Shopping Local with Cal-bred Aotearoa
by Evan Hammonds
Date Posted: 10/29/2013 5:04:12 PM
Last Updated: 10/31/2013 6:49:20 PM
Having the homefield advantage is helpful in Thoroughbred racing, especially with 2-year-olds. That is why the California-bred Aotearoa merits respect Nov. 1 in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT). Paul Viskovich's homebred gelding won the local prep for the race Oct. 6 at Santa Anita Park in the Zuma Beach Stakes at one mile on the turf.
Trainer Leo Powell has been high on the juvenile since he came to his barn at Betfair Hollywood Park in the spring after Aotearoa got his early lessons in Utah.
"He was always straightforward," Powell said. "We had to back off a little in the spring because he had an abscess in his foot, but after that he was fine."
The son of Good Journey—Madera Royal, by Lil Tyler, was so "straightforward" he won first time out in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race against Cal-breds at Del Mar by 4 3/4 lengths.
"He was working very well for us at Del Mar and we got Mike Smith to ride for us the first time because we knew he was a special horse," Powell said.
"I'm friends with (trainer) Patrick Biancone and at the time Aotearoa was the only 2-year-old I had, so I asked Patrick for company to work with in the morning," Powell said. "We actually worked with Diamond Bachelor maybe 10 days before his first race. Two weeks ago they raced against each other again and ran one-two."
Diamond Bachelor, broke his maiden at first asking Aug. 8, then won the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar before finishing three-quarters of a length behind Aotearoa in the Zuma Beach. Diamond Bachelor will start Nov. 2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on the main track.
Viskovich, a native of New Zealand, is president of Orion Health North America in Los Angeles and has a few horses. He is co-owner, along with Gerald Benowitz and Sandra Powell in Soi Phet, a Cal-bred Tizbud gelding they claimed for $16,000 in May. Soi Phet won four in a row and ran third behind Mucho Macho Man and Paynter in his stakes debut Sept. 28 in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I).
Aotearoa has a turf pedigree that is for sure. His sire, Good Journey, a son of Nureyev was a grade I winner on turf in 2001 and ran third in the 2002 NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington Park behind Domedriver and Rock of Gilbraltar.
Powell, who grew up in France, has been an assistant for Hall of Famers Richard Mandella, Neil Drysdale, and John Shirreffs. Powell is the son of David Powell, a former correspondent for the Daily Racing Form in France who later became a bloodstock agent.
Aotearoa is a 12-1 morning line chance in the one-mile Juvenile Turf. Powell noted morning-line favorite Bobby's Kitten was impressive last time and he thinks the European's form is good, so he is realistic about his chances. He's hoping homefield advantage comes into play Nov. 1.
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