Breeders’ Cup Classic - Thursday notes

December 10, 2019

Bayern – Bayern, a candidate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, has picked up a major endorsement for an event that already shaped up as, to borrow a political phrase, a real ‘horse race.’

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who’ll make his riding comeback in the two-day Championships barely three months after knee replacement surgery, has cast his vote for Bayern, the 6-1 fourth choice on the morning line behind Shared Belief (9-5), California Chrome (4-1) and Tonalist (5-1).

“I’m rootin’ for him,” Stevens said Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner. “I’m part of the team, you know. His last three works have been unbelievable and I’ll be rootin’ for him just the same as I would have Beholder if she were running.”

Stevens was aboard the 3yo son of Offlee Wild, owned by Kaleem Shah Inc. and trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, for victories in his first two career starts in January and February at Santa Anita and again for a 7 1/2-length victory in the Woody Stephens in June at Belmont Park.

Martin Garcia has been aboard for Bayern’s last three starts, among them wire-to-wire wins in the Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby which promote the thought that Bayern might be the Classic pacesetter. A notion with which Stevens does not agree.

“He won’t be on the lead, Moreno will,” Stevens said. “He doesn’t have to have the lead. If I was on him I’d ride him just like I rode Beholder (in winning the Distaff) last year.”

Stevens had Beholder in third, a length and a half off the pace, before advancing nearing the three-quarter marker and pulling away to a 4 1/2-length win.

Bayern jogged 1 1/2 m Thursday morning.

California Chrome – Trainer Art Sherman said the 3yo colt is in peak form during a press conference with rival trainer and long-time friend Jerry Hollendorfer, conditioner of morning-line favorite Shared Belief, at Santa Anita Thursday morning.

“California Chrome is actually training better than he did before the Santa Anita Derby,” said Sherman after the colt galloped 1 ¾ m with regular exercise rider Willy Delgado. “He’s right on his game.

“He seems really happy,” added Sherman, wearing a straw hat and blue Los Alamitos windbreaker. “Of course, he loves Santa Anita. He has always trained well here. I hope we all have a safe trip.

“He needed his last race,” said Sherman in reference to a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20, his first start in three months. “He didn’t have the best trip. I think you will see a different horse Saturday.”

Sherman repeated his relief in drawing an outside post, 13 in a field of 14, after a series of inside draws. “I’m sure happy with the post,” said Sherman. “I hate to make excuses, but I rode for 23 years, and there is trouble you can get into getting crammed in there. Maybe this time I can get a better break. I just want to be clear turning for home, and let the best horse win.”

“Jerry (Hollendorfer) and I go back 35 years, and it’s really cool to think we could hook up at the top of the stretch,” said Sherman of the race with Horse of the Year ramifications. “It’s ironic, after all these years, that two Northern California boys could be hooking up.”

Sherman and Hollendorfer, both long-time San Francisco-area residents and avid San Francisco Giants baseball fans, celebrated the Giants’ 3-2 victory over Kansas City Wednesday night to win the World Series.

“Go, Giants!” said Sherman as he left the podium. The 77-year-old trainer was feted at the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters 55th annual Award Dinner at the Derby restaurant in Arcadia Wednesday night when the Giants played. Sherman received the Mr. Fitz Award typifying the spirit of racing.

Candy Boy – Candy Boy, a 3yo son of Candy Ride owned by the CRK Stable, jogged 1 1/2 m at 5 a.m. in what trainer John Sadler termed a “routine” exercise.

CRK Stable is the nom de racing of Lee and Susan Searing and reflects the first letters in the names of their three children -- Christina, Richard and Katherine. The Searings have been clients of Sadlers for around 15 years, own several horses, and Candy Boy is out of their mare, She’s an Eleven, who was trained by Sadler.

“I saw Candy Boy when he was in the paddock as a baby and have just been around him all along,” Sadler said. “He’s a real homebred for me.

“I met (the Searings) through a mutuel friend,” Sadler said. ”Lee’s brother, Jerry Searing, used to train back in the day. They were under a different name then, Bent Tree Stable, and that group kind of broke up. I met Lee and we talked, got a couple horses and we’ve been together ever since.”

Lee Searing and his brother Jim operate Searing Industries.

Cigar Street – Jake Ballis and Rashard Lewis’ 5yo Cigar Street has turned heads this week with his morning gallops. The son of Street Sense out of a half-sister to Cigar is making his third start off a 17-month layoff for Lewis, a longtime NBA player, and his longtime friend Ballis.

“He looks great and he’s doing fine,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “It looks like he’s moving very well over the track. I was very pleased with him.”

Mott smiled when it was mentioned that Cigar Street was attracting attention in a race in which much of the buzz has been about the 3yo standouts.

“They’ve looked at him,” he said, chuckling. “They saw him. He’s a big, good-looking horse.”

One of Cigar Street’s assets is his speed. He and jockey John Velazquez will leave from post 2 in the field of 14 and Mott said they ought to be effective from that inside position.

“I’ve got a good rider on him and he’s got to ride him from whatever post,” Mott said. “There is some speed in there. I don’t think he’ll be challenging anybody for the lead. It looks like Bayern and Moreno have that real early zip.”

The prospect of a sharp early pace in which others are doing the work is fine with Mott.

“That would be good. I don’t see a problem with that,” Mott said. “You’d almost like to see the field string out a little bit. Sometimes everybody gets a little better shot when that happens.”

Footbridge – Eoin Harty continues to show confidence in his Breeders’ Cup Classic longshot Footbridge. The Godolphin Racing-owned son of Street Cry put in a routine gallop Thursday morning two days out from the Classic and three days after a final preparatory work over the Santa Anita main track.

“He’s doing very well,” Harty reported. “Today he went to the gate and galloped the better part of two miles.”

Impressing many onlookers with his appearance, Footbridge will have to improve upon his third-place effort last out in the Awesome Again Stakes to Classic morning line favorite Shared Belief.

“He’s happy, relaxed, his coat looks good and he’s the perfect weight for when he has run his best races all year. These are all the things you want to see,” Harty continued. “He always showed me early on that he has tons of talent and he’s matured a lot over the year. As good as he was at three, he’s a hell of a lot better now. I expect a big performance.”

Imperative – KM Racing Enterprise Inc.’s Imperative had a new morning partner Thursday when he galloped on the main track at Santa Anita: Frankie Dettori.

“We just galloped around and I got a chance to know him,” said Dettori, who will ride Imperative in Saturday’s Classic. “(Trainer) George (Papaprodromou) wanted me to get a feel for him and it went well.”

Dettori, a winner of 10 Breeders’ Cup races, scored his lone victory in the Classic in 2008 at Santa Anita Park with Raven’s Pass.

For Imperative, all the heavy lifting has been completed for Saturday.

“We’re done,” Papaprodromou said. “He will walk in the morning and not go to the track Saturday morning.”

Majestic Harbor – Majestic Harbor moved a day closer to Saturday’s date in the Classic by galloping his normal 1 1/2m on Santa Anita’s main track. “He did it just great,” trainer Sean McCarthy said. “He couldn’t be doing any better. Forty-eight hours to go.”

Exercise rider Jack Stack joined in with “awesome” when asked for his evaluation.

McCarthy said Majestic Harbor schooled in the paddock during the races Wednesday and performed like a perfect gentleman.

Moreno – After jogging his usual 2m under exercise rider Neri Eno Thursday, Moreno was given a ‘thumbs up’ by trainer Eric Guillot. The Louisiana native believes his 4yo gelded son of Ghostzapper owned by Southern Equine Stable is moving toward the Classic just the way he wants him to. Moreno will school in the paddock during the racing day Thursday.

Prayer for Relief – Trainer Dale Romans knows a thing or two about pulling a major upset in the Breeders’ Cup. In 2011, his Court Vision upset three-time Mile winner Goldikova at a shocking 64-1. He sees some similarities between his longshot Classic hopeful Prayer for Relief and Mile winner Court Vision.

“I feel the same way about Prayer for Relief as I did about Court Vision,” said Romans. “He’s also an older horse on a major uptick. When these horses build their resumes that get them into this type of race, it causes a lot of wear and tear. Some of them may be tailing off a little and we’re headed in the right direction.”

Shared Belief – Jungle Racing (Jim and Janet Rome), KMN Racing (Kevin and Kim Nish), Jason Litt, George Todaro and Alex Solis II’s Shared Belief had his first morning on Santa Anita’s main track this week when he galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Sal Martinez.

The undefeated morning-line favorite for the Classic had arrived from his home base at Golden Gate Fields late Tuesday afternoon.

“He had a nice gallop and stood in the gate,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “He will go to the paddock this afternoon and he will stand in the gate again tomorrow. The gate is something that I do with all of my horses.”

The week got off to a banner start for the Hollendorfer barn when Notorious won Wednesday’s eighth race and returned a fat $97.20 to win.

“I stay pretty even keel all the time,” Hollendorfer said. “People ask me if I ever get nervous, but I’d be nervous if I didn’t have a horse in a big race.”

Toast of New York – see European report

Tonalist – Although the Christophe Clement-trained Tonalist may have defeated older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup when competing outside of his age group for the first time, he isn’t one of those sophomores who have caught up to their elders at this time of the year in terms of maturity.

“He’s still learning. I would say there is much more to come,” said Christophe Lorieul, the assistant to Clement, of the 3yo son of Tapit. “He’s still a big baby. I just hope he never realizes how big he is. He’s right above 17 hands so he’s a big horse. He’s got a real personality and is really a lot of fun to be around.”

Tonalist went to the track with the barn’s second set and galloped 1 1/2m on Thursday morning and then visited the paddock, where he showed off some of that personality.

“He was a little fresh in the paddock today, but then he settled down and behaved perfectly. It was nothing of any great excitement. Everything is good and we are very happy with him,” said Lorieul, who also supervised the training of Mile hopeful Summer Front and Filly & Mare Turf starter Irish Mission. “Now we just need to make sure they are all happy and sound and get used to their new surroundings.”

V. E. Day – Magalen O. Bryant’s V. E. Day stood in the starting gate and galloped 1 1/4m Thursday morning at Santa Anita Park.

The New York-based winner of the Travers Stakes is scheduled to be ridden for the first time by Southern California-based Joe Talamo, whom trainer James Jerkens thinks will suit his colt’s late-running style.

“His name just popped into my head. I just thought he’d fit him for some reason,” Jerkens said. “Not that I follow California racing that close either. He just struck me as a guy who wouldn’t worry about it too much if he was far out of it. I think he blends into his way of going. I also like a jock with a good left hand. He has that. I think it’s a big thing in the stretch.”

Zivo – Thomas Coleman’s homebred Zivo started his journey to the Breeders’ Cup the first week of July with his victory in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont.

Thirteen of his first 14 starts had been against New York-breds - who he was dominating - but Coleman and trainer Chad Brown decided it was time to step out and try Graded company. Making his typical charge from the back of the field, he beat Moreno by three lengths at 13-1.

“There was kind of a gap in the schedule of what we were thinking about doing with him,” Brown said. “The mile and a quarter was a little bit of a jump, but we took a shot and it paid off.”

There were other New York-bred opportunities ahead, topped by the Empire Classic in October, but they didn’t offer the same purse value and prestige as open handicap races that could be steps toward America’s richest event.

“Races like that looked like they would have fit him very well,” Brown said. “It was time to take a shot. The owner wanted to take a shot and he was right.”

Suddenly, the Breeders’ Cup Classic seemed like a logical goal. “He ran terrific and we started to think about this race and maybe we can get there,” Brown said, “so we started to work backwards from it. We had to sit one of the races out and the Whitney seemed like the logical race to sit out. We were using the Woodward as a prep for the Jockey Club in turn as a prep for this race.”

Zivo was fourth in the Woodward - his lone off-the-board finish in his career - and finished second to Tonalist in the Jockey Club Gold Cup that was marred when Wicked Strong clipped heels and unseated jockey Rajiv Maragh.

Zivo galloped about 1 1/2m Thursday morning.

Big Cazanova – Trainer Peter Miller remained on the outside looking in with the only also-eligible for the race and hoping for a scratch. The conditioner Thursday repeated that he would wait as long as possible for scratch deadline Friday and if no scratches occur, run him instead in the Las Vegas Marathon, in which he is also entered on the Friday card.

The 5yo Argentine-bred ridgling galloped 1 ½ m at Santa Anita Thursday with exercise rider Martin Contreras after being shipped north from San Luis Rey Downs Wednesday.

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