supplies last, along with $1 beers, sodas, hot dogs, popcorn and coffee.
“This promotion was a resounding success and extremely popular with our fans at the Santa Anita winter/spring meet and we’re very confident it’s going to be a big hit here at Oak Tree,” said Oak Tree director and executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth.
“We also like the idea of two o’clock first post time,” he added. “We feel this is going to make it easier for people who are getting off work to come out, have a good time and get their weekend off to an enjoyable start.”
ADVANCE WAGERING ON ARC SATURDAY; HRTV TO AIR PRESTIGIOUS RACE
Oak Tree will offer advance wagering Saturday on the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
from Longchamp on Sunday. Wagering will be offered on several stakes from the Paris track, with the Arc going as race six.
On Sunday, Clockers’ Corner will open for Arc wagering at 6:45 a.m., 30 minutes before the scheduled running of the Arc. In addition, simulcast sites will offer wagering at that time.
Also, HRTV will present live coverage of the prestigious Arc and additional races on the program. The $5.8 million Arc, the richest race in Europe, will be headlined by one of Thoroughbred racing's brightest performers, Sea the Stars. The five-time Group 1 winner is expected to be the odds-on choice in a big field slated to go postward in the 11/2-mile turf race.
HRTV's Sunday coverage will begin at 6 a.m., with estimated post time for the Arc slated for 7:15 a.m. here. HRTV will show a number of other outstanding races on the Longchamp card, including a pair of Group 1 events.
FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert is cautiously optimistic about the chances of his unbeaten colt, Lookin At Lucky, going a distance for the first time in Sunday’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. “I think he’s going to be OK,” Baffert said. “He’s going two turns for the first time, so we’ll find out. You never know until they go two turns.” Lookin At Lucky, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs last out, coming from seventh after breaking from the rail to win by a length. Baffert will be seeking his fifth Norfolk victory. He won it with Souvenir Copy (1997), Flame Thrower (2000), Kafwain (2002) and Roman Ruler (2004) . . . Richard Migliore said he plans to start riding full time at Oak Tree next Wednesday. Agent Craig O’Bryan has his book . . . Todd Pletcher will wait on a decision about the Breeders’ Cup Classic for Quality Road until after the Florida Derby winner runs in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park. “I don’t know,” Pletcher said by phone Thursday morning. “That would be a little premature to say. We’re going to go in the Gold Cup first.” Pletcher also said he would wait until after Saturday’s Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont before firming up plans for Munnings, but added he will have a string at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree meet under the direction of assistant Mike McCarthy . . . Dennis O’Neill, brother and associate of trainer Doug O’Neill, said come-backing Lava Man is scheduled to work four furlongs tomorrow at Hollywood Park . . . Victor Espinoza will be at Hoosier Park Saturday to ride Swaps Stakes winner Misremembered for Baffert in the Grade II $500,000 Indiana Derby at 1 1/16 miles.