Cost of Freedom is back to defend his title in Oak Tree's $300,000 Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 11, but he's just one of several hunch play possibilities in a 10-horse field at Santa Anita.
Gayego, winner of the 2008 Arkansas Derby (gr. II), could go favored in Oak Tree's final "Win and You're In" race for this year's Breeder's Cup, which guarantees the winner a spot in the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 7 over the same Santa Anita layout. But the six-furlong test could go a number of ways with Southern California standout Zensational skipping the race and heading directly to the Breeders' Cup for trainer Bob Baffert.
The list of winners of the Ancient Title includes Cardmania, Elmhurst and Kona Gold, all of whom used the Ancient Title as a springboard to victories in the Breeders' Cup.
Godolphin Racing’s Gayego, a 4-year-old Gilded Time colt who has found his niche sprinting, appears to be the horse to beat. He has raced six times at six or 6 1/2 furlongs, losing but once when breaking slowly to finish second.
Gayego began the year in the care of Godolphin trainer Saaed bin Suroor, winning a group III at six furlongs at Nad al Sheba and returning to place second in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) March 28. In his only start since, he won an optional claiming allowance race at Saratoga at six furlongs, recovering from a bad break to win by one length. Gayego has earned $1,119,620 from six wins in 12 starts with three seconds. Garrett Gomez will be on his back for the first time.
Cost of Freedom has raced just once since he upset Street Boss by a half-length with a front-running effort in last year's Ancient Title. Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber and trained by John Sadler after he was claimed for $50,000 in July 2008, the 6-year-old Cee's Tizzy gelding was sidelined for more than 11 months before returning with a fourth-place finish as the 1-2 choice in Del Mar's Pirate's Bounty Sept. 9.
The lightly raced Cost of Freedom will have Tyler Baze back aboard while racing coupled with stablemate Red Arrow, a 6-year-old Australian-bred who wired Hollywood Park’s Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) for the Barbers in his last start on May 16.
Cost of Freedom has raced only 11 times while dealing with soundness issues, but he has won six times for earnings of $351,105. His clocking of 1:07.53 last year over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface stands as the stakes record for the Ancient Title.
Baffert is high on Riley Tucker, who returns to Santa Anita after a five-race sojourn to Churchill Downs, where he romped in an allowance race over a sloppy track May 2, and to New York, where he produced a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park July 5. He returns following a fifth-place finish in Saratoga's Forego (gr. I) Sept. 5.
“He ran really well at Belmont,” Baffert said. “We brought him here to get away from some of those horses there and see how he fits. He’s training well."
Riley Tucker won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Feb. 7, and ran once more on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface before shipping east.
“He likes it here,” Baffert said. “I think he likes the surface.”
Front-running Atta Boy Roy takes the acid test after blowing away his competition in Washington over the summer. He won four races in a row, capped by 10 3/4-length win in the Chinook Pass Stakes in which he completed six furlongs in a stakes and track record 1:07 on Sept. 13. The 4-year-old Washington-bred son of Tribunal has posted a couple of blistering works since at Turf Paradise.
"We'll leave for Santa Anita early Friday morning," trainer Valorie Lund said. "He'll see the track Saturday morning and let's hope he runs like heck on Sunday."
Lund says Atta Boy Roy is handling everything well these days, and she expects another big effort.
"He's really matured this year," she said. "He ran so well at Emerald Downs, I didn't know if he could be any better than he was there, but I don't know. Things are going really well with him."
Crown of Thorns, trainer Richard Mandella’s 4-year-old, won Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in February 2008 by 2 1/2 lengths before going to the sidelines. The Repent colt returned to action with a third-place finish in an optional claiming race Sept. 9 at Del Mar.
Mike Mitchell’s 8-year-old multiple-stakes winner Delta Storm ran fourth in Del Mar's Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) on Polytrack in August, while Nikki'sgoldensteed finished third in the Pat O'Brien (gr. I) over the same track Sept. 6 for trainer Bob Hess Jr.
Square Eddie , second to Midshipman in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) for trainer Doug O’Neill, returns to battle after a six-month absence. His stablemate, Supreme Summit is another 3-year-old who has sizzled in three career sprints, winning twice with one second.
$300,000 Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Atta Boy Roy (WA), R Frazier, 124, V Lund
2. Nikki'sgoldensteed (CA), J Talamo, 124, R B Hess Jr.
3. Delta Storm (KY), J Rosario, 124, M R Mitchell
4. Red Arrow (AUS), M E Smith, 124, J W Sadler
5. Gayego (KY), G K Gomez, 124, S bin Suroor
6. Crown of Thorns (FL), V Espinoza, 124, R E Mandella
7. Cost of Freedom (CA), T Baze, 124, J W Sadler
8. Riley Tucker (KY), M Garcia, 124, B Baffert
9. Supreme Summit (KY), R Migliore, 123, D F O'Neill
10. Square Eddie (ON), R Bejarano, 123, D F O'Neill
Blinkers Off: Supreme Summit