11/02/2009 12:00AM

Cup will make or break Baffert's meet


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert swept the first four races at Santa Anita on Sunday, the first time in his career that he could recall saddling four consecutive winners on the same day.

The achievement put him well on his way to the training title at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, which ends on Sunday. To Baffert, the title would mean little. After Crisis of Spirit had won Sunday's Anoakia Stakes, his third winner of the day, the trainer's focus was fully on the Breeders' Cup races on Friday and Saturday.

"To me, if we don't win the Breeders' Cup, it's all for naught," he said.

Through Sunday, Baffert had won 22 races at Oak Tree, six more than John Sadler.

Friday in the Breeders' Cup, Baffert starts Always a Princess in the Juvenile Fillies. Saturday, he runs Lookin at Lucky in the Juvenile, Zensational in the Sprint, and Richard's Kid in the Classic.

"We need a win on Friday and Saturday, all we can get," Baffert said. "I don't forget Gulfstream."

In 1999, Baffert had big hopes at the Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park, but lost the Juvenile with Captain Steve and Forest Camp, the Juvenile Fillies with Chilukki, the Classic with General Challenge and River Keen, the Sprint with Forestry, the Distaff with Silverbulletday, and the Mile with Tuzla.

Chilukki, Forest Camp, and Silverbulletday were favored, the rest were 10-1 or less. The best finishes among that group were seconds by Chilukki and Tuzla.

Last weekend, Baffert's second-string 2-year-olds did well. He won Saturday's Jack Goodman Stakes with Macias and Sunday's Anoakia with Crisis of Spirit. They could run in graded stakes at the Hollywood Park fall meeting, which runs from Nov. 13 to Dec. 20, as could Marcello and Excellent News, who were scratched from Saturday and Sunday's 2-year-old stakes. Later this month, Miss Heather Lee will start in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood.

"They're catching up and there is another group that's right behind them," he said.

Baffert mentioned Take Control, an unraced A.P. Indy colt out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, as a

2-year-old with promise. Take Control is expected to start at the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

O'Neill takes Lava Man's sibling

Doug O'Neill is pushing his luck.

In 2004, he claimed Lava Man, on behalf of Steve, Dave, and Tracy Kenly and Jason Wood, and later won more than $5 million and seven Grade 1 stakes with the popular gelding. Sunday, on behalf of a different partnership, O'Neill claimed Enriched, Lava Man's 4-year-old half-brother.

Enriched won an optional claimer for statebreds on the hillside turf course and O'Neill took him for $32,000 on behalf of a group that includes Mark Verge and Neil Haymes.

O'Neill said he hesitated claiming Enriched on Sunday since the gelding was dropping from a third-place finish in the California Cup Juvenile into a claimer. Sunday, Enriched raced for breeder Carol Lingenfelter and trainer Craig Dollase.

"Craig definitely placed him in a good poker move," O'Neill said, referring to the gamble of the claim. "For $32,000, he seemed like he was worth it. We'll see.

"We haven't won anything with him yet."

O'Neill said he considered claiming Enriched for $80,000 from a maiden race at Hollywood Park in May. Enriched won that race by

7 3/4 lengths.

"We glanced at him briefly when he had him for a maiden claiming," O'Neill said. "We were kicking ourselves. He hasn't run a bad race."

Enriched has won 4 of 9 starts and $153,980. He was third after a wide trip in the California Cup Mile here on Oct. 3, his stakes debut.

Lava Man himself is back in O'Neill's barn this fall after a 14-month retirement.

The 8-year-old gelding resumed workouts in September and could make a return to racing during the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

Huge show bet canceled

Enriched was the subject of an odd pattern of bets on Sunday. More than $100,000 was bet on him to show, but the money was slowly withdrawn from the pools in increments of approximately $8,000 to $9,000 per minute before the horses reached the post parade, track officials said.

Track officials said that a Turf Club costumer placed the large wagers and then canceled the bet. The track does not have a policy to prevent such occurrences.

In the final pool, Enriched attracted $8,255 of the $36,389 bet to show. Enriched returned $5 to win and $3 to show.

Cassidy hopes 'Q.T.' stays calm

A three-race win streak by The Usual Q.T. in the summer and fall has led to a graded stakes debut for the gelding in Saturday's Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, the final race on the Breeders' Cup program.

Earlier this year, starting The Usual Q.T. on a day with a large crowd would have been a concern for trainer Jim Cassidy, but he is hopeful The Usual Q.T. has mellowed enough to handle any distractions.

"We've done the schooling at the gate," Cassidy said. "That was one of his problems, he didn't want to load."

Still, Cassidy will be watching The Usual Q.T. closely in the paddock and in the post parade for signs of nervousness. "That could create a lot of problems," he said.

What has not been an issue is The Usual Q.T.'s recent form. The Usual Q.T. beat maidens and won an allowance race at Del Mar. He won his stakes debut in the California Cup Mile here on Oct. 3. All three races were against statebred company.

The $150,000 Oak Tree Derby is expected to attract the graded or group stakes winners Battle of Hastings, Black Bear Island, Meteore, Oil Man, and Rendezvous as well as Acclamation, who was third to Rendezous and Battle of Hastings in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

The Oak Tree Derby will be The Usual Q.T.'s first start at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"The big question is, will he get the distance," Cassidy said.

McPeek may keep some out West

Trainer Ken McPeek has done so well with his 2-year-olds this fall that he may need more than one place to keep them all over the winter. And on a gorgeous morning at Santa Anita on Monday, he thought he had found the place.

"I think I might leave some out here," said McPeek, who has such well-regarded Breeders' Cup prospects as Beautician in the Juvenile Fillies and Noble's Promise in the Juvenile. "I have enough babies that I might need to keep them separated."

McPeek said he will have a division at Gulfstream Park this winter. Gulfstream Park's main track is dirt, while Santa Anita has the synthetic surface Pro-Ride. Many of McPeek's horses have done well at Keeneland, which has another synthetic surface, Polytrack.

"I'm hesitant to split up the stable like that, but we could have a synthetic option this winter, and a dirt option," McPeek said.

McPeek has shipped the mare Teamgeist here for the Las Palmas Stakes on turf on Friday. McPeek said if Teamgeist runs well in that race, she could remain in California for the Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park at the end of the month.

* Phyllis Adams, the widow of the late Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Adams, died in Arcadia, Calif., on Oct. 27, according to her nephew, John Bucalo. She was 86. Johnny Adams was the leading rider in the United States by victories in 1939 and 1942-43 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965. He won the 1956 Preakness Stakes on Hasty Road.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman