November 1, 2012
Royal Delta heads strong Ladies' Classic field
Great weather in store for Breeders' Cup races
By Tom Krish
There are two days of racing action (Friday and Saturday) at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. There will be 15 Breeders’ Cup races run during those two days. Six will be on Friday. The other nine will be run on Saturday.
The Breeders’ Cup races have been aptly named the ‘World Championships of Thoroughbred Racing.’ Since their inception in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup races have attracted the best horses from around the world. Santa Anita, the picturesque course outside Los Angeles, will host the Breeders’ Cup for the sixth time.
Los Angeles weather should pose no problems. My wife, Jothi and I arrived in Los Angeles in glorious weather Wednesday afternoon. The sun was shining. It was a smooth four-hour flight from O’Hare airport in Chicago. Thursday’s high will be 71 Farenheit with a 20 percent chance of rain. Friday’s high is expected to be 72F and there is no chance of rain. There is absolutely no rain in the forecast for Saturday and the high will be 79 Farenheit.
Santa Anita had what was called the ‘polyride’ track. It was a synthetic surface. Several horses broke down. After repeated complaints, the conventional dirt surface has been restored. And talk of creature comforts, Santa Anita is second to none. It can accommodate a crowd that typically assembles for Breeders’ Cup cards. The St. Gabriel mountain backdrop makes race-watching a breathtaking experience. In Trevor Denman, Santa Anita has one of the best announcers in the horseracing business.
The Breeders’ Cup part of the Friday program begins at 1:05 pm Pacific time. The first event is the Juvenile Sprint over six furlongs (1200 metres) on the dirt track. The favorite is Merit Man who is two for two coming into the race. Pat Valenzuela, at the twilight of his career, has the call on Merit Man.
Then comes the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. It is a 14-furlong (2800 metres) contest. Commander, from Canada, has won six in a row and gets more on his plate. Fame And Glory has a glittering resume but his recent form is anything but encouraging. The Marathon is a wide open affair.
The third race is the Juvenile (two-years-old) Fillies Turf over a mile (1600 metres). Sky Lantern, from Richard Hannon’s yard, is likely to carry the public purse. Coming off a striking win in Curragh’s Moyglare Stakes, Sky Lantern, a Red Clubs filly, will be ridden by Richard Hughes. It should be pointed out that Hughes rode four winners on Monday at Leicester before flying to America. Hughes is the champion jockey-elect in England this year. He is far ahead of his principal rivals.
Next is the mile and sixteenth (1700 metres) Juvenile Filles race on the main course. Beholder, a Richard Mandella pupil; Executiveprivilege, from Bob Baffert’s yard; and Kauai Katie, a Todd Pletcher trainee, are the leading players. Executiveprivilege, a daughter of First Samurai, is five for five. Kauai Katie a Malibu Moon filly, comes from New York with a three-for-three resume.
Then comes the Filly-Mare Turf over a mile and a quarter (2000 metres). I’m A Dreamer, victorious in Arlington’s Beverly D, is in the field. Todd Pletcher’s In Lingerie comes off a smart win in Keeneland’s Spinster. Lady Of Shamrock, trained by John Sadler, is in the form of her life. Marketing Mix, owned by Leonard Lavin, is trained to the minute. Nahrain won the Flower Bowl last time out and is trained by Roger Varian. The Aga Khan-owned Ridasiyna has four wins in five starts. She made mincemeat of her foes in the Prix de l’Opera on Arc day at Longchamp. She is by Motivator, the 2005 Epsom Derby winner. John Gosden sends out The Fugue who won the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and then forced Shareta to a photo in the Yorkshire Oaks. Shareta was one of the fancied runners in this year’s Arc. Aidan O’Brien saddles Up who has a record that merits a second look. Finally, there is Chad Brown’s Zagora who was one half length off Nahrain in the Flower Bowl. This is a horse race worth going a long way to see.
The last race on Friday is the Ladies’ Classic. It is over nine furlongs (1800 metres) on the main course. Royal Delta won this race in 2011 at Churchill Downs. Her effectiveness was blunted in the Dubai World Cup this March. In late September, Royal Delta, conditioned by Bill Mott, was a nine-length winner in the Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park. Why would anyone oppose Royal Delta but a winner is determined only after a race is run. Awesome Feather has made winning second nature. She won the Juvenile Fillies race last year. She is 10 for 10 in a brilliant career. My Miss Aurelia is unbeaten in six trips postward and is a player. It will take a strong optimist to make a case against Royal Delta despite the enormous depth in the Ladies’ Classic field.
Bill Mott, Royal Delta’s trainer, spoke about a cut his trainee sustained on a thigh on Monday while being loaded on a flight from New York to California. “It is a small laceration. She scraped herself boarding the plane and the veterinarian closed it up with sutures. It was a superficial wound. It is no jeopardy at all.”
Chad Brown had this to say about the unbeaten Awesome Feather after the three year-old filly went for a mile and a half gallop on Wednesday. “She trained beautifully. I am very happy with the way she looked.”
In my next report, I will have a thing or two to say about Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races. The first Breeders’ Cup race will be run at 11:50 am Pacific time.
The major part of the media covering the Breeders’ Cup is at the Courtyard Marriott in Pasadena. There are minivans that run between the hotel and Santa Anita. There is a media center in the hotel where credentials are given out. There are copies of press releases. There is an abundance of information. People at the hotel talk, eat, drink and sleep ‘Breeders’ Cup.’ It is 6:50 am on Thursday as I finish typing this.