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BC Journal: Don't let a long drive get your goat
Jay Hovdey, Oct. 21:
ARCADIA, Calif. - Armando Rodriguez stood back from Hystericalady's stall and admired the view. The smallish chestnut mare stood in the straw and looked back at Rodriguez, her butt up against the wall.
"Seven hours in the van," Rodriguez said, describing Monday's trip south from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn at Golden Gate Fields. "She's maybe still a little tired."
Or bored. There's no more dreary stretch of road in the West than the I-5 down through California's Central Valley. At one point the stench from the cattle fields can snap a driver awake. Otherwise, it's a deadly dull haul past neverending farm fields until you start to climb up the backside of the L.A. basin.
Hystericalady can be forgiven if she is less than excited about running once again at Santa Anita. She has a better record at Monmouth Park or Churchill Downs. In four starts at Santa Anita - one on dirt and three on a variety of synthetics - the best she's done is miss by a nose to Tough Tiz's Sis in the 2007 Lady's Secret. Otherwise, there have been few mares in recent memory who have been so good in so many places.
"We moved her to the other side of the barn this time," said assistant trainer Dan Ward. "Got to do something different."
Last year Hystericalady lost the BC Distaff by a quarter of a length to Ginger Punch. This year, in the rechristened Ladies' Classic, Ginger Punch may be the least of her worries, with Zenyatta, Music Note, Carriage Trail, and Cocoa Beach in the way. A visitor wished Rodriguez good luck.
"We'll need it." . . .
You can't beat Pete Anderson's one-horse Breeders' Cup stable, better known as Delightful Kiss. Still, give owner-trainer Myung Kwon Cho credit for getting two of his seven horses in Breeders' Cup events, without apologies.
Cho, born in North Korea, splits his time between his stable and his clothing business not far from Santa Anita Park. When he's not there, Maria Ayala and Rafael Martinez are in charge, and things go just fine. Martinez is the one with the white handlebar moustache.
"It used to be a different color," said Martinez, who hails from the Four Corners region of southwest Colorado.
A few steps away, in the shaded shed row of their small, prefab barn, Street Hero and Palacio de Amor were deep in the tubs, done for the day. He won the Norfolk. She was second in the Del Mar Debutante and the Oak Leaf, both won by BC Juvenile Fillies favorite Stardom Bound.
"When Alex Solis worked Street Hero the other day, he didn't think he was going as fast as he was," Martinez said. "He fools you. He fools everybody. He's the kind of colt who will let us know when he's ready to be a man."
Street Hero, by Street Cry, is a fine, strapping bay, built for action. Next to him, the chestnut Palacio de Amor was almost hidden in the bedding, as tiny as that other waist-high powder keg, Mauralakana.
"I know, I know," Martinez said. "She's not very big. You wouldn't think she would be that fast, but she is." . . .
The California Thoroughbred Trainers' Association is putting on a Breeders' Cup Fiesta Para Los Trabajadores de Los Establos on Wednesday afternoon, 22 de Octobre de 2008, 4:30-9 p.m, in the picnic circle of the infield. If you have to ask what "Fiesta Para Los Trabajadores de Los Establos" means, you're not invited. . . .
The sight of black cooler trimmed in crimson and adorned with a big red "P" was a strange sight on the Santa Anita backstretch, especially with Buzzy Tenney alongside, framed handsomely by a clear view of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Tenney has been Shug McGaughey's main man for going on 24 years ("I'm gonna give it another month or two and see how it works out," Tenny said). Together, they've been through Personal Ensign, Easy Goer, Inside Information, and Heavenly Prize. This week, they have four swings at Breeders' Cup races with Carriage Trail, Persistently, Dancing Forever, and Consequence.
The last time Tenney did Santa Anita was 1993, when the barn brought defending champ Lure out for the BC Mile.
"I remember he broke from the 13 or the 14 hole, and everybody told us you couldn't win from there," Tenney said. It was actually post 12 - racetrackers are worse than fishermen - and no, Lure couldn't win from there, either. But he did.
"Of course," Tenney went on, "the year before you couldn't win from the rail at Gulfstream, and he did. Going into the first turn here it was either a Japanese horse or a European horse" - it was both: the French-trained, Japanese-owned Ski Paradise - "who took out half the field. Lure had already cleared him, so all of a sudden he was out there by himself. Game over." . . .
Touts of the Day: Dana Barnes, exercise rider to a whole slew of Bob Baffert monsters, returned to the saddle this past summer for John Sadler. Among the horses she gets on for the Sadler stable is Cost of Freedom, the $50,000 claim who freaked with a big winning effort in the Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita. "Ever since that race he's been acting like he's something special, which he is," Barnes said.
Tom Halpenny, blacksmith to the stars, was asked if he thought any of his clients were worth a gamble. "Zenyatta," he replied, not exactly a newsflash, then he added, "Tiago," Zenyatta's stablemate. "And he'll be 20-1."
Marcus Hersh, Oct. 21:
ARCADIA, Calif. - Some odds and ends from the last couple days:
Better than last time
Covering racing in Chicago, I speak to no one on the backstretch more than Wayne Catalano, since Catalano tends to win vast numbers of races each summer at Arlington, and there was Catalano's bouncy walk coming down a horse path Tuesday morning on the Santa Anita backstretch. Catalano is here with two potentially live Breeders' Cup horses - Lewis Michael in the Dirt Mile, and Sugar Mom in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. But here is something I did not realize: Catalano was briefly a regular here, back in 1990, when he had a 10-horse string stabled in a quiet corner of the Santa Anita backstretch. And little by little (Catalano likes to practice positive thinking), it comes out that the SoCal adventure did not produce anything like the 35 percent win rate Catalano regularly achieves these days.
"I won one race out here," Catalano recalled. "A couple got hurt, a couple got claimed off me, this and that. Nothing went the way I planned. If things would've stayed right, I might have been out here all along doing the same thing I'm doing now."
The strapping bay horse Lewis Michael had a routine gallop Tuesday that Catalano pronounced "beautiful." Sugar Mom also is coming up to her race well. Is it possible Catalano could win more races on the two days of Breeders' Cup racing than he did in an entire meet here 18 years ago?
Euro jock on Euro horses on SoCal turf
Brice Blanc came up as a jockey in France, so Blanc knows European horses. But Blanc also was a California bug boy, and has spent some 10 years riding on this circuit, so Blanc knows the Santa Anita turf course. That makes Blanc an interesting intersection between local conditions and the overseas grass horses who will try to conquer them.
"The turf course is a little bit of a question," Blanc said during training hours Tuesday. "The typical Euro has not run around turns as tight as these. I think the French horses can do well because they usually have such a big turn of foot. It's only a three-sixteenths-mile stretch, and we usually start asking them on the turn. But if you have great acceleration, you still will have time in the stretch.
"The course is a little firm right now, but the horses still kind of bounce over it," Blanc continued. "There's some cushion there, but there's no cut in the ground. This course never will get heavy like a European course, even when it rains."
For Blanc, whose two Breeders' Cup mounts finished unplaced, the year has been slow: He has just 24 wins from 315 mounts in 2008 after winning almost twice as many races last year.
"It's all percentages," Blanc said. "When the owners see you have a low percentage, they don't want to ride you."
Mild warning: Obligatory stable goat note to follow
I might as well get this over with, since a turf writer can't have a week of unrestricted subject matter without coming round to a goat.
Racetrack goats, as we know, are here to pacify skittish horses. Don't tell that to Curly, a resident in the barn of trainer Jennie Green. Green's seven horses live in stalls that, were they any farther away from the actual racetrack, would not even be on the Santa Anita property. Back here, the Breeders' Cup seems more rumor than major event.
Monday, I was seeking the quarantine facility when I came upon Curly dashing at top speed on a 30-foot tether in and out of the Green barn. Inside, Curly would spring onto hay bales, from which he could reach the top of the fence along the outside of the shed row. The fence top served as a balance beam for a minute or two; then, bored with his balancing act, Curly was back to ground level and sprinting, which would come to a sudden, violent halt outside the barn when the tether's end was reached.
"He does rile the horses up, but they seem to like it," Green said. "I like to let my animals do what they want to do. Our cat is just as crazy."
On cue, said cat made a mad dash in Curly's general direction.
"[Trainer] Jorge Perliban has this fat little goat, and even though he doesn't have horns, and Curly has those nice horns, he'll come over here and the two of them will butt heads over and over for 45 minutes."
Curly is a young male goat, and young male goats who have not been neutered tend to spray foul urine on themselves. At Del Mar, a rubber band used for castration was strategically affixed to Curly. "They told me it'd take a couple weeks to work, but it took two months before they finally fell off," Green said. Then, she pointed in front of the barn office to a lawn-jockey statue upon which dangled . . . well, you know.
No wonder the goat is so crazy.