Ladies Din, an 8-year-old gelding who has earned nearly $2 million, heads the field for Saturday's $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) at Bay Meadows.
The SF Mile is Northern California's only grade II stakes and is run on the Longden Turf Course. Ladies Din was assigned high weight of 120 pounds for the feature, which drew a field of eight.
Ladies Din hasn't raced since May 27, when he scored a powerful victory in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park. Owned by J. Terrance Lanni and Bernard Schiappa, Ladies Din will make his first start for trainer Frank Monteleone Saturday.
"After the Shoemaker Mile, the horse had some problems and the owners turned him out on a farm in Bradbury," said Monteleone, who is based at Santa Anita. "I've trained for the owners a long time and one day they asked me to go the farm and look at him. I told them he looked good and they asked me if I'd like to train him.
"I don't know what happened between the owners and Julio Canani (who trained Ladies Din for all but the horse's first three races) and I didn't really get into it with them," said Monteleone. "Julio did a great job with the horse, and I'm just honored that the owners have entrusted me with their baby. They've had horses like Silic, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile (in 1999), but, believe me, this horse really is their baby."
Ladies Din has won 12 of his 35 career races, including 10 stakes. A winner of two grade I events, Ladies Din will enter the SF Mile with a career bankroll of $1,955,504.
While thrilled to have Ladies Din in his barn, Monteleone admits he is feeling a tremendous amount of pressure.
"About as much pressure as you can have," said Monteleone of the pressure level. "Every time I take him to the racetrack my heart is in my throat."
Obviously, Monteleone is monitoring Ladies Din very closely.
"If at any point the horse gets sour, doesn't want to go to the racetrack or shows any signs of not being sound, we'll stop training him and the owners will find him a nice home where he'll spend the rest of his life," said Monteleone.
Ladies Din has been at Monteleone's Santa Anita barn since Jan. 1 and has been training smartly for his return to the races.
"We've brought him back slowly and he's doing absolutely fantastic," said Monteleone. "This horse is really, really training well. He's a big horse and he covers the ground so easily. His stride is just humongous."
Monteleone's main concern going into the SF Mile is the weather forecast, which calls for rain showers through Friday. If the Longden Course gets too much rain and Monteleone doesn't think Ladies Din will handle it, he'll scratch the horse Saturday.
"He's so big and powerful, he needs to get a hold of something," said Monteleone. "I'm coming up with the horse Thursday and I'll be there to monitor things."
Monteleone wants to run Ladies Din in the SF Mile.
"He's ready to run and we need to run him," said Monteleone. "The Shoemaker Mile (on May 26 at Hollywood Park) is our objective and we want to get a race into him before it."
Monteleone has given Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze the call on Ladies Din, who will be seeking his second win in the SF Mile. The Florida-bred son of Din's Dancer won the feature in 2000 when it was run at Golden Gate Fields.
$200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT), 3 & up, 1 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ladies Din (FL), 120, Russell A. Baze
2. Nicobar (GB), 116, Frank T. Alvarado
3. Ninebanks (CA), 117, Ronald J. Warren, Jr.
4. I'madrifter (WA), 115, Roberto M. Gonzalez
5. National Anthem (GB), 115, Adalberto Diaz Lopez
6. Bit of Luck (GB), 115, Chance J. Rollins
7. Wolfwithintegrity (CA), 114, Chad Phillip Schvaneveldt
8. Surprise Halo (CA), 116, Joe M. Castro