Belle of the Hall – The well-traveled mare finally got her first glimpse of Santa Anita Thursday morning after arriving from New York Wednesday. Her trainer Tom Albertrani was expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.
“It’s been pretty stressful,” said Albertrani, whose Long Island home was still without power as a result of Hurricane Sandy. “I had to go out to my car to charge my cell phone to make this call.”
Belle of the Hall has run at nine racetracks in her 22 career starts, but the trip to Santa Anita for the 7f Filly & Mare Sprint was undoubtedly the most difficult. She missed a day of training awaiting travel clearance, but Albertrani isn’t concerned.
“We realize this is a big step up in class, but she’s been doing really well and we’re hoping she has another big race in her,” he said. “She’s coming off a really good race (Valor Lady at Belmont), so we hope she is ready for this.”
Belle of the Hall is the fifth Breeders’ Cup starter for Albertrani, who never has won a Cup race but finished second with Bernardini in the 2006 Classic.
Dust and Diamonds – Padua Stables’ Gallant Bloom winner was among a group of Breeders’ Cup starters that trainer Steve Asmussen sent to the starting gate to school and then out for a gallop. She also was scheduled to school in the paddock with her stablemates later in the day.
“We have a good group of horses,” said Asmussen. “They’re all sound physically and mentally.”
Great Hot – The 30-1 morning-line longshot for the Filly & Mare Sprint jogged 1 1/2m for trainer A.C. Avila, who conceded that even-money favorite Groupie Doll was the horse to beat in the race, having won four straight since the addition of blinkers.
Avila also said that track condition could be a major factor in the race.
“If it's hard like it was earlier in the meeting, there's going to be a lot of winners from the front. With this (warm) weather, they're going to have to put a lot of water on the track,” Avila said.
Groupie Doll – With regular exercise rider Jada Schlenk aboard, Filly & Mare Sprint favorite Groupie Doll jogged 1m and galloped 1m shortly after 7 Thursday morning.
“She was very relaxed this morning,” said Maria Kabel, assistant to trainer and part owner Buff Bradley. “She will go out about 6 tomorrow morning and she is scheduled to school in the paddock with the first race tomorrow.”
Buff Bradley and his father Fred, with whom he bred Groupie Doll, were scheduled to arrive in Southern California later Thursday morning.
Rajiv Maragh, who has been aboard Groupie Doll in her past five starts of which the past four have been daylight victories, will have the mount Saturday.
“The first time Rajiv worked her, she went a half-mile in 46 and he told Buff that he was going to win the Breeders’ Cup on this horse,” said Kabel, who has lived on the Bradleys’ farm in Frankfort, Ky., for 14 years and galloped Groupie Doll’s dam, Deputy Doll.
Musical Romance – For trainer and co-owner Bill Kaplan, this year’s Filly & Mare Sprint will prove a bittersweet moment for the longtime conditioner who likely will bid farewell to his Eclipse Award winning female sprinter Musical Romance following her attempted title defense in this year’s race.
“She’s made my job a whole lot more fun these past few years,” Kaplan said. “It’s going to be really difficult saying goodbye.”
Musical Romance, who has run 40 times in a career that dates back to September 2009, is scheduled to pass through sales ring at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. The daughter of Concorde’s Tune has won stakes on dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks, at distances ranging from 5 1/2f to 1m.
“She’s really a unique mare,” Kaplan said. “Not only is she a Breeders’ Cup champ, she is just an amazing animal. She has run 40 times and is a world-class sprinter, and that just doesn’t happen; horses like that don’t last. She runs on anything, and she is as sound today as she was back in her first race. She’s one of a kind.”
In order for Musical Romance to end her career with a successful title defense in the Filly & Mare Sprint, and perhaps as a repeat Eclipse Award champion, she will have to take down current divisional leader Groupie Doll, who enters the race having won four straight stakes.
“For any horse to go out there and win those races the way she has, by daylight, is impressive,” Kaplan said of his rival. “We’ve faced her three times this year and she’s beat us twice (in the Vinery Madison and Humana Distaff) while we got her once in the race at Gulfstream (Inside Information).
“But they did meet again, you know? Groupie Doll flew here with us from Keeneland and was in the next stall over from us; they were side by side on the flight. And my assistant Freddie (Guzman) told me that for much of the flight, Musical Romance was eyeballing her. So who knows, maybe she put the evil eye on her.
“All kidding aside, I believe my mare is better this year than she was last year, and we have no excuses at all going into the race.”
Rumor – The Indian Charlie filly, a winner in five of 11 starts and a starter in Saturday’s Filly & Mare Sprint, was out at 6 a.m. Thursday for a jog alongside one of trainer Richard Mandella’s stable ponies.
“She’s been a good, steady filly for us,” Mandella stated as he walked back to his Santa Anita barn.
Mandella was confident ahead of Saturday’s race.
“She’ll knock ‘em to their knees,” he said with a smile.
If pressed, Mandella probably would have confessed the fact that his statement might have been slightly influenced by the lady who walked at his side, Dell Hancock of Kentucky’s famous Claiborne Farm, part owner of Rumor.
Hancock, in from Kentucky the day before, talked about her filly’s entry in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
“We were trying to decide whether or not to run her in the race and going ‘round and ‘round,” she said. “Then in the end, we said: ‘Let’s just leave it up to Richard.’ He’s so good with the horses – he always puts them first – that we knew he’d do the right thing. I believe in him 100 percent. If he said to put her in the race, then I’d know he thought we’d have a shot. So we’re in, and now we’ll see how we do.”
Hancock was asked if this might possibly be Rumor’s last run; if she might be headed back to Kentucky as part of the Claiborne broodmare band.
“Let’s see how she runs in this race first,” she said. “It’s not like she’s had a lot of races.”
Switch – The runner-up in the last two editions of the Filly & Mare Sprint galloped 1 1/4m at 5:45 a.m. with a set of John Sadler-trained horses.
Teddy's Promise – The California-bred 4yo filly jogged on the Santa Anita main track Thursday under exercise rider Manny Segundo for trainer Ron Ellis.
Turbulent Descent – Trainer Todd Pletcher has had the 4yo daughter of Congrats for only two races, but he knew after she won the Ballerina at Saratoga in late August that she was coming back to the Breeders’ Cup for another try at the Filly & Mare Sprint.
She was aboard the last plane of horses that shipped from New York after being delayed by Hurricane Sandy.
“She came in really well,” Pletcher said. “It was a nice win at Saratoga, and she’s been touting us in her training since the Gallant Bloom that she’s in her best form.”
Turbulent Descent finished fourth in the Gallant Bloom.
“We encountered a very speed-favoring track and she didn’t break well from the gate,” Plecther said. “It seemed for whatever reason around that time period that nobody was making up very much ground at Belmont Park I don’t think she really cared for the way the track was playing.”
Turbulent Descent was off from December until June when in the barn of California-based trainer Mike Puype, but Pletcher said he believed there was nothing major wrong physically.
“She was fine when we got her (in July).”