Countdown to the Cup: Welcome to California

It was a tale of two coasts Sunday morning. On the west coast, an invigorating chill in the air; a bright blue, cloudless sky; the San Gabriel mountains so clear and sharp it was as if you could reach out and touch them; hundreds of people gathered at Clocker’s Corner as dozens upon dozens of horses decked out in Breeders’ Cup saddle towels charged by, either working or galloping.

On the east coast, thoughts were of the approaching “Frankenstorm” that is expected to wreak havoc on the Jersey Shore and New York. Among the Breeders’ Cup horses still at Belmont Park and at the mercy of the weather are Royal Delta, Flat Out, Ron the Greek, To Honor and Serve, Shanghai Bobby, and Awesome Feather.

Bill Mott’s powerful contingent that was scheduled to leave Monday will now van up to Newburgh, N.Y. at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night and fly out of the upstate New York. airport, refueling in Kentucky. As for the Tuesday shipment, it is believed at this point they will wait for Wednesday and try to get out then.

But so much for the horses who aren’t here. As for the ones who are, the main focus of Sunday’s activity was the work by likely Classic favorite Game On Dude, who turned in a sparkling seven-furlong drill in 1:25 flat. The son of Awesome Again, working with Blueskiesnrainbows, really picked it up in the final furlong (one clocker had his last eighth in :11 2/5) and galloped out strongly. What was impressive was the way he came bouncing back after the work as if he were returning from a leisurely jog.

Not a horse to blow you away from a physical standpoint, he would be considered by oldtimers as all hickory – tough as nails and always doing what is asked of him. Since his purchase by Bob Baffert, he’s never willingly taken a day off or merely gone through the motions, whether racing or training. In short, he gives you 100 percent every time.

Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile duo of Power Broker and Title Contender also caught the eye, working five furlongs in company in :59 flat.

One trainer who still has a big decision to make is Dale Romans. As he sat at Clocker’s Corner having breakfast, he and Donegal Racing’s Jerry Crawford still hadn’t decided whether to enter Dullahan in the Classic or the Turf. Exercise rider and assistant Tammy Fox was to decide which surface Dullahan handled better after working him over both, but admitted this morning it was too close to call. She said he worked equally as good on both surfaces. Dullahan worked five furlongs in 1:00 flat on the dirt on Saturday.

Romans said he was going to speak to Crawford later on Sunday and make their decision. Entries will be taken Monday morning, with the Classic field drawn at 4:30 p.m. One factor in favor of running in the Classic is that Dullahan would get a fee ride into the Classic, having won the Pacific Classic, a “win and you’re in” race amnd has proven himself at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Looking at another Classic horse stabled on the grounds, it is safe to say optimism is running high in the Doug O’Neill barn over the chances of Richard’s Kid, who looked like a sprightly 3-year-old galloping this morning. One of the reasons for his confidence in addition to the way Richard’s Kid has been training is the presence of another O’Neill-trained horse, Handsome Mike, in the Classic. Owned by Paul Reddam, Handsome Mike is coming off a wire-to-wire victory in the Pennsylvania Derby and is likely to provide a strong enough pace to keep things interesting for Game On Dude, as well as To Honor and Serve, Mucho Macho Man, and Fort Larned.

Getting back to the 2-year-olds, trainer Richard Mandella said that his brilliant filly Beholder, is all but certain to run in the Juvenile Sprint.

Another horse who looked terrific working this morning was the undefeated Cotillion winner My Miss Aurelia, who was not asked at all in her :48 half-mile drill. She was so much in hand, the clockers listed the work as breezing, which is rare at Santa Anita.

Power Broker

Power Broker and Title Contender ready for work in company.

Richard's Kid bounds over the track in his gallop.

Game On Dude

Game On Dude bouncing back following his work.

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