Stars Align in Oak Tree Cup Previews

(from Santa Anita report)
The 2003 Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita gets an auspicious start to its 32-day meeting Sunday with four graded stakes races and plenty of Breeders' Cup possibilities.

Of course, the meet is highlighted by the 20th edition of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 25.

The opening day spotlight will shine on reigning Horse of the Year Azeri, who will carry the highest weight of her storied career, 128 pounds, in defense of last year's victory in the $300,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles.

Oak Tree hosted the Breeders' Cup in 1986 and 1993. In 1986, before a crowd of 69,155, a Breeders' Cup on-track record handle of $15,410,409 was wagered that day. In 1993, total wagering of $79,744,742 established a then-record North American mark for the series.

"In our two prior Breeders' Cups we established a record that's never been broken for on-track handle, which was in excess of $15 million, and we're hoping to exceed that this year," said Sherwood C. Chillingworth, Oak Tree director and executive vice president.

Azeri, boasting an 11-race winning streak and 14 victories in 15 overall starts with earnings of $2,984,820, drew post position five in a field of six. The Lady's Secret will go as race six on the 10-race program.

Besides the Lady's Secret, the card the $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf; the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IT) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles; and the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Storming Home, victim of an unfortunate incident at the finish line which cost him victory in the Arlington Million (gr. IT), heads the Hirsch. Storming Home, trained by Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, drew post three in a field of five in the Hirsch, which is the third race.

Undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Future Book favorite Halfbridled looms an odds-on choice to win her third in a row in the Oak Leaf. Tates Creek seeks her 11th win from 16 starts in the Yellow Ribbon.

First post time on Sunday is 12:30 p.m.

$300,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT, 3:12 p.m. PDT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Royally Chosen, David Flores, 113
2. Got Koko, Alex Solis, 118
3. Adoration, Pat Valenzuela, 114
4. Tropical Blossom, Julie Krone, 108
5. Azeri, Mike Smith, 128
6. Elloluv, Corey Nakatani, 114

$250,000 Oak Leaf (gr. II, 4:50 p.m.), 2-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 mile
1. Lovely Rafaela, Victor Espinoza
2. Shadow of Mine, Alex Solis
3. Daddy's Princess, David Flores
4. Halfbridled, Julie Krone
5. Renaissance Lady, Gary Stevens
6. Hollywood Story, Pat Valenzuela
7. Tarlow, Smith.
Each carries 119 pounds

$500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT, 3:44 p.m.), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/4 mile on turf)
1. Red Rioja, Julie Krone, 123
2. Tates Creek, Pat Valenzuela, 123
3. Musical Chimes, Gary Stevens, 118
4. Magic Mission, Corey Nakatani, 123
5. Cellamare, Jose Valdivia Jr., 118
6. Cassis, Mike Smith, 118
7. Crazy Ensign, Alex Solis, 123
8. Adalgisa, David Flores, 123

$25,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT, 1:35 p.m.), 3 & up, 1 1/4 mile on turf
1. Mont Saint Michel, David Flores
2. Johar, Alex Solis
3. Storming Home, Gary Stevens
4. Continuously, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
5. Irish Warrior, Julie Krone
Each carries 124 pounds.