Road to the Breeders’ Cup Teleconference for Oct. 24
Road to the Breeders’ Cup Teleconference for Oct. 24
Jim Gluckson: Good day everyone and welcome to the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Pre-Entry Media Teleconference. Joining us today are four outstanding trainers: Richard Mandella; Todd Pletcher; Bill Mott, and Bob Baffert will join us in a little bit as well. We also have with us the President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited, Craig Fravel, who will take your questions following the discussion with the trainers, and Tom Robbins, who’s the Chairman of the Breeders’ Cup Racing Directors and Secretaries Panel who can comment on the pre-entered fields for today.
This is the 30th Breeders’ Cup. We’re excited, celebrating our 30th running, 14 races this year; a total of 172 horses have been pre-entered, 192 total pre-entries. This is our seventh time at Santa Anita Park. We’re very happy to be back at Santa Anita. This is a special Breeders’ Cup in that we have nine race winners returning from last year. Six of our races are oversubscribed with more than 14 horses.
Just a couple of other facts and details and then we’ll get into our arrangements today. Chad Brown has pre-entered the most horses as a trainer with 11. Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey have pre-entered the most as an owner with seven. This Breeders’ Cup will be televised on NBCSN sports network and the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be televised live on NBC on Saturday evening, November 2, from 8 to 9 PM Eastern time.
I think what we’ll do here is we’ll ask each of our trainers, when we bring them in, a question or two and then I will turn it over to the media. We have a lot of people on the line today, a very good turnout, so I’d like to start and get moving with that, and at this time let’s bring in the trainers please.
Jim Gluckson: Bill, good afternoon. Jim Gluckson here in California. How are you today?
Bill Mott: I’m doing great, thanks.
Jim Gluckson: Bill, I wanted to just ask you a question to start out. Bill has nine Breeders’ Cup race winners in his career. He has won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff five times and the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, and he has pre-entered five horses for the Breeders’ Cup. Just starting with Royal Delta, Bill, do you just want to give us an update on her progress as she’s coming back as the two-time defending champion in this race.
Bill Mott: She’s doing fine. You know, we got beat in the Beldame. We were second and I didn’t think she ran her very best race that day but it was still a credible race. She got beat by a very good filly and, but she’s training very well since. She seems to be doing well and her works have picked up, or we’ve let her pick her works back up and she—I would have to say she’s been training well.
Jim Gluckson: Excellent. Let’s talk about your two Classic horses pre-entered, Ron the Greek and Flat Out; they’re back from last year among the top four finishers. Ron the Greek, an excellent performance in the Gold Cup. Just give us an update on those two Classic starters.
Bill Mott: Both doing well. Of course, Ron the Greek ran probably as good as any horse could run, I guess, in his last race in the Jockey Club. We’re just hoping that he can, you know, repeat something somewhat close to that and that would make him competitive in the race. He’s always a solid competitor and he seems like he’s come out of it in good order, and Flat Out’s the same way. Flat Out, you know, is coming off a third-place finish and both horses ran credible I think, over the racetrack last year, and hopefully they’ll do the same again this year.
Jim Gluckson: Thank you, Bill. Hang in there for one second before the questions for the media. I’d like to go to Richard Mandella. Richard Mandella has pre-entered three horses for this Breeders’ Cup World Championships: prominent being Beholder, our defending juvenile—the horse that won the Juvenile Fillies last year. Richard, good morning. How are you today?
Richard Mandella: Good. Good morning.
Jim Gluckson: All right. I just have a couple of questions for you then we’ll turn it over later on to the media, but let’s just give an update on Beholder and discuss her chances here in the Distaff.
Richard Mandella: Well, she couldn’t be doing any better. She’s—just seems to be improving as time goes by, which is a natural course. She’s, you know, the end of her three-year-old year and she’s growing up and I don’t think you could ask one to be doing any better than she’s doing.
Jim Gluckson: Excellent. Richard, obviously this is a 30th Breeders’ Cup. Ten years ago you won four races; this is an anniversary of your own on one afternoon. You’ve been asked this a lot but looking back on it now and reflecting coming into this year, what are your memories, strongest memories of that particular afternoon?
Richard Mandella: Too many good ones to point out. It was a great day and a great day in ’93. I’d like to fill in the middle a little bit.
Jim Gluckson: All right. Richard, hang in there for one second. We’re going to now go to Todd Pletcher. Todd Pletcher has pre-entered nine horses for this Breeders’ Cup. He has seven wins in his career. Todd, let’s—how are you this afternoon?
Todd Pletcher: Doing great, thank you.
Jim Gluckson: All right. Todd, let’s talk about—go right to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Princess of Sylmar and her progress and your decision to, with Mr. Stanco, to come out here to California for the Distaff.
Todd Pletcher: Well, the filly’s just continued to train very well and I think Ed had expressed some concerns way back before the summer even started about going to California and running a three-year-old against older mares and after a long campaign, we did give her kind of two breaks along the year and she just continues to do really well. She obviously ran great in the Beldame and subsequently came out of it in good order and there’s every indication that she’s maintained her form. So, it kind of came down to looking at like why not go? You know, she’s doing well and you don’t get these opportunities that often with a filly that is on a win streak and just remarkably healthy. So, she didn’t give us any indication that she wasn’t ready to give it another try.
Jim Gluckson: Please inform us a little bit about the progress for Graydar and Palace Malice for the Classic?
Todd Pletcher: Both horses are coming up to it really well. Both horses breezed at Belmont on Sunday and put in good works. They’re kind of coming at it from different angles. Palace Malice has been on a steady campaign all year and continues to thrive on that type of program, where Graydar after his race in New Orleans in the Fair Grounds Handicap took some time off and he’s only had the one start in the Kelso, so we’re hoping to get enough into him to be ready and go a mile and a quarter against what looks like a heck of a field.
Jim Gluckson: All right. Well, we’re going to be joined a little bit—in a little bit by Bob Baffert, but at this time I would like to turn it back over and let’s have questions from the media assembled today.
Danny Brewer: Yes, this is for Todd Pletcher. Graydar, you know he’s been nothing short of outstanding. Could this be his coming out party? Because he’s not really nationally known nationwide. Could this be his coming out party at the Breeders’ Cup here?
Todd Pletcher: Well we certainly hope so. I think he’s kind of quietly coming in with a pretty impressive resume with winning the Donn Handicap was a good race and a prestigious Grade I and he kind of gets lost in the shuffle at the end of the year because it’s run so early in the year, but that was a huge race and he backed it up with sort of a new dimension coming from off the pace a little bit in the Fair Grounds Handicap. He’s a very impressive individual to look at and he’s trained really well so we certainly feel like he belongs in this type of field, and also respect how hard it is to win a race like this.
Danny Brewer: As far as just his overall look and his demeanor, he’s a beautiful horse. Does he behave a beautifully as he looks?
Todd Pletcher: Well, he’s a good feeling horse for sure and, but he’s very manageable. He likes to train but he’s not unruly about it and really he’s a pleasure to be around but he is a lot of horse. I’d say he’s, all of 16-3 and probably dresses out over 1300 pounds, so he’s an impressive looking horse, for sure.
Jon White: Yes, this is for Richard Mandella. Richard, what did you like best about the Beholder’s’ workout yesterday? And if you could just kind of talk about that workout in some detail?
Richard Mandella: Well, she worked with a nice allowance filly and we gave that filly about five lengths or so the first three-eighths of a mile and she just on her proved up and took over the workout and I got her three-quarters at :11 and out in :23 and a little change, and I haven’t many work quite like that.
Jon White: And also, if you could just talk briefly talk about Indy Point’s one-mile workout.
Richard Mandella: Very nice. You know, he’s a very professional horse. You know he won his mile and a quarter race here and going a mile and a half, we need to put a little wind in him and he stick around there pretty nice, 1:36.3 I think they had.
Tim Wilkin: This question is for Todd. Todd, the—how much of the Distaff with Princess of Sylmar do you look as a risk that she could possibly lose the three-year-old championship if she doesn’t win it?
Todd Pletcher: I don’t think you can really approach these types of races with reservations about whether or not winning or losing is going to affect her status as champion three-year-old filly. I think her resume to-date is extremely impressive and regardless of what happens in the Breeders’ Cup, you know, you can’t take that away from her and we’ll savor those wins for sure. But it didn’t really factor into the decision. In my eyes, I think any time you have a filly that’s won four consecutive Grade 1s and coming off a win against the best older mare in training, and she’s doing well and there’s a $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff five weeks and from then and I think that’s when you’ve got to try and take advantage of those opportunities and you can’t always assume that, you know, things are going to be the same next year. So, it’s all about the filly and her doing well and we’ll hope at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome of this race, that the voters will look at her body of work.
Tim Wilkin: Was it a difficult decision, a long decision, to make when you decided you wanted to go to the Breeders’ Cup? Because then at Saratoga it was like a no-go.
Todd Pletcher: Well, like I said, Ed always had some reservations; I did not.
Frank Angus: This question is for Todd Pletcher. Hey Todd, could you talk about where you’re at with Capo Bastone? If looked at it right, he’s entered in both the Sprint and the Turf Sprint, and kind of what—where you guys—where are you guys at on that? How are looking (cross-talk)?
Todd Pletcher: Well, we entered first preference in the Turf Sprint and running him on the turf has been something that we’ve been interested in doing for quite a while. We’ve worked him on the turf a couple of times this summer with the idea that we might try him on the grass and timing just didn’t quite work out right. So the horse was training very well and we decided to take a shot in the King’s Bishop and, you know, with a race that had a lot of early speed in it. It’s set up very well and we felt like with his type of running style that the Turf Sprint could set up really well for him also in the six-and-a-half distance. Down the hills, you know, we thought would be a nice fit for him. We entered in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to, as a second preference to keep our options open. I think if the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on the dirt were seven furlongs, we’d probably opt for that but I think six might be a little sharp for him.
Alan Caruso: This question is for Mr. Mandella. Sir, the comments that you just made about Beholder’s work the other day were interesting in that going into the Zenyatta Stakes, you kind of said at some point that she’s got California kind of speed and that you didn’t expect anything in there to beat you to the front and obviously that was the case. The fact that you had her sit off a horse and kind of finish up the other day, does that telegraph any sort of strategy? Or do you expect her to be on the engine in the Distaff?
Richard Mandella: We’ve always trained her that way, off of horses. We’ve never had to teach her anything about speed. She’s got an abundance of that. So she’s always rated off horses in the morning and trained and someday we’ll probably have to apply that but so far we haven’t had to because she makes the leap so easily. So, we’re not looking to change anything but in case we had to, we’d like to be prepared, that’s all.
Alan Caruso: And your confidence, so she can handle the nine distance, the nine furlongs well enough at Churchill. Any concerns about the mile on any other (inaudible)?
Richard Mandella: No, I’m just hoping she stays as good and happy and healthy as she is right now.
Alan Caruso: And obviously with as much as Mr. Hughes has tied up in the family and given your success ten years ago, tell me about your relationship and what it would mean to you to win another Breeders’ Cup for Mr. Hughes.
Richard Mandella: Well, we’re both getting older so we’re going to take every one we can get.
Debbie Arrington: My question is for Mr. Mandella. Hi Richard. Indy Point, he had a debacle in Arlington but he has really bounced back well. How is he doing and what sort of maturation have you seen in him? How has he developed so far this year since Arlington?
Richard Mandella: Very well, other than the day at Arlington. It’s been a great progression. His race here in the John Henry was pretty phenomenal I thought the mile-and-a-quarter in 1:57 and change. I know the turf is fast but that would be fast if he went downhill, so, in fact part of it is downhill I guess. You couldn’t ask for him to run any faster than that and look any better. He did it like a real professional, set back, off with the early speed and when he was asked, he jumped right to the front and that’s what we’d like to do in the Breeders’ Cup.
Debbie Arrington: Do you think that he has some advantage, Santa Anita right out his front door there?
Richard Mandella: It’s always nice to be at home, but you’d always better have the best horse.
Jennie Rees: Yes, this is for Todd and then I’m going to ask Bill a similar one, but, Todd, could you talk about Authenticity? The old sort of betting angle of the other half of the end-couple trainers’ angle that, you know, ignore them at your peril. So can you talk about Authenticity and did it come into play at all the fact that—well, I guess she was already in before Princess of Sylmar was in, but anyways, in that context, talk about Authenticity, please.
Todd Pletcher: Well, she’s been a very consistent mare for us all year and she’s run some big races. Shipped her out to California for the Zenyatta and she didn’t break very well that day and we sort of got a different trip than we anticipated but we really liked the way she finished, and Beholder was clearly best that day but we were gaining on her at the end and she dealt with that really well. She acted like she liked the surface and has stayed at Santa Anita and come back with two very good bruises, so we’re hoping maybe with a race over the track and getting to stay in California and get acclimated and get some pre-works over the track that maybe that will bring her forward a bit. And, you know, she’s probably the kind of filly that can sit a good trip in the race. I think it will be an interesting race tactically and how Beholder and Royal Delta and Close Hatches decide to ply their early speed. All three of them, in some ways, that’s been their style, so we’ll see how it all unfolds.
Jennie Rees: I mean in your mind, is she—a Grade 1 winner and everything, but actually looking at it on paper, she’s run well in Grade 1 races. She’s won Grade 2 races but she’s not knocked out that one Grade 1 yet.
Todd Pletcher: She’s certainly run races that are well—that are good enough to win Grade 1s and she certainly has always trained like a filly or a mare that we felt like is Grade 1 caliber. So, this type of race, I think you certainly need to have the race of your life but she acts like she’s peaking at just the right time.
Jennie Rees: And just a little bookkeeping thing: when will you be shipping the rest of your horses to California?
Todd Pletcher: The Friday runners will fly on Monday and the Saturday runners will fly on Tuesday.
Jennie Rees: Okay. And for Bill, similar question but with Close Hatches. You’ve got the two-time champion but then Juddmonte decided to put Close Hatches in there. Talk about how she’s still in it and what it would take for her to win this Distaff.
Bill Mott: Well, she’s doing very well. What went into the decision to put her in there was that she was doing very well and she had got a little freshening over the summer and came back and won the Cotillion. And I guess since she’s earned her way into the race and she’d, of course, have—to beat this group, she’ll have to run the race of her life. She’ll have to run as good as she’s ever, ever run to be competitive with them and to beat them but, you know, we’ve got to give her that opportunity. She’s won two Grade 1s herself this year and certainly deserving the chance, and she got a late start. She didn’t start until after the first of the year, so she’s come a long ways in a short period of time, but surely done well enough to give her the opportunity.
Jennie Rees: And the question about the champion, last year you all pre-entered in the Classic and this race and you had talked earlier in the year about possibly doing that. Obviously you didn’t do that, just went in the Distaff. Was it just thinking, this race is tough enough as it is?
Bill Mott: It is tough enough as it—you know, both races are tough and there wasn’t much of a discussion about it. We talked about pre-entering in both and then waiting up until a little closer to race time to make a decision, but last week it was—the conversation was very short. We said, “Let’s just go in the Distaff,” and that was all there was to it. There was really nothing more that was—that is the thing. The decision wasn’t much of a debate.
Jennie Rees: And when will you be shipping your horses to California? And when will you be going to California?
Bill Mott: Flat Out ships on Sunday. He’s shipping out of Saratoga and the rest of them ship on Monday.
Jennie Rees: And you’ll be coming then on Monday with the…?
Bill Mott: Monday, yes.
Art Wilson: Yes, this question is for Bill Mott. Bill, regarding the Distaff, most of the years the Classic is of course the signature event of the two-day extravaganza, but this year, I mean it just seems like the Distaff field is, with Beholder, your two-time defending Distaff champion Royal Delta, Princess of Sylmar in, Authenticity, you think that this year that the Distaff can rival the Classic in terms of excitement and anticipation?
Bill Mott: Well I think it can. I think—and for good reason. I think there’s some very good fillies in there. If you’ll remember last year, it was nearly the same. I think from what I was hearing from other people on the outside was that they thought that the Distaff was probably one of the most competitive races going into the Breeders’ Cup last year and we were lucky enough to win it and they ran a good race. It’s a small but select field and I think whoever wins it is going to have to run an extremely good race and if you don’t run a good race, you’re not going to get a very big piece of it because it’s competitive from top to bottom.
Art Wilson: And a quick question for Todd Pletcher. Todd, back in I think it was 2010, you had 11 horses pre-entered and you mentioned that you thought there were a couple of them that were going into the Breeders’ Cup under the radar. Do you feel the same way this year about any of your horses? That are going in under the radar.
Todd Pletcher: I don’t know so much about under the radar. I think all the ones that we’ve pre-entered are coming off pretty good performances in their last starts and of course maybe with the exception of Verrazano, Travers was a little bit disappointing, but certainly his resume prior to that is pretty impressive. So I think everyone certainly looks pretty alive going in. You can feel pretty good about your chances and events like this, you can get your head handed to you pretty easy, so we’re excited about the opportunity but we also know how tough these races are to win.
Jim Gluckson: Thank you very much. Bob, welcome. Thank you very much for joining us. Jim Gluckson here with Tom Robbins over here at Santa Anita. Bob, I just wanted to get into just a couple of questions with you and then turn it back over to the media. Bob has pre-entered, of course, the Game On Dude, the likely favorite for the Classic and with Paynter for the Classic. Of course, Game On Dude with the terrific work the other day, the 1:11 two-fifths at Santa Anita for the six furlongs. Bob, welcome, and I’d like you to have a comment please on Game On Dude and how he’s feeling today.
Bob Baffert: Well, all the horses, they came out of their works really well. They looked great today, they’ve put in really strong works, did it the right way, so I’m really happy with the way they worked and we’re extremely happy the way they came out of it. So all systems look great right now.
Jim Gluckson: Excellent. I just want you to know, the members of the media, that Bob’s available for questions as well as our other guests on the line: Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher and Richard Mandella. I’d like to now go back and continue the questioning, please.
Alan Caruso: Hi. This is for Bob. Bob, where does your pressure level stand given what happened last year and given that Game On Dude is going to be the one that everybody is targeting this year? You’re on your home track. It seems like the world is on your shoulders and where do you stand here, 10 days before race day?
Bob Baffert: Well, I’ve basically warned everybody in the barn that we’re going to be on pins and needles and we might have short fuses but we’re used to running a lot of favorites in these big races. So I think the pressure comes from if you don’t feel like you’re prepared, I think you feel extra pressure but we feel like he couldn’t be training any better. He looks great. You know, last year, just did go awry but I think he’s a different horse than he was last year. I think he’s doing much better. He’s really run some outstanding races and he doesn’t show me any signs of tailing off or anything like that. The way he worked yesterday and the way he feels and looks right now, he looks much better than he did last year.
Alan Caruso: Some of the strategy says to bounce him away from there and let him do his thing, even though there are the Fort Larned and the Macho Macho Man and Graydars of the world that probably want to beat, they want to know what you’re doing, but I assume that your strategy is just pedal to the metal and go as far as you can.
Bob Baffert: Yes, well, I mean I think the break is going to be very important, very crucial and how he gets away but he’s a different horse than he was last year and Mike Smith knows him really well and he knows what he needs to do so all I can do is prepare him, have him ready and tell Mike—give him the keys to the car and get him around there as quick as you can.
Debbie Arrington: Hi. This is for Bob. Good morning Bob and congratulations in getting this far. You’ve got a great set of horses here. Besides Game On Dude, you’ve also got Paynter in this field. Compared to last year, this is kind of a miracle. Tell us how Paynter is doing.
Bob Baffert: Paynter is doing very well. I liked his race, even though he ran second, he came running, but he was in traffic inside, took a lot of dirt, but never really gave up. He came running at the end so I think with all the speed in there he should come running and I think he moved way forward off that race. He needed that. He had a bad race up at Saratoga in the slop, just a complete throw-out, but he looks great. He’s worked well and he likes this track. He looks healthy, he’s fresh and so it’s a very competitive race. You’ve got to bring your A game and you need a racing luck.
Debbie Arrington: Yes. This is a pretty spectacular field. How do you think it measures up to past years and who do you think are the horses to watch?
Bob Baffert: Well I think with all the speed—I think post position is going to be crucial in this race and I think till they draw their post, and figure out what’s going to be happening but right now, all I worry about is just having him healthy, fit, ready to roll and then after that it becomes racing luck, it’s out of my hands. So I really don’t worry about that till the day of and then they go in the gates and then you roll. You’re going to have butterflies. But it’s exciting and it’s challenging and these races are very hard to win and you need everything to go right for you that day, so everybody has got to be in the group.
Debbie Arrington: How is Santa Anita playing this year?
Bob Baffert: Well, it changes. Some days its real sandy so it’s deep, really loose, a sandy track. It’s going to be a little bit different than it was last year and you just don’t know how it’s going to be that day. It just changes from day to day.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Bob, not to dwell on disappointments but could you just kind of compare what it was like watching Game On Dude’s Classics the last two years? You know, two years ago when he just got beat at the wire, and then last year when, I’m guessing it was a pretty long race to watch.
Bob Baffert: Yes, once he was out of contention in the first hundred yards it was tough to watch, we just put that behind us and, like I said, you need racing luck but he’s a much better horse this year. I really like him coming into this race. Just going off his last race, his performances this year, he’s kept it going. Giving him time in between races really helped him. You know, he’s an older horse now so I think, I just—we’ve managed him a little bit different this year so he’ll come in here a fresh horse. He runs great fresh so I just hope my strategy works.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Can you just sort of articulate or expound on when you said, “He’s a much better horse,” what it is? Is it mentally? Is it physically? Is it just…?
Bob Baffert: I think mentally he’s settled down a lot. He’s really mellowed out. He’s used to be really rank. In the morning when he’d work, he’d be a little rank and he’s not that way anymore. He doesn’t get rank in a race, you know? I think he’s a much more relaxed horse. He’s healthy. He carrying more weight than he usually does. His races haven’t been really, really hard on him. He’s here in California so I think that has a lot of to do with it. Like last year, he ran great in the prep last year; he ran really fast and sometimes he needs a little extra time. I think maybe extra time really helps this horse and feel I’m in a good spot. I feel good about it.
Jennie Rees: What would you say to some people that maybe aren’t believers yet, that say, “Look, it’s better older horses are in the East,” and they’ve been beating up on each other and you’ve been just woofing on the California horses. How should handicappers view it?
Bob Baffert: He did ship to Charles Town. Any time you ship and you win out of town on a track that was totally—those really good horses they just take their track with them and that’s the way it usually is. Mike could have taken him anywhere and he could have won. We keep him here and he’s made a lot of money and we have so much fun with him and he’s just a lot of fun. When you have a gelding like that, you don’t really worry about his resume; you’re worried about just having fun and winning races and making money with him. So it’s different. If we were getting him ready to go to the stallion barn, you’d have to win big races back East to really get people’s attention, so seeing that he’s a gelding, there was no need for that.
Jennie Rees: And since there are million dollar Grade 1 races in California, that helps too.
Bob Baffert: California racing, we love it here and this is where everybody is, so just really can’t beat California racing.
Larry Stumes: Oh hi, Bob. Congratulations for getting Game On Dude into this race undefeated this year. The last two years he probably could have been Horse of the Year each of those times if he would have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and didn’t. Does that weigh on you at all as you go into this one? And did that have anything to do with how you’ve changed his training this year to give him a little bit of a rest prior to this race instead of running in that race at Santa Anita?
Bob Baffert: Yes, that had a lot to do with it. I wanted to come in here a little fresher and spread his races out and he’s the only horse I’ve ever had that’s made over $5 million and has never been a champion, some story, you know? So it was tough. I think it hurt him when he got beat at Del Mar last year. It hurt his chances but the thing is we have so much fun with him and he’s such a pet around the barn. He’s this nicest horse to be around and we’re just really enjoying this horse and when you have a nice horse like that it’s just good excitement. He’s got a following here in California. People like to come watch him. We had Zenyatta who gave us so many thrills and now Game On Dude, he’s sort of carrying the banner here in California. He’s just a lot of fun and I want to make sure that when I do lead him up (to the race) just want him to do his thing and keep him happy.
Jim Chairusmi: Hi. This question is for Bob. Bob, you’ve been pretty successful at the Breeders’ Cup, seven wins, but you haven’t won the Classic. Are you going to take a different approach this year? Do you think it’s racing luck? Are you going to wear something different this year to try to bring you better luck?
Bob Baffert: Well you need a good horse and you need racing luck and the Classic, we’ve run some seconds but, things happen sometimes. The Breeders’ Cup is just one of those things where everything has to go right. Everything has got to go right for you, and you have a lot of other good horses in the race there’s no room for—it’s a pretty well-matched field—everything has got to go your way. The pace makes the race so and the break. The pace is going to be the key to the whole race.
Frank Angus: This question is for Bob. Bob, could you talk a little bit about the efforts of getting Secret Circle back to the races? And how big was it to see him run so well at Santa Anita?
Bob Baffert: Yes, it was pretty exciting to get him back. He needed time and then we brought him back, then he had one little issue—but now he’s back. He worked today and he looks great. We were hoping to get him back to give him a run in the Breeders’ Cup. I was hoping to run him a little bit earlier than that but I didn’t want to run him at Del Mar but we got a good race into him. It looks like it didn’t take anything out of him. It’s a very competitive race. I was looking at the list. It’s a really competitive race But we’re excited to have him back because he’s a really fast horse and there’s another race. The post position is just so crucial in that race. That’s going to be a big obstacle there.
John Pricci: Good morning, Bob. I’d like you to talk about your two-year-olds a little bit, please. Tap It Rich, I mean a lot of jaws dropped while watching him win his debut and I don’t know if it was Mike, because Mike was on him or you had so much confidence in him, it was kind of reminiscent of Zenyatta a little bit in that he just kept that colt on the outside and made a sustained run which was very, very unusual for a two-year-old. So can you tell us a little bit about when he first impressed you? How special you think he is or might be.
Bob Baffert: He tipped his hand in the morning. He was working really well at Hollywood Park, and then I brought him over here and worked him a couple of times and I told Mike, “Just get on him. He’s a little bit immature but he’s very fit. It looks like he wants to run long.” I almost had him in going short. He didn’t get in. I’m glad I didn’t run him short and I told Mike, just let him break and let him find his stride. When he missed the break a little bit there it was like I thought, “Well, oh well, he’ll get a good race out of it and get some dirt in his face.” And then when he went to the outside, and by the half-mile pole, then I knew. I said, “Well, if he’s the horse that…” We’re always thinking, we’re always looking for that next big horse and then when he made that move and still won it with ease without really—it wasn’t really taxing on him at all but it was pretty impressive. And he’s come back, looks great. You know, stepping up into the Breeders’ Cup, a big field. It’s tough we’re here at home so we just have to walk him over there; you can’t break like he did and win the Breeders’ Cup. There are some good horses in there, but you have to give him the chance. I think he earned his way in there after watching that race.
And then the other horse I have in there, he’s like my dark horse of the race, New Year’s Day. He’s another horse that he’s worked really well. I skipped a race a few weeks back but he looks really impressive. He has two starts at Del Mar and I expect him to run a big race.
Art Wilson: Yes, Bob. With Tap It Rich, is it a situation where he just, even though he’s only had one race and he’s still so green, that he’s just such a talented horse that you had to give it a shot in the Juvenile?
Bob Baffert: Yes. Basically that’s it. He’s just got that raw talent. He sort of exposed himself there with that jaw-dropping race and I wanted to watch him really close to see how he came out of that race and see, make sure he looks healthy and he’s full of energy and he’s just a very energetic colt anyway, but I think the race woke him up a little bit. Now he knows what he’s supposed to do out there, but I figure with a perfect kind of little race where you’ve got two-turn experience and the distance is not a problem. He’s going to have to break well to be in the race but Mike Smith said when he came back he said, “Wow, this is really something.” But, you know, it takes that kind of horse to win these races.
Art Wilson: And how many horses total do you have entered, pre-entered?
Bob Baffert: Eight.
Jay Privman: My question’s for Bill Mott. Bill, I was wondering if you could speak to the quality of the older horse divisions, specifically that, you know, five of these horses who ran in last year’s Classic are still running at the top of their game this year and are back for this year’s Classic, please?
Bill Mott: Well, I guess that’s just the testament of the durability of these old campaigners and lucky enough for some of us trainers I suppose that some of these horse, like in the case of Bob’s horse, he’s a gelding and my horses don’t have the outstanding pedigrees that some breeders want to take them into the stallion barns, so we get the opportunity to run them another year or two. I think they’ve got good pedigrees, good solid pedigrees, but sometimes the real fancy ones wind up going to the stud barn when they’re at the end of their three-year-old year career and we’re lucky enough to have these horses and get to campaign them a little longer. They’re all good, tough, solid horses and I’m sure we’re all glad to have them in the barn.
Tim Wilkin: This question is for Richard Mandella. Richard, I know how impressed you are with Beholder, but what you’ve seen from afar from Princess of Sylmar, what are your impressions of her?
Richard Mandella: Very impressed at Churchill Downs when she beat us and I’ve seen her races at Saratoga that looked terrific and I’m sure she’s one to worry about, just as Royal Delta is and the field. It will be a tough group.
Danny Brewer: Bob, talking about Game On Dude, his performance in the Pacific Classic, was that almost scary good? And is the time off going to make him—is it going to set him up for another show-stopper in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?
Bob Baffert: Well, I mean he’s going to be running against a totally different field, we’re talking dirt versus synthetic where everything is slowed down a little bit, so they’re going to be in faster mode. We want a clean break and get a good position early and just hope that when they hit the quarter pole that we can get our chin off of seats and cheer for him. That’s all we, as trainers, that’s all we hope for is that we have something to yell about cheering for home because that’s where all the excitement is.
Jerry Bossert: My question is for Bill, Breeders’ Cup it’s on the West Coast again, and it’s been a while since Belmont has had it. Have you guys gotten used to going out there now, to California? Or is there an advantage, do you think, for the West Coast-based horses?
Bill Mott: Well, they probably have the home court advantage but we’ve done pretty well going out there. I’m happy enough to go make the trip out there. The weather is good; the turf is firm and the track seems to be bearing up. Last year they said that the track seemed to have a big speed bias. Whether it did or not, I guess I don’t know. It will just be interesting to see how it comes out this year; I think everybody enjoys having it out there. The weather is mild enough and I think most of the horses seem to have a fair chance. Fortunately, we didn’t have the Breeders’ Cup in New York last year with Hurricane Sandy coming through the night before we shipped. It would have been a real mess, without electricity, so, I guess you can have a disaster anywhere or bad weather like they had a Monmouth Park that year, but California, it’s a good place to have it and I don’t mind having it there two or three years in a row. I guess it would be nice to have it back on the East Coast or somewhere in between in the near future.
Jim Gluckson: All right. I just want to first thank all of our trainers for joining us today: Richard Mandella, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and Bob Baffert. If we have any other questions for Breeders’ Cup President Craig Fravel, we can ask those at this time.
In the interim, Craig if you’re there, I’d like just to have you comment on the fields this year and the strength of the international contingent this year.
Craig Fravel: Well thanks, Jimmy. You know I just wanted to say thanks to all the members of the media who joined us this morning. It’s a real pleasure. This is the time of year that we all live for and we are very pleased with the way the fields have turned out, at least so far, and we’re looking forward to next Monday when we draw the actual fields. I think we’ve got a terrific group of horses, probably as good a bunch of races top to bottom as I’ve seen in the Breeders’ Cup and I’m particularly excited about the international participation. We’ve got I think 24 horses pre-entered and some really true, outstanding horses like The Fugue and Olympic Glory pointing for our races and we’re thrilled to have our guests from overseas as well as our friends from this country and Canada and South America. We’re looking forward to an outstanding Breeders’ Cup. I want to—I feel a little humbled following guys like Bob and Dick and Todd and Bill and I want to express our appreciation to them for joining us and look forward to seeing everybody out there next week.
Art Wilson: Yes Craig, I just wanted to quickly touch on the future of the Breeders’ Cup a little bit. You know, about ten years ago they started naming the top jockey for the event, the Bill Shoemaker Award, but there’s been nothing to honor like the top trainer of the two days. Is there anything in the works to come up with something like that? Can the fans expect it at any time in the future?
Craig Fravel: Well I think Mandella kind of put that to bed when he won four races in one day. So, but, no. At the moment, Art, we don’t have that in the works, but we are looking at various things within the event that we can create new categories of recognition for not only trainers and jockeys but owners and perhaps create a little competition from international versus domestic. So, won’t have anything for this year but I certainly hope to have some of that next year.
Art Wilson: Okay. My final question is the, I think it was Greg Avioli back in 2010, back when there was a lightning rod, the subject of synthetic tracks, that the Breeders’ Cup would never have another Breeders’ Cup on a synthetic track. Is that still the stance of the Breeders’ Cup or has that softened any?
Craig Fravel: Well, you know, certainly I’ve been here two years now and I have never heard that as a policy statement on behalf of the Breeders’ Cup and I don’t think that we rule out any potential host site and track surfaces at this point and we’re very open to proposals from various and sundry tracks and looking forward to developing a longer-term strategy on host sites. So, we don’t have a formal policy on dirt versus synthetic, and as you know, I was a big proponent of synthetic but I also happen to believe that there are some excellent dirt surfaces out there and my main goal is to have a very safe and successful Breeders’ Cup this year.
Liz O’Connell: I have a question about the South African issue of getting horses out of South Africa to come up to the Breeders’ Cup. It seems that there’s a win-and-you’re-in down there, it’s a great race, yet the quarantine issues are so burdensome that they’re, they decline to come or just can’t—whether their horse is able to come.
Craig Fravel: Right.
Liz O’Connell: Is there anything in the works for remediating that?
Craig Fravel: We’ve been trying to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get a little leeway in terms of African Horse Sickness and the quarantine requirements and actually Josh Christian I believe from Racing Department is in the office at Santa Anita and might be able to answer that question more effectively than I can. Josh?
Jim Gluckson: Josh had to step away for another matter I’m afraid, Craig. We’ll have that answer later on and we’ll (inaudible).
Craig Fravel: Yes, well in the short term, we don’t see any relief on the horizon but we’ve certainly been working, and I think internationally folks are working in ways to try and make sure that we can let horses move more effectively out of South Africa, but right now we’re still in the same situation we’ve been in for a while.
Geoffrey Riddle: Just expanding on that, are you planning to expand the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series to any other countries or expand it in the countries that it already operates in, in the near future?
Craig Fravel: Well, first of all we’re very pleased with the way horsemen have responded to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge and in particular, the number of race tracks around the world that have basically come to us, asking to be part of the series. So we’re going to continue to evaluate where we can be most effective, where we can work more closely with not only foreign but domestic race tracks and hopefully expand the program, sure.
Geoffrey Riddle: I mean, which countries might they have been that approached you?
Craig Fravel: Well, we’ve just had tracks around the world express an interest in the Breeders’ Cup, as you know; we had some expansion at York this year. The Curragh has been a good partner of ours as have tracks all over the U.S. like Del Mar, Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and NYRA, and I don’t have any specific countries that we have a focus on right now but we’re going to make sure we are very careful about selecting people and selecting tracks and keeping the program at the top of the game.
John Pricci: Craig, I wonder if you’d talk a little bit about the thinking behind adding the United Arab Emirates to the Breeders’ Cup program, and as a second part of that, actually having it close the first day’s festivities?
Craig Fravel: We were looking for a good spot for the race and we spent a lot of time talking to our friends at the Emirates Equestrian Federation and thought that that would be the best place this year for that race. Certainly the Arabian racing has become a part of the international racing scene and the interest of various countries in the Middle East relating to acquiring thoroughbreds has been huge. Our friends in Qatar and the Emirates and other—Saudi Arabia and other countries have been huge and so we are pleased that we have the opportunity to showcase this race. We’re working on a long-term partnership with Emirates Equestrian Federation and we are going to show them how great racing can be in this country and we really think it’s kind of a fun way to cap off the first day of racing this year.