- AWESOME AGAIN AFTERMATH: THE BEAT GOES ON
- BREEDERS’ CUP REUNION IN SA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
- CANCHARI SCORES HIS FIRST VICTORY AT SANTA ANITA
OPINIONS ON AWESOME AGAIN ARE WIDE AND WOOLY
Rain danced briefly and intermittently on Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning, but not
enough to put a damper on the buzz of the hour, the controversial running of Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes and the heated, in-your-face aftermath involving jockeys and owners.
The hubbub began when Sky Kingdom, a 36-1 shot trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, drifted out on the first turn in the mile and an eighth race, causing undefeated 2-5 favorite Shared Belief trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Mike Smith to fan out.
Fed Biz, the 6-1 second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, also trained by Baffert, was on or near the lead under Martin Garcia. Assertions and allegations from experts and hoi polloi alike were immediate: Sky Kingdom carried Shared Belief wide to get him beat.
Shared Belief, showing he is all heart, overcame the antics to win by a neck despite going five wide into the second turn and four wide into the stretch to best a game Fed Biz.
The good news is that all combatants came out of the scrum in good shape and will live to do battle if so inclined in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.
But opinions were still as plentiful as blond anchors on Fox News.
“These guys are fierce competitors,” Baffert said, alluding to Espinoza, Smith and their contemporaries. “I see it happen to my horses when you have a good one. I didn’t tell Victor to do that. He stayed away from my other horse, Fed Biz . . . Game On Dude, that’s why I retired him, because he was starting to get mugged, every race. I didn’t cry about it. I just retired him.”
“I don’t know exactly what Victor was doing,” Smith said during his Sunday morning rounds on the backstretch. “My horse overcame it and showed a lot of fight. He finished the race strong and he had to work for it after being taken out (wide).
“But he came out of the race good. I just went to see him. He ate up, he’s happy, so all’s good. Sometimes a good race like that will put more in him.”
Hollendorfer confirmed what Smith said about Shared Belief’s post-race condition. “He came out of it real nice,” the Hall of Famer said. “Everything’s good.”
Asked about the incident just after the race was official, Hollendorfer said, “We’re all big boys . . . It’s no big deal for me. Mike will have to settle with Victor. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a tough race and be double-fit for the Breeders’ Cup. That race will be tougher so we need to be tougher, too.”
He confirmed those thoughts Sunday morning. “We’re big boys out here racing and as long as we won, we overcame a lot, so I’m grateful to get the win.”
Perhaps Sean McCarthy, who sent out Majestic Harbor to a fourth-place finish in the Awesome Again, summed it up best: “It had,” he said, “all the drama you wanted.”
THREE BREEDERS’ CUP STARS EYE SANTA ANITA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
Save for the margin of a scant nose, there could be three Breeders’ Cup winners running in next Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000, “Win and You’re In” Santa Anita Sprint Championship for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
They would be Goldencents, last year’s Dirt Mile winner; Secret Circle, last year’s Sprint winner; and Merit Man, who missed by a nose of winning the defunct Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint in 2012.
Playing it as straight as Princess Kate’s teeth, trainer Bob Hess Jr. said he plans to enter Merit Man in Saturday’s race, marking the Florida-bred son of With Distinction’s first start since winning the five-furlong Green Flash at Del Mar Aug. 13.
“Merit Man is by no means a good work horse, but he’s working well for Kent (Desormeaux, who has ridden the bay colt in his last four starts),” said Hess, who has enjoyed remarkable success with the 44-year-old Hall of Fame jockey dating back to the 1990s.
“Merit Man worked today (five furlongs in 59.40). He went well and we’re set for the race. I want to see if he’s good enough to compete in the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll learn that on Saturday.”
Hess and Desormeaux were virtually unbeatable together at the recent Del Mar meet. “Kent won on 14 of the 15 races we won there,” Hess said. “Victor (Espinoza) won one for us. I pretty much only rode Kent.
“There’s always been kind of a natural respect and a bit of chemistry. It doesn’t always work out, but it worked out at Del Mar. I think we can keep this going–not to that level, necessarily, but we can keep it going and be consistent throughout the rest of the year.”
Irish-bred Rich Tapestry landed at LAX yesterday for the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. The 6-year-old Holy Roman gelding trained by Michael Chang has not raced since April 27 when he was eighth by five lengths at Sha Tin in Hong Kong.
Winner of six of 26 starts, Rich Tapestry will be stabled at trainer Leonard Powell’s barn at Santa Anita, then return overseas after the Breeders’ Cup for the Hong Kong International Sprint in December, according to Cindy Niemetz, West Coast representative of the International racing Bureau Ltd.
Niemetz said Rich Tapestry is the first horse from Hong Kong ever to run in the U.S. Jockey Olivier Doleuze has the mount on Saturday.
Secret Circle worked five furlongs in a bullet 59 flat Sunday for Bob Baffert, fastest of 83 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.05.
CANCHARI WINS HIS FIRST RACE AT SANTA ANITA
It didn’t take Alex Canchari long to get off the schneid at Santa Anita.
In just his third ride at The Great Race Place, the 20-year-old invader from Canterbury Downs urged Papa’s Paisley to come again along the rail after being headed to win Saturday’s second race by a nose for owner Chris Curtis of Carlsbad and trainer Jack Carava.
Did I mention the horse was 19-1?
“He’s a nice rider and he seems real motivated,” Carava said of the Minnesota native. “I think he wants to do well here and show people he can ride.
“It’s a fresh approach and he’s trying to help himself. Sometimes you’ll put a rider on a horse that on paper doesn’t look like the best horse, but the rider will put forth a huge effort because he wants to do well and try to impress people.”
Jim Pegram is Canchari’s agent.
FINISH LINES: Richard Mandella reports that Beholder came out of her second straight victory in Saturday’s Zenyatta Stakes “in great shape” and it’s on to defense of her crown in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Oct. 31. Moulin de Mougin, meanwhile, was in good condition save for abrasions on her left front shoulder suffered when she clipped heels and fell in Saturday’s Rodeo Drive Stakes. “It’s like a carpet burn,” Mandella said . . . Should Shared Belief run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he would be only the second undefeated horse to make a Breeders’ Cup Classic start with a perfect record, the other being Zenyatta who did it twice, when she ran in the 2009 Classic defeating males, and in the 2010 Classic, when she ran second–the only defeat in her 20-race career. . . The dam of Unzip Me Stakes winner Alexis Tangier is Cambiocorsa, who won eight races, five of them stakes–from 10 starts on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs . . . Punctuate, who broke her maiden first out yesterday in come from behind fashion under Rosie Napravnik for Bob Baffert and owner Arnold Zetcher, is out of Peppers Pride, a New Mexico-bred who won all 19 of her career starts . . . Hall of Famers swept Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, to wit: Mike Smith rode Beholder to victory for Mandella in the Zenyatta; Baffert saddled American Pharoah to win the FrontRunner Stakes; Bill Mott trained Emollient for her win in the Rodeo Drive; Smith rode and Jerry Hollendorfer trained Awesome Again winner Shared Belief; Mandella saddled Alexis Tangier to win the Unzip Me Stakes; and future Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher sent out Angela Renee to take the Chandelier Stakes . . . Breeders’ Cup Mile contenders Obviously and Tom’s Tribute worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Sunday in 1:00.60 and 1:02, respectively . . . HRTV’s Kurt Hoover points out that Betty’s Bambino, a 4-year-old gelding who won Saturday’s third race under Martin Garcia, is a half brother to Betty Bing Bing, a 3-year-old filly who won Friday’s sixth race with Drayden Van Dyke aboard. Unusual Heat sired Bettys Bambino, while Surf Cat sired Betty Bing Bing. The dam of each is Brite Betty. Peter Eurton trains the two winners, as he did their dam . . . Paulo Lobo, best known as the trainer of multiple Grade I winners Pico Central and Farda Amiga, is back in Southern California after a lengthy absence. “I spent two years in New York, and then three years in Brazil,” said the native of San Paulo, who turns 46 on Nov. 21. “I brought some clients together and we are back in California. I’ll have eight horses in training out of Los Alamitos.”