Santa Anita Race Report: The Master

Santa Anita Race Report: The Master
Photo: AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Mizzen Mast (4) pulls away to defeat Giant Gentleman and Orientate in the Strub Stakes.
Published in the Feb. 9 issue of The Blood-Horse
"You're killing me!" Bob Baffert called out to fellow trainer Bobby Frankel, who was posing for pictures in the winner's circle following Juddmonte Farms homebred Mizzen Mast's romping victory in the Feb. 2 Strub Stakes (gr. II). "I may have to go back to Los Alamitos."

Baffert, who left the Quarter Horse world a decade ago and has been the nation's leading Thoroughbred trainer by money won the past four years, was only kidding, of course. But the message was clear: Frankel, coming off the best year of his Hall of Fame career, will be a force to be reckoned with in 2002, not just for Baffert, but for any trainer trying to win big races. The New York native's stable is deeper than it's ever been.

Mizzen Mast overpowered his Strub opponents, winning by four lengths after breezing toward the lead on the turn for home and drawing off impressively under Kent Desormeaux. Victory in the $400,000 Strub proved his Dec. 26 win in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I) wasn't a fluke, when the son of Cozzene was racing on dirt for the first time. Prior to the Malibu, Mizzen Mast made three U.S. starts, finishing 10th as the favorite in Arlington's Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), ninth in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), and first in a restricted stakes on turf at Hollywood Park. In France, while trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, Mizzen Mast won twice in six starts and was second in the 2001 Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I).

"This is a really good horse," said Frankel, who admitted he had no idea whether or not Mizzen Mast would handle the switch from turf to dirt prior to the Malibu. "He'd worked good on the dirt, but you never know until they race on it. Sometimes you get lucky."

Frankel didn't even nominate Mizzen Mast to the Jan. 12 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II), the second leg of the Strub Series that was run just 17 days after the Malibu. "That's too much for most horses, running in three hard races in such a short time," Frankel said. The same day Western Pride was winning a hard-fought battle against Orientate and Fancy As in the San Fernando, Mizzen Mast was having his first breeze since the Malibu. He followed that work with two best-of-morning six-
furlong breezes at his Hollywood Park base, and was a fresh horse for the Strub.

The top five finishers in the San Fernando (Discreet Hero was fourth, with Momentum fifth) showed up for the finale in the series restricted to 4-year-olds (aged three when the Malibu was run). They were joined by Giant Gentleman and I Love Silver, the two-three finishers in the Malibu; Scorpion, who had fallen badly off form since winning last summer's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. I); and longshots Pie N Burger and Palmeiro, who were looking for their first stakes victories.

Fans made Mizzen Mast the 9-5 favorite, with Western Pride next at 4-1. The Jim Chapman-trained son of Way West was a three-time Derby winner in the East last year, when he captured the West Virginia, Ohio (gr. II), and Calder (gr. III) Derbys.

Orientate set blazing early fractions under Chris McCarron, going the opening quarter-mile in :22.28, the half in :45.12, and six furlongs in 1:09.20, under pressure from Giant Gentleman. Mizzen Mast, in tight among horses going into the first turn, settled into a good spot in the run down the backstretch, about five lengths behind the speeding leader. "I had so much horse going down the backside, I was pulling on him as hard as I could to slow him down," Desormeaux said.

Mizzen Mast swung to the outside on the turn for home and moved past the front-runners with ease. Desormeaux applied some pressure down the lane while Mizzen Mast completed the nine furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.25 after a one-mile clocking of 1:34.74. Mizzen Mast took .02 seconds off the stakes mark set by Silver Charm in 1998.

Giant Gentleman ran a good race to be second, 4 1/2 lengths clear of Fancy As, who rallied past I Love Silver for third after getting shuffled back in the early going. A Manitoba-bred gelding, Fancy As was making just his second start for Baffert after competing in Western Canada throughout his career. Discreet Hero was fifth, followed by Orientate, with Western Pride a well-beaten seventh, Palmeiro eighth, and Pie N Burger ninth. Momentum was pulled up in the stretch and vanned off. Scorpion was eased.

Mizzen Mast appears to be headed to the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 2. Frankel said he had no plans to send the horse to the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).

PALACE REVOLT

The day after Mizzen Mast's triumph, Frankel saddled the top two contenders for the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II): Amerman Racing's Lido Palace, the 4-5 favorite, and Stronach Stable's Euchre, second choice at 5-2. But a former turf horse, Brazilian-bred Redattore, upset the apple cart, defeating Euchre by a half-length at 11-1 under Alex Solis. Lido Palace finished a non-threatening fourth, and jockey Jerry Bailey heard a chorus of boos when he brought last year's Whitney Handicap (gr. I) and Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner back to be unsaddled. It was the third consecutive week Bailey had traveled to California from Florida, only to lose on a heavy favorite.

Redattore, owned by Brazilian Jockey Club president Luiz Alfredo Taunay, was sent to trainer Richard Mandella from his native Brazil in 2000, but didn't race until January of 2001. Mandella said the group I-winning son of Roi Normand arrived with a chip in his left knee and was sent to Kentucky, where Dr. Larry Bramlage performed arthroscopic surgery.

After winning two of his first four starts on turf in the U.S., Redattore tried dirt in the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park. Taken far off the early pace in the seven-furlong test, Redattore rallied to get fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Ceeband. "It was a good fourth," Mandella said. "I was afraid of him being up on the pace sprinting that day and I gave too many instructions to Alex, and he ended up maybe 20 lengths out of it down the backside."

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