· CHROME ‘VERY HAPPY’ FOR AWESOME AGAIN · IT’S STELLAR WIND VS. BEHOLDER, ACT THREE · EDDIE D. DOUBLES HIS PLEASURE ON FRIDAY · SONGBIRD: PERFECT IS AS PERFECT DOES
‘BIGGER, STRONGER’ CALIFORNIA CHROME READY TO ROLL Chromemania crescendo intensifies by the hour as the countdown draws ever closer for California Chrome’s performance Saturday on the world-class stage that is Santa Anita in the Awesome Again Stakes, one of five Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge events on the second day of Santa Anita’s 23-day Winter Meet. Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented ninth time on Nov. 4 and 5. Six horses were entered against California Chrome in the Awesome Again, a race his connections hope will lead to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. “He galloped a mile and five-eighths this morning,” said Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman. “The horse is very happy. Everything’s going great. I think he’s better now than he was before (winning) the Kentucky Derby (in 2014, when he was named Horse of the Year). “He’s definitely a bigger, stronger horse than he was when he was three.” Now five, the Fairytale Phenom has won five straight races, is 14 for 23 in his career, and is the richest Thoroughbred in North America history with $13,252,650 in earnings. Owners Taylor Made Farm and Perry Martin have at least three races on the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit’s agenda before the chestnut horse is retired to stud: the Awesome Again, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream on Jan. 28, 2017.
STELLAR WIND SEEKS TWO IN A ROW OVER BEHOLDER Despite the fact that Stellar Wind upset three-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on July 30, she understandably is playing second fiddle in a PR sense to the six-year-old mare trained by Richard Mandella for B. Wayne Hughes. That doesn’t diminish the anticipation Stellar Wind’s trainer, John Sadler holds for Saturday’s Zenyatta Stakes, in which the 2015 Eclipse winner as outstanding three-year-old filly attempts to hand three-time Eclipse champion Beholder only her second defeat in 15 lifetime starts at The Great Race Place. “I’m excited,” Sadler said. “The Zenyatta is the last prep before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and it’s going to be another classic match up, two great fillies, four Eclipse Awards between them. “It looks like it’s going to be another epic race. Stellar Wind has trained really well and hasn’t missed a day or an oat or anything since her last race, so we’re looking forward to it.” Stellar Wind worked six furlongs Saturday in 1:12.40. As far as strategy in a short field of five, Sadler said, “It’s going to be tactical. We’ll come up with a plan after we see where we draw. “We’re also looking forward to the Rodeo Drive. We’ve got Elektrum going in there and she’ll finally get to run at one of her best distances (1 ¼ miles on turf). She’s been running shorter and performing well with no luck per se, but she’s doing great.” The Irish-bred Elektrum was second in last year’s Rodeo Drive after winning the Grade II John C. Mabee at 1 1/8 miles on grass. The longest of her last six races came at 1 3/8 miles in the Grade III Red Carpet Handicap in which she rallied from well back to be second. Elektrum worked five furlongs on the main track Saturday in 1:01.80. Beholder, meanwhile, galloped a mile and a half today and will continue to gallop into the race, Mandella said. Beholder, winner of 13 of 14 races at Santa Anita and 17 of 24 overall, will face an additional Zenyatta starter in Tara’s Tango, who had been considered for the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 9. Supporting the headline events are the FrontRunner Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on Santa Anita’s renovated turf course. Victory gives the winning horse in each race a fees paid berth to its respective Breeders’ Cup event. Next Saturday, Oct. 8, the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship for three year olds and up at six furlongs will serve as a springboard to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5. Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet starts in two days on Friday, Sept. 30 and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 6. First post time opening day is 1 p.m. First post Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, will be 12:30 p.m.
EDDIE D. ON HAND FOR RACE NAMED IN HIS HONOR Eddie Delahoussaye will be working overtime on Friday. The popular Hall of Fame rider, who turned 65 a week ago today, will be on hand to present a trophy to the winning connections of the race named in his honor, the Eddie D. Stakes, but since it drew 26 entrants from 35 nominations, it will be run in two divisions, necessitating Eddie D. to present the trophy twice. “I’m looking forward to it,” said Delahoussaye, recently arrived from his flood-ravaged home state of Louisiana. “It’s a big opening day and I’m excited about Santa Anita starting. The next day we’ll have California Chrome running and other big stakes, so it’ll be great.” Addressing the floods that struck Cajun Country two months ago, Delahoussaye said, “I was lucky. A lot of people around our sub-division, the ones that were on the coolies, as we call them, and big ditches and little canals, were flooded. It was devastating. “It was worse than (Hurricane) Katrina because it hit about 100 miles wide and 100 miles long. It was terrible.”
MUTUAL CARE SOCIETY FOR TEAM SONGBIRD Songbird, the magnificent three-year-old filly who keeps topping herself, returned to her home base of Santa Anita Wednesday after demolishing five rivals in the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Saturday. It marked the 11th straight dominant triumph for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. “We’re just trying to keep her in good shape and take care of her, and she takes care of us,” Hollendorfer said before daybreak at Santa Anita Wednesday morning. Asked if she was the best he ever trained, noting that the ill-fated Shared Belief could have been unbeaten before being wiped out at the start of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic and suffering an injury in the Charles Town Classic, Hollendorfer was tactful. “She’s near the top, that’s for sure,” he said. “I don’t like to rank them or whatever, but we’ve had some great horses and we’re very appreciate of all of them.” Having a horse like Songbird has provided an emotional boost for Porter, who has been dealing with health issues. “Anytime you have a horse like Songbird, it makes for a more positive attitude,” Hollendorfer said. “Rick’s doing very well right now.” On deciding to run Tara’s Tango in the Zenyatta instead of the Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 9, Hollendorfer said: “We’re trying to get her to a Breeders’ Cup race,” alluding to either the Distaff or the Filly & Mare Sprint. “We figured why ship across the country to prepare her when we can run here, admittedly against two very tough horses (Beholder and Stellar Wind). “But we’d rather do our preparation here, then try the Breeders’ Cup because it is here. She can be a good seven-eighths horse (the distance of the Sprint), so my connections weren’t afraid to go long and then cut back if need be.”
FINISH LINES: Trainer Keith Desormeaux said Santa Anita Derby and Preakness winner Exaggerator was “regrouping at Churchill Downs” after his disappointing seventh-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby last Saturday. “We’ll make a decision on his future after next week.” . . . Vince DeGregory is recovering from six hours of back surgery at USC Hospital Tuesday. “I’m being well taken care of,” the 84-year-old agent said via text to Barry Abrams Wednesday. “I hope to be discharged soon and want to thank everyone for their good wishes. God bless you all.” . . . Santa Anita offers attractive and potentially game-changing guaranteed exotic wagering pools during the Autumn Meet, notably: $300,000 Late Pick 4 on opening day; $750,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick 6 this Saturday, Oct. 1; $500,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick Six Sunday. Oct. 2; $300,000 Late Pick 4 Thursday, Fridays and Monday, Oct. 10 following opening weekend; and $500,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick 6 Saturdays and Sundays following opening weekend . . . ShowVivor, Santa Anita’s popular free handicapping contest, returns opening day Friday and continues through the Autumn Meet, with $2,500 to the winner. Visit santaanita.com for details.