Goodwood Stakes may be coming up strong

The $300,000 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet, which already figured to include Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, might have gotten another big-name horse Sunday when trainer Todd Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form that Quality Road, a disappointing third in Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga, will prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in either the Goodwood or the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.

It appears that Summer Bird, who won the Travers by 3 1/2 lengths while earning a career-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure, will prep for the Breeders’ Cup in the Jockey Club Gold Cup because of the availability of jockey Kent Desormeaux, who would have to choose between Mr. Sidney or Summer Bird if the Belmont winner runs in the Goodwood because it’s the same day as the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, in which the Bill Mott-trained Mr. Sidney is expected to be a major player.

Summer Bird also already has shown a fondness for Belmont’s main track, having turned in a powerful victory in the Belmont Stakes in June. Trainer Tim Ice said that would also have to be a major factor in the decision.

“He loves Belmont,” Ice told the Racing Form. “Why not take a chance in the Gold Cup, and we’ll see how he fares on the Poly (Santa Anita) once we get him out there and train him.”

The Goodwood, a 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 race on Oct. 10 that will be run over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface, may also include such Southland-based horses as Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, Santa Anita Handicap winner Einstein, 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner Colonel John and perhaps Tiago, who did not take to the grass in his turf debut last Wednesday at Del Mar.

Rail Trip, Einstein and Colonel John are all scheduled to race in Sunday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a 1 1/4-mile Grade 1 event on Del Mar’s Polytrack surface.

* The Daily Racing Form also reported that Santa Anita president Ron Charles expects to announce major changes to the Sunshine Millions format sometime in September.

The Sunshine Millions, a series of eight stakes races restricted to California and Florida-breds worth $3.6 million that is annually held in January at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park, figures to be hit by a drastic cut to its purse sizes because of an economy that racing officials contend is the major reason for a decline in handle. Because of that decline, purses in California have been slashed during the past two years.

There’s also a chance some of the Sunshine Millions races could be shelved for a year until the economic climate improves.

Charitable Man notch below best 3-year-olds?

The Charitable Man camp was ultra high on their 3-year-old colt following his 3 3/4-length victory in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 9, but he’s since run mediocre races in both the Belmont and Jim Dandy and the enthusiasm has been tempered heading into today’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“The Peter Pan was very impressive, but the Belmont was not and the Jim Dandy, he had a few little excuses and finished third, but he just might not be up to the top 10 (3-year-olds) in America,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We were pretty high on him after the Peter Pan, but we’ve toned it down a little bit. He’s trained well, developed well, but he’s probably in tough Saturday.”

The Travers drew a field of seven, including 8-5 favorite Quality Road, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and Kensei, who was impressive while winning the Jim Dandy Stakes.

McLaughlin said even though he believes Charitable Man may be overmatched by some of today’s runners, it’s tough to pass up a chance to start a horse in the Mid-Summer Derby.

“There’s only one Travers, and it’s one of the most important races for 3-year-olds, so we decided to stay home and give it a try,” he said.

I’m interested to see how Quality Road runs today, to see if he can duplicate his marvelous form that carried him to a dominating victory in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park before he was taken off the Derby trail because of injury.

I think he’s going to be tough to beat, particularly if he can lay second or third behind the pacesetter(s) and then make his move around the far turn. Summer Bird needs a quick pace to get up, and Kensei might not have the class some of these other 3-year-old have shown.

Woolley feels vindicated with Mine That Bird

There were many who believed Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby victory this year at 50-1 odds was a fluke, a product of the sloppy track at Churchill Downs. But the gelding has gone on to run competitively in the Preakness, Belmont and West Virginia Derby to show he wasn’t just a one-trick pony.

As many of you know and made me painfully aware immediately after the race, I gave Mine That Bird zero chance to win the Run for the Roses. In my column that morning, he was the first horse I said had no chance. I drew a line through him. I thought he’d have a better chance of winning one of the claiming races that afternoon.

Trainer Chip Woolley himself admitted he was surprised Mine That Bird won the Derby, but he did think he had a better horse than the betting public believed.

“In my mind, there was no question that the horse had anted up every time, but to some people I guess there was,” Woolley said. “Then when you see the horse just continue to show up every time you lead him up there and put up his best effort … I mean, we’ve come up short and we can blame it on whoever we blame it on, but the horse everytime has laid it on the line and given us everything he had to give.

“You’ve got to respect him for that. I guess it’s some vindication that the horse, my program, the whole thing has worked very well together and we’ve showed up every time we’ve gone somewhere.”

Now that the Mine That Bird camp has decided to skip Saturday’s Travers Stakes, giving the gelding more time to recover from last week’s minor throat surgery, plans call for him to run in the Goodwood Stakes during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet on Oct. 10 as a prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7

Polytrack problems at Arlington Park

Seems like Del Mar is not the only venue with Polytrack that is having problems with its synthetic surface. Here’s an item from today’s Daily Racing Form:

Meanwhile, the start of the Thursday card at Arlington was delayed by 30 minutes after a meeting between jockeys, horsemen, and Arlington management went long. According to one anonymous source who was in attendance, among the numerous issues discussed were conditions of the Polytrack surface, which has not met to the satisfaction of some trainers or jockeys.

Hmmm. Quite a surprise, huh?

Pick six suggestions at Del Mar

There’s a $700,000-plus pick six carryover at Del Mar today, and some of the races appear wide open. I’m going to bypass playing the pick six, but here are a few horses I’d have on my ticket if I played one:

THIRD — Both of Steve Knapp’s horses, Let’spickupthepace and Only Be Cause, have big shots in this spot.
FOURTH — Give Winky a look here.
SIXTH — The combination of Rosario and Hollendorfer is tough to overlook with Schill.
SEVENTH — Dextera figures to be right there in a wide-open race. She doesn’t like to win, but she’s dangerous.
EIGHTH — If you’re going to single someone on today’s card, the entry of Brilliant Response and With Respect is the spot to do it.

Good luck today!

Mine That Bird headed to Santa Anita

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird’s connections decided not to enter the 3-year-old gelding in Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga, preferring to be cautious and wait to make sure he’s recovered from the throat surgery he underwent 11 days ago to repair an entrapped epiglottis.

Trainer Chip Woolley said Mine That Bird will be sent to Santa Anita to prepare for the $350,000 Grade 1 Goodwood Handicap during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet on Oct. 10 as a prep for the main objective — the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

“That gives us six more weeks for it to be for sure, positively completely healed,” trainer Chip Woolley told the Daily Racing Form. “We just want to go down the road and make sure the horse is 100 percent before we start.”

The Travers drew a field of seven Wednesday morning, including Florida Derby winner Quality Road, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Peter Pan Stakes champion Charitable Man, and Jim Dandy winner Kensei.

Quality Road, thought by some to be the best 3-year-old in America, was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Summer Bird is the 3-1 second choice. Quality Road, trained by Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by John Velazquez.

Another fatality at Del Mar

Two jockeys were injured and one horse was euthanized during Del Mar training hours Monday morning, San Diego Union-Tribune racing writer Hank Wesch reported on his blog.
Zetta’s Corridor, a 3-year-old filly trained by Kathy Walsh, broke a front leg and fell at about 8:15 a.m., tossing exercise rider David Rodriguez to the ground. Zetta’s Corridor, who finished third in her career debut at Del Mar on July 31, had to be euthanized and became the 11th fatality at the track since July 19.
There has been no word on the condition of Rodriguez, who was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital.
Wesch also reports that at about 6:15 a.m., exercise rider Rachael Escamilla was unseated from her mount near the chute at the west end of the stretch from which 1 1/4 mile races are started.
Escamilla was reportedly unconscious for a short period and was also taken to Scripps La Jolla for treatment of undetermined injuries.

Rachel will run next in the Woodward

She’s already beaten 3-year-old boys twice, winning both the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational. Now she’s going to try to become the first female ever to win the Woodward when she takes on older males in the $750,000 Grade 1 race at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 5.

The filly’s connections announced their plans following a workout Monday morning at Saratoga. If Rachel, who already has a huge lead in the Horse of the Year race, adds a victory over older males to her already impressive resume, well, the only way Zenyatta can win Horse of the Year is to beat Rachel in a head-to-head matchup, which could occur after the Breeders’ Cup.

Here’s a link to the Daily Racing Form’s story about Rachel Alexandra running in the Woodward. Just copy and paste in your browser:

Tyler Baze sidelined with broken finger

Tyler Baze, second in the Del Mar rider standings behind Joel Rosario, is expected to be sidelined at least a week after fracturing the pinky finger on his left hand when dumped during the post parade for Saturday’s 10th race.

R. Bee Ess, trained by Carla Gaines, unseated Baze as the horses walked to the gate for the maiden special weight on grass, ran off and had to be scratched after it took several minutes for outriders to catch the horse.

Baze went into Saturday’s action with 29 victories — six fewer than Rosario. Both riders blanked Saturday, but Rosario won the Solana Beach Handicap on Sunday aboard You Lift Me Up to open a 36-29 edge in the standings.

The injury comes at a bad time for the 26-year-old Baze, who was scheduled to ride Monterey Jazz in next Saturday’s $300,000 Grade 2 Del Mar Mile and also will lose his mount in the $250,000 Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on Sunday.

Baze’s agent, Ron Ebanks, hopes his client can return in time to ride the Jeff Mullins-trained Battle of Hastings in the $350,000 Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6, Pacific Classic day.

Garrett Gomez, who got off to a slow start at Del Mar, rode four winners Sunday to move into fifth place in the jockey standings with 20 victories.

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Einstein will go in Del Mar’s Pacific Classic

Einstein, winner of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 and fifth in the recent Arlington Million on turf, will be shipped to California to run in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 6.

The richest North American horse currently in training with more than $2.7 million in earnings, Einstein is scheduled to be flown to California on Aug. 31. If he fares well in the 1 1/4-mile race on the track’s Polytrack surface, he’ll likely remain in Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita.

Einstein, a 7-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Spend a Buck, has won on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces and will join a large field that is expected to include Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes champion Colonel John, San Diego Handicap winner Informed and Eddie Read Stakes winner Global Hunter.

Julien Leparoux, who rode Einstein in the Santa Anita Handicap, has the call again on the Helen Pitts-trained horse in the Pacific Classic.