10/21/2016 2:36PM

Hovdey: For $10K, Woot Woot could be a big whoop


Believe it or not, it is okay to think about races other than the Breeders’ Cup events right now. I know, this is heresy. But life goes on both before and after Nov. 4-5 at Santa Anita, and Sunday’s interesting sport across the nation bears this out.

These two weekends end up being filled with regional festivals – Maryland, New York, Oklahoma – as well as a collection of minor stakes whose past glories have faded during the Breeders’ Cup era. This is no reason not to pay attention.

Stallions get all the headlines, but it’s the mares who carry the breed from one generation to the next. On Sunday, the long and the short will be played out at Keeneland and Santa Anita, the tracks most recently adorned with Breeders’ Cup bunting.

Graded, 1 1/2-mile stakes races on grass are a dime a dozen in Europe but rare commodities in the States, which is why Keeneland’s $125,000 Dowager, sponsored by the Rood and Riddle veterinary clinic, deserves attention. Christophe Clement, Kiaran McLaughlin, Mark Casse, Graham Motion, and Mike Maker are taking it seriously enough to send runners.

John Sadler has shipped Elektrum from California for the Dowager, and she could be the class of the field. At least, that is what the morning-line maker thinks, despite her so-so effort in the Rodeo Drive last time out. Drayden Van Dyke has the call.

Meanwhile, at Santa Anita, the Anoakia Stakes will be presented early on the Sunday program, well in advance of what should be the seventh and deciding game of the National League Championship Series, in which the Dodgers will end once and for all the delusion that the Cubs might play in a World Series. But that’s another subject.

The Anoakia was once a seven-furlong, graded event that set the stage for the Oak Leaf Stakes and later the Starlet at Hollywood Park. As such, it was won by marquee 2-year-olds like Landaluce, A Kiss for Luck, B. Thoughtful, and June Darling.

But the Breeders’ Cup tilted all the decks, and the old Anoakia was among the casualties. Revived in more recent years at six furlongs, the race no longer carries a grade and is sometimes even in jeopardy of underfilling. Five will go Sunday for a purse of $75,000.

American Gal, another from Bob Baffert’s bottomless well of young ones, tops the field. Of the five runners, though, the only one to have won two races is Peter Miller’s Woot Woot, a daughter of Awesome of Course who will be ridden by Norberto Arroyo.

Yes, it is hard to take a horse seriously with a name like Woot Woot. Miller understands. He scooped her up for a bargain $10,000 at the OBS auction of 2-year-olds last April, and she’s already tripled that investment. So, go ahead, make fun.

“I’d seen the video of her breeze and was impressed enough to go looking for her,” Miller said. “I drove all over before I found her, in a one-horse consignment. She looked fine to me, maybe needed a few groceries, but I thought I’d have to go to 20 or 30 thousand to get her, because if nothing else, her sire does get some good fillies.”

That he does. Awesome of Course, a son of Awesome Again, is the sire of champion Awesome Feather as well as the stakes filly Swift Lady and a pair of successful 3-year-olds in 2016, Fellowship and Awesome Banner. He stands at Ocala Stud.

“When I spend $10,000 on one, I usually keep it for myself,” Miller noted, “hoping, of course, they turn out to be worth more later. So, she runs for Altamira Stable.”

Woot Woot flubbed her debut at Del Mar in August, then won a maiden race for a tag at Los Alamitos in September. That gave her a ticket to a starter allowance at Santa Anita earlier this month, which she won with aplomb, providing Michael Wrona with the opportunity to wrap his Australian tones around “Woot” and then “Woot” again.

So, Pete, how about that name?

“I’m a big Howard Stern fan,” Miller said, and somehow no one was surprised. “He’s always talking about the Insane Clown Posse, one of those crappy bands like the Grateful Dead or Phish that has a crazy-huge following, only they’re rap and hip-hop.”

At this point, the interviewer was not sure about hearing the rest of the story. But Miller went on.

“The ICP followers call themselves the Juggalos,” the trainer said. “Their war cry at concerts is ‘whoop-whoop!’ It could sound like ‘woot-woot,’ too, but I changed it just in case The Jockey Club googled it.”

So, now the $10,000 Woot Woot is 2 for 3 and running in a stakes race for the first time. Cinderella story? Not quite yet.

“Look, you roll the dice a lot in this game,” Miller said. “We all know how tough it is. I know she’s in deeper than she’s been before, but she is game. And who doesn’t want to hear an announcer call her name?”