Arriving in Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup is probably one of the best feelings in the world, especially when you’re leaving the frozen north like I did. I got into Los Angeles on Sunday, and managed to get myself in bed nice and early so I could be up and at ‘em for training hours on Monday morning.
When I woke up, I bounced out of bed and (after a quick shower) headed straight to the press center to pick up my media credentials, and then I was off to the track! Santa Anita Park is one of the most scenic ovals in North America, and there’s something magical about the place as the sun comes up and fog hovers over the San Gabriel Mountains. That magic is made even more potent around Breeders’ Cup, when the best horses on the planet are in town to face off in two days of the championship racing.
That’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Will Take Charge in that photo, by the way. He looks seriously good, and his trainer D. Wayne Lukas was out on his pony at the crack of dawn to watch his star train.
I mean, the man is 78 years old and he’s on the back of a horse at 5:45 in the morning. That’s inspiring.
Now, onto the workers! Since so many talented horses are on the grounds for the World Championships, I’ll try to group the ones I spotted today by what race they’re running in. I’ll try my hardest to snap a picture of every horse this week – that’s my goal, at least!
To start off, here’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon contender Ever Rider watching horses train. Please notice that he’s not wearing a saddle, just a saddle towel. Also, he’s wearing a hat. His compatriot Calidoscopio trained that way for the same race last year and won it, so who am I to judge equine fashion choices?
Another Marathon contender I saw was Suns Out Guns Out, which is an absolutely tremendous name for a horse. He’s a big, good-looking, athletic guy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits the board (meaning he finishes in the top three) when he runs on Friday.
Indian Jones is my pick so far for the Marathon contenders; there’s something very eye-catching about him, and since he’ll be breaking from the sixth post position in the race I think he’ll have plenty of time and room to settle in, stay behind horses through the opening panels of the race and be able to close to win should the race work in his favor.
The first Juvenile Fillies contender I saw this morning was Ria Antonia; she’s a lovely, well-mannered filly who seemed to be taking the whole hectic scene of training hours in her stride. (Pardon the pun, please. I got up really early, OK?) Actually, speaking of stride, when Ria Antonia trotted past, my friend Alicia and I remarked on how fluid her movement was and how much ground she covered. For a 2-year-old, she sure can move; I’ll have to wait until I see the rest of her competition but I’m interested to watch her go on Friday.
I also spotted Juvenile Fillies runner Concave; she’s another looker, and much like Ria Antonia she was all business this morning. Concave has run three times in her career and won twice; the only time she didn’t find victory she still finished third. That’s a pretty impressive résumé for a 2-year-old filly!
The only Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner I saw this morning was Private Zone; he was extremely workmanlike and will definitely be a contender in this year’s edition.
I saw a pair of Juvenile contenders today; I always love spotting these horses, since they’re going to be the stars of next year’s Triple Crown trail. It’s so much fun to speculate whether there’s going to be a superstar on the horizon after seeing them.
The first Juvenile runner I saw was Tap It Rich, who was very full of himself. He was obviously feeling pretty good when he galloped as well, since his exercise rider had a very smug smile on his face after they finished training!
Dance With Fate is another Juvenile contender; he is a very professional, mature-looking 2-year-old and one I’m going to be keeping an eye on for the rest of the week.
The only Distaff horse I spotted this morning was Street Girl. While she’s definitely a longshot in that race, I always have room in my heart (and perhaps by betting bankroll) for another Florida girl! She seemed to be enjoying herself during training hours, passing the Grandstand with a spring in her step.
Next on the track was Goldencents; you may remember him from the Triple Crown races this year, and now he’s graduated to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Plus, one of his owners is Rick Pitino, the coach of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team, so that’s pretty cool. Anyway, Goldencents is looking very good right now, and he may be a serious contender in that race.
Jeranimo is running in the Mile (which is on the grass course) – he is a solid, nice horse, but he seemed a little grumpy out on the track today. That having been said, anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that my heart belongs to Wise Dan, who is also a Mile contender; so maybe my judgment is just a little impaired when it comes to evaluating horses in this race.
I have to say, Turf Sprint runner Chips All In looks seriously good. He was definitely on his toes this morning, but he remained focused on his training and just seemed like a really athletic horse.
I saved the Classic contenders for last: today Game On Dude (favorite in Saturday’s Classic) and Paynter (sentimental favorite to many horse lovers for his courage in defeating a potentially lethal bout of colitis last year) both put in their final pre-Breeders’ Cup workouts.
Paynter looked extremely strong today; he has a serious amount of muscle, and he was determined to keep in front of his workmate as they swept past the Grandstand.
I ended up getting a ton of photos of Game On Dude. He’s just a plain bay horse (meaning he has a brown coat with a black mane and tail as well as black points on his legs and ears) but there’s something about him that commands your attention when you see him. In fact, in a very cinematic moment, the sun itself broke out of its cloud cover when the Dude was waiting to head onto the track. A sign from Mother Nature or a meteorological coincidence? I guess we’ll find out on Saturday!
Here he is coming around the turn into the homestretch – he’s the horse on the outside.
And battling his workmate down to the finish line:
All in all, I was very impressed with his performance, and hopefully he’ll give us a great show in the Classic.
While I didn’t get too many other Breeders’ Cup workers this morning, I did spot some other cool things at Santa Anita during training hours. For example, this is Oliver; he belongs to Mucho Macho Man’s trainer, Kathy Ritvo, and I love him. He is the sweetest, floppiest, happiest puppy, and I basically just ended up following him around whenever there weren’t horses on the track. He is a delight.
I also spotted an Arabian horse giving his rider a bit of trouble on the way back to the barn. There will be an exhibition race for Arabians before the first Breeders’ Cup race on Friday; they’re a different breed of horse from the Thoroughbreds that I usually pay attention to, so it was a real novelty for me to see them on the racetrack. Arabians are noticeably shorter than Thoroughbreds, and have a daintier look about them; however, as this horse proves, they have plenty of spirit!
I also spotted trainer Bob Baffert’s new pony. He’s absolutely beautiful, and I’m going to pocket all of the mints in my hotel and try to make friends with him tomorrow. I mean, seriously, check out how pretty he is:
The great thing about going to the track in the morning before the Breeders’ Cup is how casually you’ll see some of racing’s superstars. As in, you’ll be going to get a cup of coffee, and suddenly you’ll be standing next to Hall of Fame jockeys Mike Smith and Gary Stevens. I mean, that’s pretty cool.
After training hours were over, it was time to get to work before the draw. I went to set up shop in the auxiliary press box and grabbed a bite to eat. After I settled down, I took a moment to gripe about how awful my life is on Twitter. (If you can’t tell, that is serious sarcasm. My life is pretty awesome right now.)
Also, that macaroni and cheese was amazing. So, so good.
In fact, if you want to see how happy I am to be here at beautiful Santa Anita Park, my friend Scott Serio took this photo of me before the draw. That is the face of one happy racing girl!
Image courtesy of Scoot Serio/Eclipse Sportswire
Anyway, before too long it was time to head over to the draw. This is where the horses’ post positions are determined for each of the races, so you can imagine how hectic it is when there are 14 races to account for! The main draw was held on the first floor of the Grandstand, which was great because there’s a lot of room there and it was needed since a ton of press was on hand to cover the event.
Since there are so many horses, the best way of sharing the results with you is to check out our recap here.
The draw for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (the name of the main race for female horses) and the Classic was held in Santa Anita’s Chandelier Room; the track just renovated the space this year, and it is really beautiful.
When the day was said and done, 172 horses had been assigned their post positions in this year’s Breeders’ Cup, and I am very excited to share as many of their photos with you as possible in the coming week! Thank you so much for stopping by, and let me know in the comments if there’s a particular horse of whom you’d like me to try and get a picture!