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Hendricks, O'Neill have weekends all set
ARCADIA, Calif. - How convenient. Trainers Dan Hendricks and Doug O'Neill have found the ideal scenarios for their respective stables over the next two weekends.
Saturday, in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Hendricks will start Top This and That, while O'Neill starts Iced Out and King Mobay. On the following Saturday, the best California-breds from both stables - Brother Derek (Hendricks) and Lava Man (O'Neill) - are after a much bigger prize in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
If Brother Derek or Lava Man was starting in the California Cup Classic, he would be a heavy favorite. Instead, the race lacks a major stakes winner from 2006.
The California Cup Classic is the richest race on Saturday's program, which is restricted to California-breds. The Classic is run over 1 1/8 miles. Other probable starters are Cheroot, Robador, and Texcess. Defending champion McCann's Mojave is more likely to start in the $175,000 Mile on turf.
Iced Out, 4, has won 3 of 11 starts and is still searching for his first stakes win. He has made two starts this year, winning an allowance race here on Jan. 1 and finishing fifth in an allowance race in late September.
"He's trained a lot better than his last race," O'Neill said. "He needed it coming off a layoff."
Iced Out may be easy to dismiss, but he had respectable form early in his 2-year-old season. He was second in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita in January 2005 and fifth in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, closing considerable ground through the stretch.
"He should have won" at Fair Grounds, O'Neill said.
Saturday, Iced Out will have a chanced to prove that he is still stakes-caliber in the California Cup Classic.
Change of plans for Brother Derek
Brother Derek, who finished second to Lava Man in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap earlier this month, will remain at Santa Anita to complete his serious training for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic, rather than ship to Churchill Downs this week for his final work.
On Monday, Brother Derek had his next-to-last work for the Classic when he traveled seven furlongs in 1:26.20 with his regular jockey, Alex Solis.
"The track was a little on the slow side," said Hendricks. "He went off easy and then clipped off 12-second furlongs, like he always does."
Hendricks originally had planned on sending Brother Derek to Kentucky this week, but said the uncertain weather in Kentucky, in contrast to the unseasonably warm weather in Southern California this week, forced his hand.
So, Brother Derek will now have his final work either this Sunday or Monday at Santa Anita, then fly to Kentucky next Tuesday, Oct. 31.
A. P. Warrior sold, retired
A. P. Warrior, the winner of two graded stakes this year, one on dirt and one turf, has been bought by Stonewall Farm and retired to stud in Kentucky.
The deal was finalized late last week, trainer John Shirreffs said. Owned by Stan Fulton, A. P. Warrior won 4 of 13 starts and $548,595. He ran third in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby on Oct. 14 in his final start.
"The decision was made by Mr. Fulton," Shirreffs said of the retirement. "There was no injury at all. He's fine."
A. P. Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy out of the Quiet American mare Warrior Queen, was trained by Eoin Harty at the start of his career and transferred to Shirreffs earlier this year. He made seven starts for Shirreffs, winning the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on dirt in March and the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap on turf in August. In between, he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby and was 18th in the Kentucky Derby.
"I think he was good on both surfaces," Shirreffs said. "He was very versatile. I always thought he was very tenacious. When horses came to him he really dug in."
River's Prayer good to go
After the ordeal that River's Prayer went through during and after the Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 1, it is remarkable that she is a candidate for Saturday's $150,000 California Cup Distaff.
After being unruly in the starting gate, River's Prayer unseated jockey Clinton Potts at the start and ran loose during the race. After the race, still loose, she crashed through a temporary rail that led to the backstretch.
The incident was frightening, but River's Prayer emerged without injury, trainer Paula Capestro said.
"She grabbed a quarter and she banged up her stifle a little bit," Capestro said. "It was terrible. It was really hard to watch. It's very scary when they run loose like that."
Capestro said she was alarmed when River's Prayer acted up in the gate and an assistant starter bit her ear to get her attention. She said she complained about that incident to the California Horse Racing Board.
A winner of 3 of 8 starts and $221,783, River's Prayer has had three workouts since she returned to training, including five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Hollywood Park on Sunday.
Capestro feels the incident is behind River's Prayer.
"Mentally, she seems to be okay," Capestro said. "Her quarter healed up rapidly, and we've stood her in the gate since the incident. Her works are pretty fast.
"She's one tough mama. It would have been just about any other horse, she would have been done."
Symphony Sid draws a crowd
The winner's circle after Saturday's Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap was hardly large enough to handle to crowd gathered to celebrate Symphony Sid's win.
More than 60 people - the Bongo Racing Stable partnership, Casey Mitchell and Robert Tjosvold, and their friends and family - gave Symphony Sid a big cheer when he walked into the winner's circle under jockey Michael Baze.
The whole ceremony may have been a rehearsal for the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 9, which could be Symphony Sid's next start. The Grade 1 Turf Cup will be more difficult, but Symphony Sid has obviously improved significantly since he was claimed for $50,000 in July.
Symphony Sid led throughout the Carleton Burke, leading by as many as 10 lengths. He ran 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:24.18, a stakes record. The victory was a milestone for Baze, 19: his first graded stakes win.
Trainer Mike Mitchell felt that Symphony Sid was comfortable on the lead, even though he was well clear of his six rivals.
"I knew he could rate and that the others would play catch-up, and it worked out right," Mitchell said. "I was worried at one point, but when I saw how easy he was doing it, I felt a lot better."
Notional has nice-looking maiden win
Doug O'Neill unveiled a highly promising California-bred 2-year-old on Saturday in Notional, who won a maiden race over six furlongs by 2o1/2 lengths in the quick time of 1:09.09, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.
Ridden by Alex Bisono, Notional was fifth on the backstretch, made progress toward the leaders on the turn and took the lead in early stretch.
O'Neill said Notional has impressed him as an easy horse to train.
"The thing I love about him is that you put a bridle on him and go," O'Neill said.
Owned by Paul Reddam, Notional is by In Excess and was purchased for $235,000 at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.
One-day purse increase
Overnight purses on Sunday's card will have a $50,000 increase from the California Marketing Committee, according to Santa Anita's racing secretary, Rick Hammerle. Sunday's program is the final day of the Oak Tree meeting.
The increase in purses will be spread among the eight non-stakes on the 10-race card, Hammerle said.
The California Marketing Committee has provided additional purse money for overnight races on major days through the year.
"This is part of that fund that Oak Tree" received, Hammerle said.
* When Hollywood Park opens next week, jockey agent Bob Meldahl will take over the book of Clinton Potts, who has climbed his way into the top 10 on this circuit since arriving earlier this year. Meldahl most recently had represented Corey Nakatani, but those two split at the beginning of Del Mar. Potts had been represented by Tommy Ball since his arrival.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman