Six graded stakes races worth a combined $1.9 million in purse money and a possible trip to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships will be showcased at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 2-3 as the Oak Tree Racing Association begins its 36th season.
The first Saturday of Oak Tree's 26-day season features the $500,000 Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf; the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles; and the $200,000 Oak Leaf (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
Sunday's headliners are the $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles; the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles; and the $200,000 Norfolk (gr. II) for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who has won the Yellow Ribbon three times including last year with Tates Creek, is expected to enter Light Jig, a 4-year-old English-bred daughter of Danehill. Light Jig has three wins from five starts in the United States, including the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT).
The Goodwood, won the last two years by Pleasantly Perfect, a leading contender for 2004 Horse of the Year honors, is expected to mark the U.S. debut of UAE Derby winner Lundy's Liability, yet another member of Frankel's powerful arsenal.
Among the contenders for laurels in the Oak Leaf is Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod's Sweet Catomine, who broke her maiden in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I). Halfbridled, who went on to earn an Eclipse Award as best 2-year-old filly of 2003, won the Oak Leaf last year.
The Lady's Secret, won in 2002 by Azeri, later named Horse of the Year, is expected to attract two streaking winners – Dream of Summer, seeking her sixth consecutive victory, and Delaware Handicap (gr. II) winner Summer Wind Dancer, after her third straight triumph.
The Tin Man, who won the Hirsch in 2002, could seek his second score for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, while Frankel could register his fifth Hirsch victory with Continuously, who was second by a nose in the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park on July 18. Frankel won the Hirsch three consecutive years from 1999-2001 with Mash One (1999, 2000) and Senure (2001).
Bob Baffert will be after his fourth win in the Norfolk. He is expected to send out the promising Roman Ruler, who suffered his first loss as the 1-10 favorite in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) after winning his first two races by a combined 11 lengths.
New this season is a 2:30 p.m. post time for all Fridays.
The Oak Tree meet continues through Oct. 31. Other showcase events include California Cup XV on Oct. 16. First post is 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 12:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. First post time on Breeders' Cup Day Oct. 30 is 9:40 a.m.
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