- NYQUIST GONE BUT O’NEILL LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
- MIGLIORE RECALLS $75 UPSET WITH DESERT CODE
- TIZ A KISS GOES FOR GOLDIKOVA GOLD IN FINALE
O’NEILL: LIFE GOES ON AFTER NYQUIST
Horse racing, like life, is relative. So last Saturday, when Kentucky Derby winner and
two-year-old colt champion of 2015 Nyquist was declared out of Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic due to a “puffy ankle” and ultimately retired, Doug O’Neill suffered the emotional pangs, then understandably moved on to the business at hand.
The 48-year-old trainer has horses entered in 10 Breeders’ Cup races, five tomorrow and five on Saturday. The amicable and readily accessible O’Neill made his rounds as is the norm Thursday morning, milling between the noticeably above average throng on hand at Clockers’ Corner in picture-perfect Southern California weather for the 33rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships unfolding for an unprecedented ninth time at The Great Race Place.
“Nyquist is officially retired and is in Lexington (Kentucky) with Darley,” O’Neill said between schmoozing with well wishers. “He’s been turned out there, looks great and is settling in (for his stud career).
“It’s hard to put into words what his absence means emotionally, because he’s a member of the family. But he’s only a plane ride away to visit and we’ll keep in steady touch with the people at Darley who work with Nyquist, so it’s like a family member who’s moved out of the house.”
As for an objective opinion on the Classic now that he’s out of it, O’Neill opted for the home team: “The Cal-bred,” he said, referring to California Chrome.
Art Sherman, trainer of Classic favorite California Chrome, was happy not to draw the rail in the mile and a quarter race, which he had done in his last two starts, the Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again Stakes.
“I had to laugh at the post position draw (Monday),” Sherman said, “because nobody could be unlucky enough to get No. One three times in a row.”
MIGLIORE FANCIES BEHOLDER IN DISTAFF
Richard Migliore, the personable former rider on hand for the Breeders’ Cup races as analyst for the Breeders’ Cup “Player’s Show,” a simulcast feed that goes world wide, had fond memories of winning the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at 36-1 on Desert Code for trainer David Hofmans.
A four-year-old son of E Dubai, Desert Code came from 12th after a quarter-mile in a field of 14 in the turf race at about 6 ½ furlongs to win by a half-length at a juicy $75 win mutuel.
After a half mile, Desert Code had only three horses beat.
“Desert Code was always a horse that was close to the pace,” said Migliore, a 52-year-old native of Babylon, New York, retired for the past six years, “so I came away from the gate driving to get position, and we went about 50 yards and he pinned his ears on me. He was telling me he wasn’t happy with me hustling him, so I just put my hands down and trusted the horse, and he backed up a long ways, and I was nervous, I was worried.
“About the three-eighths pole he was kind of leaning into the bit and had one horse beat at that point. I had a lot to do and there was a lot of traffic in front of us. I had to wait until we crossed the dirt to move, because you always get in trouble if you move before you reach the dirt . . . Anyway, we waited, the horses fanned out and we just got up. When you look at the fractions, the horse was telling me we were going too fast, stop pushing on me.
“Honestly, the horse should have never been 36-1. He had won five races down the hill and you can’t discount horses that have an affinity for it.”
Migliore evaluated the two marquee Breeders’ Cup races thusly: “I really like Beholder in the Distaff. I don’t think the last two races set up well for her, taking nothing away from Stellar Wind, who was extremely good, and Songbird obviously is a brilliant three-year-old, but we’ve seen through history, when Seattle Slew beat Affirmed, Affirmed was three, Slew was four.
“When Affirmed beat Spectacular Bid, Affirmed was four, Bid was three, so I’m going to lean towards an older horse in that situation, even as brilliant as Songbird is.
“I think Richard Mandella has Beholder primed for the best race she’s run this year and she’s only been narrowly beaten by Stellar Wind, so I really believe in my heart that Beholder is the horse in the Distaff.
Noted Mandella on Beholder’s farewell race: “Few people in the world ever got to experience what I’ve had year after year with Beholder. She’s probably as good as any horse I’ve had. I’m not saying there might not have been a better one that’s stayed around who’s been so good.
“If there were any, there weren’t many that got better, so I’m very fortunate.”
Continued Migliore: “The Classic is so intriguing, because California Chrome is so good and so brilliant. He’s a great horse. You can say that without any reservation. Arrogate was so brilliant in the Travers, but here’s the thing I wonder about.
“At some point, they’ve got to take each other on. Now is it going by the wire the first time, is it down the backstretch, that’s the question? And if they hook up early, and they have to respect each other and are really eye-balling each other, something’s got to give. So it could set up for a horse not as good as they are.
“If it works out that way, I think the horse that benefits is Frosted, because he’s going to be sitting fourth or fifth. If I’m on Arrogate outside of Chrome, do I come out running and make sure he commits, or do I let my horse float away and put pressure on him later?”
TIZ A KISS GOES FOR GOLDIKOVA GOLD
Tiz a Kiss, a consistent California-bred daughter of Tiznow, returns to perhaps her favorite distance, at one mile on turf in Sunday’s closing day feature, the Grade II, $200,000 Goldikova Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up.
Although she has only one win at a mile on grass, she does have four seconds and is shortening up from a mile and a quarter, when she finished fifth by three lengths in the Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes on Oct. 1.
“She’s a late developer and seems to be in her best form ever,” said Richard Baltas, trainer of the six-year-old gray mare for Barbara and Ron Perry of Berkeley, California, who campaign as Cicero Farms, LLC.
Tiz a Kiss has a 4-6-1 record from 21 starts with earnings of $320,751, but seeks her first stakes win in the Goldikova. She worked five furlongs last Sunday in 1:01.
The Goldikova, race six of nine with a first post time of 12 noon: Nancy From Nairobi, Joel Rosario; Prize Exhibit, Mike Smith; Queen of the Sand, Rafael Bejarano; Majestic Heat, Flavien Prat; Zindaya, Javier Castellano; Hillhouse High, Santiago Gonzalez; and Tiz a Kiss, Kent Desormeaux.
FINISH LINES: With three racing days remaining, Rafael Bejarano holds a 19-18 lead over Tyler Baze in the jockeys’ race, with Kent Desormeaux and Norberto Arroyo Jr. right on their heels at 17 each . . . Among trainers, Peter Miller has a comfortable 15-11 lead over runners-up Doug O’Neill and Bob Baffert . . . Santa Anita will have an NFL presence tonight when the league showcases the Atlanta Falcons on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 5:25 p.m. on NBC-TV. A few weeks back, Bodega Studios shot the lead-in for the game in Santa Anita’s tunnels that lead to the Paddock Room and the Infield. The promo features the a cappella band Pentatonix . . . Frank Scatoni, author of Six Secrets of Successful Bettors, will be Tom Quigley‘s guest Sunday, 10:50 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Santa Anita’s jocks’ room usually is comfortable accommodating its base group of about 20 riders, but during Breeders’ Cup weekend, the number more than doubles to about 50, according to Assistant Clerk of Scales Charlie McCaul, who’s been on the beat at Santa Anita for 30 years.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Sunday, Oct. 30)|
|Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||90||17||12||13||19%||47%||$678,453|
|Robert Hess, Jr.||18||4||2||2||22%||44%||$114,395|