11/07/2009 3:29PM

Day Two...Fire It Up


During the 2003 running of the Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita Park, fires raged throughout Southern California and firefighters from dozens of jurisdictions battled the blazes. This year, except for one flare-up to the east, the track has been spared the smoke and ash that filled the skies. But if anyone needs a firefighter, all the need to do is come to the Santa Anita infield. More than 1,700 firefighters, representing county and municipal forces, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, were the guests of the Breeders' Cup and the Oak Tree Racing Association at a special infield party. They were joined by about 400 members of the USO, along with a half dozen or so real live firefighting vehicles, including the brawny hook and ladder from the nearby Rosemead station of the Los Angeles County FD.

L.A. County firefighters Brian Murphy (left) and Rick Rodrigues tip the Classic.


Mike Pegram was consoling himself with a cold one at Holy Nola's bar in the clubhouse mezzanine after Lookin at Lucky was anything but in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His fate was probably sealed at the draw, when he got post 13 going the mile and one-sixteenth. Still, had even the slightest ray of fortune shone his way, the Smart Strike colt might have found that tough head he was beaten by Godolphin's Vale of York on the line.

"I'll hand it to the other colt," Pegram said. "He beat us to that hole when he had to. But if they think they've got a better horse, they can put up that million they just won and I'll run against them again tomorrow."

Of course, Big Mike didn't mean tomorrow, but whenever, and he made a good point about Vale of York running a dead game race of his own. After a perfect trip, the Godolphin colt, under Ahmed Ajtebi, needed to make a quick right to get a clear run in the final sixteenth. Lookin at Lucky, after seeing every leaf on the hedges rimming the outside of the track, was still grinding away for Garrett Gomez. With a burst, they could have closed the door on Vale of York. Instead, the two colts ended up engaged, side by side, and Lucky lost a tough one.

"I'll tell you what," Pegram added, "there's no way you can say we took a called third strike." No question, Lookin at Lucky went down swinging, and he did nothing to harm his profile of a colt with Kentucky Derby written all over him. Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have had their sights on Louisville from the moment Lookin at Lucky started breezing. Vale of York will surely hightail it to Dubai now for the winter, and that will be that. A horse trained in the Middle East for the Derby has yet to hit the board. Pegram envisions a more conventional route for his colt.

"If it was up to me, I'd run him in the Hollywood Futurity, give him January and February off, then bring him back somewhere on dirt," Pegram said. Sounds like a plan.


Tyler Baze wishes he had a trip as good as Lookin at Lucky in the Turf Sprint. Riding Gotta Have Her, a daughter of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy, Baze was bumped and battered and took up more than a couple of times through stretch, while California Flag went on his merry way up front, in a race of his own. Gotta Have Her was never going to catch him, but it would have been closer than the 1 3/4 lengths she was beaten by the freaking California Flag.

"Tyler was almost in tears," said Jenine Sahadi, whose work with Gotta Have Her has reminded fans why she won Breeders' Cup Sprints with Elmhurst and Lit de Justice. "I had to tell him you're always going to have trouble coming down the hill in a field like that. He did a great job. I'm proud of both of them."

A half hour later, Baze was back to give Cost of Freedom a rocking chair ride in the Sprint and led deep into the stretch. Didn't do a bit of good, though. They were caught in a whirlwind finish by Dancing in Silks and Crown of Thorns to finish third, beaten a nose and a head.


Qev More than 1 year ago
Dirt is Dirt and Pro-Ride is Pro-Ride and never the twain shall meet. That said, Zenyatta should have gone to the Arc.
eeebayou More than 1 year ago
In light of Zenyatta's big win, can anyone feel worse than David Flores? Has it ever come out as to why he was replaced on Zenyatta? Did his agent put him on a Derby-chasing Dollase horse so Smith could get on Zenyatta? Only Wally Pipp could feel as bad as Flores must at this time.
Cigar XVI More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't call Vale of York's trip "perfect." Watch it again. He had a sideways break and was rank and/or had to steady off heels pretty sharply going into the first turn. I thought he was cooked at that point. Ajtebi did a good job to get him settled and in a sweet spot on the backstretch. Then the horse was agile enough to be maneuvered sharply off the rail in late stretch to outgame an unbeaten colt who had relatively clear sailing in the stretch. Vale of York didn't look like a winner at any point in the race. I'm inclined to think horse and rider proved they were best on Saturday.
C More than 1 year ago
David, When I said "categorize", I was talking about distinguishing between dirt, turf, and non-dirt main track races/horses. A few years ago, would it have made sense to compare, say, Lawyer Ron to English Channel? Of course not. One was a handicap dirt horse, the other a turf specialist. So why do we want to compare these 2 fillies? It's apples and oranges. And if you don't think dirt runners, as a group, have been disadvantaged over the last 2 Cups, just look at the results. They are a combined 0 for 16; only Ready's Echo has even been good enough for a 2nd; I believe 3 have gotten up for 3rd. That's not subjective or anecdotal; that's crystal clear. The funny thing is, the failure of Music Note and Careless Jewel in the Distaff, for example, was totally predictable before they even entered the gate. But if the race were on dirt, I have a hard time believing the result would've been the same. Show me any other 2 Cups where dirt horses were 0-for-16. Show me ANY Cup where grass horses blanked dirt horses on dirt.
Shane Egan More than 1 year ago
--"[S]he sayeth among the trumpets:haha!" --Queen takes eleven rooks--Checkmate!! --Voila un Femme!!! Just couldn't wait,Jay, for your triumphant post-Classic blog to attaboy you for knowing all along what everybody in our "little realm" knows now(except perhaps Andy Preposterous--watch him squirm!):with Lady Z, it ain't about the figs. Keep on rockin' the romance of the Sport of Kings!
grasslover More than 1 year ago
As someone who has questioned Zenyatta's handling on Jay's blog before, let me be the first to offer a hearty congratulations to the connections of the horse as well as Zenyatta herself. I'm enough of a horseplayer to admit when I have been wrong, and here I was not only wrong, but nowhere close to right. A fantastic race which we'll never forget. Hope you all had a fun and profitable Breeders Cup. As for myself, once I have removed my foot from my mouth, I'll be enjoying a crow and humble pie croissant for breakfast!
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Well, the deal went down. Nothing tragic, just magic. Thank you Mike Smith for a great trip. And John Shirreffs for the tremendous handling And Jerry Moss for being an owner that did right by the horse. Because all the stuff around “who is the BEST” can wait. But Big Z didn't show up to go 13 and 1. And those closest to her did their best to let the big race mare do her best. This is Zenyatta time, 14 and oh, it's her moment. I can now say proudly, “I love Zenyatta” Come to papa.
Gary Lynn More than 1 year ago