"It's going to be tough beating that filly from Kentucky—Groovy, uh, Groupie Doll," said the Hall of Fame trainer.
But counting Mandella out during a Santa Anita Breeders' Cup is a fool's exercise, and the trainer wouldn't be running the 4-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie unless she was on top of her game. Such was indicated when she scored by a half length in the L.A. Woman Stakes Oct. 7 over the Santa Anita strip.
Rumor also excels in the pedigree department, being a granddaughter of Phone Chatter, the champion 2-year-old filly of 1993 who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita that year. Rumor's dam, Mini Chat, is out of Phone Chatter and is also a half sister to the dam of Breeders' Cup participant In Lingerie. Rumor is also a half sister to the very good, Mandella-trained Dixie Chatter .
Dell Hancock, Adele Dilschneider, and Ramona Bass purchased Rumor for $440,000 out of the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2009.
"We sent her to Jane Dunn in South Carolina and Jane really liked her a lot," noted Hancock, whose family has operated Claiborne Farm for more than a century. "We'd had a nice stakes-winning filly named Witty with Dick Mandella, so we thought if this one was good enough, why not send her to Dick and maybe we'd get lucky. And here we are. How lucky can we get?"
Rumor took the CERF Stakes at Del Mar in the summer of 2011 and came back to win the Kalookan Queen this past New Year's Day at Santa Anita. A move up to the grade I Santa Monica Handicap a month later resulted in a sixth-place finish when Rumor bled during the race. It has been her only off-the-board finish in 11 lifetime starts.
Rumor isn't the lustiest filly on the grounds, leaving her connections to take advantage of the stretches, like now, when she's doing well. She doesn't travel well, so with the Breeders' Cup on her own turf, it made sense to take the shot.
"We left it up to Dick," said Hancock, "and when Dick says 'Go,' you get dressed up and go."
Dilschneider has been a longtime partner with Claiborne in top racing and breeding stock, including champion Blame . Bass, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident, stood the stallion Avatar at Claiborne, and her family raced Sophie My Love with Mandella.
If Rumor has it, the recent success of Claiborne-related entities will continue. The legendary farm just won the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs with Sign, and its stallions, including Arch , Pulpit, and War Front , have been excelling as well. Blame, of course, won the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) over Zenyatta in 2010, and the son of Arch stands alongside his sire at Claiborne.