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.


Leave a Comment:

Dr Drunkinbum

If Dullahan was mine there wouldn't be any question whatsoever, he'd be in The Classic. He hasn't shown anywhere near enough talent on turf to warrant being in that race against those monsters. We all know that his best races have been on AW but on dirt he closed well in the BC Juvenile and The Derby. He threw in a few clunkers on the dirt also but he did win the Pacific Classic at 10f in under 2 minutes over Game On Dude and Richard's Kid albeit on AW. Still I see him as an AW horse first, a dirt horse second and a turf horse last.

28 Oct 2012 7:32 PM


Your spotting of Richard's Kid with an outsider's shot here makes a lot more sense than the no-hoper, Brilliant Speed in your last column.

At this point the BCC looks to be boiling down to an interesting contest between Mucho Macho Man, Flat Out and Game on Dude. The 3YOs Dullahan and Alpha are coming to run lights-out for a share of the big purse and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them wins. I'll make my final selections later.

The Distaff (Ladies Classic) has for a long time been looking like the premier event of this years Breeder's Cup. Awesome Feather, tuned-to-the-minute is an exceptional filly with the heart of a champion but so too is My Miss Aurelia. Questing is a filly of immense class from the top drawer and the battle-hardened matriarch, Royal Delta is coming to take no prisoners. Also, can we overlook the ever improving Love and Pride. This is going to be a race worth travelling miles to see. Any one of the above can win here but its going to very definitely be a test of class and heart.  Hopefully the track plays fair without bias. I still lean towards Awesome Feather over My Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta. I should add that I believe any of these top fillies could hold their own in the Breeder's Cup Classic (Only MMA would not relish going beyond 9 furlongs).

The BC Mile on Turf is the next super interesting race, featuring the present "big horse" Wise Dan, the very formidable colt, Obviously, the outstanding European miler, "Frankel's deputy & whipping horse" Excelebration and the inconsistent-but-very good-on-his-day Californian, Jeranimo. If Wise Dan is as good as I think he is then he should score impressively. If Little Mike (a live longshot) runs in this race it may set up easier for Wise Dan as Johnny V in the irons could afford to sit a little further off the early fractions. However this gelding is so versatile, he can win the Mile with any style, while his backers smile.

Wow ...didn't even know it ...I sound like a poet. How's that Steve?        

28 Oct 2012 9:04 PM

Steve, beautiful photos of the aesthetically sublime Santa Anita Park. I believe the East Cost two year olds may be running into mishap facing the two BB trained Pulpit colts; lovely pics of Power Broker and Title Contender.

Will the lasix exclusion in the two year old races impact on the present standings?

At this stage the weather over the 2 days is playing it's part as well - picture perfect. I hope the track plays fair for everyone on both days.

Fingers crossed for the best 2 days of racing yet.  

29 Oct 2012 4:46 AM


I have been looking at the Timeform rankings of the top dirt horses in America.

Timeform shows:

Royal Delta 128

Dullahan 128

Game On Dude 127

Questing 127

Mucho Macho Man 125

Ron The Greek 125

Royal Delta will get a sex allowance if she runs in the Classic. She is already top-ranked. If she finishes second she gets about $1m. This is where she should run.

She will have to concede an age allowance to Questing and My Miss Aurelia in the Ladies’ Classic.  If she wins that race she gets $1.2m.  Questing will be harder to beat than the males, at weight for age,according to the rankings.

29 Oct 2012 9:40 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I enjoyed this article and the gorgeous pictures.  And thanks for the BC video "minute."  I am so excited to be at Santa Anita.  What a great day at the "Great Race Place" it will be! I love getting to see these great champions in person.

29 Oct 2012 11:06 AM
Bill Two

Horses like Dullahan will always be at a disadvantage as long as the BC doesn't provide a race for synthetic specialists.  But what can be done?  Until and if a track is built to accomodate all 3 surfaces {dirt, turf and synthetic} the Dullahans of the world will always be up against it.  With that in mind it makes me wonder why Doug is so optimistic about Richard's Kid.  The horse is so much better on synthetic than on dirt.......

29 Oct 2012 11:12 AM
El Kabong

Sitting on pins and needles, Steve. I want Dullahan in the Classic and believe he will head there. The pace may set up nicely for him and Ron The Greek.

Tying up loose ends, plan to travel Thursday morning and hit the track by post time on thursday. Hope to run into a bloodhorse brother or two.

Back to the brizzzzzing. Lots of #'s to crunch and film to watch today. Looking forward to Post Draws and Jockey assigns.

29 Oct 2012 11:42 AM
El Kabong

Ugggggggghhhhhhh. The Turf? Tell me it ain't so!!!

29 Oct 2012 12:06 PM
Linda in Texas

Glad you remembered your camera Steve. Richard's Kid looks awesome.

Did not ever realize what a big

beautiful fella he is. Looks to be

in superb condition.

Reading that The Slayton Plane got some of the contenders out of New York and harm's way this morning around 1 am. I bet the horses

wondered what in the world are these people thinking taking us out of our stalls at this time of night?  

Hope all horses and people of course, make it safely. Wow, having worked in the Air Traffic Control World, The Slayton Plane would have been a special dot on my radar screen, believe me. More than just a cargo plane for sure.

A mighty precious and expensive live and breathing cargo to say the least.

Thank you Steve, we are all so appreciative and glad to know you are there on the ground and on your toes!

Have a Great Time.

29 Oct 2012 2:05 PM

Steve, I was at the track Saturday, my first time at Santa Anita.  I had no idea how beautiful a setting it was going to be!  Really spectacular!  I was at the BC volunteer orientation meeting and my job will be as "Owner Escort"!  Can't wait!

29 Oct 2012 2:05 PM
Linda in Texas


       not Slayton

   Doc said i need trifocals.

  Think he is probably right on!

29 Oct 2012 2:41 PM

I agree with the comment that Richards Kid is a better possibility of hitting the board than Brilliant Speed who I believe is a turf horse.Brilliant Speed was able to close so well against 3yos because most of the 3yos are colts that run on the lead or close to it and they dont close very well,besides the fact they arent bred for 10 panels.As the colts age they relax more to rate and are able to run longer distances.

29 Oct 2012 3:50 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Ranagulzion- I too favor Awesome Feather in the ladies classic.  That race could very well come down to a head bob between 4 horses at the wire.  Questing holding the lead with AF, MMA, and RD all closing down on her. I Love Mucho Macho man in the classic, he ALWAYS runs a big one after a race he hasn't won(throw out the Belmont).  I LOVE Marketing Mix in the BC F&M Turf, Shareta in the BC Turf, Trinniberg in the sprint, Atigun/Fame and Glory in the Marathon, Spring venture in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Spring in the Air in the Juvenile Fillies, Excelebration in the Mile and Shackleford in the Dirt mile.  No PP's needed for those...I bet those because I love those specific horses.  

29 Oct 2012 4:03 PM


What are horseman saying about the dirt track out there?  I know some were concerned about it being the rock hard fast surface it was, but have also heard it is a little deeper and kinder on the horses this time.  How do some of the east coasters look going over it?

29 Oct 2012 5:52 PM
Criminal Type

The ladies classic is shaping up to be the best race of the season in my opinion. As much respect as I have for Royal Delta's talent, I think My Miss Aurelia and Questing have the advantage here. If those two are racing under equal weights, Questing wins. Questing gave 7 pounds to MMA in the Cotillian and lost by a short neck. If it were the other way around, Questing would have won by daylight. I've been a staunch supporter of Hard Spun since he was a 2 yr old and thought he would eventually become the best sire son of Danzig and he is off to a fantastic start with Questing (first crop). A Breeders Cup winning offspring would certainly put a feather in his cap.

I'm on Ron the Greek in the classic, ala Drosselmeyer. I have always liked him and he is getting better with age. Mucho Macho Man gets a piece and so does Nonios (gorgeous horse) I just have a feeling the big horse (Game on Dude) is not going to show up this time.

30 Oct 2012 8:57 PM

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