Breeders’ Cup Thursday Notebook: The Classic

(War of Will / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team:

Code of Honor – Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was well prepared for his trip to California for the Breeders’ Cup with Code of Honor. He brought his gloves and he was wearing them Thursday morning when Code of Honor was sent out to jog and then gallop 1¼m with exercise rider Lexi Pradun.
“I didn’t think it would be 41 when I came to work and it was 67 in New York,” he said. “I didn’t think that would happen.”
Code of Honor has won his three starts since his second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He drew the outside post in the field of 11 for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and with John Velazquez aboard is the co-second choice at 4-1 on the morning line behind McKinzie.
McGaughey said everything has gone smoothly since William S. Farish’s homebred colt shipped across the country Monday, but acknowledged he would prefer to be racing closer to home.
“I think he shipped really well,” McGaughey said. “Obviously, I wish it was on the East Coast, whether it was at Belmont, or Keeneland or Churchill. I really liked it when it was in the East at Gulfstream. But it’s where it is and he seems to have shipped out here really well. He’s gotten hold of the track really well.
“They say little horses like him, that are efficient, have sort of gotten over the track better than maybe a great big horse. But we’re coming and playing in the favorite’s backyard. That’s not going to be easy.”

 

Elate/Yoshida (Bill Mott) – It was another routine morning for trainer Bill Mott’s Classic duo Thursday – simple gallops, a trip through the paddock, then turns in the shedrow to cool out – which actually made the situation all the more wistful.

The Hall of Fame conditioner has been watching Elate and Yoshida go through their paces for more than three seasons now, developing the duo into multiple Grade I winners along the way. But when he puts the saddle on each for their expected starts in the Classic on Saturday, he also will be bidding a competitive farewell to two of the most reliable and talented members of his stable.

The 1 1/4m Classic is set to be the final career starts for both Elate and Yoshida with the latter slated to join the stallion roster at WinStar Farm and Elate bound for her next career as a broodmare at her birthplace Claiborne Farm. With so much on the line Saturday, Mott is keeping his focus locked in on trying to get his charges to the starting gate in the best shape possible.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the legendary horseman isn’t quietly savoring his last couple days as their caretaker.

“I know they’re going to good spots. I know Elate is going to a good home and she’s ready to start her new career, and the same with Yoshida,” Mott said. “I just hope that he’ll be successful and have some luck the first couple years at stud and then he can stay where he is at. That’s what we’ve been working for – trying to build up his record well enough so he would be popular the first year or two at stud.

“I would think he would have a fairly good attraction (in the stallion market). He’s got that Sunday Silence blood in him and I think we should be looking for that.”

Given the demand for well-pedigreed, successful fillies in the marketplace, Mott counts himself lucky to have had Elate in his barn for a long as he has. Her Grade 1 victories in 2017 Alabama Stakes and Beldame Stakes easily could have prompted her owner/breeders Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider to add the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro to their broodmare ranks following her sophomore season or abbreviated 2018 campaign.

“I feel fortunate that they’ve allowed us to keep her in training this year because she had a brief stint last year with only a couple starts and then she had a little issue,” Mott said. “They said ‘We’ll give her a little time’ and it wasn’t a serious problem and it worked out well. She’s run well for us this year, she’s had a good year.”

And neither she, nor Yoshida, is done just yet.

 

Higher Power  With owner Kosta Hronis on the scene at Santa Anita Park Thursday, Grade 1 winner Higher Power galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider David Pineda in preparation for his Classic run.

The son of Medaglia d’Oro has been among the more active members of the handicap ranks this season, racing nearly every month since his seasonal bow in January. The fact the Classic will represent his ninth start this year is a tribute, in trainer John Sadler’s opinion, to the colt’s hearty makeup and his ability to keep improving with more work.

“He’s just doing really well,” Sadler said. “He’s a big, sound horse and he doesn’t have any issues. What’s touting him to me is that we’ve had no blips on the screen. Everything has gone smooth, so we’re happy with him.”

 

Math Wizard – Math Wizard galloped 1 3/8m at Santa Anita on a brisk Thursday morning under assistant trainer Sabine Langvad in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Classic.

“He’s doing really good,” South Florida-based trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He loves this weather. I’m really happy with how he’s doing so far. He’s showing a lot of energy.”

Math Wizard, who was claimed for $25,000 out of an 18 ½-length victory at Gulfstream Park Jan. 31, was multiple graded stakes-placed before scoring a 31-1 upset in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx in his most recent start.

“To win that kind of race, especially with a horse that was claimed, is amazing,” Joseph said. “He’s the horse, if he continues the way he is, who is probably the one who will define my career.”

The 32-year-old native of Barbados’ career had been on the upswing the prior couple years before his breakthrough season in 2019, during which he started off the year with a fourth-place ranking during Gulfstream Park’s winter meeting and has continued to saddle winners at a 25-percent strike rate.

Joseph, who saddled Areutalkintome for a sweep of the 2009 Barbados Triple Crown at the age of 22, ventured to South Florida in 2011 with two horses. The son of a trainer, Joseph slowly but steadily established himself at Gulfstream Park.

“It’s fortunate we’ve picked up good owners and have a good team,” said Joseph, who went to prep school in Miami and attended one year at Florida International University before returning home to pursue a training career. “We’re getting great support. Once we get the horses, we know what to do with the horses. We need the horses, that’s the important piece of the puzzle.”

Math Wizard, a 3yo son of Algorithms, is scheduled to face older horses for the first time in the Classic.

“On numbers, he needs to improve four or five lengths. Seeing his behavior and his attitude here, he’s giving me the confidence that he could,” Joseph said. “But he definitely needs to improve.”

Math Wizard is owned by John Fanelli, Khalid Mischref, Cash Is King LLC, LC Racing LLC, Collarmele Vitelli Racing Stables LLC, Ioannis Zoumas and Bassett Stables.

 

McKinzie – After opening his career with three victories in four starts — and the lone loss by a disqualification — at Santa Anita, McKinzie brings a three-race losing streak at his home track into the Classic.
The son of Street Sense has finished second in all three of those Santa Anita races in 2019, with the most recent setback behind longshot Mongolian Groom in the Awesome Again on Sept. 28. Following the Awesome Again, trainer Bob Baffert changed riders, replacing Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the most successful jockey in Breeders’ Cup history, with Joel Rosario.
“That’s why I did the jockey switch, because he hadn’t won here,” Baffert said. “I thought I had to do something different.”

McKinzie drew post eight in the field of 11 and is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Baffert owns a Classic-record three wins and has an overall record of 3-3-2 with a record 22 starters in the race.
With rider Humberto Gomez aboard, McKinzie galloped 1 3/8m Thursday morning.

“He couldn’t be doing any better right now,” Baffert said.

The chestnut was named for the late racing executive Brad McKinzie, a Baffert pal since their college days at the University of Arizona and a friend of the co-owners, Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Baffert said there is added pressure with a horse named for his dear friend, who died of cancer at 62 in August 2017.

“Every time he gets beat it’s very frustrating because I think of Brad,” Baffert said. “It was very frustrating to lose the Met Mile because he was so good that day. I really don’t blame Mike (Smith) that much. He had to make a decision there and he made the wrong one. Those races are so important for these horses. We want to win every race, but if he runs first or second. He’s right there. It’s one of those things that I want to win it for the ownership group, Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, Paul Weitman. They have been in it for a long time. They’ve had some good luck, but they’ve had some bad luck: Lookin At Lucky drawing the one in the Derby. That was their chance to win the Derby.

“I just want the horse to show up. If he shows up and gets outrun, he gets outrun. There’s a lot on the line. There’s championships on the line. There is Horse of the Year on the line. That’s the beauty of the Breeders’ Cup. They are going to give out a lot of championships this weekend. I just hope that some of mine are on that list.”

 

Mongolian Groom – Enebish Ganbat switched his training routine Thursday, sending Mongolian Groom out to jog 2m with rider Jesse Cardenas rather than having him walk.

Ganbat said he made the change for two reasons: the 1 ¼m Classic is an extra furlong than the Awesome Again that the gelding won on Sept. 28 and because training hours end early, at 6:30 a.m, Friday so the track at Santa Anita can be prepared for the first day of the Breeders’ Cup races.

Ganbat said he is pleased with the 4yo son of Hightail, who he purchased for $12,000 as a 2yo in training.

“I felt very happy (Wednesday) because the horse galloped very strongly and came back in a normal condition,” Ganbat said.
The Classsic’s purse of $6 million is the largest Ganbat has competed for. He won with his first Breeders’ Cup starter in 2015 when Mongolian Saturday captured the Turf Sprint.
Mongolian Stable owner Ganbaatar Dagvadorj flew to California this week and was at Santa Anita watching his horse Thursday morning.
Mongolian Groom and jockey Abel Cedillo will leave from post nine in the Classic.

 

Owendale – Rupp Racing’s Owendale went to the track with stablemate Covfefe shortly before 9 a.m., stood in the gate and then galloped 1 3/8m.

“He’s awesome,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He’s doing great.”

           

Seeking the Soul – Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul went to the track shortly after 7 a.m. and galloped 1 1/2m before returning to his barn through the paddock. The Stephen Foster Handicap winner has been making quite the impression all week as he seeks to better his second-place finish in last year’s Dirt Mile.

“He’s excellent, he’s really doing good,” trainer Dallas Stewart said.

 

Vino Rosso – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso galloped 1 1/2m at Santa Anita Thursday morning, two days before the 4yo son of Curlin is scheduled to compete in the Classic.

“He’s doing super,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I wish the race were today.”

Vino Rosso registered two first-place finishes at the Classic distance of 1 1/4m this year, including one at Santa Anita. The Kentucky-bred colt won the May 27 Gold Cup, stalking the early pace before edging away to victory by three-quarters of a length. In his most recent start, Vino Rosso set a pressured pace to finish a nose in front of Code of Honor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, only to be disqualified for bumping the Travers Stakes winner in the stretch.

Although he was disappointed by the stewards’ decision, Pletcher has avoided dwelling on the turn of events at Belmont Park.

“You don’t have too much choice. You take it on the chin and move on,” Pletcher said.

John D. Gunther, the breeder Vino Rosso, as well as 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify, will be on hand at Santa Anita Saturday and will root on the Pletcher trainee.

“He ran such a big race (in the Jockey Club Gold Cup) and we hope he runs well. He’s one of the best horses in the race and one of the favorites, so he should be right there,” said Gunther, who also will be rooting for his homebred colt, Without Parole, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. “Last time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, there was lots of bumping and him coming down was a bit disappointing and controversial, but he’s a beautiful horse and always has been. We are really cheering for him.”

 

War of Will – Gary Barber’s Preakness Stakes winner jogged Thursday under Shane Tripp and will jog again early Friday morning, trainer Mark Casse said.

“He’s as good and happy and looks as well as he ever has,” Casse said. “It’s always a concern with 3-year-olds taking on older horses so we’re going to find out how he fits into the picture. But for us, as a trainer, all you can do is ask to be the best you can be and let the chips fall. That’s where I would say we’re at with him. He’s as good as he can get right now. He needs some luck and we’ll see what happens.”

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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