- CHROME, BEHOLDER HOLD AUDIENCE ON SATURDAY
- CHANDELIER’S ZAPPERKAT NO SURPRISE TO BALTAS
- D’AMATO: WINNING THE EDDIE D. WOULD BE SPECIAL
- SONGBIRD AND NYQUIST ARE DUE HOME TOMORROW
RACING ROYALTY CHROME, BEHOLDER AT SANTA ANITA OCT. 1
King California Chrome and queen Beholder, two members of racing’s reigning royalty, will descend from their lofty pedestals Saturday to greet their adoring audiences, California Chrome performing in the Awesome Again Stakes and Beholder the Zenyatta Stakes, in which she will seek an unprecedented fourth victory.
California Chrome eyes his sixth straight win in the Awesome Again. The 2014 Horse of the Year arrived Sunday from his Los Alamitos headquarters and is rarin’ to go for the Awesome Again when entries for the mile and a one eighth race are taken tomorrow.
“He galloped this morning; he’s a beast,” said Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman. “He’s ready to roll. A small field doesn’t matter to me. Just a clean, safe trip and I’ll be happy.”
Beholder, winner of 13 of 14 races at Santa Anita and 17 of 24 overall, galloped a mile and 5/8 Tuesday morning after which trainer Richard Mandella declared all systems go for the Zenyatta, which the six-year-old mare won in 2013, 2014 and again last year.
For fillies and mares three and up, the Zenyatta will be decided at 1 1/16 miles and is expected to attract 2015 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding three-year-old filly Stellar Wind, who upset Beholder in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar July 30.
The Awesome Again and the Zenyatta are two of five Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge events on the second day of Santa Anita’s 23-day Autumn Meet.
Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented ninth time on Nov. 4 and 5.
Should Beholder win the Zenyatta, she would become the first four-time winner of the race and if she went on to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4, she would be the first horse to win three Breeders’ Cup races on dirt.
The Awesome Again is named for the winner of Canada’s premier three-year-old race, the Queen’s Plate, which Awesome Again captured in 1997 in addition to the Jim Dandy.
Frank Stronach, Founder and Honorary Chairman of The Stronach Group and multiple Eclipse Award-winning owner/breeder, saw his homebred Awesome Again go undefeated in six starts at age four, capping his sensational career by winning the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Supplementing the headline events will be the FrontRunner Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on Santa Anita’s renovated turf course.
Victory gives the winning horse in each race a fees paid berth to its respective Breeders’ Cup event.
Next Saturday, Oct. 8, the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship for three year olds and up at six furlongs will serve as a springboard to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5.
Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet starts this Friday, Sept. 30 and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 6. First post time opening day is 1 p.m. First post Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, will be 12:30 p.m.
ZAPPERKAT TRAINING WELL FOR CHANDELIER STAKES
Zapperkat may have surprised some folks when she won her debut by 5 ¼ lengths at 12-1, but not her trainer.
“No,” said Richard Baltas, who conditions the two-year-old daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper for J K Racing LLC and Bruce Chandler. “She was always training very well. We thought a lot of her from the start.”
Zapperkat won Aug. 20 at first asking going six furlongs from the rail in a field of nine at Del Mar under Norberto Arroyo Jr., who retains the mount for Saturday’s Chandelier Stakes.
“We were worried about the rail that day,” Baltas said, “but a lot of horses went to the front. We sat behind and she rated behind the speed, closed like a nice horse and galloped out real strong.”
Zapperkat was sold for $27,000 at last year’s September Keeneland sale, but Baltas and his connections ultimately made the original purchaser an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The horse went through the ring at $27,000,” Baltas said. “Ten minutes later, we offered the guy $45,000 and we had a deal.”
D’AMATO SENDS OUT TWO IN EDDIE D. STAKES
Phil D’Amato, in pursuit of his third consecutive training title having won Santa Anita’s Summer Meet and the recent Del Mar crown, has entered Hunt and Toowindytohaulrox in Friday’s opening day headliner, the Grade III, $100,000 Eddie D. Stakes which will be run in two divisions for three-year-olds and up at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
“Hunt’s doing really well,” D’Amato said of the four-year-old Irish-bred gelding owned by Michael House. “We’ve been pointing to this race for a couple months, he’s four for five down the hill and he’ll be ready to go.
“Toowindy, he likes this down the hill configuration also. He comes from way out of it, so if there’s a lot of speed in there, he’ll have a good shot. He’s also doing well.”
The Eddie D. is named for one of the game’s greatest riders, Hall of Fame member Eddie Delahoussaye, who will be on hand to present a trophy to the winning connections.
“I don’t know him that well,” D’Amato said of the ever-popular Cajun, who turned 65 last Wednesday, “but I watched him for a long time growing up and he was one of my favorite riders. I don’t think anybody could rally like he did.
“He’d cut the turn coming into the stretch, angle out and nail them all. I’ve seen that move so many times. Receiving the winning trophy from him would be special.”
FINISH LINES: Undefeated superstar filly Songbird, dazzling as ever in winning the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion at Parx Saturday for her 11th straight triumph, was due back at her Santa Anita base Wednesday to prepare for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Nov. 4. “She was more relaxed and sat off the pace,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains the three-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro for Rick Porter. “She seems to be getting better and doesn’t have to have the lead. She showed everybody that.” Immediate plans for Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist were undecided after his sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, also Saturday. Leandro Mora of Team O’Neill said Nyquist would return to California Wednesday and that the son of Uncle Mo came out of the race in good shape. “Doug (O’Neill) and Paul (Reddam) will meet next week to discuss what’s next for Nyquist,” Mora said . . . Travers winner Arrogate, one of five horses Bob Baffert has nominated to the Awesome Again, worked four furlongs Tuesday in 48.20 breezing under Rafael Bejarano. Baffert also sent Chandelier nominee Noted And Quoted five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 . . . Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to long-time agent of the stars Vince DeGregory, 84, who underwent back surgery this morning at USC Hospital . . . Agent Brandon O’Bryan has taken the book of jockey Jose Verenzuela . . . Santa Anita offers attractive and appealing guaranteed exotic wagering pools during the Autumn Meet, notably: $300,000 Late Pick 4 on opening day; $750,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick 6 this Saturday, Oct. 1; $500,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick Six Sunday. Oct. 2; $300,000 Late Pick 4 Thursdays, Fridays and Monday, Oct. 10 following opening weekend; and $500,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick 6 Saturdays and Sundays following opening weekend . . . ShowVivor, Santa Anita’s popular free handicapping contest, returns opening day and continues through the Autumn Meet, with $2,500 to the winner. Visit santaanita.com for details.