10/11/2008 11:00PM

Casino Drive heads to Classic off allowance win


ARCADIA, Calif. - Casino Drive was pronounced ready for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 after winning an allowance race in his synthetic track debut on Sunday.

Casino Drive ($2.80) finished three-quarters of a length in front of Dakota Phone after leading by a length with a furlong remaining. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Casino Drive ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.14.

The $52,800 race was the first start for the Japanese-based Casino Drive since his victory in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park in May. Casino Drive is now unbeaten in three starts. He won a maiden race in Japan in February before the Peter Pan.

"It was a perfect prep race," said Nobutaka Tada, the racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto. "He's not at the top of his form, and we hope he's improving. He was a good boy today."

Espinoza kept Casino Drive off the rail throughout the race, racing two-wide on the first turn and three-wide on the backstretch. With a three-wide rally on the final turn, Casino Drive engaged pacesetters By Spot and Informed and took the lead with minimal effort.

"It was a slow pace and that's why I let him go at the three-eighths pole, so he could get something out of the race for the next race," Espinoza said.

Espinoza said he urged Casino Drive in the final furlong. "I wanted to see how much horse I had," Espinoza said. Espinoza added that he had "plenty."

Espinoza is expected to ride Casino Drive in the BC Classic, which is run over 1 1/4 miles. "Victor did everything perfect," Tada said.

Trained by Kazuo Fujisawa, Casino Drive is a Kentucky-bred colt by Mineshaft and the mare Better Than Honour, the dam of Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches.

Casino Drive was scratched from the Belmont Stakes on June 7 because of a bruised foot. He was sent back to Japan and resumed training in August, Tada said.

Global Hunter earns a vacation

Earlier on the card, Global Hunter was given an ideal ride by jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr. in the $81,275 Lure Stakes at Santa Anita. After the race, trainer A.C. Avila said the 5-year-old horse has earned a vacation.

Global Hunter ($4.80) rallied from fourth behind a quick pace to win the restricted Lure Stakes by a length over Vauquelin. Global Hunter ran a mile on turf in 1:33.82. Mr Napper Tandy, closed from last in the field of 10, to finish third.

Global Hunter ran in six consecutive graded stakes from April to September, finishing second in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in April and the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile in August. Owned by a partnership, Global Hunter has won 6 of 20 starts and $204,365.

The Lure Stakes was his first victory since a listed stakes in Argentina in September 2007.