The fast-improving Drill, who jumped from the maiden ranks to win the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in his most recent start, faces five rival juveniles in the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I).
The Norfolk, which at 1 1/16 miles marks the route debut for Drill and all but one of his other competitors, is the first of four grade I Breeders' Cup Challenge events worth a total of $1 million on the Santa Anita card. Set to go as the fifth race at 3:05 p.m. PDT, the Norfolk is to be followed by the Lady's Secret, Goodwood, and Yellow Ribbon.
The winner of the Norfolk earns a spot in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. Drill has already secured his berth in the race by winning the Del Mar Futurity.
Drill rallied from fifth at mid-stretch to prevail by a neck in the seven-furlong Futurity Sept. 7, in spite of being knocked momentarily sideways approaching the wire by the original runner-up, Majestic City. Jockey Martin Garcia also lost his whip in the frantic stretch drive.
Trained by Bob Baffert for the ownership trio of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Drill is a son of Lawyer Ron out of the Storm Cat mare Cat Dancer and sold for $300,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. In his previous start, the dark bay colt had broken his maiden at Del Mar at 6 1/2 furlongs.
His main rival in the Norfolk will be Creative Cause , who was cut off in deep stretch by Majestic City as the 9-10 favorite in the Futurity. He finished one length behind Drill.
Creative Cause, who was moved up to second via the disqualification of Majestic City, was making up quite a bit of ground when he was bumped and forced to steady. The Giant's Causeway colt out of the grade I-winning mare Dream of Summer may have been best that day for trainer Mike Harrington and owner Heinz Steinmann.
This will also be the dirt debut for both Drill and Creative Cause, who, like the rest of the field will carry 122 pounds. Garcia retains the mount on Drill while Creative Cause will be piloted for the first time by Joel Rosario, who replaces Rafael Bejarano. Creative Cause was an impressive winner of Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) prior to the Del Mar Futurity, where he suffered his first loss in three starts.
Also coming into the Norfolk from the Futurity is Basmati, who weakened late to finish fifth after battling Gun Boat for the lead well into the stretch. Trainer Doug O'Neill believes the son of Borrego, a maiden after four starts for owner Zillah Reddam, will benefit by the stretch-out.
“He’s built and bred to run long, so we’re hoping he moves up quite a bit on Saturday,” said Dennis O’Neill, Doug’s brother and associate. “He trains like he wants to run long, so we’re hoping the farther he goes, the better he gets.”
If any of the others were to win the Norfok, it would be a major surprise.
The Irish-bred Loukas is making his United States debut for trainer Darrell Vienna after breaking his maiden at England's Ayr.
California-bred Ruler of Dubai enters off back-to-back stakes wins over state-bred competition at Del Mar for trainer George Papaprodromou.
In his 10th start for Marcelo Polanco, Super Candy beat $32,000 maiden claimers in his first try at 1 1/16 miles Sept. 21 at Fairplex.
$250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I, Race 5, 3:05 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Super Candy (FL), H I Berrios, M Polanco
2. Loukas (IRE), P A Valenzuela, D Vienna
3. Ruler of Dubai (CA), M E Smith, G Papaprodromou
4. Creative Cause (KY), J Rosario, M Harrington
5. Drill (KY), M Garcia, B Baffert
6. Basmati (KY), J Talamo, D F O'Neill
All carry 122 pounds.