10/05/2009 12:00AM

Gomez credited as a lifesaver

Email
Benoit & Associates
Monzante, who ran second in his comeback race at Del Mar, will go in the Goodwood as a Breeders' Cup prep.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Just before 9 a.m, Sunday, while standing among scores of horsemen and racing fans at Clocker's Corner here, trainer Mike Mitchell and jockey Garrett Gomez took a moment to review the events of Saturday's $200,000 California Cup Classic.

Gomez had turned for home with the lead on the Mitchell-trained Grazen, but quickly pulled up the colt inside the eighth pole when he felt him take a funny step. Just like that, Grazen's promising career was over with a bowed tendon.

"I thanked Garrett for his savvy," Mitchell said of his Sunday morning conversation. "He was able to save my horse. We didn't have to put him down."

The news was not as fortunate for Blackbriar, who suffered a sesamoid injury in the stretch of the California Cup Classic and was euthanized. The race was won by Bold Chieftain, who had won the 2007 running.

Grazen, who won 4 of 7 starts, $245,400, and two stakes, will stand at stud next year, Mitchell said.

Owned by breeder Nick Alexander, Grazen will be sent to the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos, Calif., this week for observation.

"They can oversee him," Mitchell said. "He'll be able to breed mares. He's comfortable now and able to put pressure on his bad leg."

Blackbriar was the second horse to be euthanized in the first week of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, a subject of concern for the track's president Ron Charles.

"We went five months, and 14,000 workouts without a fatality and then that happened," Charles said.

The incidents with Blackbriar and Grazen come at a time when the Pro-Ride synthetic surface is being strongly scrutinized by local horsemen who have said the surface has caused minor injuries that have forced horses to the sidelines. The track will play host to the Breeders' Cup races on Nov. 6-7.

Charles said the track will not undergo any significant renovation before the Breeders' Cup, but will be closely monitored by officials.

Pair of Cup candidates ready

Mitchell will have two starters in the six Breeders' Cup preps this weekend: Monzante in Saturday's $350,000 Goodwood Stakes and Delta Storm in Sunday's $300,000 Ancient Title Stakes.

The Goodwood winner will receive an automatic berth in the $5 million BC Classic through the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program, but Mitchell is hoping that Monzante can make it to the BC Dirt Mile.

Monzante was second in the Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 5, in his first start in more than a year, but did win the Santana Mile Handicap here in March 2008.

"If I were looking to win a race, I'd go in the Clement Hirsch," Mitchell said, referring to Sunday's Grade 1 turf race. "But his synthetic-track race in the Santana Mile was one of his best. I think we want to stay on the synthetics."

The Goodwood will have a strong field, led by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid. Other probable starters are Chocolate Candy, Colonel John, Gitano Hernando, Parading, Tiago, and Tres Borrachos.

Delta Storm was second in the Green Flash Handicap on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 19. The Ancient Title is a Win and You're In race for the BC Sprint and will include defending champion Cost of Freedom, Gayego, Nikki'sgoldensteed, Riley Tucker, and Square Eddie, who has not started since finishing third in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Zenyatta will be tested

There are three other Breeders' Cup preps on Saturday.

The $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes is led by the unbeaten champion Zenyatta, who will face her sternest test of the year. Her opposition will include Anabaa's Creation, who finished a head behind Zenyatta in the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9; Cocoa Beach, who was second to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic here last October; and Life Is Sweet, who was second to Zenyatta in two graded stakes at Hollywood Park earlier this year.

The $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes could confirm Magical Fantasy's status as one of the top BC Filly and Mare Turf contenders from the United States. She will enter the race on a three-stakes winning streak, but must beat the improving 3-year-old Internallyflawless, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in August.

The $150,000 Oak Tree Mile, a prep to the BC Mile, is led by Cowboy Cal, the winner of the Strub Stakes last February.

Sunday's $300,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles includes the Eastern invader Presious Passion and Spring House, who has won three marathon turf stakes this year.

On to the top level

The first three finishers of Sunday's two Grade 1 stakes - the Norfolk Stakes and Oak Leaf Stakes - are bound for their respective Breeders' Cup races on Nov. 6-7.

From the Norfolk, Lookin at Lucky, the leading 2-year-old male in California, Pulsion. and Gallant Gent will start in the BC Juvenile on Nov. 7. Lookin at Lucky won by 1 3/4 lengths to extend his unbeaten streak to four races, including three stakes.

Trainer Bob Baffert called Lookin at Lucky "the best 2-year-old I've had in the last five years. I can't remember more than five years."

On a more serious note, Baffert said, "He's sort of a different horse than I've ever had. I'm becoming a big fan of his now, watching him run."

Trainer Patrick Biancone was impressed with Pulsion's stakes debut.

"He finished strongly," Biancone said. "He doesn't know how good he is."

Blind Luck, Always a Princess, and Bickersons are bound for the BC Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6 after sweeping the first three positions in the Oak Leaf. Blind Luck has won 3 of 4 starts, with her only loss a second to Mi Sueno in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante last month.

Blind Luck pulled away in the final furlong to win by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths.

"I try to take these races one at a time, and this was the next step for her," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "I like horses that have good size and a nice long stride."

No repeat bid for Church Service

Church Service finished second in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Marathon here, but will not start in that race this year, Mitchell said. Church Service is winless in five starts this year, including an eighth-place finish in the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park last month.

"He needed a break," Mitchell said. "I would have loved to have run him in the Marathon, but he came back from Chicago kind of beat up and worn out."