11/04/2013 3:44PM

Breeders’ Cup: Englehart still soaking in Juvenile Fillies win

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ria Antonia wins the BC Juvenile Fillies for trainer Jeremiah Englehart (right).

ARCADIA, Calif. – Trainer Jeremiah Englehart thought the highlight of his year was going to be when his New York-bred King Kreesa finished a more-than-respectable second to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

That was relegated to second place when Ria Antonia, a horse that wasn’t even in his barn two months ago, was moved by the Santa Anita stewards to first place in Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, after first-place finisher She’s a Tiger was disqualified for bumping with Ria Antonia in deep stretch.

On Sunday morning, before taking a flight back to the East Coast, Englehart still seemed to be soaking it all in.

“Being in this business, the Breeders’ Cup is really special and to get a win is just amazing,” Englehart said.

The win was the first in a Grade 1 for the 36-year-old Englehart, whose first career graded stakes victory came with Tamarind Hall in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont in 2011.

Englehart is the son of husband-and-wife trainers Chris and Sheila Englehart, who have enjoyed most of their success at Finger Lakes. In recent years, Chris Englehart, who has won more than 3,000 races, has stabled year-round on the NYRA circuit.

Ria Antonia only came into Englehart’s barn in late September when Ron Paolucci and Christopher Dunn purchased the filly privately from Ricky Griffith following her fourth-place finish in the Swynford Stakes at Woodbine.

Paolucci has had an on-and-off business relationship with Englehart but decided to turn the filly over to him because “I think he’s tremendously good with young horses.”

Paolucci also holds Englehart in high regard off the track.

“I take trainers that I really relate to from a personal standpoint; I put what they do on the track second,” Paolucci said. “Jeremiah is a quality individual. He’s a great dad, he’s a good husband. I mean, to me, that’s as important anything because that rubs off on your horses.”

To this point, King Kreesa has been the best horse Englehart has trained to date. A New York-bred, King Kreesa won the Grade 3 Poker earlier this year before running second to Wise Dan in the Fourstardave. Wise Dan came back to win a second straight Breeders’ Cup Mile on Saturday.

After a failed experiment running King Kreesa 1 1/2 miles in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, King Kreesa rebounded with a win against New York-breds in the Mohawk. Englehart is now hoping for an invitation to the Hong King Mile for that horse.

“If you would have told me two months ago that I would have had a Breeders’ Cup horse, I would have thought the Kresas would have supplemented King Kreesa to the Mile,” Englehart said, referring to owners Gerald and Susan Kresa. “With what Wise Dan has done, it makes me even more proud of King Kreesa.”

It remains to be seen if Ria Antonia’s victory in the Juvenile Fillies will earn her an Eclipse Award as North America’s champion 2-year-old filly. But it’s not something Englehart will fret over the next two months.

“I’m enjoying the win; if she happens to win an Eclipse Award from it, that’s great,” Englehart said. “I’m really enjoying it with my wife, Robin; we’ve been through a lot in this business, and it’s really special she was here for this.”

On Sunday morning, Paolucci caught many off guard when he said he wanted to point Ria Antonia to the Kentucky Derby.

Englehart, who said he had been thinking about the Kentucky Oaks, said he and Paolucci will “work on a campaign for whatever we think she could handle.”

Englehart did say that Ria Antonia probably would get a break and most likely would not make her 3-year-old debut until March.

“I’d like to see her best race be the third race back,” Englehart said. “Her schedule will probably change 500 times between now and then.”

What won’t change is the fact that in 2013, Jeremiah Englehart was the only New York-based trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race.