10/25/2012 2:09PM

Breeders' Cup Turf: Bourbon Bay takes a shot on home course

Benoit & Associates
Bourbon Bay has won five of nine starts at 1 1/2 miles, the distance of the Breeders' Cup Turf.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The 6-year-old Bourbon Bay is most at home on Santa Anita’s turf course, the venue of six of his seven career stakes wins.

That familiarity is why owner David Heerensperger and trainer Neil Drysdale are willing to try the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf here Nov. 3. The location of the race and potential field are reasons enough to start Bourbon Bay, the senior member of the likely starters.

“That’s why we’re looking at it,” Drysdale said. “We don’t feel it’s a super tough field.”

Bourbon Bay’s six stakes wins at Santa Anita range in distance from 1 1/4 miles to about 1 3/4 miles. He has raced over the BC Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles nine times in his 27-race career, winning five times.

Bourbon Bay will be a longshot in the BC Turf, which has a likely field of 11. The list of contenders is led by Point of Entry, winner of four consecutive stakes in Kentucky and New York; St Nicholas Abbey, the defending champion; and Shareta, a two-time Group 1 winner in England and France this year.

[BREEDERS' CUP PPs: Visit DRF's official BC Handicapping Center]

Shareta and St Nicholas Abbey were ninth and 11th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 7.

Bourbon Bay was a disappointing eighth in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship here Sept. 30, finishing five lengths behind Slim Shadey, another BC Turf hopeful. In the stretch, Bourbon Bay was stuck in traffic briefly.

“It was a strangely run race,” Drysdale said. “He had nowhere to go down the lane. He wasn’t beaten that far. He galloped in front of all of them but the winner.”

The loss occurred in Bourbon Bay’s first start since a nose win in the Grade  2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf here last April. Prior to that, Bourbon Bay won the Grade  2 San Luis Rey Stakes over 1 1/2 miles here in March.

Bourbon Bay must improve from those races to win the BC Turf, but Drysdale says it is worth a try.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Pre-entered fields with odds and comments]

“He’s a Grade 2 horse and a strong Grade 2 horse,” he said. “He’s got a lot in his plus column and he likes the course.”

◗ Optimizer, winner of the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park on Sept.  22, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs on Thursday. D.  Wayne Lukas trains the 3-year-old, who will make his stakes debut against older horses in the BC Turf.