Undefeated Grade 1 winner Shanghai Bobby, trainer Todd Pletcher's morning-line favorite for Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, got his first glimpse of picturesque Santa Anita Thursday morning after arriving on the Tex Sutton flight Wednesday.
"It's good to be here," Pletcher said after 'Bobby' galloped over the main track and later was schooled in the paddock. "The horse has been perfect so far. He seems to be handling everything we throw at him. He steps up in class and steps up in distance, so we'll try one more time."
The son of Harlan's Holiday already has bankrolled $607,000 for Starlight Racing by winning his first four starts, three of them in stakes company. On Saturday, Starlight will have to share whatever earnings the colt makes with Coolmore Stud, which this week purchased a 50-percent partnership for an undisclosed sum in the colt.
"It went pretty quickly," Starlight Racing's principal owner Jack Wolf said. "I had two parties approach us at the same time. We talked back and forth and came up with a deal that I think is good for them and good for us. I think you have to put a value on this horse as a stallion prospect and as a racing prospect. I'm tickled to death that we've got the stallion side pretty much taken care of."
Saturday's race should go a long way in adding to the racing side. Shanghai Bobby's last two races have been won by increasing margins, but this will be his first two-turn assignment. He also will race without Lasix for the first time under the new Breeders' Cup ban for all two-year-old performers this weekend.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem," Pletcher said. "It's unchartered water, but he's never shown any signs of bleeding. If they haven't bled prior to the race, I think the chances of them bleeding in the race are diminished. We'll have to wait and see and have them scoped after the race."
Shanghai Bobby's last two wins came in the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 2 Hopeful, races that saw Godolphin Racing's Fortify finishing third and second, respectively. The Distorted Humor colt galloped 1 1/2 miles Thursday morning at Santa Anita for a rematch with his nemesis in Saturday's Juvenile.
"He's a big, powerful horse. He looks like a four-year-old. He's just a little bit slower than Shanghai Bobby," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We just have to hope things for some reason go in our favor, whether it's the mile and a sixteenth or no Lasix for them. We've never been on Lasix."
Win or lose in the Juvenile, McLaughlin thinks Fortify has a bright future.
"We think he's a beautiful mover with a great stride. Hopefully, he'll get better with age," McLaughlin said.
While many winners of the Juvenile have gone on to bigger and better things, only one, Street Sense, managed to go on and win the Kentucky Derby. The O'Neill brothers could add the name He's Had Enough to that short list after already sending out I'll Have Another to take this spring's Run for the Roses.
Dennis O'Neill, brother and assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, picked out both He's Had Enough and I'll Have Another for owner Paul Reddam.
"Physically, he's got as much ability as I'll Have Another," said Dennis O'Neill of He's Had Enough, victorious in one of three races. "Mentally, he has not. He's always gawking around in the morning. He's Baby Huey out there. I just hope he figures it out."
The Tapit colt galloped 1 1/2 miles on the Santa Anita main track Thursday under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
Dynamic Sky may be only a two-years old and have just three starts, but the Juvenile hopeful is catching on pretty quickly to his new surroundings.
"He schooled good enough yesterday that we're not going to school him today," said trainer Mark Casse after he supervised the son of Sky Mesa's morning gallop.
Owned by John Oxley along with stablemate and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies contender Spring in the Air, Dynamic Sky finished second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland going the Juvenile distance of 1 1/16 miles. However, his three starts thus far have been on the Polytrack at Woodbine and Keeneland.
"I'm not concerned about him handling the main track," said Casse, who is hoping to notch his first Breeders' Cup win after 10 tries and will saddle a contingent of five. "We plotted this all out ahead of time. All five of my horses were at Churchill Downs training on dirt for a month before they came here. But you never know with young horses until they do it for the first time."
Spring in the Air is in the same boat as Dynamic Sky, having run in a 8 1/2-furlong race on Keeneland's Polytrack, but did one better than her stablemate when recording a one-length victory in the Grade 1 Alcibiades. The Spring at Last filly also will be trying a conventional dirt surface for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies.
One race before the Juvenile Fillies, Casse will saddle yet another daughter of Spring at Last in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Grade 2 vixen Spring Venture, a perfect three-for-three on the grass, comes into the race with a solid chance of giving her trainer his first win in the Breeders' Cup.
"We've got a lot of really good young horses," Casse said while discussing why 2012 is the most successful year for the four-time Sovereign Award winner, who is currently ranked fifth in North America in earnings and the number of graded stakes wins.
"It's no different than a good college basketball or football team. When you're successful, it builds more success. It's easier to recruit, and the recruiting is everything.
"Of all the things I do, the number one thing is going out and finding the horses. Because it doesn't matter if you're Todd Pletcher or Bob Baffert, you're only as good as your players. We're fortunate that we have some wonderful owners now who have faith in us and are letting us go out and spend the money."
While Spring Venture sports a perfect mark, Spring in the Air will bring a 2-2-0 mark from four starts into the Juvenile Fillies against the likes of unbeaten Executiveprivilege, Kauai Katie and Dreaming of Julia.
Executiveprivilege galloped 1 3/8 miles Thursday morning at 8:15 a.m. under Dana Barnes as trainer Bob Baffert looked on. The Hall of Fame conditioner downplayed some recent reports that the daughter of First Samurai was not training as well as she should have been coming up to this championship race.
"Her works have been good," Baffert said. "I know some clocker said she didn't work so well one time, but she's doing fine. She's fit. She's plenty fit. I wouldn't put her out there if she wasn't and I didn't think she could handle the load. Different horses train different ways. Not all of them run to the way they train. Not all of them train to the way they run. But she's been training fine."
Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie spent their first night at Santa Anita Wednesday and galloped over the main track Thursday morning with Pletcher supervising.
"Both galloped over the track extremely well this morning, showing no ill effects from the trip," Pletcher said. "Basically they missed one day of training in New York . They jogged in the barn one day. The owners are blessed with a couple of very talented fillies. Just looking at the way the race set up, and the way both fillies were doing, we felt like it was the right thing to do to give them both the opportunity in this spot."
The Stonestreet Stable stars have been separated to this point, with each compiling a three-for-three record. The homebred Dreaming of Julia won the one-mile, Grade 1 Frizette in her last start while Kauai Katie took the six-furlong, Grade 2 Matron.
"Dreaming of Julia is very straightforward, what I would consider the perfect blend of her sire and dam," Pletcher said. "She's by A.P. Indy out of a dam (Dream Rush) that was very good at sprints and middle distances, so she's got a combination of speed and stamina. I would anticipate two turns would be even better for her."
Kauai Katie is by Malibu Moon and a granddaughter of one of Pletcher's favorite runners, More Than Ready. Stonestreet put up $490,000 to purchase Kauai Katie in March.
"We kind of liked the way she rated last time," Pletcher said. "That's always a good sign with these young horses. This is going to be a tough race. We knew that coming in."
Juvenile Filly entrant Beholder stood in the training gate under exercise rider Janeen Painter Thursday morning before galloping 1 1/2 miles.
"She's doing good," trainer Richard Mandella said. "I know there is a lot of speed in the race, especially that Malibu Moon filly (Kauai Katie) of Todd Pletcher's. But I think they'll have to respect my filly's speed and I'm hoping nobody will think it is worth their while to try to take her on. I've got (Garrett) Gomez riding and he's a pro. You always like to turn it over to a pro. He'll know what to do."
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle two runners in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Saturday, and sent his colts out for a 1 1/2 mile gallop Thursday in preparation for the contest.
Noble Tune has won both of his starts, including the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, while Balance the Books showed quality during the summer at Saratoga with a win in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes. His victory in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland earned him a shot in the Breeders' Cup.
"He's got two wins in three starts and both of his wins are in graded stakes," Brown said of the Lemon Drop Kid colt. "So, for a two-year-old grass horse you can't do any better than that. He's a very talented horse, as is Noble Tune, who is two-for-two. They are very similar. Both horses are coming into the race in good shape."
The charts show that Noble Tune, a son of Unbridled's Song, has been a more convincing winner, but Brown said that the black-type on paper doesn't tell the whole story.
"In fairness to Balance the Books, I think he's been in situations with bigger fields with some challenging posts, particularly in the With Anticipation," Brown said. "The Bourbon was a roughly run race. Balance the Books has been in trickier situations than the other horse. However, the other horse has been super impressive.
"You could dissect their short careers up to this point and their running styles, but at the end of the day, when you shake everything out, they end up right about on the line together for me. They have equal opportunity to win the race.
"There are positives and negatives to each horse's races. But so far, these horses are both stakes-winning two-year-olds already and I think they've done it the right way."