Trainer Bob Baffert, anticipating a big Breeders' Cup with 10 entrants, sent four of his biggest hopes -- Euroears, Plum Pretty, Game On Dude, and Secret Circle -- to the Santa Anita main track for final tune-ups Oct. 30.
“Everything went so smooth,” Baffert said after the trio of drills. “I’m very happy.”
Euroears, destined for the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, worked five furlongs under Martin Garcia on Santa Anita’s in a bullet :57 4/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:09 3/5.
Plum Pretty, a contender in the Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 4, went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 3/5.
Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) candidate Game on Dude also six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 breezing, in company.
Meanwhile, unbeaten Juvenile Sprint favorite Secret Circle drilled five furlongs in company. He was clocked in :58 2/5.
The remainder of Baffert's Breeders' Cup brigade consists of Irish Gypsy (F&M Sprint), Candrea (Juvenile Fillies), The Factor (Dirt Mile or Sprint), Drill (Juvenile), Irrefutable (Dirt Mile), and Prayer for Relief (Classic). This would be a personal record for 58-year-old Baffert if all 10 start.
The Factor is scheduled to work Oct. 31. “I don’t know how far,” Baffert said, “and which race he runs in depends on how he works tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Baffert is counting down until Nov. 4 in Louisville.
“It’s probably the most I’ve ever had in a Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “Right now, we’re on pins and needles. We’re still a week away. A lot can happen, but we feel good about some of our chances. I couldn’t sleep last night but everything went really well this morning. I’m happy.
“At the same time, I don’t get too worked up thinking I’m going to go in there and win 10. If they run their races, some of them, they’re going to have to have good racing luck.
“I’ve been through it so many times. Charlie Whittingham, his favorite line was, ‘Expect the worst and hope for the best.’ I try to keep myself even-keeled. The owners, they dream in Technicolor; I dream in black and white. We’ve got a ways to go, but right now, everything looks really good. We haven’t had a hiccup, but you never know when that might come.”
While Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) three times and the first Saturday in May is always foremost on his agenda, he credits the Breeders’ Cup with providing the opportunity for industry growth. He should know. He has started 57 horses in Breeders’ Cup races, winning seven. He also has nine seconds and three thirds, with earnings of $10,720,000.
“The Breeders’ Cup probably brings more horses into the business than the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “The Derby is sort of a crap shoot. You’ve got to be really, really lucky.
“But the Breeders’ Cup you can get lucky and find a horse maybe that can win one of the races. I remember I was training quarter horses and I was watching the ’84 Breeders’ Cup. It was so entertaining and I liked their (TV) shows. Tim Conway did a little entertainment segment and it struck me that maybe I could have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup some day.”
It didn’t take long. After finishing 11th with his first Breeders’ Cup starter, Soviet Sojourn in the 1991 Juvenile Fillies, he won the Sprint in 1992 with Thirty Slews.
“To me, the Breeders’ Cup gives people a feeling that maybe they can get into horse racing and compete in that event,” Baffert said. “To me, it’s even more exciting when you win a Breeders’ Cup race out of town.
“The Derby can be very intimidating, but not the Breeders’ Cup. The Breeders’ Cup is what got me in the Thoroughbred business.”