The drama and anticipation surrounding Zenyatta’s possible first-ever challenge of males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Oak Tree a week from Saturday, Nov. 7, will be finalized Tuesday morning, Nov. 3. That’s when horses pre-entered in two Breeders’ Cup races must decide on which one to enter. Zenyatta also is pre-entered in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles, to be run next Friday, Nov. 6.
It is expected that owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs will opt for the Classic at 1 1/4 miles and risk Zenyatta’s perfect record of 13 straight victories, all against her own sex. The 5-year-old stretch-running mare is three for three on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, including her second consecutive Lady’s Secret Stakes victory in her most recent start on Oct. 10.
“It won’t hurt my style,” said Tim Ice, who trains Summer Bird. “Zenyatta and I have two different running styles. I think it will make the race interesting. It will be what it’s supposed to be for a $5 million purse. It’s going to be a great race. I’m not expecting anything easy, and all I can control is my horse and what I do with him. Whoever else is in the race is who I have to outrun, and there’s going to be more than one horse to outrun.”
Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Woolley has the utmost respect for Zenyatta, and if he had his druthers, he’d rather she not run, but that won’t change the game plan for his late-running 3-year-old.
“It’s another horse to beat, and she’s a great mare,” Woolley said. “I’ve said all along, ‘I want to keep myself in the best of company and my horse in the worst of company,’ so obviously, you don’t want her in there. You’d be foolish to want her in there, but if she runs, she runs. It’s not going to change how you run your race, because to get the best race out of your horse, you’ve got to run his race. You have to line up and go around there.
“If she runs, the publicity will be great for racing. From that standpoint, it would be very exciting for everyone.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Garrett Gomez, in pursuit of his fourth consecutive national money crown, has firm commitments in 12 of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races next Friday and Saturday. Through Oct. 27, Gomez trailed leader Ramon Dominguez in purse earnings by about $1.2 million.
Agent Ron Anderson has the following lined up for Gomez: Colonel John, Classic; Gayego, $2 million Sentient Jet Sprint at six furlongs; Lookin At Lucky, $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles; Always a Princess, $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles; Ventura, $1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs; Pure Clan, $2 million Emirates Airlines Filly & Mare Turf at 1 1/4 miles; Life Is Sweet, Ladies’ Classic; Codoy, $1 million Juvenile Turf at one mile; Midshipman, $1 million Dirt Mile; Telling, $3 million Emirates Airlines Turf at 1 1/2 miles; Delta Storm, $1 million Turf Sprint at about 6 1/2 furlongs; and Courageous Cat, $2 million TVG Mile.
Godolphin Racing’s Music Note (Ladies’ Classic) worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in :59.40 for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Richard Mandella said he was “still studying” whether to start Crown of Thorns in the Dirt Mile or the Sprint.
ZENYATTA WILL BE BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC MORNING LINE FAVORITE
If Zenyatta’s connections opt to run her in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, she will be the favorite on Jon White’s official Breeders’ Cup morning line.
“Zenyatta not only is 13 for 13, she has been the favorite in her last nine races,” said White, Oak Tree’s new morning line oddsmaker and a commentator for HRTV and the simulcast network. “Granted, this would be the first time Zenyatta has run against males, plus she’s never gone farther than a mile and an eighth. But Zenyatta likes Santa Anita’s main track and it looks like she actually might thrive going a mile and a quarter. I also think she will get a lot of play because of her big-time reputation.
“I would have made European superstar Sea the Stars the favorite had he been in the Classic. And some may feel that Europe’s Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite. But I expect Zenyatta to be a lower price than Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle has been the favorite only twice in eight career starts. He also will be running on a synthetic surface for the first time, so there will be bettors who have reservations about him on the surface.”
While Europeans Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator ran one-two in the Classic last year on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, White said it is important to note that they were not respected in the betting.
“Raven’s Pass was 13-1 and Henrythenavigator was 19-1, while the top American horse, Curlin, was pounded down to 4-5 favoritism, even though there were those who thought Curlin might not be on his game at the time,” White said. “As for Zenyatta, anyone who saw the Lady’s Secret and/or her recent six-furlong workout should have no reservations that she certainly is on her game going into the Breeders’ Cup.
“After the success of the Europeans last year, they probably will get more respect from the bettors this year. In trying to determine who will get bet more, Zenyatta or Rip Van Winkle, I took a look back at a couple of other Europeans with outstanding records, Giant’s Causeway and Sakhee. Giant’s Causeway was 7-1 when he ran second in the Classic to Tiznow, and Sakhee was 9-2 when he finished second in the Classic to Tiznow. Even though I don’t think Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite, I think there’s a pretty good chance he will be a shorter price than Sakhee.
“With the Classic eight days away, such factors as defections, developments, workouts and post positions could lead to some tweaking. But as it stands right now, I’m planning to make Zenyatta the 5-2 favorite for the Classic, with Rip Van Winkle next at 7-2. For those who believe 5-2 might too low on Zenyatta in such a big field, keep in mind the last time that Zenyatta was higher than 3-5 was about a year and a half ago. That was in the 2008 Apple Blossom Handicap when Zenyatta was 9-5 and beat Ginger Punch.”
Summer Bird will be the third choice on White’s Classic line.
“With each Grade I win, Summer Bird is getting more and more respect,” White said. “But when Summer Bird won the Jockey Club Gold Cup as the 6-5 favorite, it was the first time he’s ever been the favorite. Right now, I’m planning to put Summer Bird at 9-2 for the Classic.
“The way I see it, Zenyatta, Rip Van Winkle and Summer Bird are the ‘big three’ in terms of Breeders’ Cup Classic wagering. I think there will be a pretty good gap to the rest. I doubt that I will have anyone else lower than 10-1.”
TEAM ROSARIO EYES OAK TREE TITLE, BREEDERS’ CUP
With nine racing days remaining in the Oak Tree meet, Joel Rosario held a 24-23 lead over Rafael Bejarano in the race for leading rider. Vic Stauffer, Rosario’s agent, couldn’t be more elated, since this title would be unencumbered.
“I’m super-happy,” said Stauffer, who also is Hollywood Park’s track announcer. “When we won Hollywood’s spring/summer meet, everybody said it happened in large part because (Garrett) Gomez and Bejarano were following the Triple Crown trail, and they were.
“When we won Del Mar, Bejarano got hurt early in the meet and missed most of it. We didn’t like winning in that fashion, because we thought we could beat him on the square. This meet, Gomez and Bejarano have been here (virtually) every day, and we’re nine days away and two up.
“So whether we win it by one or lose it by one, we know we can be competitive when the ‘A’ team is here. Winning the title is something very much on my radar. That and the Breeders’ Cup make the next nine days the most exciting since Joel and I started together.”
That’s close to a year.
“Basically, we started Dec. 1 of last year,” Stauffer said. “About two weeks into the Hollywood Park meet will mark one calendar year. We’ve been incredibly fortunate. Joel hasn’t had days (suspensions) during that time. A couple times he was a little under the weather, but he had no significant injuries. We’re very aware that things have fallen into place for us.”
Barring the unforeseen, Stauffer sees no dramatic change in the big picture.
“We made a decision at the start of the year that unless there was a huge opportunity out of town that we weren’t going to travel, and I’m convinced we did the right thing,” Stauffer said. “We wanted to establish ourselves here and let horsemen know we were available.”
To that end, Stauffer has lined up the following Breeders’ Cup mounts for Rosario: Marathon, Sir Dave; Filly & Mare Sprint, Evita Argentina; Juvenile Fillies, Bickersons; Sprint, Dancing in Silks; Chocolate Candy, Dirt Mile; Dave in Dixie, Juvenile; and Noble Court, Turf Sprint.
FINISH LINES: Rafael Bejarano took off his scheduled seven mounts at Oak Tree Thursday due to illness. “He got the flu yesterday and doesn’t feel good today,” said his agent, Joe Ferrer . . . Rather than put up $60,000 to supplement It Tiz to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, trainer Mark Glatt has the fourth-place finisher in the Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes entered in today’s second race, a $40,000 allowance test at one mile. “That’s a lot of money to risk to run,” Glatt said. “She’s nominated for the Starlet at Hollywood Park, so we’ll consider that.” . . .
Silvio Ruiz will make his Oak Tree riding debut shortly. The 28-year-old jockey has won more than 800 races, including Classics in Mexico City, Puerto Rico, Panama and Venezuela, He tacks 114 pounds and will be represented by agent Saul Marquez . . . Veillit’s victory in Wednesday’s fifth race at Golden Gate Fields gave trainer Steve Specht his 1,000th career win. “I guess it’s a pretty big number, but it kind of feels like many others,” Specht said. “It’s something to be proud of, although when you look at it in context with guys like (trainer Steve) Asmussen, who wins 500 races a year, it’s pretty insignificant.” Specht saddled his first winner in 1969, at Cahokia Downs in East St. Louis, and his biggest win came with McCann’s Mojave in the 2007 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park . . . Santa Anita employees who participated in the recent backstretch clothes drive donated 1,500 clothing items, including much-needed shoes. Along with the 1,300 items provided by Sierra Madre Middle School and 700 items gathered by the Oak Tree Recreation Center staff, more than 3,500 items were made available for over 300 backside workers and their families. In addition, the Altrusa Club of Arcadia donated blankets and brought refreshments for the distribution . . . HRTV’s Peter Lurie and Jeff Siegel will be Jack Disney’s guests on Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Tomorrow marks the fifth and final “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. . . . On Halloween, this Saturday, Oak Tree will host the inaugural 93.1 FM Jackoberfest in Santa Anita’s infield. Activities will feature three live sets by Terri Nunn and Berlin starting after the sixth race. In addition, Jack FM will host a sticker event in the Colorado parking lot beginning at 9 a.m. Limited to the first 1,000 cars, the sticker provides free parking, two free event passes and a Jack FM T-shirt . . . Participants alive in Oak Tree’s online handicapping contest ShowVivor stood at 25 prior to Thursday’s races . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Set your clocks back one hour Saturday night.