STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN -THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019

  • OMAHA BEACH TO GO IN BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE
  • BAFFERT: NO SUCH THING AS A ‘WEAK’ BC CLASSIC
  • CLASSY D’AMATO DUO FRESH FOR CALIFORNIA FLAG
  • PUERTO RICAN CONNECTION CONTINUES TO THRIVE

OMAHA BEACH TO ENTER BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE

The envelope, please . . .

(Dramatic pause for suspense . . .)

“And the winner is, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile!”

So said Richard Mandella at 10 a.m. Thursday regarding the $1 million Breeders’ Cup

race in which Omaha Beach will run at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, after days of contemplation, speculation and deliberation by those with more than a passing interest in the three-year-old colt, primary among them Mandella, owner Rick Porter and regular rider Mike Smith.

“We put our heads together and that’s the decision,” said Mandella, whose Breeders’ Cup options for the son of War Front also were the $2 million Sprint at six furlongs and the      $6 million Classic at a mile and a quarter, both also on Nov. 2.

With the likes of Catalina Cruiser, Mitole, Coal Front, Mr. Money and Improbable set for the Dirt Mile, anticipation is bound to increase in large measure for what now looms a major headliner on the championship program, which Santa Anita hosts for a record 10th time.

Omaha Beach made a dramatic and successful return to the races on Oct. 5 after an absence of six months, winning the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs over odds-on favorite Shancelot, powering through on the rail to win by a head.

The pre-race choice for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 won the SA Sprint Championship after a myriad of aborted return attempts that kept him absent from the races since April 13, when he won the Grade I Arkansas Derby on a sloppy track.

LITTLE HOME FIELD EDGE IN BREEDERS’ CUP, BAFFERT SAYS

Bob Baffert has four for the money come Breeders’ Cup weekend, Nov. 1 and 2: McKinzie for the Classic, Improbable for the Dirt Mile, Eight Rings for the Juvenile and Bast for the Juvenile Fillies.

“I was really happy with McKinzie’s work (six furlongs in 1:12.80 Wednesday),”

Baffert said on Thursday morning at Santa Anita. “I got a nice, strong work into him.

“Eight Rings worked really well the day before (five furlongs in 1:01 for the Nov. 1 Juvenile) and Bast worked well yesterday (five furlongs in 1:01.20 for the Juvenile Fillies the same day). Improbable (Dirt Mile Nov. 2) is doing really well. I really like the way he’s going.

“Looking at all the dirt races, they’re very competitive,” Baffert allowed. “This is going to be one of the best and toughest Breeders’ Cups. There are a lot of nice horses. Usually among the two-year-olds there are one or two standouts; this year, I think the two-year-old colts look really good and the fillies look tough, too.

“People are saying the Classic is weak, but there’s no such thing as a weak Classic . . . Give me a break. Come out here and watch them work.”
Asked if there is such a thing as a “home field advantage,” Baffert was quick to dismiss any such theories. “Good horses overcome anything,” he said. “The only advantage we have is not having to deal with any (inclement) weather. That’s important.

“Back east during the rainy season you have to be careful and train around it.”

D’AMATO DUO NOT SHORT ON CLASS IN CALIFORNIA FLAG

Even though King Abner and What a View are shortening up considerably for Saturday’s $100,000 California Flag Handicap for three-year-olds and up at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, Phil D’Amato concedes the two battle-tested geldings rate an edge in class over their six rivals.

“I would say so,” the meet’s second-leading trainer with eight wins through 11 racing days admitted. “My two, along with Tribalist, are veterans, and both my horses are doing really well. They’re coming into the race fresh.

“Abner’s coming off a nice rest (since June 29) and he’s rarin’ to go. What a View is doing the same.” The California Flag, one in the Golden State Series for California-bred or sired horses, goes as race six on an eight-race program with a 12:30 p.m. first post time.

The field: What a View, Tyler Baze, 3-1; Tribalist, Flavien Prat, 9-5; King Abner, Martin Garcia, 7-2; Castle, Abel Cedillo, 6-1; My Friend Emma, Silvio Amado, 8-1; Portrando, Ruben Fuentes, 10-1; and Grinning Tiger, Heriberto Figueroa, 8-1.

General Interest was scratched.

VELEZ AMONG NEWEST PUERTO RICAN SENSATIONS

The Puerto Rican Connection is making its presence felt at Santa Anita.

Jorge Velez, 21-year-old apprentice rider, and his agent, Nelson Arroyo, both hail from the Island Nation, as does the other rider Arroyo represents, Heriberto Figueroa.

Through 12 days of Santa Anita’s 23-day Autumn Meet, Velez was second behind Abel Cedillo in the race for the riding title with 11 victories from 56 mounts, a lofty 20 percent. Velez has made significant progress since arriving in California, even surprising his agent.

“We’re very happy with where we are,” Arroyo said. “I wasn’t expecting Jorge to be this good until next year. It takes a while to be able to reach this point, but he’s making journeyman moves as an apprentice, and he’s not even halfway through his ‘bug’ (five-pound weight allowance), which he loses on April 1 of next year.”

Velez graduated from Escuela Vocacional Hipica in Puerto Rico, the same school that produced the Ortiz brothers, Irad and Jose Jr., who have come to dominate racing in the United States, and currently rank one-two nationally in purse earnings with some $23 million each.

Puerto Rico has long been a successful breeding ground for jockeys coming to the mainland and reaching racing’s apex.

In addition to Velez and the Ortiz brothers, Norberto Arroyo Jr. (Nelson’s brother), Angel Cordero Jr., Angel Cruz, J.C. Diaz Jr., the aforementioned Figueroa, Manny Franco, Evin Roman, Emanuel Jose Sanchez and John Velazquez come to mind.

Their rise to prominence wasn’t happenstance.

“Jorge surprised me by studying races from the old days, watching riders like Laffit Pincay (Jr.),” Arroyo said. “He mimics those moves to improve his riding. I haven’t seen that from a young rider in a long, long time.”

The jockey and his agent are bent on improving their status quo. Jorge’s wife and three-year-old daughter are in Puerto Rico now, but Velez hopes they join him in a few months.

FINISH LINES: After a successful run at the Fair Grounds and Arlington Park, jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. is back home in California where he will resume riding at Santa Anita under the direction of agent Mike Ciani.

LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:

FEATURES:

Breeders’ Cup Memories: Skywalker and Laffit Pincay Jr. Upset the 1986 Classic

Breeders’ Cup Memories: Goldencents Sizzles His Way to His First of Two Dirt Mile Wins

Breeders’ Cup Memories: Arcangues Causes the Biggest Upset in Breeders’ Cup History With His Win in the 1993 Classic

Breeders’ Cup Memories: Lady’s Secret Wins the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

WORK OUTS:

Omaha Beach (Mandella) 10-16-19

War of Will (Outside) (Breeders’ Cup Classic) (Casse) 10-16-19

Roadster (Inside) and Leading Score (Baffert) 10-16-19

Midnight Bisou (Outside) and Comedian (Breeders’ Cup Classic) 10-14-19

Mirth (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf) (D’Amato) 10-14-19

SANTA ANITA STATISTICS

(Current Through Monday, Oct. 14)

Jockey

Mts

1st

2nd

3rd

Win%

ITM%

Money Won

Abel Cedillo

73

12

9

9

16%

41%

$808,390

Jorge Velez

56

11

8

5

20%

43%

$336,880

Drayden Van Dyke

41

8

5

5

20%

44%

$564,116

Rafael Bejarano

41

7

9

8

17%

59%

$385,730

Evin Roman

30

7

2

1

23%

33%

$212,013

Flavien Prat

43

6

9

14

14%

67%

$613,135

Mike Smith

24

5

2

1

21%

33%

$584,738

Tiago Pereira

32

4

7

6

13%

53%

$199,749

Geovanni Franco

36

4

6

5

11%

42%

$235,272

J.C. Diaz, Jr.

35

4

4

3

11%

31%

$175,332

Martin Garcia

31

4

4

0

13%

26%

$138,136

Ruben Fuentes

42

4

3

6

10%

31%

$253,983

Mario Gutierrez

22

3

4

3

14%

45%

$162,157

Edwin Maldonado

23

3

4

2

13%

39%

$123,341

Aaron Gryder

17

3

0

4

18%

41%

$101,323

Tyler Baze

18

3

0

4

17%

39%

$121,655

Trainer

Sts

1st

2nd

3rd

Win%

ITM%

Money Won

Doug O’Neill

53

15

9

4

28%

53%

$622,389

Philip D’Amato

32

8

3

4

25%

47%

$701,502

Bob Baffert

24

7

3

3

29%

54%

$643,993

Peter Miller

25

6

3

4

24%

52%

$304,290

John Sadler

32

4

5

5

13%

44%

$273,547

Jeff Mullins

23

4

2

5

17%

48%

$181,666

Richard Baltas

34

3

7

8

9%

53%

$340,499

Richard Mandella

21

3

3

6

14%

57%

$360,073

Simon Callaghan

14

3

2

3

21%

57%

$240,633

John A. Shirreffs

10

3

2

1

30%

60%

$227,262

Craig Anthony Lewis

11

3

2

0

27%

45%

$107,204