03/19/2013 2:58PM

Santa Anita: Bright Thought targets Woodford Reserve Turf Classic

Benoit & Associaties
Bright Thought, who set a world record for 1 1/2 miles on turf in the San Luis Rey, will target the May 4 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – With a perfect record on turf, including a world record for 1 1/2 miles in the San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita last Saturday, Bright Thought already has accomplished a lot in California. Now, he’s going to take his act on the road.

Jorge Gutierrez, trainer of Bright Thought, said the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 4, is the likely next spot for Bright Thought, who won his third straight grass race in the San Luis Rey.

“The way he trains, it looked like he’d like the turf,” said Gutierrez, who trains Bright Thought for breeder Alex Venneri and Marjorie Dye. “When he came back here, the first thing we talked about was putting him on the turf.”

Bright Thought, a 4-year-old colt by Hat Trick, had made three starts between November and January in the Mid-Atlantic region, including being risked at Laurel for a $25,000 claiming price against maidens. He won by 11 lengths at odds of 1-2. Fortunately for his connections, he was not claimed.

Since returning to Santa Anita, Bright Thought has raced exclusively on turf.

The first three furlongs of the San Luis Rey are run downhill. He covered 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:22.72, beating the old mark of 2:22.80 set by Hawkster in 1989. Hawkster’s time was recognized as the world record in the American Racing Manual.

Bright Thought was one of three winners Gutierrez sent out on Saturday’s card.

“Going in, I thought we had a good chance in all three races,” he said. “It was exciting that it worked out that way.”

Gutierrez, 47, trains 41 horses. He said he has visited Churchill Downs, but if Bright Thought races there, it will mark the first time he will get to witness the Kentucky Derby.

Best friends win consecutive races

Best friends Eoin Harty, a native of Ireland, and Sean McCarthy, who has more than a wee bit o’ Irish in his pedigree, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style Sunday, with the trainers winning consecutive races. Harty won a maiden race with the 3-year-old colt Footbridge, and McCarthy won the Irish O’Brien with the comebacking mare Bench Glory.

“I’m hoarse from rooting for his horse,” Harty said after the Irish O’Brien.

Harty said Footbridge will be pointed to the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 13 in a one-shot chance to earn enough points to make the Kentucky Derby.

If Footbridge cannot get into the Blue Grass, Harty said he would await the Illinois Derby the following week in hopes of using that as a prep for the Preakness on May 18. The Illinois Derby, run at Hawthorne, was excluded by Churchill Downs from the list of races from which horses can earn qualifying points toward this year’s Derby. Churchill owns Arlington Park, Hawthorne’s rival for race dates in Chicago.

Bench Glory was making her first start in 50 weeks in the Irish O’Brien. She gave McCarthy, a native of Northern California, his first Santa Anita stakes win.

“When I was a little kid,” McCarthy said, “when you looked at this place, it was like Yankee Stadium.”

◗ Mike Smith has a difficult choice to make April 13. In addition to having to decide between Oxbow (Arkansas Derby) and War Academy (Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass), April 13 also is the day Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection is scheduled to make her next start in the Las Cienegas at Santa Anita.

Smith is scheduled to be aboard two-time Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock when she makes her first start of the year Sunday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes for older female turf runners at Santa Anita. Tiz Flirtatious is among her expected rivals.

◗ Trainer Hector Palma was fined $1,000 by Santa Anita’s stewards for failing to report the gelding of Indian Classic, who, minutes before his win March 1, was announced as having been gelded since his last start.