Trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez got their Breeders' Cup weekend off to a good start Friday, but at Churchill Downs rather than Santa Anita.
With the return of the Southern Lights holiday festival, the Southern Lights Stroll once again debuts as its opening night on November 15. The only evening of the entire event when the public is allowed to experience a major portion of the lighted route on foot, visitors may choose to run, walk or stroll their way through thousands of dazzling holiday lights in the heart of horse country, on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
A number of trainers spoke of their runners for the 2012 Breeders' Cup races taking place at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday.
With co-owner and trainer Buff Bradley looking on for the first time this week, Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint favorite Groupie Doll jogged three-quarters of a mile and then galloped one mile under exercise rider Jada Schlenk.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was smiling and content Friday morning with his horses safely back in their stalls after completing their exercise. Mott will run defending champion Royal Delta in the Ladies' Classic Friday afternoon and has three runners -- Flat Out, Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve -- in the $5 million Classic on Saturday.
Sustained was declared Friday morning from a start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Worth Repeating came out of the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon, both races to be run Friday afternoon at Santa Anita.
Game On Dude, the Classic morning-line favorite, had another strong gallop Thursday morning, heading out with trainer Bob Baffert's 7:45 a.m. (PDT) set under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes. He returned to the Baffert barn on the Santa Anita backstretch and got a treat of a couple of carrots from Barnes, who is married to Baffert's chief assistant, Jim Barnes.
Team Valor International's Animal Kingdom galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider David Nava Thursday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for his scheduled start in the Mile off an eight-month layoff.
Having cleared quarantine Wednesday evening, Aidan O'Brien's powerful Breeders' Cup team took to the Santa Anita track for the first time to stretch their legs Thursday morning.
Gary Barber's Grade 3 Durham Cup winner Delegation, whom trainer Mark Casse termed as "a little wound up" earlier in the week, is settling into a routine with two days remaining before his start in the Dirt Mile.
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.
Amazombie, defending champion of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Sprint, was put through what amounted to a faster-than-usual gallop on Thursday morning at Santa Anita under exercise rider Javier Meza that trainer Bill Spawr likened to the one or two days before the 2011 Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Bill Mott's champion Royal Delta galloped 1 3/8 miles on Thursday morning over the main track at Santa Anita in preparation for a title defense run in Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies'.
A baker's dozen of two-year-olds will vie for the spotlight at Aqueduct on Sunday afternoon as they take the next step in their careers in the Grade 2, $200,000 Nashua and the Grade 3, $150,000 Tempted for fillies.
One day after wrapping up the 2012 Breeders' Cup, Santa Anita will offer the Grade 2, $150,000 Goldikova (formerly Las Palmas) sending a competitive field of eight distaffers one mile over the turf on closing day Sunday.
INTERNATIONALS IN THE BREEDERS' CUP
While the Cup horses from Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle Stables remain in quarantine until they are able to make their first appearance on the track Thursday, the trainer was at the barn on Wednesday morning and spent some time with members of the international media discussing some of his Breeders' Cup hopefuls:
Flat Out, Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve, all three members of trainer Bill Mott's Breeders' Cup Classic team, galloped about 1 1/4 miles on the main track at Santa Anita Wednesday morning.
Trainer Richard Mandella "got the attention" of his Distorted Humor colt Jimmy Creed Wednesday morning. He felt he had to.
My Best Brother and Old Time Hockey, who landed the major three-year-old grass stakes at Del Mar over the summer, will renew rivalry Friday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. Formerly known as the Oak Tree Derby, the grassy 1 1/8-mile Twilight Derby is the last of 10 races on the first of two Breeders' Cup programs.
Boisterous will be heavy favorite to successfully defend his title in the Grade 2, $200,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, the first of two non-Breeders' Cup graded stakes that will be held across the country on Saturday.
Grade 2 winners Dominus and Neck 'n Neck highlight an eight-horse field in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs. The one-mile event also features the U.S. debut of Group 1 Argentinean hero Grand Berry.
Below are the Breeders' Cup entries for the 15 races.
Thoroughbred racing action in New York moves to Aqueduct on Friday, with opening weekend featuring a "Welcome Back" event for patrons on the newly refurbished second floor, the simulcast of the Breeders' Cup from Santa Anita, and exciting live racing action.
Trainer Bill Mott said the champion and defending Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta went to the track Tuesday morning and was not having any problems with the small cut she suffered on her right rear hip while being shipped from Newburgh, New York, early Monday morning.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said all three of his Breeders' Cup Classic horses -- Flat Out, To Honor and Serve, and Ron the Greek -- traveled well from the East Coast Monday and went to the track for light exercise Tuesday morning.
Point of Entry, the 3-1 Breeders' Cup Turf morning-line favorite, took his first tour of Santa Anita on Tuesday morning, galloping a mile over the main track. The four-year-old colt arrived from New York on Monday.
The final shipment of European runners for this year's Breeders' Cup arrived late Monday night at the quarantine barn at Santa Anita. Aidan O'Brien's party of nine runners, including St Nicholas Abbey (Turf) and Excelebration (Mile), touched down in California shortly after 8 p.m. (PDT), and having cleared customs were safely bedded down by 11 p.m.
Starlight Racing has sold a 50 percent interest in Shanghai Bobby, the 2-1 morning line favorite in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, to the Coolmore connections of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the unbeaten two-year-old is considered an early favorite for next year's Kentucky Derby.
Breeders' Cup Saturday at Santa Anita kicks off with three $100,000 stakes, the highlight being the seven-furlong Damascus for three-year-olds.
Dogwood Stable's Aikenite -- a multiple Grade 2-winning earner of $875,385 -- has been retired after re-injuring an ankle while prepping for his final appearance in Saturday's Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs, according to Cot Campbell, Dogwood Stable president.
Thoroughbred racing's most prestigious global event, the Breeders' Cup consists of 15 races worth a total of more than $25 million and hosted by Santa Anita for the sixth time with six races on Friday and nine on Saturday to be televised on NBC Sports Network and NBC. For the first time, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be televised live and in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. (ET).
Seventeen Breeders' Cup horses arrived at Santa Anita Park at 9:12 a.m. (PDT) Monday after a cross-country Tex Sutton flight that originated at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York.
Trainer Dale Romans has confirmed that Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Dullahan and Grade 1 Arlington Million winner Little Mike will both start in the Turf. Dullahan had been pre-entered for the Classic, while Little Mike had been considered for the Mile.
Groupie Doll blasted three furlongs in :34 2/5 Monday morning at Santa Anita with regular exercise rider Jada Schlenk aboard in preparation for Saturday's Filly & Mare Sprint. The work was the co-fastest of 19 at the distance.
Some of horse racing's biggest stars are stepping up to the plate to support New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program by pledging a percentage of their purse earnings from the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Ryehill Dreamer, who had been sidelined by injury since capturing the Grade 2 American Handicap in May 2011, tracked Red Sun through fractions of :23 4/5 and :47 1/5 on the firm turf. Rounding the far turn, Ryehill Dreamer went after the pacesetter in earnest. He drew alongside through six furlongs in 1:10 3/5, and appeared ready to go by at the top of the stretch, but Red Sun refused to yield.
Garrett Gomez is no stranger to winning Breeders' Cup races, especially at Santa Anita. The 40-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native has 12 such victories overall on his growing and glowing resume, including four in 2008 and one in 2009 when the World Championship events were held at The Great Race Place.
Multiple Grade 1 star Game On Dude shored up his early favoritism for the Breeders' Cup Classic with a strong seven-furlong drill in 1:25 over Santa Anita's fast main track Sunday morning.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred Sign made a couple of rookie mistakes in her stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 2, $168,150 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs, but the 4-5 favorite easily overcame them to win as much the best.
John C. Oxley's Uncaptured could not be caught in the Grade 3, $114,800 Iroquois at Churchill on Sunday. The Ontario-bred two-year-old colt was an impressive winner by 5 1/2 lengths in his first race away from Woodbine.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey looks to have a strong hand in Aqueduct's early turf stakes, with Boisterous aiming to defend his title in the Grade 2, 1 3/8-mile Red Smith Handicap on opening Saturday and Hit It Rich looking to repeat in the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap a week later.
Eishin Flash swept under the wire to capture Sunday's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo, a much awaited victory after going winless for two years and five months since his Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) triumph in 2010.
Mercedes Stable's homebred Lady Ten surged to the lead off the far turn and held the fast-closing Customer Base safe late to win Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita. The three-year-old filly was sent postward as the 2-1 favorite for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano, who figure to be a popular combination again next weekend in the two-day Breeders' Cup.
Trainer Todd Pletcher's brigade of unbeaten juveniles was also out in force.