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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

BACKSTRETCH NOTES-NOV 3

By Breeders’ Cup Media Staff —

DIRT MILE: Life Is Good – The 23 individual 1s on Life Is Good’s past performances tell his story. He is a very fast horse. The 3yo colt co-owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm was in front, earning a 1, in all but two points of call in his five races. He won four of those starts and appeared on his way to a fifth in the Allen Jerkens Memorial at Saratoga on Aug. 28, but was passed in the stretch by Jackie’s Warrior, the favorite in the Sprint, and lost by a neck. Life Is Good, who missed more than four months of the season recovering from surgery to remove a chip from his left rear ankle, is the 4-5 favorite in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. He drew post five in the field of eight. If past – in black and white in his past performances — is prologue, Life Is Good is likely to be the pacesetter under Irad Ortiz Jr. in the $1 million race. The only 3yo in the field, he will carry 123 pounds, three fewer than the older horses. Trainer Todd Pletcher did not offer his race strategy, but acknowledged that the Into Mischief colt could be setting the pace. “Well, you never know what everyone else is going to do,” Pletcher said, “but he’s a horse that has a lot of natural speed, so I would imagine he’s going to be forwardly placed. Someone will have to be moving right along to be in front of him, I would think.” Life Is Good arrives at the Breeders’ Cup after having his way with four other competitors in the Kelso Handicap on Sept. 25 at the Belmont Park. Sent off at odds of 1-20, he cruised to a 5 ½-length victory. Wednesday morning, Life Is Good galloped 1 ¼m and schooled in the paddock .First run in 2007, the Dirt Mile has been won four times by 3yos, all in odd-numbered years. 

FILLY & MARE SPRINT: Gamine – Few entrants in the upcoming Breeders’ Cup boast such impressive credentials as Gamine, whose accomplishments have led to her being the most heavily favored starter, at 3-5, on the morning line among the 14 title-deciding races. She is a winner in nine of her 10 lifetimes starts, banked in excess of $1.6 million, has a combined winning margin of more than 56 lengths and is the defending champion for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.  Yet despite all that, her record-breaking conditioner, Bob Baffert, admitted, “You know, I still get nervous every time she runs.  There is just such high expectation for her every time.”  The daughter of Into Mischief was on the track for her customary gallop this morning in advance of Saturday’s 7f dash.  Asked about what’s left for her to still achieve, Baffert said, “We were tempted to enter her in the ($2 million Breeders’ Cup) Sprint.  But I’d also like to try her long again, because she more released now.  But, right now, our focus in Saturday’s race.” 

JUVENILE  Barossa, Corniche and Pinehurst – Saddling one quarter of the starting field, conditioner Bob Baffert will be seeking his record-setting fifth winner in the $2 million Juvenile Friday. Currently, Baffert stands statistically tied with D. Wayne Lukas, who dominated the early years of the event. Baffert’s leading hopeful, undefeated Corniche, went to the gate this morning before galloping around Del Mar’s main oval.  The $1.5 million sales purchase is the 5-2 second choice in the 1-1/16m race. Also, out for a gallop was Del Mar Futurity winner Pinehurst, similarly unbeaten in his two lifetime starts. Both juveniles scored their maiden victories at Del Mar over this summer.  Baffert noted, “They both like this racing surface.  I wanted to bring Pinehurst into this race fresh after his Futurity win.  The distance is the question with him.  Corniche is a really nice colt.  His last race (a victory in the American Pharaoh) was set him up nicely.” Barossa, by leading sire Into Mischief, notched his maiden win last out.  “He’s got a little more of a foundation with three races.  I liked his win around two turns, so we’re taking a little chance with him in this race.”  Baffert continued, “The pace could be hot, especially with the Chad Brown horse (Jack Christopher) breaking from the rail.  But you know, these are all good horses.  It’s why there is a championship at stake. And, the margin for victory is so small.  It’s so tough to win these races.” 

Jack Christopher – Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud and Peter Brant’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) morning line favorite Jack Christopher galloped one circuit of the Del Mar main track Wednesday morning, two days prior to contesting the $2 million, 1 1/16-miles affair. To be ridden by Jose Ortiz, the 2-for-2 son of Munnings will break from the rail post in the 12-horse field. Last out, he flexed his speed with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont over a one-turn mile on Oct. 2.“He drew inside and I didn’t really want to be there, but it is what it is and hopefully he breaks clean and gets out there,” trainer Chad Brown said. “From there, we’ll leave it up to Jose to see if he just lets him roll along or we just play it by ear if someone is hellbent on having the lead.”             

Ortiz was aboard Brown-trained Good Magic the last time the Juvenile was held at Del Mar, proving victorious with a stalking trip.“ Jack Christopher has speed, but he can also sit off horses like he did last time,” Ortiz said. “I think that’s a big advantage for me. I have the rail, but I don’t think it’s a bad post. If I break good, it’s a good post. If I miss the break for some reason, then maybe it can be bad. If we break sharp and get a good run into the first turn, then we’ll be in a good position.“ He’s never had to take a lot of dirt yet, but the horse is very smart,” Ortiz continued. “That’s one of the things I really love about him. He’s very laid back, very intelligent and very relaxed all the time. Last time, I pulled him back a little bit and he took a tiny bit of dirt before I quickly put him in the clear and he didn’t overreact too much. I don’t think we’re going to be facing any dirt. He’s a little quicker than Good Magic early, but I would love a similar trip.”Jack Christopher was a $135,000 Fasig-Tipton October 2020 purchase and was bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate.             

Pappacap – Trainer Mark Casse realized he may have something special after Rustlewood Farm Inc’s Pappacap broke his maiden at first asking in May at Gulfstream Park, so he immediately devised a plan to bring the colt to the West Coast in hopes of giving him a home-field advantage by time for the Breeders’ Cup. That plan has worked out well. In his first start at Del Mar in August, he won the Best Pal Stakes and then followed up with a fourth in the Del Mar Futurity and second in the American Pharoah Stakes.“When we decided to bring a small string out here, I told George and Karen (Russell of Rustlewood Farm) that I thought their colt was a Breeders’ Cup horse and I wanted to go out there and have a little home-field advantage,” Casse said.“Pappacap looked really good this morning and he’s trained really well over this track. I think he got a good post (four) and some of the others didn’t draw well. You know, sometimes it’s not just how well your horse draws, but how others draw. I think the favorites will have some decisions to make. It won’t be easy sailing.” 

JUVENILE FILLIES: Desert Dawn – H and E Ranch’s Desert Dawn enjoyed a nice, long gallop of 1 1/2m this morning under the watchful eye of conditioner Phil D’Amato in anticipation of her start in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies on Friday.  D’Amato indicated that he will begin tapering off the distance she’ll gallop each day leading up to the race.  “She broke her maiden going two turns against some nice horses. In the Chandelier Stakes, the track was speed favoring, yet she was the only horse to make up ground in the stretch. She’s got a long, fluid stride and seems to float over the track,” D’Amato said.  Despite being the longest morning line price in the field at 20-1, he optimistically concluded, “I think she can compete at this level.” 

Echo Zulu – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has brought a strong arsenal of runners to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup, but his best chance might be L & N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbred’s undefeated Echo Zulu, the heavy 4-5 favorite for the Juvenile Fillies. “What a great partnership with Winchell Thoroughbreds and L & N Racing,” Asmussen said. “It’s great as far as people that enjoy the sport and now have a brilliant filly, who is three for three. She’s coming into the race in excellent shape. I think the filly’s training really well. She’s been nice and relaxed and we’re very excited for her on Friday.” Echo Zulu is from the first crop sired by 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner and Horse of the Year Gun Runner, also trained by Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds. She would secure Champion Juvenile Fillies honors with a win Friday. “It would mean everything to have a champion for Gun Runner in his first crop and it would be a very proud accomplishment,” Asmussen said. 

Juju’s Map – Trainer Brad Cox, who won two Breeders’ Cup races in 2019 and four in 2020, will look to add a second Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to his resume when he saddles Albaugh Family Stable’s Alcibiades winner Juju’s Map for Friday’s race. “Juju’s Map doing great,” Cox said. “She had a very good work (Sunday) and she seems like she’s moved forward. She’s trained extremely well Churchill Downs. We’re excited about this opportunity. “I thought she drew well (post five). Obviously, they made her second choice. That made a lot of sense. I think the jocks and the positions are going to be very important going into the first turn. I do know our filly will get the distance. I mean, I feel very confident she can get the 1 1/16 miles and two turns. I’m excited about that race on Friday.”            

Hidden Connection – Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds’ Hidden Connection visited the starting gate and then galloped a mile under exercise rider Janine Smith before the Wednesday morning track renovation break. Undefeated in two starts, Hidden Connection came to trainer Bret Calhoun’s barn in June after being purchased by Hidden Brook for $85,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company 2-year-old and Horses of Racing Age Sale. However, Calhoun already knew about the filly.“ She was on my shortlist for the sale there in April,” Calhoun said. “She did not meet her reserve and then two months later I get a call from Hidden Brook saying they bought a filly and they were sending her to me. It was her.“ It was pretty evident early on that she had talent. She stood out in her training and when she started breezing, she really stepped up.” 

Tarabi – LBD Stable, Manganaro Bloodstock and David Ingordo’s Tarabi galloped under exercise rider Juan Leyva after the morning renovation break for trainer Cherie DeVaux. Tarabi will be making her first start in Friday’s NetJets Juvenile Fillies since a runner-up finish to Juvenile Fillies favorite Echo Zulu in the Spinaway Sept. 5 at Saratoga, a race in which she suffered some scrapes after hitting the gate at the start.“

She didn’t really miss any time (after the Spinaway) as we kept her in light training, but we had to miss the Frizette or the Alcibiades,” DeVaux said of Tarabi, who returned to the work tab Oct. 2 at Keeneland. As October progressed, DeVaux kept the Breeders’ Cup in her sights and after a bullet work on Oct. 22 she felt that all systems were go and she would pre-enter the daughter of First Samurai. “She is doing well and we are going to give it a shot,” DeVaux said.
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