Summer Bird, winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the leader for an Eclipse Award in the male 3-year-old division, galloped a mile and a half over Pro-Ride Thursday and is scheduled to work between races Sunday under regular rider Kent Desormeaux, trainer Tim Ice said. Desormeaux currently is riding at Keeneland.
“A couple people have told me the Pro-Ride is a little different in the morning than the afternoon, I don’t know,” Ice said in explaining his reason for an afternoon work. “He’ll get a feel for it. Whether it’s different or not, it’s still going to be a good work, and he’ll be by himself. I won’t have to worry about other horses interfering with the work.”
Longtime “Sports Illustrated” columnist and current ESPN contributor Rick Reilly is at Santa Anita today to practice calling races and get some advice for honing this skill from Oak Tree’s Trevor Denman in preparation for making his race call debut for the public on Saturday.
ESPN crews will record his experience and air the feature during Breeders’ Cup week. Oak Tree hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7.
SMITH HOPES THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM IN SATURDAY’S RAMSER
Mike Smith expects an improved performance from Strawberry Tart in Saturday’s Grade III $100,000 Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
In two previous engagements with the California-bred daughter of Atticus, the Hall of Fame jockey finished fifth in the Grade III Railbird Stakes at seven furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track on May 10 and sixth in the California Cup Distaff Handicap at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf at Oak Tree on Oct. 3.
“Her last race was coming down the hill, and she didn’t fare very well,” Smith said. “She jumped real bad crossing over the dirt and lost all momentum. She was actually running really well until that part. She’s worked well since. Now we’re just going a flat mile and it’s all on grass, so she should be fine.”
The field for the Ramser: Century Park, Tyler Baze, 117; Minute Limit, Joel Rosario, 114; Air Fair, Joe Talamo, 114; Starlarks, Alex Solis, 119; Malibu Win, Christian Santiago Reyes, 112; Mrs Kipling, David Flores, 118; Strawberry Tart, Mike Smith, 117; Point of Reference, Michael Baze, 115; Acting Lady, Rafael Bejarano, 117; April Pride, Garrett Gomez, 117; and Pride Dancer, Brice Blanc, 114.
ON HIS OWN TWO FEET, WOOLLEY PREPARES MINE THAT BIRD FOR CLASSIC
For the first time in eight months, Chip Woolley Jr. was walking on his own two feet Thursday. The trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird had been navigating with the aid of crutches since breaking his right leg in a motorcycle accident in El Paso, Texas, but on a sun-filled morning at Clockers’ Corner, the 45-year-old New Mexico native was limping along sans support.
“I actually started walking without them yesterday afternoon,” said Woolley, who is preparing Mine That Bird for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Oak Tree on Nov. 7. “It was eight months yesterday since I had the crutches. I’m happy to be rid of them. The doc called me yesterday afternoon and told me I could start walking.
“I’d sent him my X-rays last week. He told me he wanted me to start walking on the leg to stimulate the bone a little more. I think eventually I’ll be without a limp. The accident wasn’t a big wreck. It just broke my leg. I didn’t have another scratch on me or anything. It didn’t even hurt me, other than breaking my leg.
“I’ll have to have another surgery done on it later, and I’ll probably end up back on crutches for a while, but that’s OK.”
Meanwhile, Mine That Bird continues to progress towards the mile and a quarter Classic following his sixth-place finish in the Goodwood Stakes on Oct. 10. The gelded son of Birdstone is scheduled to work five furlongs on Pro-Ride Monday. “The horse is doing super,” Woolley said. “He’s really lookin’ good.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Unbeaten champion mare Zenyatta galloped at her Hollywood Park headquarters Thursday, and probably will breeze “in the next couple days,” John Shirreffs said. The trainer plans to pre-enter Zenyatta in the Classic and the Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles on Nov. 6.
Richard Migliore is scheduled to work Godolphin’s Sara Louise on Friday for the $1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs on Nov. 6.
Richard Mandella plans to pre-enter Crown of Thorns in both the $1 million Dirt Mile and the $2 million Sentient Jet Sprint at six furlongs on Nov. 7, with his preference being the Dirt Mile.
Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, said Oak Leaf Stakes winner Blind Luck ($2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 6) and Chocolate Candy (Dirt Mile) probably will work Sunday, at a distance to be determined.
KNAPP SURGES IN FACE OF ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
In the throes of a daunting economy, Steve Knapp is experiencing a welcome uptick. The 52-year-old trainer won his fifth race at Oak Tree this meet when 3-10 favorite Tribal Face bounded home to a 3 1/2-length triumph in Wednesday’s first race under Tyler Baze.
The victory left Knapp in a tie for third place in the standings at Oak Tree, where he captured the title in 2005 with 16 wins.
“It’s been rough all year,” said Knapp, a native of Los Angeles who now resides in Chino Hills. “A lot of my owners haven’t been buying horses because of the economy. Some of my horses got hurt, but the worst thing was, I had 12 seconds at Hollywood and lost a lot of photos (photo finishes). I had seven seconds at Del Mar. You have to win some of those races, instead of finishing second.”
Jim and Marcia Equils, among Knapp’s main clients, dropped out for a spell when Jim’s primary source of income, the stock market, took a turn for the worse. “He had 18 horses with me at one point,” Knapp said, “but had to stop. He’s back now and told me he’d be claiming some horses soon.
“I’ve got 36 horses in training now. I usually have about 10 more than that. Jim was one of my main claiming guys, and it’s pretty important to have a guy like that on your team.”
USO, BREEDERS’ CUP PARTNER TO HOST AMERICAN SOLDIERS
For the first time in the 26-year history of the event, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, partnering with the USO, will host American soldiers and their families for a day of championship Thoroughbred racing on Friday, Nov. 6, at Santa Anita. The day at the races will be sponsored by West Point Thoroughbreds, a prominent racing stable headed by Terrance P. Finley, a former U.S. serviceman and West Point graduate.
The Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious global event, consists of 14 races hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association on Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita. The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live on ABC and ESPN and in more than 130 countries outside the U.S.
The USO will have a dedicated hospitality area in Santa Anita’s infield for 350 service members from the Southern California area and their families to enjoy the day’s events. A mobile USO unit also will be onsite.
Designed to support troops serving in remote and isolated areas throughout the U.S., the vehicles offer a comfortable place where service members can relax and connect online with family and friends during their downtime. When not in service at military facilities, the Mobile USO’s are deployed to community events around the country to raise public awareness and build support for our troops and their families.
“We thank the Breeders’ Cup for helping us provide this experience for our troops,” said Sloan Gibson, USO president. “Through their generosity, the USO is able to provide a unique day of fun to the brave men and women of our military and their families.”
“We are honored to partner with the USO to provide a special day for men and women who serve our country,” said Greg Avioli, President and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup.
FINISH LINES: Tomorrow marks the fourth “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. . . . Oak Tree offers Carnival Days presented by K-Earth 101 FM Radio in Santa Anita’s infield Saturday and Sunday. Fun-filled activities for families will include carnival rides, games and fast food . . . All THOROUGHBREDS members who scan their cards at Santa Anita on Saturday, Oct. 24, will receive free a high-quality set of binoculars, featuring an 8x21 adjustable zoom, while supplies last. First post time next Saturday and Sunday will be 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. Former Los Angeles Times handicapper Bob Mieszerski will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at the Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 11 a.m. Saturday, in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Steve Andersen and Brad Free of Daily Racing Form will offer their handicapping expertise at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum hosted by Jack Disney, 11:15 a.m., also in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Oak Tree’s clothes drive for backstretch workers ends on Friday. Barrels for drop offs of slightly used clothing are available next to Santa Anita’s South Gate, on the Paddock Bridge, and in the tunnel next to the Operations Department. For further information, contact Director of Community Services and Special Projects Pete Siberell at 626 574-6373 . . . Rosie Ybarra, the hostess with the mostest at Clockers’ Corner, says one of the most popular items on the menu is the “Bob Baffert,” comprised of scrambled eggs, sliced tomato, avocado, slices of toast with choice of bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage or ham. “At $4.75, it’s bargain,” Rosie says . . . There were 193 participants alive in Oak Tree’s online handicapping contest ShowVivor prior to Thursday’s races.