Alpha – Travers winner Alpha was schooled in the starting gate Tuesday morning during his morning activities at Santa Anita Park in preparation for a start in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“We backed him up to the backside, he galloped a mile and went back to the starting gate, where he stood and backed out beautifully. Then, he galloped back to the frontside and went home,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “Sometimes he gets a little temper in there, but he schools great every day. I just wanted the gate crew to see that he’s a good boy.”
Godolphin Racing’s 3yo son of Bernardini followed up his dead-heat Travers victory with Golden Ticket with a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22.
“You hate to always use the racetrack as an excuse. That day, the track was deep, dry and slow and he gave the winner 10 pounds. And you don’t want to be down on the inside, and he was down on the inside because he didn’t break well. So he did have an excuse,” McLaughlin said. “He’s doing great. He’s a great mover and he likes the mile and a quarter. Everything is great, but it’s a tough race.”
Brilliant Speed – Brilliant Speed is due from New York on the final Tex Sutton charter Wednesday morning.
Flat Out/ Ron the Greek/ To Honor and Serve – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said all three of his Classic horses traveled well from the East Coast Monday and went to the track for light exercise Tuesday morning.
The late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel saddled three runners in the 1993 Classic, Bertrando, Marquetry and Missionary Ridge.
Mott has started more than 20,700 horses in a career that started in 1973 and said he couldn’t recall having three starters in such a high-level stakes race.
“That probably takes the cake,” he said. “It’s pretty unusual to have three horses of that quality in that type of race. I guess you see sometimes people have three 2-year-olds in a race. Usually you don’t see somebody with that many older horses in one division.”
Mott won the 2011 Classic with Drosselmeyer and is in position to win the race in back-to-back years. The only trainer to repeat in the Classic was Jay Robbins, who won the race with Hall of Famer Tiznow in 2000 and 2001. He would also become the first trainer to win three Breeders’ Cup Classics, having also trained the 1995 winner Cigar. (Charlie Whittingham trainer Classic winners Ferdinand  and Sunday Silence .)
“I’m not trying to do it just because we did it last year,” Mott said. “I feel no pressure incentive to do that. I just want to do it because we’re in there. I’ve got three good horses in the Classic and I think any one of them could win the race on their big day. On their best day they could be factors. I wouldn’t rule any one of them out.
“And if you really asked me who I would pick, one over the other, I couldn’t do it. That’s how well they’re doing.”
Flat Out, who was fifth in the 2011 Classic at Churchill Downs, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 29 for the second year in a row. Ron the Greek has a win over the track in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3. The 5yo Full Mandate horse, also won the Stephen Foster this year. To Honor and Serve was seventh in the Classic last year. He earned a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup with a win in the Woodward on Sept. 1 at Saratoga.
Fort Larned – Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned walked the shedrow at trainer Ian Wilkes’ barn at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning, the day before his scheduled departure for Santa Anita.
“He is supposed to leave at 10 in the morning and arrive out there at noon,” Wilkes said as he prepared to board a flight to Southern California.
Fort Larned, co-second choice on the morning line at 5-1, will represent the first Classic starter for Wilkes. The trainer’s two previous World Championships starters were Capt. Candyman Can (8th in the 2009 Sprint) and Warrior’s Reward (5th in the 2010 Sprint).
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who has ridden Fort Larned to three victories and a third-place finish the four times he has been aboard, also will be making his Classic debut. Hernandez finished sixth on Rapport in last year’s Turf Sprint in his initial Breeders’ Cup ride.
Game On Dude – The Classic favorite was on the racetrack shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday for a light 1m jog under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes.
The 5yo gelding had worked seven furlongs in 1:25 Sunday in his final major drill prior to the 1 1/4m Classic. He’ll gallop his way up to the $5 million race for the rest of the week.
“Look at him,” said trainer Bob Baffert as Game On Dude moved past his location adjacent to Clocker’s Corner. “He looks like a copper penny.”
As he often does, the trainer had drawn a crowd, including several of his major owners, among them Paul Whitman, Karl Watson, Arnold Zetcher and Bernie Schiappa. The last-named is part of the ownership group that runs Game On Dude and he noted that another of its members – baseball icon Joe Torre – would be on hand Saturday.
Baffert had nothing but positives to offer where Game On Dude was concerned.
“He’s a different horse this year,” he said. “He’s stronger. He’s filled out. He was always a good horse, but he’s even better now. He’s got that high cruising speed.”
Game On Dude had drawn post 5 in the 12-horse Classic field, a location Baffert found advantageous.
“He’ll save a length right to start from there,” he said. “All the speed is outside in the race and Raffie (rider Rafael Bejarano) should be able to pick a good spot from where he is.”
Handsome Mike/Richard’s Kid – Trainer Doug O'Neill was elated with posts seven and nine, respectively, for the pair, each of which galloped 1 1/4m Tuesday at Santa Anita under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
"Both drew great posts," said O'Neill. "As long as you're not on the rail, you feel good."
Richard's Kid, a 7yo horse, will be making his third start for the O'Neill barn since being purchased privately by a partnership prior to the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, in which he finished third.
"I'm just looking for him to put in his normal top effort, and I think that's good enough to win," said O'Neill. "He's such a nice horse, and so honest, and he's been training great."
O'Neill said he was happy to have the services of jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode the horse to a third-place finish in the Awesome Again Stakes here in his last start on Sept. 29.
"Now that Garrett has gotten to know him will help a lot," said O'Neill. "I don't know if he has to be as far back as he's been, but that's in Garrett's hands. I couldn't ask for a better big-race rider."
O'Neill also expects a big effort from Handsome Mike, who comes off an upset victory in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22.
"The Pennsylvania Derby really seemed to have jarred the wake-up switch on him," said O'Neill. "This is the time of the year when the 3-year-olds have kind of caught up with the older horses.
"He should be forwardly placed. He's a free-running horse you can't take hold of."
Mucho Macho Man – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Mucho Macho Man, who is scheduled for a flight to California Wednesday morning, jogged around the shedrow at Belmont Park Tuesday morning.
The Suburban Stakes winner might have company on a scheduled flight out of Newburgh (N.Y.) Airport at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday. Trainer Kathy Ritvo may end up accompanying her multiple-stakes winner.
“So far, I am, unless something else comes up, I’m just going to fly with him,” Ritvo said. “Hopefully we get out of here at a good time and get out there.”
Mucho Macho Man was originally slated to fly from New York on Tuesday morning, but the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy on the Northeast forced a postponement and made it difficult for his trainer to book a flight for herself. Ritvo understands that the situation is not ideal.
“We’re missing a day of training, which is probably not great, but he’s doing so good, I think we’ll be OK,” Ritvo said.
Nonios – An elated Jerry Hollendorfer looked on Tuesday morning as his Classic prospect zipped through a 4f workout in an official 46 2/5, the best of 19 on the Santa Anita work tab. The Hall of Fame trainer caught the 3yo son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Pleasantly Perfect in 47 2/5 and said of the move, “It was perfect.”
“He went a little faster than I expected, but I told Martin [jockey Pedroza] to let him go if he was doing things easy. He was doing it that way; pretty much breezing.”
Hollendorfer broke down his clocking by eighths this way: 12 2/5, 23 3/5, 35 2/5 on the way to final time.
“He went the last three-eighths in 11 [seconds] and change each,” he said.
As for the rest of the week’s training, Hollendorfer said, “He’ll walk tomorrow and then stand in the gate Thursday and maybe Friday.”
The trainer will be at his Northern California base at Golden Gate Fields on Wednesday, but will be back at his Santa Anita barn Thursday morning.
Pool Play – The Hawthorne Gold Cup winner was among trainer Mark Casse’s five Breeders’ Cup contenders who arrived safely from Kentucky on Sunday afternoon and he was out on the track for an easy gallop on Tuesday morning with the rest.
The 7yo son of Silver Deputy has made 32 lifetime starts but only four this year. He suffered a tendon injury while winning the Stephen Foster Handicap and his first grade I race last year, and it took almost 13 months plus considerable patience and horsemanship for Casse to get him back to the races in July.
“This horse may be my biggest accomplishment ever,” said Casse, who has won four Sovereign Awards as Canada’s outstanding trainer and conditioned nine Sovereign Award winners including 2007 Horse of the Year Sealy Hill, who was the runner-up in the 2008 Filly & Mare Turf here. “For him to come back from such a serious injury in the way that he has is kind of unheard of.”
Raced mostly on the turf and the Polytrack at Woodbine since his career began in 2008, the Will Farish Jr. color bearer has only made two starts on dirt. But he comes into the Classic a perfect two-for-two on the surface and Casse said he is at the top of his game now. While others may utter platitudes about just being happy to have a horse in the world championships, in Pool Play’s case that may be true.
“With all that he’s been through, to even be here and running in the Classic is already a win. Whether we win, lose or draw on Saturday, I am very proud of him,” said Casse, who is ranked fifth among all North American trainers with 113 wins and more than $9 million in earnings this year.
Pool Play’s final workout was at Churchill Downs last Friday and he breezed 5f in 1:02 4/5 in company with Ohio Derby winner Stealcase under jockey Miguel Mena, who will ride him in the Classic when they break from the rail.
The Casse barn is impressed with Stealcase, who worked in the identical time, and that is another indication of how well Pool Play is coming up to his race. Originally, Casse had planned to work the horse on Saturday, but the threat of off-track conditions caused by Hurricane Sandy had him move his breeze by one day.
Pool Play will gallop for the rest of the week and school in the gate and the paddock, but Casse was still determining his exact schedule.