10/23/2008 11:00PM

Grand Adventure outracing expectations


ARCADIA, Calif. - Grand Adventure surprised trainer Mark Frostad when he went from being an unraced maiden in late August to a stakes winner by early October. A race such as the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita was far from Frostad's mind during the summer.

"Three months ago, I thought we might get a start in him this year," Frostad said. "He kept doing everything right, and here we are at the Breeders' Cup."

Grand Adventure is not just at the Breeders' Cup, he is at Santa Anita with an excellent chance to win the one-mile Juvenile Turf.

Owned by Sam-Son Farm, Grand Adventure won the Grade 3 Summer Stakes by a head over Skipadate, another starter in the BC Juvenile Turf. Grand Adventure won the Oct. 4 race despite a seven-wide trip and jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva losing the whip in the stretch.

"He still got there," Frostad said, calling the race "closer than I thought it would be."

Grand Adventure, and new jockey Rafael Bejarano, cannot make mistakes in the Juvenile Turf. With a large field in a race around two turns, a clean trip is key. The race has drawn a field of 13, but will have a safety limit of 12 starters.

The other top contenders are the European stakes winners Donativum and Westphalia; Bittel Road, the winner of the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 5; and Coronet of a Baron, who was second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity and is making his turf debut.

Grand Adventure will break from post 12 and is likely to stalk the pace. The opening three furlongs are vital to Grand Adventure's chances for a win. He cannot necessarily race wide and be a factor at the finish.

"The 12 hole is of some concern," Frostad said.

A bigger worry is the competition.

Bittel Road is unbeaten in three starts - a maiden race at Belmont Park, the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Bourbon. In the Bourbon, Bittel Road surprised trainer Todd Pletcher by rallying from 11th in a field of 12 to win by a head.

"I really didn't think he could get up turning for home," Pletcher said. "He passed basically the entire field."

Bittel Road broke from the rail in the Bourbon, but will start from post 11 in the Juvenile Turf.

"The trip is a big part of it," Pletcher said. "If we need to use him in the first turn, we can do that."

While Grand Adventure has been a surprise to the Toronto-based Frostad, Donativum was a summertime frustration for the England-based trainer John Gosden. Donativum was so unruly that Gosden feared he could injure another horse in the stable.

"He was being a menace to other horses," he said.

Donativum was gelded, and seems to have channeled his aggression into racing. He is unbeaten in two starts since being gelded, including a half-length win in the $1.7 million Tattersalls Timeform Million against 23 rivals at Newmarket on Oct. 4. The victory justified a start in the BC Juvenile Turf, Gosden said.

"He paid his ticket," he said. "It's very expensive to the come to the Breeders' Cup. Don't come here with a popgun."

The turf experience makes those horses attractive in the betting but does not discourage trainer Eoin Harty, who trains Coronet of a Baron. Owned by Darley Stable, Coronet of a Baron finished a nose behind BC Juvenile hopeful Midshipman in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 3.

Harty considered the BC Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles for Coronet of a Baron, but opted for the Juvenile Turf after the colt worked well over the surface last Monday.

"I think it's a lot easier going a mile on the turf than a mile and a sixteenth on the synthetic track," he said of the difference between the two races. "I know he'll relax. It's a matter of getting the trip."