Juddmonte Farms homebred Ventura will be defending her title in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Nov. 6 at Santa Anita, and she’s ready to roll, according Garrette O’Rourke, who manages Juddmonte’s nursery near Lexington.
“She’s dappled out, and mentally, she hasn’t lost a step,” he said. “She still goes out every morning with her tail swishing, and she’s bouncing and full of beans. She seems to be going into the Breeders’ Cup every bit as healthy, and strong, and competitive as she was last year. We’re not looking for a better performance; we’re just looking for her to produce the same.”
Ventura cruised to a four-length victory in 2008 at Santa Anita over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface, and her past performances indicate she could have tried something different in 2009 and been a contender in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). But her connections, who include Hall-of-Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, decided the 5-year-old daughter of Chester House would be better off attempting to repeat last year’s accomplishment.
“She obviously loves the track at Santa Anita,” O’Rourke said. “Her forte is her acceleration, and she accelerates very well there. The (Filly & Mare) Sprint offers the perfect scenario for her. If the Breeders’ Cup was at Churchill Downs and the Sprint was on the dirt, the (TVG Breeders’ Cup) Mile (gr. IT) might have been the best option for her. But this year offers such a perfect opportunity to go back and try to redo what she did last year, and she’ll be the hot favorite to win. In the Mile, she might get into traffic problems and there are an awful lot more unknowns, so why not go for the race she has a better shot of winning?”
Since last year’s Breeders’ Cup, Ventura has raced four times. She kicked off her 2009 season with a one-length victory over Jibboom in the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita. She then lost by a nose to Gio Ponti in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) at Santa Anita and was defeated by a head by Informed Decision in the Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in April over Polytrack.
‘”Everybody said, ‘Oh, she’s losing step,’ but as it turned out, she was beaten by horses that, at the time, had not built their reputations,” O’Rourke said. “We gave her a bit of a break. There was never much wrong with her physically, but sometimes horses need a little less pressure mentally; she’s always looked tremendously well. There wasn’t really much opportunity at the grade I level in the summertime for her, so that was as much a reason as anything else for giving her a break.”
Ventura returned to competition Sept. 20 and looked strong in capturing the Woodbine Mile Stakes (Can-IT) by a length after finishing second in the race in 2008. In the Filly & Mare Sprint, she’ll have a chance to pay back Informed Decision for the Vinery Madison loss.
“Hopefully, we can send her out on a high note,” O’Rourke said. “She should be peaking for the Breeders’ Cup, and it will be a matter of whether Informed Decision has actually improved or not since they met in the springtime and whether Ventura is better on the Santa Anita surface than she is on the Keeneland surface. There is only one place to find that out, and that will be at Santa Anita on race day.”
Ventura is scheduled to be retired from racing after this year’s Filly & Mare Sprint.
“The plan is to send her to Newmarket (in England) after this race and she’ll possibly be bred – pending confirmation from (Juddemonte’s owner) Prince Khalid Abduallah -- to Oasis Dream. He’s from the Danzig line, and she’s a very fast Mr. Prospector-line mare, so it would seem to be a perfect match for her.”
Ventura has a career record of nine wins in 19 races and earnings of $2,220,375. She has finished worse than third only twice. Last year, she scored in the Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.