- QUEEN BEHOLDER HOLDS COURT AT SANTA ANITA
- AWESOME AGAIN TESTS BAYERN’S PERFECT MARK
- AMERICAN PHAROAH MOVES TOWARDS BC CLASSIC
- PRAT OUT THREE MONTHS AFTER LOS AL ACCIDENT
- TEAM O’NEILL’S MORA RECOVERING FROM STROKE
BEHOLDER TOPS A ‘GRADE I’ OPENING DAY SATURDAY
Beholder, who defeated males by a Pacific Classic record margin of 8 ¼ lengths on
Aug. 22, will be the center of attention opening day at Santa Anita Saturday when
she seeks an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the Zenyatta Stakes, one of five Grade I, Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge events on a blockbuster 11-race program that has major bearings on the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., Oct. 30 and 31.
In addition to the Zenyatta for fillies and mares, three and up at 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita will showcase the FrontRunner Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Awesome Again Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 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 turf.
Each race offers $300,000 in purse money. The winners will be entitled to automatic entry into their respective Breeders’ Cup races, in addition to a travel stipend if going from a base located outside of Kentucky.
“She’s as good as she could be,” trainer Richard Mandella said of two-time Eclipse
Award champion Beholder, a 5-year-old bay mare owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, who is expected to be on hand Saturday. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t think of running her. I don’t need to, but she acts like she needs to run.
“I was surprised with the ease in which she won the Pacific Classic, although I wouldn’t have run her if I didn’t think she had a good shot to win. I wouldn’t have exposed her to it if she had made me think otherwise.
“But the way she won, nobody could expect that. It was too good to be true.”
Beholder, a daughter of Henny Hughes, has a remarkable 10 wins from 11 starts at Santa Anita and 14 of 19 in her career, with earnings of $4,256,600. Her lone defeat at The Great Race Place came in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 21, 2013, when she was second by three-quarters of a length to Renee’s Titan.
Asked if he thought Beholder could glean enough votes to be named Horse of the Year if she were to pass the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff and take on the boys and defeat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, should fate lead to that scenario, Mandella said:
“We’ll look at the Classic. We could always change our mind and go in the Distaff, but it’s hard to resist a race like the Classic. Right now, our intention is to look at that race.
“I’d like to see her win it (Horse of the Year), but I’m just trying to do the best I can.”
First post time for the 11-race program on opening day is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m. There will be free parking and General Admission every Thursday and Friday, with post time at 1 p.m.
The 19-day meet that ends Oct. 25 is abbreviated by Santa Anita standards, but abundant in quality, with 21 stakes, an average of more than one a day.
The field for the Zenyatta: Beholder, Big Book, Kyriaki, My Monet, My Sweet Addiction, Oscar Party, Savings Account, Warren’s Veneda and Wild in the Saddle.
BAFFERT HOPES BAYERN REGAINS FORM IN AWESOME AGAIN
Bob Baffert hopes Bayern puts his best foot forward when he runs Saturday in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, where the 4-year-old ridgling owned by Kaleem Shah is unbeaten in three starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 1.
Bayern has not won since that race, compiling a string of four straight losses, including a ninth by 22 ½ lengths behind Beholder in the Pacific Classic.
“He’s a fast horse,” Baffert said of the 4-year-old son of Offlee Wild. “He just has to get out there and go. This will have to be a big race for him. He needs to show he’s back.”
The field for the Awesome Again: Bayern, Global View, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, Imperative, Point Piper, Sammy Mandeville and Smooth Roller.
BREAK WILL HELP AMERICAN PHAROAH: BAFFERT
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who jogged one mile over Santa Anita’s main track today, came out of his upset defeat at the hands of Keen Ice in the Travers Stakes Aug. 29 in good order and is working his way towards his final start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31.
Under regular work rider Martin Garcia, American Pharoah went four furlongs at Santa Anita Monday in 49.80.
“He came out of the Travers well,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s a pretty tough horse, probably one of the toughest horses I’ve been around. He’s got a great mind and he’s a tremendous athlete.
“I’m really surprised that he hasn’t tailed off. After Saratoga, I could tell he did a bit, because he needed a little extra time. But he’s slowly getting it back. This little break’s going to really help him. He needed it.”
IT’S WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR’S BREEDERS’ CUP FOR PRAT
Rising riding star Flavien Prat is recovering at Long Beach Memorial Hospital from injuries suffered in a riding mishap at Los Alamitos Race Course last Thursday that are expected to keep him out of action three months.
Prat, from Melun, France, was hurt when 2-year-old first-time starter Discreetlyhumor tripped and fell in the sixth race.
“Flavien has fractures of the T-4 through T-8 vertebras and a punctured lung,” said his agent, Derek Lawson. “The lung is healing, but slowly, unfortunately. Otherwise, he’d be up and about already. He’ll be fit with a brace, not a cast, but a brace which will have to be removed when he goes to bed. He’ll have to wear it when he’s upright. As of right now, they’re looking at three months (before he’ll resume riding).
“He finally started eating Monday night, which is good, because he hadn’t wanted to. No one knows why the accident happened, but it was just one of those stupid mishaps that occur in racing. I haven’t even seen the video of it yet, and I don’t really want to.
“It could have been worse, but it’s really bad timing. I’ve been doing this since 1985 and this is the best year I’ve ever had, the most money I’ve ever earned.
“But I told Flavien to forget all the horses he’d been riding; they’re gone. Just get healthy and we’ll start over again when you come back. We’ll just have to push, push, push.
“We didn’t have to push before the accident. It was kind of fun. We had things all lined up through the Breeders’ Cup. We were exploring all the details of being there, getting a place to live and so on.
“I told him, ‘Your first Breeders’ Cup will be here next year at Santa Anita.’ We’ll just hold off until then. I love the challenge of starting over again. As far as taking another rider, right now I’m not interested.”
Lawson had been mining for jockey gold as an agent for more than three decades with no strike before finally hitting the mother lode with Prat.
Prat has 83 victories from 576 mounts this year with earnings of $5,177,995. He was second behind perennial Southern California leader Rafael Bejarano at the recent Del Mar meet and fifth at the Santa Anita meet that ended June 28.
“He’s doing well,” said trainer Richard Mandella, a major patron of Plat’s. “We saw him Monday. His prognosis is good although it’s going to be a pretty long healing period, but he’s 23. He’s got plenty of time. He’ll be back.”
MORA TO BE RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL TODAY FOLLOWING RECENT STROKE
Assistant trainer Leandro Mora, an integral cog in Doug O’Neill’s highly successful
training machine, was recovering at Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina from a stroke suffered Friday and was scheduled to be released from the facility today.
“He gets out today,” said O’Neill late Wednesday morning. “Fingers crossed and say a little prayer. I saw him Monday and he looks pretty darn normal to me. They were still running a bunch of tests and giving him medication to dissolve the blood clot before he leaves the hospital.
“It seems like Leandro’s been with me forever, but it’s probably been more than 10 years. He’s our foundation. It’s a big void right now, but he’s helped establish things so well, that even without him, our program is still moving great.
“We’re hoping for a quick recovery. I know if it were up to him, he’d be here right now. I’m assuming he’ll need a few weeks of chill time, but in this game, there’s no such thing as chill time, is there?”
PATRICK VALENZUELA EYES TENTATIVE COMEBACK OCT. 18
In a career of infinite comebacks, Patrick Valenzuela expects to make yet another on Oct. 18, one day after his 53rd birthday.
“I got my boots and helmet on and feel real good,” Valenzuela said between work sessions Tuesday. “I’ve been working horses in the mornings since the latter part of July and I’ll be ready to go Oct. 18.”
Under terms of a stipulated settlement between Valenzuela and the California Horse Racing Board, early last month Valenzuela was granted a license to exercise horses. His jockey license is suspended through Oct. 31, but is subject to review, and Valenzuela hopes to be cleared to resume his career as a rider in three weeks.
“I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do,” he said.
FINISH LINES: Nyquist, unbeaten winner of the Grade I Del Mar Futurity who is entered in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes Saturday, is named for 26-year-old Gustav Nyquist, who plays right wing for the Detroit Red Wings. Doug O’Neill trains Nyquist for owner J. Paul Reddam . . . Spanish Queen, Santa Anita’s Horse of the Meet last spring, is recovering from an injury but whether she will race again won’t be determined until next month. “She’s doing fine, resting at the barn and walking, but we won’t know more until we X-ray her again,” said Richard Baltas, who trains the 3-year-old California-bred daughter of the late Tribal Rule who won the Grade I American Oaks on May 30. “We discovered a hairline fracture of her left front sesamoid bone at Del Mar after she ran in the Belmont Oaks July 4. We’ll X-ray her again in October and try and make a decision on whether she’ll continue to race or not.” . . . On the good news front, crack sprinter Big Macher is “doing fabulous” following yesterday’s four-furlong workout in 48 flat and is being considered for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint “if he continues to do well,” said Baltas, who made the California-bred son of Beau Genius eligible for the Breeders’ Cup with a payment prior to last year’s Sprint, in which Big Macher was unplaced after a tardy start. Claimed for $20,000 on July 17, 2013, Big Macher won the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar last July . . . Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund worked five furlongs Monday in 1:01. Trainer Bob Baffert has the Grade I, $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27 as a long-range goal for the chestnut son of Big Brown, with plans “to get a race into him before that.” . . . There will be a Late Pick 4 pool guarantee of at least $500,000 every Saturday and Sunday during Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet that ends Sunday, Oct. 25.