Santa Anita Stable Notes Sunday, October 30, 2022
STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN SUNDAY, OCT. 30, 2022
• FLIGHTLINE: ‘ONE OF THE BEST IN OUR LIFETIME’? • D’AMATO ENJOYS A RECORD FOUR STAKES WINS • SANTA ANITA JOINS PILOT PROGRAM TO AID YOUTH • GATES OPEN EARLY FOR BREEDERS’ CUP BETTING • REVISED LIVE RACE POST TIMES FOR CLOSING WEEK
FLIGHTLINE FACES TOUGHEST TEST
Flightline, one of the greatest of all time or merely the proverbial flavor of the month?
The Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 5 at Keeneland could go a long way in answering a question on every racing aficionado’s mind: is the undefeated, untested Flightline the real deal or does he need to face tougher competition in order to join racing’s elite hierarchy?
Beyond a doubt the $6 million Classic at a mile and a quarter will be the $1 million son of Tapit’s definitive challenge in this, only his sixth start.
Flightline has never been strongly urged to run, only to gain a more advantageous position, and that but once in the Grade I Met Mile June 5 at Belmont Park.
“He kind of got shut off a little bit in that race,” pointed out renowned private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, “and coming down the stretch, he looked the closest to average I’ve ever seen. In every other race, he looked outer world.
“In the Met Mile, (Flavien) Prat had to work on him down the stretch. He was dominant, but he had to ask him, and in hindsight, Speaker’s Corner who ran second hasn’t really flattered him since (with a second in the Nerud, fourth in the Pat O’Brien and seventh in the Ack Ack in three subsequent starts).
“I fully expected Flightline to be the winner that day, but the Classic is a much, much better field than he has ever faced.
“If it is his last race (before being retired to stud), it’s only fitting that he faces a field of this quality. Hypothetically, if he went to stud right now, he’d still command a lot of money and still be thought of as one of the best horses in the last 30 years.
“But the one knock everyone would say is, ‘Who did he beat?’ Between Life Is Good, Taiba and Epicenter in the Classic, I think he’s coming up against some pretty good horses.
“If he handles them as easily as he has other horses, he probably should go down as one of the best in our lifetime.
“Life Is Good’s last win (by 1 ¼ lengths as the favorite at five cents on the dollar against three rivals in the Woodward Stakes Oct. 1) ‘under steady urging’ was not as impressive as many of his other wins, and instead of trying to rate him (in the Classic), I think they’re going to let him run out of there a little more than they normally do.
“He and Flightline have always been a bit on the aggressive side, but I think Life Is Good would have his best chance if he went 46 and change (for the first half-mile), not 48, so I think they’re going to let him bounce out of there.
“With all due respect to the other horses in the race, I think Flightline, Epicenter and Taiba are the three most likely winners, because of how the race shapes up.
“I don’t think Flightline is going to let Life Is Good get away. I think he’s too much horse. The two most likely to come from off the pace would be the two three-year-olds (Santa Anita and Pennsylvania Derby winner Taiba and Travers winner Epicenter).
“I respect (Kentucky Derby winner) Rich Strike, I respect Hot Rod Charlie and Olympiad, but I think the two horses most likely to pick up the pieces would be the two top three-year-olds.”
Young, 61, has a vested interest in Taiba, as he was instrumental in selecting the son of Gun Runner for Saudi Arabia businessman Amr Zadan, bringing the princely sum of $1.7 million as a two-year-old. Taiba has won $1,236,200 to date.
“The horse never really lights it up in the morning,” Young said, alluding to his workout ethic, “but his work (Oct. 24, six furlongs in 1:11.40) was his best morning move ever, in my eyes.
“We’ll see what happens with Flightline after the Classic. Financially, it makes sense that he’ll go off to stud. They’re already running ads on television. Gun Runner (his sire and two-time Horse of the Year) was good at three and great at four, and when we bought Taiba, (trainer Steve) Asmussen said he was the closest thing he ever saw to Gun Runner.
“Hopefully, he replicates what Gun Runner did. If Flightline goes off to stud like some of the others in the Classic, I think Taiba could battle with Epicenter to be the best horse in North America next year.”
The pre-entered Classic field in alphabetical order: Cyberknife, Epicenter, Flightline, Happy Saver, Hot Rod Charlie, Life Is Good, Olympiad, Rich Strike and Taiba.
FROM KENTUCKY TO ARCADIA, A GRAND SLAM FOR D’AMATO Phil D’Amato won four stakes races, three of them graded, on Saturday. A personal high, his three wins locally gave him 12 victories overall at Santa Anita, one behind leader Peter Miller with four racing days left in the 18-day meet that concludes on Nov. 6.
D’Amato’s three stakes wins at Santa Anita were the Grade II Goldikova won by Going Global in her racing farewell; the $100,000 Senator Ken Maddy taken by Amy C.; and the Grade III Autumn Miss won by Rhea Moon.
Earlier Saturday at Keeneland, D’Amato won the Grade III Bryan Station with the Irish-bred Balnikhov. D’Amato leads all Santa Anita conditioners with eight stakes wins through 14 racing days.
SANTA ANITA AFTERCARE PROGRAM ASSISTS YOUTH
Santa Anita Park has announced a joint venture between its Thoroughbred Aftercare Program and SRD Straightening Reins Foundation, a Santa Clarita based 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to assist adolescents and teens improve their mental health and well-being through Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).
The pilot program, which will be run from November to February, aims to use Off-the-Track-Thoroughbreds known as OTTBs to show adolescents and teens that their lives have value and meaning in the face of challenges and transitions, just as Thoroughbreds do when they shift to another career after racing.
Two Thoroughbred mares were chosen for this program. Papa’s Lady is a nine-year-old bay daughter of Papa Clem who raced 40 times with a record of 3-1-6. The other mare is My Aunt Annie, a twelve-year-old dark bay daughter of Dixie Chatter who raced 23 times with a record of 1-2-2.
Retired from the racetrack at the ages of five and four respectively, both mares entered the Aftercare Program at Santa Anita Park to transition to new careers. They spent time with Holly Dunham at her farm where they were evaluated for their temperament and willingness to interact with humans. It was apparent from the beginning that their kind and trusting nature made them great candidates for the program.
“I would like to thank the Santa Anita Aftercare Team and the SRD Straightening Reins Foundation and Executive Director, Debbie Rocha, for working together to get this program up and running. Holly Dunham did a terrific job getting Papa’s Lady and My Aunt Annie ready for the program and all of us are eager and looking forward to seeing these mares thrive in their new roles,” said Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Chris Merz.
The use of horses in therapy has proven to be a powerful tool to assist individuals experiencing emotional trauma and the challenges that daily life poses. SRD Straightening Reins Foundation uses Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to aid in communication and demonstrate ways individuals can deal with emotional obstacles using body language and positive reinforcement. Papa’s Lady and My Aunt Annie will be used in the program to aid in these outcomes.
“I have dedicated my life to making a positive difference for those that cross my path, whether it be to show students in my classroom that they don't have to be a square peg in the round hole, or the ranch crew who learn that their energy levels influence the herd and others around them,” said SRD Straightening Reins Foundation Founder and Executive Director, Debbie Rocha. “We are excited to have these two mares come into our program. Our students have been busy preparing for their arrival and are just as excited to meet and learn from them.”
For more information about programs at SRD Straightening Reins or to donate, visit https://srdstraighteningreins.org/ or call 661-803-1641.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday. Live racing resumes 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 and concludes Sunday, Nov. 6, when Daylight Saving Time ends. Set your clocks back one hour Saturday night. Santa Anita admission gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday to accommodate simulcast wagering on the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland…REVISED FIRST POST TIMES FOR CLOSING WEEK: Friday & Saturday, 12:30 p.m., CLOSING DAY, SUNDAY, 12 NOON.