10/01/2012 2:32PM

Santa Anita: Baffert flaunts strength of his Breeders' Cup contingent

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Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude's victory in the Grade 1 Awesome Again sends him to the Breeders' Cup Classic as the likely favorite.

ARCADIA, Calif. – There might not be a happier person than trainer Bob Baffert that the Breeders’ Cup will be at Santa Anita next month. This is the track at which Baffert has been the dominant figure for nearly two decades, and he served notice Saturday that he will be a formidable presence in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Nov. 2-3 by sweeping three Grade 1 stakes races, two with runners who could be favored in their respective BC races.

Game On Dude won the Awesome Again, and now moves forward to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3, a race in which he should be the betting choice. The unbeaten Executiveprivilege also could be favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies following her runaway win in the Chandelier Stakes. And Power Broker now must rank among the top contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile following his victory in the FrontRunner Stakes.

As much as anything, all three will have the home-field advantage. Since 1994-95, Baffert has won 10 training titles during the main Santa Anita winter meeting, and only once in the past 18 seasons has he finished out of the top five.

All three runners came out of their races in good condition, Baffert said Monday morning.

“Game On Dude, that was a nice race for him,” said Baffert, who won all three races in concert with jockey Rafael Bejarano. “He came back with something left. We wanted to conserve him a little bit. He’ll be running with different-type horses next time.”

Executiveprivilege “was really impressive,” Baffert said.

“Rafael never let her run at Del Mar,” Baffert said. “He would just sit on her and let her run the last part.”

Even in the Del Mar Debutante, which she narrowly won?

“He said he had them measured the whole way,” Baffert said. “I thought he cut it a little close.”

Power Broker, winless in three prior starts on synthetic and turf, “was a different horse” in his first start on dirt, Baffert said.

“He was one of my top 2-year-olds before we got down to Del Mar,” said Baffert, who mentioned that Title Contender – a winner over maidens earlier in the day Saturday – would also come back in the BC Juvenile. Both Power Broker and Title Contender are owned by Gary and Mary West.

“The nice thing about those colts is that they both have speed and they can run all day,” Baffert said. “Hopefully Title Contender will get in.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher said from New York that Love and Pride, who won the Zenyatta Stakes on Saturday, and Turbo Compressor, who was second on Sunday in the John Henry Turf Championship, both would remain at Santa Anita to point for the Breeders’ Cup under the supervision of assistant Michael McCarthy, who is originally from Southern California.

“It works out well for him,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said Love and Pride would come back in the Ladies’ Classic, while Turbo Compressor was likely to be pre-entered in two grass races, the Turf and the Mile.

Slim Shadey, who beat Turbo Compressor in the John Henry, “came out of the race really well,” trainer Simon Callaghan said Monday morning.

Callaghan said the extreme heat at Santa Anita on Sunday, in which the temperature shot up to 104 degrees, did not compromise Slim Shadey.

“Fortunately, he’s one of those who can adjust to the temperature,” Callaghan said.

Casino Host, who was fifth in the John Henry, “had a touch of heat stroke after the race,” according to his trainer, Ron Ellis.

“He looked a little funky coming back, but they got a hose on him right away, and he looks fine this morning,” Ellis said Monday.

Ellis said Casino Host would come back in the BC Turf. Ellis will have two more BC runners – Include Me Out, third in the Zenyatta, will return in the Ladies’ Classic, while Rail Trip, fourth in the Awesome Again, will shorten up to the Dirt Mile.

Ellis thought the speed-favoring nature of the main track over the weekend compromised the chances of Include Me Out.

“It was speed-biased,” Ellis said. “It was so hot, I don’t think they could keep enough water on it. There’s no denying you needed to be near the lead.”

Trainer Doug O’Neill was satisfied with the performances of Richard’s Kid, who came from far back to finish third in the Awesome Again, and Know More, who was second in the FrontRunner. Both will return in Breeders’ Cup races – the Classic for Richard’s Kid, the Juvenile for Know More – with Garrett Gomez retaining both mounts, O’Neill said.

O’Neill is based at Hollywood Park, but said both Richard’s Kid and Know More would train up to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

“The track is extremely safe at Santa Anita, but it is tiring, so I want those horses and some of my other horses to be over there to get used to that track,” O’Neill said Monday.

The well-traveled Marketing Mix, who won the Rodeo Drive on Saturday, came out of that race in good shape and will make her next start in the BC Filly and Mare Turf “as long as everything’s good,” trainer Tom Proctor said Monday afternoon.

“No matter what we do with her, she handles it,” Proctor said.