Trainer Carl O'Callaghan isn't afraid to think big. Just two weeks ago, Hazardous was a $22,500 claimer. Today he is a candidate in the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint at Santa Anita Park on Friday, Nov. 2.
"I think the slogan of my barn should be 'the dreamers and believers,' " said O'Callaghan.
Hazardous will be O'Callaghan's second Breeders' Cup starter. He finished seventh in the 2010 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) with Kinsale King. That gelding gave O'Callaghan his biggest win when he captured the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) earlier that year.
O'Callaghan wouldn't be running in the Breeders' Cup if he hadn't sent Ciao Valentina to Golden Gate Fields. Vegas Racing Team, headed by Angelo Molli and his daughter, Valentina, owns Ciao Valentina.
"She ran second, and they got super excited," said O'Callaghan. "He wanted to claim something the next day. We looked up Hazardous, and Angelo called and said, 'What do you think?' I liked the way he had won the first time (by 5 1/2 lengths). It was very impressive."
O'Callaghan looked over Hazardous in the paddock, and they decided to take a gamble on him for $16,000. No one else put in a claim, and they got the gelded California-bred son of Candy Ride —Malley Girl, by Malek. Hazardous ran fourth that day for his breeder, Nick Alexander.
Hazardous shipped to O'Callaghan's Hollywood Park base, where the trainer discovered that his new claim had a mind of his own.
"He was nuts—no one could ride him," said O'Callaghan. "I got on him myself. I went into the chute at Hollywood Park and did figure-eights with him. But he wanted no part of it."
O'Callaghan started going through the standard health checkups—floating his teeth, worming him, etc. He also noticed that Hazardous had begun to fall in love with Jake, O'Callaghan's Paint pony and a track veteran previously owned by trainers Dallas Keen and John Sadler.
Hazardous began improving when he started going to the track with Jake and when exercise rider Stephanie Korger started riding him.
"Stephanie gets on him every day," said O'Callaghan. "We just let him alone. He does his own thing at whatever pace he wants to go at, and he's tickled to death."
Korger gets along well with Hazardous.
"He's so sensitive," said Korger. "In the stall he's a puppy."
In his first race for his new connections, Hazardous started in a six-furlong $22,500 claiming race at Santa Anita Oct. 14. The only instructions O'Callaghan gave to jockey Edwin Maldonado was "don't touch him," especially in the gate. Hazardous got away slowly, but Maldonado hand rode him to a 13 1/4-length victory. That put the idea of the Breeders' Cup into O'Callaghan's head.
"There were no allowance races in the book, and we decided to take a shot for a half-million," said O'Callaghan. "It's in our backyard, and we don't have to fly."
The Mollis, who own and operate Italian restaurants in Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area, are looking forward to Nov. 2. They will be able to watch Hazardous take on morning-line favorite Merit Man and five others in the Juvenile Sprint and another of their horses, Paratito, compete in an allowance race on the undercard.
As for O'Callaghan, he hasn't stopped dreaming and believing.
"If this horse can go two turns, you could see us in Louisville on the first Saturday in May," he said.