Top-Notch Horses Take Pressure Off First-Time BC Trainers

Three trainers will make their first starts in a Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship when the gates for the Distaff (gr. I) spring open, launching the prestigious series for this year.

A record book is the only way to know because the demeanors of Laura de Seroux, Mike Gorham, and Paulo Lobo give the impression that they're repeat visitors to racing's highest echelon. Much of their confidence comes from their horses.

"There is no pressure," said Lobo, who trains Farda Amiga, winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and fifth choice in the morning line. "I'm telling you. She is fresh. She is happy, and she wants to run. She has good eyes looking for the horizon. When she gallops, she wants to go."

Farda Amiga isn't just carrying the dreams of owners Jose DeCarmargo, Marcos Simon, and Julio Camargo either. She is the darling of Brazil, which is the homeland of the three partners. The day she won the Kentucky Oaks, San Paulo's main newspaper put the filly on its front page. She was the first Thoroughbred to be so honored.

Still, Lobo doesn't worry.

"She is ready for tomorrow," he said with calm confidence. "She is ready to fire."

De Seroux is equally confident in her filly and the anticipated favorite, Azeri, who has won seven of eight starts this year including four consecutive grade I races.

"She has never been in danger of losing a race when she's won," said the Southern California trainer. "Her only bad race was a very good second, her first time in stakes company with an excuse -- a dreadful start, a pedestrian pace, way back, and she nearly got it done. With a little bit of luck, we would be undefeated."

Don't interpret De Seroux's confidence as a belief the rest of the field is weak.

"The reality is that it is a world championship and it is absolutely daunting the depth of the fields," she said. "It is what it purports to be. It is an electric atmosphere."

But does de Seroux feel any additional pressure trying to win the Distaff with championship honors on the line?

"No, not on us," she said.

Gorham said he is treating the Distaff the same as any other stakes for his stable's star, Mandy's Gold.Certainly, the trainer said, the race is important to the long-term value of the 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time. But to him, Gorham said he doesn't feel any more pressure.

"We're doing what we can do," he said. "We just try to get her in perfect condition and go from there."

Mandy's Gold has taken Gorham and his brother John, who owns the filly, on quite a ride since they bought her as a 2-year-old for $87,000. She has never been worse than third in 11 starts. She broke into the ranks of graded stakes winners in the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington Park on June 8 and went on to win the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) by 2 1/4 lengths over multiple graded stakes winners You and Raging Fever.

Gorham isn't completely immune to the thrill of having a solid contender in one of year's biggest races, despite his cool demeanor.

"She is the best one I've ever had," he said. "It's been cool."