Breeders’ Cup Thursday Notebook: Sprint to the Dirt Mile & All Others

(Mitole / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team:

SPRINT

 

Catalina Cruiser – The multiple graded-stakes winner galloped 1m under David Pinada in preparation for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

 

Imperial Hint – Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint jogged and visited the paddock under exercise rider Alejandro Contreras Thursday morning at Santa Anita, where the 6yo son of Imperialism will start in Saturday’s Sprint.

Imperial Hint will be making his third start in the Sprint, having finished second in 2017 at Del Mar and third last year at Churchill Downs. Trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. is hoping the third time is the charm.

“For me, of course it would be great, but for him, it would mean the world. He deserves to win a race like this,” Carvajal said.

Carvajal has savored all of Imperial Hint’s successes over the past four years.

“I feel very lucky. Friends of mine who are training – I know a lot of people who have been training for a long time – have never had a horse like this,” Carvajal said. “We don’t have big clients. To get a horse like this, I think it means more than winning the lottery.”

Imperial Hint, who measures 15-3 hands, has many fans in Carvajal’s native land, Chile, as well as in the U.S.

“It brings a lot of people together, this horse,” Carvajal said. “This little guy has done some great things for us.”

Imperial Hint, who launched his career at Tampa Bay Downs with a debut victory and a win in a Florida-bred stakes in 2016, has ranked among the country’s top sprinters the past three racing seasons.

“I guess because of his size, he doesn’t put a lot of wear and tear on himself. If you look at him and see how he trains, you think you have a 3-year-old instead of a 6-year-old,” Carvajal said.

 

Mitole – One of the more popular favorites of Breeders’ Cup weekend, William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Sprint runner Mitole did light work when he left Barn 59 under Angel Garcia.

“Today he just jogged,” trainer Steve Asmussen said.

The son of Eskendereya, an OBS April 2017 $140,000 purchase, has won nine of his past 11 starts and developed into the country’s top sprinter and miler. He has three Grade 1 wins this year, including the Churchill Downs, Metropolitan Handicap and Forego. Over Saturday’s 6f distance, he has six wins from 10 starts, including March’s Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

 

FILLY & MARE SPRINT

Bellafina – Bellafina will put her unbeaten Santa Anita racing record, a perfect four-for-four locally, on the line Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. The daughter of Quality Road had an early morning 1m gallop Thursday under regular exercise rider Humberto Beltran for trainer Simon Callaghan.

“I’m very happy with how she’s doing,” Callaghan said.  “Her last few works have been as good as she’s been.  She’s coming into the race in good form.”

Bellafina, who could be making her final start for Callaghan, is currently entered in the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

“It’s not guaranteed that this will be her final start.  If she runs very well, that might change. She’s one of the best fillies I’ve ever trained,” Callaghan said.

Bellafina also sports a two-for-three lifetime mark at Saturday’s 7f distance.

“After the (1 1/16m) Cotillion, we thought the cutback (in distance) was best for her.  I think this is her ideal distance,” Callaghan said. “This is a tough race. I think probably Covfefe is the one to beat. We should be in the second wave of runners, so it might set up for us.”

 

Come Dancing – After a few easy days of training, Come Dancing was ready for action early Thursday morning and turned in an enthusiastic 1 1/8m gallop, trainer Carlos Martin said.

Regular exercise rider Francisco Tapia was aboard the 5yo Malibu Moon mare owned by Blue Devil Racing Stable for her morning exercise. Martin said Come Dancing had a deliberately slower work Saturday at Belmont Park, walked Sunday, shipped Monday and wasn’t asked for too much Tuesday or Wednesday. Thursday she showed spirit on the track.

Martin said that the winner of four graded stakes this year has done everything right this week in preparation for her first appearance in the Breeders’ Cup.

Come Dancing and regular rider Javier Castellano drew post four in the nine-horse field.

 

Dawn the Destroyer – Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Dawn the Destroyer galloped 1 3/8m at Santa Anita Thursday morning for her scheduled start in Saturday’s Filly & Mare Sprint.

“It’s a great race shape for her. It’s a tough race, but there is a ton of speed,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “It’s a great race shape.”

The 5yo daughter of Speightstown has been stakes-placed in five of her past six starts, but is winless since capturing the Interborough at Aqueduct in January.

Dawn the Destroyer finished second behind Come Dancing in the 7f Ballerina at Saratoga Aug. 24 before closing from ninth to finish second in the 6f Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland, beaten by just a head by Spiced Perfection.

“She’s improving and doing well,” McLaughlin said. “She worked very well at Keeneland and continues to train well.”

Tyler Gaffalione has the mount aboard Dawn the Destroyer.

 

Spiced Perfection – Leaving Barn 44 and galloping a mile this morning over the Santa Anita dirt, the Peter Miller-trained Spiced Perfection continues to do well and give her trainer confidence. The Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Peter Deutsch-owned 4yo filly returns to the course and distance at which she won last December’s La Brea.

“She deserves to be here. Today, she just galloped. I’m happy,” Miller said. “She’s coming in fresh and ran really well in Kentucky (a win in the Thoroughbred Club of America) last out.”

John Velazquez will ride the filly for the first time Saturday when they break from the outside post nine in the 7f dash.

 

TVG JUVENILE

 

Dennis’ Moment – All Dennis Albaugh knew is that his trainer, Dale Romans, kept referring to this ‘special horse’ of theirs. Then, Albaugh caught wind of what said special horse was named, and he knew those closest to him had succeeded in pulling off a pleasant shocker.

“They actually surprised me with the name of the horse,” Albaugh, who operates Albaugh Family Stable along with his son-in-law, Jason Loutsch, said referring to the colt now known as TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile morning-line favorite Dennis’ Moment. “My son-in-law and nephew sent it in. I heard Dale talking about this special horse that he had named Dennis’ Moment and I called Jason like ‘Where did that name come from?’ He was like ‘We named him after you!’ ”

Naming a horse after someone can be a tricky endeavor if said horse doesn’t pan out. That hasn’t been the case thus far for Albaugh as Dennis’ Moment heads into Friday’s Juvenile with as much regard as any horse on the two-day Breeders’ Cup card.

The Albaugh team has been here in a literal sense before alongside Romans, having brought Brody’s Cause (2015), Unbridled Outlaw (2015), Not This Time (2016) and Free Drop Billy (2017) to their respective Breeders’ Cup Juvenile starts. Not This Time came the closest to victory, finishing second by a neck to eventual champion Classic Empire. While some of his predecessors already had Grade I credentials on their resume to this point, Dennis’ Moment appears to boast and “it” factor that goes beyond his strong-bodied good looks.

“When we bought him, all the boxes were checked,” said Albaugh, who was on hand at Santa Anita Thursday to watch Dennis’ Moment gallop under Tammy Fox and then paddock school. “The bloodline was good but the horse just had quality. He looked excellent, and that’s what we kept coming back to. We were happy when the hammer finally went down. He had all the right breeding. And we put him to work and he just kept improving.

“He’s just kept getting better and better all along. And the demeanor of this horse is unbelievable. A lot of my other horses, they’ll try to take a bite out of you and stuff but this horse just lays there and lets you pet him. To be the favorite in this kind of race is unbelievably exciting.”

Albaugh had to fight off the team of trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley to land Dennis’ Moment for $400,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.

“Mr. Oxley said kiddingly, ‘Why didn’t we buy him Mark?’ and I said ‘Because you didn’t bid again’,’” Casse said with a laugh. “I remember (Dennis’ Moment) was pretty big. And I liked Tiznow. We looked at him and we liked him.”

Should Dennis’ Moment prevail in Friday’s Juvenile and lock up divisional honors, the son of Tiznow will be on another shortlist — this one for winter book Kentucky Derby favorites.

“To have the favorite in a race like this, it’s very exciting,” Albaugh said.

 

Eight Rings – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday that Eight Rings certainly deserves to be one of the favorites in the Juvenile.

The Empire Maker colt has won two of his three starts and is the 2-1 second choice on the morning line behind Dennis’ Moment at 8-5. The lone loss came when he dropped jockey Drayden Van Dyke at the start of the Del Mar Furturity. In his most recent start, Eight Rings won the American Pharoah by six lengths.

“He just has raw, raw talent that we’ve seen,” Baffert said. “He showed that he can go long. He’s fast. He can get out of trouble. He’s quick. That’s what you want this time of year. You want a horse with speed. He likes it better if he has a horse go with him.

“After that Del Mar incident we put the blinkers on him because he’s still a little green so he’s looking around a lot. What I like about him and all my good horses is that they don’t get tired. That’s what separates the really good ones.”

Eight Rings, owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, Fred Hertrich, III,  John Fielding, Golconda Stables and Coolmore Stud, galloped 1 3/8m Thursday morning under rider Humberto Gomez.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings will start from post six in the eight-horse Juvenile.

 

JUVENILE FILLIES

Bast – Baomo Corp’s Uncle Mo filly prepped for the Juvenile Fillies with a win by a neck in the Chandelier Stakes on Sept. 27, her first try in a race around two turns.

The Chandelier score pushed her record to 2-0-1 and helped make her the co-second choice at 7-2 on the morning line. She will leave with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez from post six in the field of nine.

“She’s a nice filly. She’s fast,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “In her last race, she struggled a little bit to win. When she came back she was blowing pretty good. She got a little tired. Sometimes you can get away with two turns this early in the season – they’re fast, they’ve got quality and will hold on – and later on they all catch up with you.

“I think we’re all in the same boat, all those fillies. Nobody knows with the two turns. That’s a big factor. The favorite is Donna Veloce. She’s really fast, but you don’t know what they’re going to do when they come around that second turn. It’s amazing. Some of them it hits them right between the eyes, that distance, that second turn. We have an edge there because we’ve already done it. That’s a big thing.”

Bast galloped 1 3/8m Thursday under exercise rider Manny Avila.

 

            Donna Veloce – “It’s interesting how we got her,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of his prized 2yo filly Donna Veloce, the morning-line favorite for Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. “An independent blood stock agent, Ben McElroy, had unsuccessfully bid on her at a yearling sale last year on behalf of another client.  So, Ben obviously had an eye on her and when she was entered in this winter’s Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, we discussed her and watched her breeze.  That led to our making the successful bid ($800,000),” Callaghan noted.  “We have very high aspirations for her.”

In an ironic twist, the sale price was identical to that of stablemate Bellafina at the same sale in 2018.

Thursday Donna Veloce galloped a mile under regular exercise rider Ivan DeSilvo.

 

Wicked Whisper – Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Steve Asmussen-trained Wicked Whisper will put her undefeated record to the test Friday when she starts as one of the favorites in the Juvenile Fillies. The chestnut Kentucky-bred filly left Barn 59 Thursday morning with Angel Garcia in the saddle and galloped a little more than a lap of Santa Anita Park’s main track.

“Today she galloped,” Asmussen said. “She’s an extremely talented filly and was a big yearling purchase with a big pedigree. She has a gorgeous look and she’s two-for-two. Obviously, there’s a lot on the line Friday with her and championship honors will be decided. She’s a very important filly.”

A front-running winner last out in the Frizette at Belmont, the $500,000 daughter of Liam’s Map will break from post seven of nine with Joel Rosario in her first try around two turns and beyond one mile.

“She’s all class – just a very classy, kind filly,” Asmussen said. “She manages (her speed) really well and I don’t want to take anything away from her. Hopefully she stands up right, as she’s not been a tremendous first-jump horse, but obviously she’s overcome that.”

 

BIG ASS FANS DIRT MILE

 

Diamond Oops – Diamond Oops jogged once around the Santa Anita racetrack Thursday morning under assistant trainer Andie Biancone while preparing for a start in Saturday’s $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“We’re in it to win it, as simple as that,” said trainer Patrick Biancone when asked about his confidence level for the 4yo son of Lookin At Lucky’s quest to upset morning-line favorite Omaha Beach.

Diamond Oops won the 6f Smile Sprint at Gulfstream Park June 29 and finished second behind Imperial Hint in the 6f Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga July 27 before finishing second on turf in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, where he set a pressured pace before losing by less than a length to Bowies Hero.

“We ran in the mile race to give him conditioning for this race. In January 2018 he got an injury. It took time to fix him. It was eight months of stall rest. It’s eight months he’s been in training and we have used his races to prepare him instead of breeze and breeze and breeze,” said Biancone, who considers Diamond Oops a better horse on dirt than turf. “We have gone step by step and hope we have him perfect for this weekend. That seems to be the case.”

Since recovering from a pulled flexor in a pastern, Diamond Oops has breezed exclusively on turf at Gulfstream’s Palm Meadows Training Center when he has breezed.

 

Improbable – Trainer Bob Baffert figures that Improbable’s behavior before the race starts will determine whether he can be successful in the Dirt Mile. The 3yo City Zip colt has talent – he was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and the Preaknesss – but has been a bad actor at times.

Improbable will start from post two under new rider Rafael Bejarano.

“Man, you just hope that he doesn’t go in the gate and starts his antics. He’s his worst enemy right now,” Baffert said. “He’s a really good horse, and there are some good horses there. You’ve got Omaha Beach. The break is going to be essential. In the Mile it’s pedal to the metal. It’s pedal to the metal in all these races with all these good horses. At least he’s on the inside. If he breaks well, if he’s not first or second … he’s got to break.”

 

Mr. Money – Multiple Grade 3 winner and Pennsylvania Derby runner-up Mr. Money galloped Thursday morning under Simon Camacho and was scheduled for a paddock schooling session with horses in the first race Thursday afternoon.

Owned by Allied Racing Stable and Spendthrift Farm, Mr. Money is one of two horses in the 10-horse Dirt Mile field to have raced exclusively in graded company in 2019 with Hog Creek Hustle being the other,

“He has never missed a beat,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He’s a very aggressive horse and we are very fortunate he has stayed sound all year.

Santa Anita will mark the sixth track at which Mr. Money has run this year.

“After the Pat Day Mile, he stayed at Churchill Downs and then the Indiana Derby was only a couple hours away,” Calhoun said. “His first real ship was to West Virginia and then to Parx and he handled everything great.”

Gabriel Saez, who has been aboard Mr. Money in 10 of his 11 starts, will be aboard Saturday.

 

            Omaha Beach – Dirt Mile favorite Omaha Beach galloped 1 1/2m Thursday under regular rider Taylor Cambra and the horse’s performance left both his rider and Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella smiling.

One of the most successful trainers in Breeders’ Cup history with nine wins, Mandella had several options for Omaha Beach, who had been the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby before being scratched days before the race with a breathing issue and won a 6f sprint in his return to the races five months later, but in the end decided to do what was best by the horse and opted for Dirt Mile.

“He’s certainly talented enough for the Classic, but the Proper thing is the mile,” Mandella said. “The Classic may have been asking too much.”

 

 

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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