The main story line surrounding Saturday’s running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) at Santa Anita is whether the undefeated Zenyatta can beat the boys.
It was odds-on that in a sampling of Churchill Downs trainers Friday morning that opinions ran in many directions.
“I think Zenyatta will love the mile and a quarter,” said Carl Nafzger, who won the 1990 Classic with Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. “I think she will do it. Getting through the traffic will be her biggest problem.”
“Zenyatta is a good filly and she loves those synthetic tracks,” Forrest Kaelin said. “She runs her race every time, but she will have to step it up a little more and I think she will on that surface. You don’t know about the others.”
“I probably should pull for Zenyatta,” said Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby. “But I think she will have a tough time with those boys. It is a big field (13), and with her running style … those boys aren’t going to lie down for her.”
Paul McGee went in a different direction.
“I don’t think she wins it,” McGee said. “I am looking at Gio Ponti and Regal Ransom. And Mine That Bird, I think he is going to run a good race and I will have him in my tri ticket.”
Locally based Einstein, trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi, had his backers.
“I hope Helen wins it,” Scooter Dickey said.
“I like Einstein, because I have seen him so much,” said Buff Bradley, whose stable star Brass Hat has run against Einstein several times and is stabled in the barn next to Einstein.
“I like our horse, Einstein,” said Hal Wiggins, who trained leading Horse of the Year candidate Rachel Alexandra to a Kentucky Oaks victory. “It’s a good field and should be a very interesting race.”
Dallas Stewart, whose Stephen Foster (GI) winner Macho Again was knocked out of Breeders’ Cup consideration by a cough, liked a trio of horses, Zenyatta, Einstein and Summer Bird.
Summer Bird, sixth in the Kentucky Derby behind Mine That Bird before winning the Belmont (GI), Travers (GI) and Jockey Club Gold Cup, had a supporter in Jinks Fires.
“I’d like to see Summer Bird win it,” Fires said. “Tim Ice has done a great job with him and the owners (Drs. K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman) have invested a lot in the business and been good for the game.”
CLEAR SKIES WELCOME SIGHT FOR JONESBORO – The prospect of a fast track for today’s 17th running of the Grade III Ack Ack Handicap was music to the ears of trainer Randy Morse for his veteran campaigner Jonesboro.
“He hates the mud,” Morse said of the 7-year-old, who is owned by Michael Langford.
But mud is what he got in his most recent start, a seventh-place finish in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) that represented Jonesboro’s worst showing of 2009.
“It had rained for part of the day and began to clear up and it looked like we were going to OK, but then about 30 minutes before the race it just poured,” Morse said.
Since the Gold Cup, Jonesboro has put in two solid half-mile works at his home base at Remington Park and shipped to Churchill Downs on Thursday. It was a homecoming of sorts for Jonesboro, who has won five graded stakes in his six-year, 42-race career.
“He has trained here a lot and probably put a million miles in over this track,” said Morse, who for many years was a regular member of the Churchill Downs backstretch. “He just hasn’t run here that much.”
Jonesboro’s record at Churchill Downs is 4-0-1-0 with his most recent start here coming in the 2008 Stephen Foster (GI) when he finished sixth behind Horse of the Year Curlin.
A good showing in the Ack Ack could prompt an encore appearance before the end of the meet.
“The Clark (Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare) is an option if he runs good today,” Morse said referring to the Grade II test to be run Nov. 27. “Also it will depend on who else goes in there.”
QE II WINNER HOT CHA CHA TOPS PROBABLES FOR MRS. REVERE – Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 17 in her most recent start, headlines a list of 10 probables for the 19th running of the $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII) for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, Nov. 14.
In addition to Hot Cha Cha, who also won the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington Park on Sept. 7, three other Grade III stakes winners on the turf in 2009 are on the probables list, according to Churchill Downs Vice President of Racing Donnie Richardson.
The trio includes Dell Ridge Farm’s Bluegrass Princess, winner of a division of the Valley View at Keeneland on Oct. 23 in her most recent start, Barbara Hunter’s Keertana, winner of the Regret at Churchill Downs on June 13 and Paul Pompa Jr.’s Mary’s Follies, winner of the Boiling Springs on June 27 at Monmouth Park.
Another probable is William Pacella, George Bonomo and Fred Barbara’s C.S. Silk, winner of the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie on Polytrack in 2008.
Other probables are June Judd’s Aaroness, Jess Yawitz and Gary Zwerling’s Alice’s Smart, Andrew Farm, Connie Scanlon and Frank O’Connor’s Obsequious, Brereton Jones’ Silver Reunion and Lothenbach Stables’ Single Solution. Considered as “possible” for the race is NP Bloodstock’s Bum Bum (Fr).
Entries for the 1 1/16-mile race to be contested over the Matt Winn Turf Course will be taken Wednesday.
FLORENTINO HEADLINES PROBABLES FOR COMMONWEALTH TURF – Darley Stable’s Florentino (Jpn), winner of the Grade II Jefferson Cup here at Churchill Downs in June, is among seven 3-year-olds considered as “probable” for the sixth running of the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII) scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15 at 1 1/16 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Should Florentino prove successful on his return to Churchill Downs, he would join Inca King in 2007 as the only horse to win the Jefferson Cup and Commonwealth Turf.
Other graded stakes winners on the turf on the probables list of Donnie Richardson, Churchill Downs Vice President of Racing, are Sullimar Stables’ Get Stormy and William Stiritz’s Proceed Bee.
Get Stormy won Keeneland’s Bryan Station (GIII) on Oct. 18 in his most recent start and Proceed Bee, in his previous outing, won the Grade III Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Park. Proceed Bee also won the Grand Canyon, an overnight turf stake, here last fall on closing day.
Other Commonwealth Turf probables are Hugh Robertson’s Grizzled Robert, Richard Shultz’s Major Marvel, Red Dog Stables’ Perfect Bull and Marilyn Seltzer’s Spectacular Kid.
Entries for the Commonwealth Turf will be taken on Thursday.
BARN TALK – Elusive Sparkle, half-sister to 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, ran her last race on Thursday according to trainer Carl Nafzger. Elusive Sparkle, a 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality, finished ninth in the eighth race to end her career with a record of 18-2-4-3 for earnings of $112,028 for owner James Tafel. “One retired yesterday and one debuts today,” Nafzger said, referring to Broadway Ticket, a 3-year-old half-sister to Street Sense. Broadway Ticket, a daughter of Distorted Humor out of Bedazzle, is owned by Randall Bloch, John Seiler and Robert Manfuso. She is in the seventh race.