Trainer Bob Baffert hopes to move a step closer to winning his first Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) when he sends out grade I winners Coil and Game On Dude in the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 1 at Santa Anita.
The Goodwood is one of four Breeders' Cup Challenge series races on the Santa Anita program, with the winner gaining a starting position in the BC Classic Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile event, which attracted a field of nine, is the seventh on an 11-race program with a 4:07 p.m. PDT probable starting time.
Coil, one of two 3-year-olds in the field, defeated Preakness Stakes (gr. I) victor Shackleford by a neck in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park July 31 to reach the top of the sophomore division and earn a berth in the Classic. But he followed up that sparkling victory with a flop in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 27, finishing last of 10 while never a factor.
His Hall of Fame conditioner remains at a loss to explain what happened last time.
“He never got out of there,” said Baffert. “I was worried that something might have happened to him, but he’s fine. He’s still a young horse and we’re learning about him.”
Owned by Mike Pegram with partners Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the son of Point Given faces older rivals for the first time in his return from the Travers debacle. He drew post 2 and will have regular rider Martin Garcia aboard. Coil has won four of seven lifetime starts while banking $752,560.
Game On Dude has been winless in four starts since his thrilling nose victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in March. The 4-year-old Awesome Again gelding missed by a nose to stablemate First Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) in July before returning with a fourth-place effort in Del Mar's Pacific Classic (gr. I) on Polytrack Aug. 28.
Chantal Sutherland retains the mount on Game On Dude, a lifetime earner of just over $1 million with a 4-3-1 mark in 12 races. The dark bay is two-for-two at Santa Anita.
Acclamation, winner of the Pacific Classic, is also in the field, though trainer Don Warren says the 5-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat is more likely to run in the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IIT) a day after the Goodwood. Acclamation won the Jim Murray (gr. IIT) and Charles Whittingham (gr. IT) handicaps and the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT), all on turf, prior to the Pacific Classic. The front-running bay has thrust himself into the Horse of the Year picture as a result.
“We’ll see who else enters, but I want to run in the turf race," Warren said. "It’s a better spot, I think.”
West Point Thoroughbreds' Awesome Gem remains a potent force at the age of 8 for trainer Craig Dollase. Boasting lifetime earnings of $2,688,270 in 46 starts, the Awesome Again gelding won the Longacres Mile (gr. III) in his most recent try Aug. 21 at Emerald Downs. The chestnut missed by a nose to Tiago in the 2007 Goodwood.
David Flores, who has ridden Awesome Gem 23 times--including his debut on July 9, 2006 at Hollywood Park--will be in his familiar spot breaking from post 7.
Tres Borrachos won the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar July 30 to secure a slot in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He regressed in the Pacific Classic, however, finishing sixth despite a ground-saving trip.
$250,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I, Race 7, 4:07 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Acclamation (CA), P A Valenzuela, 124, D Warren
2. Coil (FL), M Garcia, 121, B Baffert
3. Tres Borrachos (KY), J Rosario, 119, M F Jones
4. Preamble (IN), V Espinoza, 119, R E Mandella
5. Golden Itiz (KY), J Talamo, 119, R W Ellis
6. Miss Match (ARG), G K Gomez, 121, N D Drysdale
7. Awesome Gem (KY), D R Flores, 119, C Dollase
8. Game On Dude (KY), C Sutherland, 121, B Baffert
9. Nijinsky's Song (KY), H I Berrios, 116, M Harrington