El Gato Malo is ready for the Turf Sprint.

El Gato Malo is ready for the Turf Sprint.


Door Opened for El Gato Malo in Turf Sprint

The owners of El Gato Malo were bracing to get shut out of the Turf Sprint.

About 65 people scanned Santa Anita’s racetrack as they ate their breakfast at Clockers’ Corner Nov. 5. While the rest of the crowd searched for name horses like Zenyatta, Mine That Bird, and Summer Bird, this bunch wanted to see Awesome Gem and El Gato Malo.

The group belonged to West Point Thoroughbreds, a partnership that has put many people together in various racehorses. West Point will have Awesome Gem in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and El Gato Malo in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Should either reach the wire first, expect an explosion of ecstatic humanity in the winners’ circle.

West Point founder and president Terry Finley and Jeff Bloom, vice president of West Coast operations, put together the breakfast program, which included a few Breeders’ Cup betting tips from handicapper Jon Lindo.

“We’re having a series of events — and this is just one of them — during the week,” said Bloom. “It’s a great opportunity for people to meet each other and just enjoy the experience.”

Though the Awesome Gem partnership consists of 10 people and El Gato Malo’s about 20, everyone who participates in West Coast groups and their friends were welcome.

“This is a great venue, probably the best venue in the country, to bring people out in the morning,” said Finley.

For a while it looked like West Point would only have Awesome Gem as a rooting interest when the Turf Sprint drew 22 pre-entries. Trainer Craig Dollase even entered El Gato Malo in an optional claiming event on the Nov. 5 card in case the 4-year-old gelding got shut out of the Breeders’ Cup. Two other Turf Sprint hopefuls, Tenga Cat and Cherokee Heaven, were also entered in that race.

El Gato Malo skated in as the last one in the main body of the Turf Sprint and is listed at 30-1 on the morning line. Tenga Cat and Cherokee Heaven remained on the also-eligible list. El Gato Malo and Tenga Cat were scratched from the optional claimer, the latter in the hope of still drawing into the Turf Sprint.

Dollase reported that El Gato Malo is training well for his first attempt on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course of about 6 1/2 furlongs. A four-time stakes winner, El Gato Malo has won one of two races on the grass. He holds the Santa Anita main-track record for a mile in 1:33.37.

“Jeff and Craig have done a great job with El Gato Malo,” said Finley. “I think we’re in with a shot.”

The son of El Corredor–One Bad Cat, by Mountain Cat, has been training at Hollywood Park, where Dollase headquarters. He shipped across town Nov. 4 and was settling in well, according to Bloom.

“He’s definitely on his toes,” said Bloom. “He’s coming into the race the right way. He’s really on the top of his game right now.”

El Gato Malo likes to come from a little bit off the pace, which could be advantageous in the Turf Sprint with so many front-runners such as morning-line favorite California Flag.

“We thought that the way the race sets up, with his running style, if all works out, he’d be able to sweep around that turn and make that bold move,” said Bloom. “Maybe he can get lucky and pick up a win.”