Out of sight, out of mind. That old bromide may be exactly the feeling of voters when they cast their ballots for the Horse of the Year Award.
Mineshaft and Empire Maker were retired because of minor injuries while Candy Ride was put away so that he could return for next year’s major racing events. Too bad, because a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic probably would have assured any one of them top honors for 2003.
Many racing officials felt that with their defections, this year’s BC Classic would suffer a severe lack of quality. Their spirits were raised last week when the pre-entries for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita were announced.
Now pre-race opinion has it that the winner of the $4 million BC Classic could very well affect this year’s awards voting.
Consider, for instance, the three-year-old Funny Cide, winner of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He wasn’t expected to compete in the BC Classic until recently when Trainer Barclay Tagg surprisingly announced he was sending the colt to California for the main event.
Or the Irish-bred European champion Falbrav whose owners are considering advancing $360,000 to make this five-year-old eligible for the Classic even though his racing experience has been on the turf. Falbrav was pre-entered for both the Classic and the $2 million Turf with his preference being for the grass event.
Then there is Medaglia D’Oro, the four-year-old trained by Bobby Frankel, who won the Strub, the Oaklawn Handicap and the Whitney before finishing second to Candy Ride as the 3-5 favorite in the Pacific Classic. Frankel also has the option of including the outstanding three-year-old Peace Rules in the Classic, although the likelihood is he will start in the BC Mile.
Always dangerous Trainer Bob Baffert will saddle Congaree who has been burning up the Santa Anita surface during recent workouts while septuagenarian Phil Johnson has been focusing on the a BC Classic repeat for his Volponi. Still open to Baffert is the option of starting Congaree in the BC Sprint.
Others receiving early consideration are the much-improved Ten Most Wanted and recent winners Perfect Drift and Pleasantly Perfect.
Just how the winner dominates the field probably will determine how he will be viewed by the Eclipse award voters.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
After looking over the potential entires, Trainer Luca Cumani may decide that his Falbrav might have an easier time in the Classic than in the $2 million Turf that appears to be loaded with talent.
If entered in the Turf, Falbrav will have to face the four-year-old Irish-bred High Chaparral who defeated him (by a neck) in the 10-furlong Ireland Food Isle Champion Stakes. And another Irish bred four-year-old, Sulamani, will be there hoping to repeat his recent Grade I victory at Belmont Park.
Another European expected to attract a lot of attention is the English-bred Storming Home who has won his four starts, including three Grade I events, since being shipped to the U.S. to be trained by Neil Drysdale.
Since Azeri was withdrawn just days before the race, bettors will have to look elsewhere for their dark horse.
Players can expect challenges from the Frankel-trained Sightseek, as well as Got Koko and Eloluv, the two fillies that finished in front of her in her last race.
Also challenging will be Test Stakes winner Lady Tak, Spinster victor Take Charge Lady and the English-raced Buy The Sport.
Always popular both with the horsemen and the fans, the $1.5 million BC Mile has once again attracted a variety of middle distance runners with a penchant for grass racing.
Attracted to the event is the French bred and raced Six Perfections, a three-year-old filly that has never been worse than second in her nine races over two years. Fans, remembering the great French filly Miesque, will surely look closely at this Pascal Bary-trained filly.
Almost equaling her record is the Canadian Soaring Free, a four-year-old gelding who has been first or second in 10 of his 13 races. Other Europeans entered in the Mile are Statue of Liberty, Refuse to Bend and Oasis Dream.
Heading the U.S. contingent will be Designed for Luck winner of the Oak Tree BC Mile and Peace Rules who showed a fondness for the turf before being moved to dirt in order that he might compete in the Triple Crown events.
Speedsters galore will take to the track in the six-furlong $1 million BC Sprint that could end up as a match race between the Bob Baffert-trained Congaree and Aldebaran from the barn of Bobby Frankel. The question may be whether either one can win at six panels since both have been successful at seven furlongs or longer.
Frankel will probably hope to set up the race for Aldebaran with the three-year-old Midas Eyes, known for his blazing early speed. Others to help set the pace will be Cajun Beat, Captain Squire and Shake You Down.
Filly & MareTurf
European raced invaders are expected to be prominent in the
$1 million BC
Filly & Mare Turf at one mile and one-quarter. Leading the group from across the Atlantic will be Islington from the stable of Michael Stoute. In her last, the four-year-old daughter of Sadler’s Wells finished just a neck and a head behind the European champion High Chaparral.
Acclaimed trainer Aidan O’Brien is sending his top filly Yesterday and stablemate L’Ancresse while French trainer Elie Lelouche has Bright Sky ready for her best effort.
They’ll be meeting recent winners Tates Creek, Voodoo Dancer, Megahertz, Dimitrova, Dessert and Bien Nicole.
Looking to become the early favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby are a number of two-year-olds that have shown early promise. For some it also will be the first time they will be asked to race around two turns in this one mile and one-sixteenth event.
Falling into this category is the Carson City colt Cuvee from Steve Asmussen’s barn. The Verne Winchell homebred has won four of his five starts in impressive style but his longest distance was one mile at Belmont Park.
Equally impressive is Cactus Ridge, undefeated in his four starts, including a front-running victory in the prestigious Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park. And from Europe are Dermot Weld’s Relaxed Gesture and Grand Reward Old Deuteronomy from the O’Brien contingent.
This is shaping up as the challenge of the unbeatens. At least five of the fillies pre-entered in this $1 million BC Juvenile Fillies have yet to taste defeat.
Trainer Dick Mandella’s Halfbridled has won both the Oak Leave and Del Mar Debutante with ease while H. Allen Jerkens’ Society Selection came from back of the pack to annex the recent Frizette at Belmont Park. And Bob Baffert’s Class Above impressed mid-westerners with her victory in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Also undefeated are Vino Tinto from Louisiana Downs, and Forest Music, a maiden winner at Laurel.