Keen Ice could be biggest threat to American Pharoah
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 30, 2015) — Bob Baffert has enjoyed an abundance of highlight moments during his Hall of Fame career, but none more singular than what he is experiencing with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
“This horse reminds me why I’m in this business,” he said Friday morning after the 4-5 favorite for Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic was tucked safely in his stall following his final pre-race gallop. “If I’m having a bad day, I’ll see him and he picks my head up. He’s the champ. Now I’ve got to find another one.”
For now he is laser-focused on the final preparations for the Zayat Stable’s homebred 3-year-old colt, who went out to Keeneland’s main track under regular exercise rider Jorgie Alvarez at 7 a.m. for a routine one-mile gallop.
“He just galloped around there. He went straight off and went one time around there. He looked pretty relaxed out there. He might even have been a little aggressive but it was good. He didn’t go too fast and it was perfect. He’s happy and I’m happy,” Baffert said.
“He’s there. He’s peaked already, but the good thing is he’s holding it,” Baffert said. “That’s what makes him such a good horse. He has been through an incredible schedule, with shipping and running, and shipping and running, and going everywhere, and now he’s still here. That is amazing. He’s incredible. He’s like the old-type of racehorse. I call him ‘Hickory’ because they just keep running at their best. I could turn around and run him in the Clark (Handicap at Churchill Downs).”
The highly-anticipated showdown between American Pharoah, who will be retired after the Classic, and the champion mare Beholder won’t happen now that she was withdrawn on Thursday for health reasons.
“When I heard that, I cringed because I know it can happen to any of us. That’s why when we come in here we’re always on pins and needles the whole time,” Baffert said. “It (a late scratch) always gets horses and you never know who it’s going to be. First it was Untapable (the reigning champion 3-year-old filly, who was scratched from the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff a day earlier) and now it’s Beholder.
Jerry Crawford, president of Donegal Racing, said the defection of Beholder will have little impact on the Classic for come-from-behind specialist Keen Ice.
“She was going to have to break from the 10 hole, which is a very difficult proposition,” Crawford said. “I think there are others who will go (to the lead) with American Pharoah and I don’t think we’ll be that far back.
“I didn’t watch him (Keen Ice) train (Friday) morning but I heard he looked great,” Crawford said. “His breeze (5f in 1:01 at Churchill Downs on Oct. 24) was the best indication that he is ready to go. He acts just the way you would want him to act. It’s a phenomenal race. People are calling it the best race in the history of racing. I understand the challenge ahead of us, but I wouldn’t trade horses with anybody.
“I am very sorry for (owner) B. Wayne Hughes and the other connections of Beholder. I know they really want to run here.”
Gleneagles, with Joseph O’Brien in the saddle, once again stretched his legs out on the main track this morning under the watchful eye of trainer Aidan O’Brien. Along with stable companions Found (Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf) and Waterloo Bridge (Sentient Jet Juvenile) all three walked a circuit of the dirt before doing a hack canter around one more circuit of the track.
Legatissimo (Filly & Mare Turf) also had a gentle spin of the main track with the assistance of a pony and appeared to like her surroundings ahead of her attempt to secure her fourth Grade I win of the year.
The Andre Fabre trio of Make Believe (Mile), Esoterique (Mile) and Miss France (Filly & Mare Turf) also went out on to the dirt along with the Freddy Head-trained Queen’s Jewel (Filly & Mare).
They all trotted half a circuit of the track before doing a gentle canter down the backstretch before returning home.
Frankie Dettori was once again on board Turf favorite Golden Horn as he put in the strongest piece of work so far since he arrived. Having trotted just over a circuit of the training track Dettori then gradually picked up the pace and did a solid canter for another two laps.
Jonathan Pease, who will be retiring from the training ranks at the end of the season, was trackside to see Karakontie (Turf) do his final canter before Saturday’s $2 million contest. The 4-year-old jogged for a circuit of the Polytrack before doing a hack canter for a couple of circuits.
Secret Gesture (Filly & Mare Turf), Time Test (Mile), Mondialiste (Mile) and Talmada (Filly & Mare Turf) all went out on to the training track in preparations for tomorrow’s races with Talmada putting in the strongest canter over two circuits of the track.
Trainer Doug O’Neill has a double-barreled chance in Saturday’s $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a pair of colts who seem, to him, to be poles apart in aura.
“Nyquist is like a first-round draft choice,” he said. “He’s brilliant to look at and he’s loaded with talent. On the other hand, Ralis is just a blue-collar homebred who’s very solid and very competitive. So while they come from different sides of the tracks, so to speak, both have earned the right to have a good chance in this race.”
Breeding-wise, the undefeated Nyquist, a $400,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, is a major winner and already a half-millionaire for young stallion Uncle Mo, a son of Indian Charlie, and Ralis is by J. Paul Reddam’s stallion Square Eddie (Smart Strike), whose racing career was fraught with injury though he did finish second in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
With the main track fast Friday morning, Grand Arch galloped about 1 1/4m after several days of exercising on the all-weather 5f training track. As is his routine, the winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 3 was ridden by Louis Rushlow and accompanied by stable pony Casey and key assistant Erin Cotterill, who is described by trainer Brian Lynch as his “significant other.”
Cotterill said Grand Arch has shown he is in peak condition by being “grumpy.” The 6-year-old Arch gelding demonstrated that mood by pinning his ears to anyone who approached too closely while he was munching hay in his stall.
“If he’s grumpy, he’s right,” she said.
Cotterill said Grand Arch is particular about his favorite treats and only will accept mint candies that are red and white.
The TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint morning line favorite was on the fast main track for an exercise routine similar to the previous day. The difference was that the track was dry instead of sloppy and Runhappy went without a planned pause to survey his surroundings as he did on Thursday. Regular exercise rider Omar Torres was in the saddle.
“Runhappy jogged a mile and galloped a mile again,” trainer Maria Borell said. “He was very strong in the bridle wanting to go.”
Borell said she expects Runhappy to do his customary extended stroll on the walk from the barn area to the saddling paddock for Saturday’s Sprint.
“He does this thing where he really extends his shoulder muscles. He did that (Thursday afternoon) when we schooled him in the paddock.
One of Runhapy’s handlers is Cordell Anderson, best known at Keeneland as a green-suited “ringman” who holds horses in front of the auction podium during bidding.
Gabe Grossberg’s Siding Spring, who was cross-entered in the Street Sense Stakes, will run in Saturday’s Juvenile instead after drawing in due to the last scratch of Tale of S’avall.
“I hope it’s a good omen for our Breeders’ Cup weekend,” said trainer Mark Casse, who also runs Conquest Big E in the Juvenile, as well as Tepin in the Mile, Conquest Airoforce and Conquest Daddyo in the Juvenile Turf, and Catch a Glimpse in the Juvenile Fillies.”It’s a tough post (14), but it’s better than the 15, and you can’t win it if you’re not in it.”
Siding Spring, a grandson of Medaglia d’Oro and Peace Rules, has two previous starts, both on the turf. But his last race was at the Juvenile distance of 1 1/16m
“He’s trained exceptionally well over the dirt, which is very encouraging. He’s got a solid dirt pedigree top and bottom, and he’s also got a good distance pedigree,” Casse said. “I started him on the turf because the purses at Kentucky Downs were so much better. If I had run him on the dirt instead, I think he would have won. There is no question that he should get the trip, and we’re hoping for the best.”
Undefeated 2-year-old filly Songbird galloped 1 1/2m on the Keeneland main track on Friday morning. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro appears to be the lone speed in Saturday’s $2 million 14 Hand Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, however, her trainer Jerry Hollendorfer believes the pace could potentially be a bit quicker than it may appear on paper.
“Whenever those races appear on paper to come up like that I like to study them a lot closer, because somebody usually goes up front,” Hollendorfer said. “I haven’t been over it in depth, but I will look at it in depth later in the day. I always talk with Mike (Smith) before the race.”
The lightly-raced 3-year-old filly Super Majesty galloped 1 1/2m on the Keeneland main track in preparation for her Grade 1 debut in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer contemplated running her in the Lexus Raven Run earlier in the month but felt that she has what it takes to compete with the best in the division.
“She’s doing really well,” Hollendorfer said. “We could’ve run in the Raven Run and she would’ve done pretty well in that race, but the horse is doing well and likes the track so we’re taking our chance in the bigger race.”
Hollendorfer also stated that he plans on running Super Majesty once more this year following the Breeders’ Cup in the La Brea on December 26 at Santa Anita.
“Her next race isn’t until December so we’re not afraid to take a chance now.”
Trainer Bill Mott said Mile entrant Tourist “jogged easily” on Friday. He is scheduled to walk the shedrow on Saturday morning.
Tourist, a son of two-time Classic winner Tiznow, comes off a narrow defeat in Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 3 in which he was third, a neck behind the winner, Mile rival Grand Arch.