Four of Bob Baffert’s prime Breeders’ Cup contenders moved a step closer to their engagements at Oak Tree on Nov. 6 and 7 with sharp workouts over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface Wednesday morning.
Zensational, favored for $2 million Sentient Jet Sprint at six furlongs on Nov. 7, worked five furlongs in a blistering :57.80, fastest of 18 drills at the distance and nearly three seconds quicker than the next-best recorded workout, which was 1:00.60 by the Ron McAnally-trained Bonfonte.
“They’re good work mates,” Baffert said in explaining his strategy. “They’re both the same quality, so they stay together.
“Zensational worked nice. That work the other day (six furlongs in company from the gate in 1:10.60 last Thursday) really caught him back up to speed. He hasn’t lost his form.”
Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid also worked a bullet, going four furlongs in :46 flat for the Classic.
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Summer Bird ($5 million Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Nov. 7) galloped a mile and a half Wednesday and “came out of his work super,” trainer Tim Ice said, referring to last Saturday’s five-furlong drill in 1:02, breezing.
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird worked four furlongs for the Classic Monday in :51 seconds, breezing, under Joe Talamo. “It was perfect,” trainer Chip Woolley Jr. said. “I told Joe :50 or :51. I just barely wanted to stretch his legs. It’s only been nine days since he ran (in the Goodwood Stakes on Oct. 10). He looked real sharp. He worked the last eighth of a mile in :11:90, so he picked it up nicely . . . We’ll let him pick it up next Monday and kind of drop the hammer on him a little to kind of fine tune him. He’ll probably go five-eighths and I’ll let him gallop out an eighth past the wire. We’ve got two more works, and he really didn’t need a lot this week . . . I’m real happy with how he looks.”
Goodwood Stakes runner-up Colonel John (Classic) worked four furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in :47.60, breezing, for trainer Eoin Harty.
Gitano Hernando, upset winner of the Grade I Goodwood in his North American debut, will not run in the Classic, according to Team Valor International, which made the decision after conferring with English-based trainer Marco Botti and Los Angeles-based racing partner Gary Barber.
Barry Irwin of Team Valor International said, “The colt just ran too hard last time and we don’t feel comfortable bringing him back in a month. We feel that he is a prime candidate for the World Cup in Dubai next spring and that the risk to the colt by running him back at such a high level next time is too great. We don’t want to do anything to compromise his future.”
The 3-year-old son of Hernando will be flown back to his native England next month and be prepared at trainer Botti’s Green Ridge Stable across the road from Newmarket race course.
Music Note ($2 million Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 6) worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride in 1:01.40. “She worked terrific,” said Richard Migliore, who was aboard for the drill. “She finished up really well.”
Lethal Heat (Ladies’ Classic/Turf Sprint) worked four furlongs on turf Wednesday in :49.60 for Barry Abrams, while defending Turf Sprint king Desert Code went six furlongs on grass in 1:13.40 for David Hofmans.
Champion filly Indian Blessing, aiming for the $1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs on Nov. 6, worked five furlongs on Pro-Ride Monday in 1:00.20 for Baffert.
Mike Smith, who has ridden undefeated Zenyatta in each of her 13 victories, appeared as much in the dark as everyone else on whether the champion mare will make her next start in the Ladies’ Classic or face males for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“I haven’t talked to John (trainer John Shirreffs) about it, to tell you the truth,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “I don’t know what he plans to do. He has plenty of time. He’ll probably see who’s running where and go from there.”
Asked if this would be Zenyatta’s final season of racing, Smith’s response was not surprising. “I’d like to see her run another year,” he said.
APRIL PRIDE RETURNING TO FORM FOR RAMSER HANDICAP
Trainer James Cassidy expects continued improvement from April Pride when she runs in Saturday’s $100,000 Grade III Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.
It will mark her seventh consecutive start at one mile on turf in the U.S. since the English-bred daughter of Falbrav arrived for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Oak Tree on Oct. 24, 2008. April Pride, sent off at odds of 28-1, finished 11th of 12.
“They supposedly were getting her ready for me over there, and it was her first trip at a mile,” Cassidy said. “It didn’t turn out as good as I hoped. She showed speed, and quit. Her next three races after that were solid.”
They were the Blue Norther in which she was second, another second in an allowance race, and victory in the China Doll at Santa Anita last March.
“After she won the China Doll, I took her to Keeneland, where she was favored for the Edgewood,” Cassidy said. “She kicked a wall and bruised her foot pretty good, and I had to scratch her in the post parade. That’s why she had the layoff.”
April Pride was sidelined from this spring until Aug. 21, when she finished eighth in the restricted Sandy Blue Handicap at Del Mar. She was third in her next start on Oct. 1 at Oak Tree.
“The Sandy Blue was disappointing at best, because I thought she was fitter than that, but then she ran well last time and I think she’s sitting on a big one,” Cassidy said.
April Pride has a 2-5-2 record from 13 starts, with earnings of $122,567 for owner James Peyton of Lexington, Ky., who races as Forging Oaks Farm.
Probable for the Ramser: Acting Lady, Rafael Bejarano; April Pride, Garrett Gomez; Century Park, Tyler Baze; Malibu Win, Christian Santiago Reyes; Minute Limit, Joel Rosario; Mrs Kipling, David Flores; Point of Reference, Michael Baze; Pride Dancer, Brice Blanc; Starlarks, Alex Solis; and Strawberry Tart, Mike Smith.
FINISH LINES: Lava Man moved closer to a return to the races with a five-furlong workout on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Wednesday in 1:00.60. “He was just breezing, in my mind,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He looks fantastic. He cooled out well and he’s getting real close to a race, and that should be at Inglewood.” . . . Agent Craig O’Bryan reports that Richard Migliore will be at Keeneland Saturday to ride Test Stakes winner Flashing for trainer Saeed bin Suroor in the Grade II $300,000 Raven Run Stakes at seven furlongs . . . Friday 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. . . . Participants alive in Oak Tree’s online handicapping contest ShowVivor stood at 231 prior to Wednesday’s races . . . With Carman and De Car Guy running one-two in Sunday’s ninth race, the $41 exacta was sort of “auto”-matic.