10/21/2010 3:12PM

The Usual Q.T. gets green light for BC Mile

Benoit & Associates
The connections of The Usual Q.T. have decided to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile rather than the Cal Cup Mile.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Usual Q.T. will start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 6, trainer Jim Cassidy said on Thursday.

After considering a start in the California Cup Mile at Hollywood Park on Oct. 30, Cassidy and Don Van, who leads the partnership that owns the 4-year-old, have opted for the BC Mile.

“I told him, ‘Don, the horse is doing great,’ ” Cassidy said, noting that The Usual Q.T. worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Wednesday. “It was a really nice work. He’s back to his old self.”

The BC Mile field is led by two-time defending champion Goldikova from France. Cassidy said that The Usual Q.T.’s best chance in the race is for the gelding to relax in the early stages of the turf race under jockey Victor Espinoza.

“I’ve got to get Victor to be patient,” Cassidy said. “That’s a long stretch.”

The Usual Q.T. has won 8 of 17 starts and $1,207,240. His best result this year was a two-length victory in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar. He was second in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19 in his last start.

The Usual Q.T. has won five stakes in his career, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last November.

Smiling Tiger works a bullet

Trainer Jeff Bonde described Smiling Tiger’s half-mile exercise in 46.40 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday as “just a maintenance work.”

Another way to describe it would be bullet work, as is in the best of 33 recorded times at the distance.

The winner of two Grade 1 races this year, Smiling Tiger is bound for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6 as the leading sprinter in California. He won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 9 in his most recent start and won the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar in August..

“Everything is ready to go,” Bonde said. “I’ll work him once back there and we’ll be ready. He came out of his race well. Right now, we’re happy.”

A majority of the California-based hopefuls for the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 5-6 are staying in California until Oct. 31 or Nov. 2. Bonde said he thinks Smiling Tiger will be better suited to being there early. The horse was scheduled to be shipped on Friday.

“He’s a bit of a type A personality and if he sees something new sometimes he gets apprehensive,” Bonde said.

Owned by Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz, Smiling Tiger, 3, has won 5 of 9 starts and $519,864.

Difficult time finding enough horses

Hollywood Park postponed the draw for Saturday’s nine-race program from Wednesday to Thursday because of insufficient entries. The Saturday program has drawn 61 horses.

Field size has been a concern at the current meeting, with the Thoroughbred population in Southern California at approximately 2,800 horses. Through Sunday, the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting had an average of 7.71 starters per race.

The three major meetings held on this circuit earlier this year – the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, Hollywood Park spring-summer, and Del Mar meetings – all had year-to-year declines in average field sizes.

Smith impressed by Jaycito

Jockey Mike Smith was a participant and a spectator in the barn area on Thursday. He worked BC Juvenile hopeful Jaycito six furlongs in 1:12.80, and later watched Zenyatta, his mount for the BC Classic on Nov. 6, gallop on the main track.

Jaycito, the winner of the Norfolk Stakes here on Oct.2, left Smith impressed.

“There is a lot of improvement to go,” he said.

Zenyatta, unbeaten in 19 starts, galloped about 1 1/2 miles on the main track, drawing a “wow” from Smith when she went past a backstretch vantage point for the first time.

“Everything she does is amazing,” Smith said. “If you were to start another horse galloping with her, I bet she’d be a quarter-mile in front of the other horse the second time around. For her size, she moves like a deer.”

Longtime agent Meldahl dies

Bob Meldahl, a jockey agent in Southern California from 1980 until last year, died of a heart attack at his home in Arcadia, Calif., on Tuesday, according to his family. Meldahl was 61.

A native of Long Beach, Calif., Meldahl represented many of the top riders on the circuit at times during their careers, and had a working relationship with Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. that lasted for more than 10 years. Meldahl was Pincay’s agent in 1999 when the jockey surpassed Bill Shoemaker as the world’s winningest rider at the time.

Meldahl also represented Corey Nakatani in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Nakatani was often in contention for leading rider titles.

“Pincay and Nakatani were his great jockey loves,” said his daughter, Nikki Meldahl.

Meldahl also represented Rene Douglas, David Flores, Clinton Potts, Smith, and Jose Valdivia Jr. in recent years.

Meldahl last worked in 2009, five years after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2004. He suffered from diabetes in recent years.

A memorial service will be held at Santa Anita Church, 226 W. Colorado Blvd in Arcadia, at 10 a.m. Saturday. He is survived by his mother, Betty, wife Jan, and daughter Nikki.