Alpha – Godolphin Racing’s Alpha galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Rob Massey Wednesday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for a scheduled start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained 3yo was schooled in the paddock following his gallop.
The Darley-bred Alpha scored his most important victory at the Classic distance of 1 1/4m in the Travers, but he had to share the glory with the Ken McPeek-trained Golden Ticket. The son of Bernardini earned his share of the dead-heat victory with a relentless stretch drive.
McLaughlin had no problem sharing the spotlight with McPeek.
“I didn’t think we could get there at the eighth pole, so I was happy to take a dead-heat. I said that even before the dead-heat was put up. I was standing next to Kenny and told him, ‘I’d sure settle for a dead-heat,’” McLaughlin said.
“You’d hate for either one of us to get that close in such an important race for stallion value and get beat. The neat part of it for Darley is he’s a homebred by Bernardini, and he had won the Travers.”
Brilliant Speed – The 4yo son of Dynaformer was aboard a Tex Sutton flight scheduled to arrive in California around noon on Wednesday.
Flat Out/ Ron the Greek/ To Honor and Serve – All three members of trainer Bill Mott’s Classic team galloped about 1 1/4 m on the main track Wednesday morning.
Mott is in the rare situation of saddling three starters in America’s biggest race. The late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel had three starters in 1993. Flat Out is owned by Preston Stables and was transferred to Mott’s care this year. Ron the Greek was moved to Mott’s stable late last year by the ownership group of Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer. To Honor and Serve, owned by Live Oak Plantation, has been with Mott throughout his three-season, 16-race career.
“We train them all as individuals and we want to give each horse their best chance,” Mott said. “All three horses are trained for different owners and all three horses have earned their way into this race. Actually, two of them (Ron the Greek and Flat Out) have won ‘Win and You’re In’ races. Their fees are already paid.
“To Honor and Serve is not one of those, but he won the Grade 1 Woodward and proved that he is top-class. He won the Cigar Mile last year. He’s a very good horse in his own right.
“We’ve got three horses that we can really make a strong case for running in the race. Not that I look to run against myself and normally on a day-to-day basis we don’t do that. On the championship day, when it boils down to the biggest race of the year, you just have to do that and may the best horse win. Hopefully, one of them is good enough to win the race.”
Ron the Greek is the only one of Mott’s Classic horses to compete at Santa Anita. Mott sent him to California from Florida in late winter and the 5yo Full Mandate horse won the Santa Anita Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths. It was a doubly important win because it set him up for the Classic.
“When Ron the Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap last spring we were excited, of course, knowing that the Breeders’ Cup was going to be run here this fall,” Mott said. “It’s a good sign when they’ve run the distance and they’ve run over the track. That’s one hurdle out of the way that he’s already handled. He’s doing good.
“I know they’ve changed the racetrack here a little bit in the last few months and have added a little sand. It’s probably not exactly the same racetrack surface that he won over, but I’m sure it’s somewhat similar.
“’Ron’ seems to be happy out here. He’s doing well. He’s galloping good over this surface right now. He seems to be happy to be back in California.”
Fort Larned – Janis Whitham’s homebred Fort Larned was ridden in the shedrow at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning before departing to Louisville International Airport and a flight to Southern California.
“He’s on the plane,” said trainer Ian Wilkes, who flew to California on Tuesday. “We will see how he is the morning and go from there (with regard to Thursday training).”
The Tex Sutton charter, which left Louisville at 11:16 a.m. (ET) was scheduled to land at Ontario Airport shortly before noon Pacific time.
Game On Dude – Trainer Bob Baffert is running 10 horses in the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, so you need a program just to work your way through his stable list. But if you want to refer to his Breeders’ Cup Classic hopeful Game On Dude, the morning-line favorite, you simply have to ask about “the big horse.”
Wednesday morning “the big horse” was out for a good gallop with the Baffert stable’s first Breeders’ Cup set at 7:45 with regular exercise rider Dana Barnes up. Baffert took a break from those duties to watch “the big horse” and his stablemates train from a location along the Santa Anita grandstand terrace.
The Hall of Fame trainer was asked if he would be giving rider Rafael Bejarano any special instructions prior to Game On Dude loading into the gate Saturday afternoon.
“Naw,” Baffert said, “he knows the horse. You’ve got to remember, he’s been working him all along, just like he works a lot of my horses. He knows him better than most anyone. He used to give Chantal (jockey Chantal Sutherland, who was the horse’s regular rider prior to Bejarano taking over for his most recent start) instructions and help with him when she was riding.
“He (Bejarano) is a real team player. Even when he wasn’t riding him, he was willing to help out. How about that - you’ve got the leading rider around here and he’s willing to put his ego aside and be part of our team.”
Handsome Mike/Richard’s Kid – The Doug O'Neill-trained duo of Handsome Mike and Richard’s Kid galloped 1 1/2m on the Santa Anita main track under exercise rider Jonny Garcia Wednesday.
O'Neill and Mark Verge, co-owner of Richard's Kid and CEO of Santa Anita Park, have been close friends since meeting in a Santa Monica elementary school.
O'Neill multi-tasked in Barn 88 with assistants Leandro Mora, Steve Rothblum and Jack Sisterson during a busy morning and shook his head at the thought of the two youngsters one day rising to a top executive at one of the top tracks in the world and one of the leading trainers in the nation – one with seven Breeders' Cup entrants.
"I was 10 years old when I first met Mark; he was in his fourth year in the fifth grade," said O'Neill kiddingly. "He's always been a very lucky guy. I remember in grade school he won a raffle for $500. But he works hard and creates a lot of his luck."
Verge is a 10 per cent owner of Richard's Kid in a partnership that purchased the 7yo horse privately before the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. The veteran has earned more than $2 million and finished sixth in the 2009 Classic won by Zenyatta here in 2009.
Mucho Macho Man – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Mucho Macho Man was aboard the Tex Sutton charter that originated at Newburgh, N.Y. and was due at the Ontario, Calif., airport around noon Pacific time.
Unable to book a flight for herself because of the havoc Hurricane Sandy has played on the airline industry, trainer Kathy Ritvo accompanied her Suburban Stakes winner on the flight.
Nonios – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Classic prospect walked the shed row Wednesday morning following his final workout Tuesday, and then was schooled in the paddock later in the morning under the direction of Christina Jelm, sitting in for Hollendorfer who was checking in on his stable at his Northern California base.
Hollendorfer is expected to return to Santa Anita on Thursday.
Pool Play – He may be the 30-1 co-long shot in the Classic field, but Pool Play has looked so good out on the track in the mornings that he’s turning heads and creating a bit of buzz on social media sites and at Clockers’ Corner.
“He is getting some good reviews. Knock on wood, he’s coming up to this race really good. I think he’s peaking just at the right time,” said trainer Mark Casse, who has saddled 10 Breeders’ Cup horses but never one in the Classic. “I think people are underestimating him.”
Casse sent Pool Play out for a 1 1/2m gallop on Wednesday morning with owner Bill Farish looking on. While the other four hopefuls in Casse’s contingent of World Championships contenders (Delegation in the Dirt Mile, Dynamic Sky in the Juvenile, Spring in the Air in the Juvenile Fillies and Spring Venture in the Juvenile Fillies Turf) were schooled at the gate today, the 7yo son of Silver Deputy got to play hooky.
“He’s an old pro. He doesn’t need to go,” Casse said of the multiple graded stakes-winner who has made 32 starts dating back to 2008 and earned $1.2 million. “He knows what to do.”
To ensure that the Santa Anita paddock was familiar come race day, Pool Play was scheduled to accompany his stable mates to the paddock for schooling Wednesday and Thursday.