Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing kept a close eye on Shanghai Bobby Nov. 1 as the colt made his first trip around Santa Anita Park's oval, looking happy and alert as he strode past. The top Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) contender had finally arrived in California from New York Oct. 31 after Hurricane Sandy caused a one-day delay in his travel plans.
Many owners in Wolf's situation would have been anxious, fretting that everything wasn't going perfectly for their prize horse. But Starlight's founder remained calm.
"Everything was under control and you know how cool (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) is," Wolf said. "He actually told me he would prefer coming out here on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday anyway. I don't get too worried about stuff I don't have any control over."
Starlight owns Shanghai Bobby in partnership with Coolmore Stud after selling a 50% interest in the dark bay or brown 2-year-old to the Ireland-based operation recently. The fact Pletcher also trains horses for Coolmore makes the deal a good one, according to Wolf.
"The one thing that really makes this thing work is having Todd as the common denominator," he said. "They (Coolmore's principals) have got a lot of trust and faith in him, which we do, too. It made a lot of sense from all the angles."
Shanghai Bobby, who is undefeated in four career races and has earned $607,000, is the 2-1 morning line favorite for the $2 million Juvenile, scheduled for Nov. 3. In the eight times the Juvenile has been contested previously in California, only one runner from New York, Chief's Crown in the inaugural 1984 Breeders' Cup, has won.
"The history of heading East to West is not great," Wolf said.
But more on his mind than travel plans and past Breeders' Cup Juveniles was how Shanghai Bobby would fare without furosemide (Salix), which is used to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in racehorses. Under new Breeders' Cup rules, runners in this year's races for 2-year-olds can't be treated with the medication on the day of competition. Shanghai Bobby has run on Salix in all four of his outings.
"I hate to change anything with a horse that has had this much success and now we're going to have to change something," Wolf said. "But the Lasix (Salix) thing, according to Todd, won't be an issue."
Former trainer Frankie Brothers, acting on behalf of Starlight, bought Shanghai Bobby for $105,000 from his breeder, Stonehaven Steadings, agent, at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. Even though the colt was sired by grade I winner Harlan's Holiday , a former Starlight runner, nostalgia for days gone by wasn't the reason behind the purchase, according to Wolf.
"Harlan's Holiday is a good sire and Shanghai Bobby looked like a good athlete," Wolf said. "He is the first foal out of an Orientate mare and we sort of like buying these first foals sometimes. I don't know what the stats are, but we've had some luck doing it."
Shanghai Bobby broke his maiden by four lengths at Aqueduct Racetrack in his first race and then won the Track Barron Stakes by a length at Belmont Park. Afterward, Wolf thought the colt might be something really special.
"I thought it was pretty impressive," he said. "When he got stuck down inside, it was not where we wanted to be."
Then there was a stretch duel with Handsome Jack, who pulled up alongside and threatened to steal the win. But Shanghai Bobby " 'rebroke' and finished up much the best," Wolf remembered.
The colt was scheduled to tackle the Aug. 12 Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) next. But he developed a fever and missed the race.
"It ended up being sort of lucky because I'm not sure he would have won the Saratoga Special," Wolf said. "I don't know if he would have been fast enough. We had to give him a couple weeks off, but he seemed to recover so quickly."
Shanghai Bobby, whose only jockey has been Rosie Napravnik, rolled to a 3 3/4-length victory in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) in September. Then, in his most recent outing, he cruised by five lengths in the Oct. 6 Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (gr. I).
"All the wise guys were on Archwarrior," Wolf said. "I thought (trainer) Doug O'Neill's horse, Goldencents, ran a very good race to hang in there for second. The other horses couldn't pass us or him either. But obviously, that was a fantastic race for us, so here we are."
Everything going into the Juvenile might not be perfect, but Wolf still was enjoying visiting the Breeders' Cup's marquee hospitality tent and watching Shanghai Bobby train.
"This is where the Breeders' Cup is and Todd thinks he's a Breeders' Cup horse," Wolf said. "Would I rather it (the Breeders' Cup) be at Belmont? Not after last weekend with the all the bad weather. But I would rather it be back East. Even so, you can't complain about the weather in California or the hospitality. I've been here since Sunday (Oct. 28) and they (Breeders' Cup officials) know how to make the owners feel welcome and want to come back. It's been a great experience so far."