News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
MINE THAT BIRD, ZENYATTA SET FOR OAK TREE’S BC CHALLENGE DAY SATURDAY
Mine That Bird, the dramatic 50-1 shot who streaked along the rail to win this year’s Kentucky Derby by 6 ¾ lengths, and unbeaten 5-year-old mare Zenyatta, a paragon of perfection in 12 career starts while earning $2.5 million, provide the star power Saturday for Oak Tree’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Santa Anita Park.
Three Grade I stakes races and one Grade II stakes — all “Win and You’re In” competitions ensuring each winner a starting spot in Oak Tree’s two-day, $25.5-million Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7 — mark Saturday’s elite, 10-race program.
When heading a cast of 10 in the in the 28th running of the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, Mine That Bird will become the first Derby winner to compete in Oak Tree’s prestigious event the same year as winning the Run for the Roses, and he’ll become the first non-California based Derby winner to run at Santa Anita since Spectacular Bid in 1980.
Reunited with jockey Calvin Borel, hailed for his rail-skimming ride at Churchill Downs on May 2, the Kentucky-bred gelding by Birdstone will be seeking to become only the third 3-year-old to capture the Goodwood. The race will be his first against older horses. He will break from the outside in post No. 10.
While Mine That Bird faces a contentious lineup that includes Pacific Classic upsetter Richard’s Kid and 2008 Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, Zenyatta will be a heavy favorite when defending her title in the $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, a race she won a year ago by 3 ½ lengths at odds of 7-10.
After her triumph in the Lady’s Secret, the stunning Street Cry mare went on to take last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita by 1 ½ lengths under Mike Smith’s hand ride, but her connections presently are leaving the door open for what could be the coda to her brilliant career in the Breeders’ Cup.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with trainer John Shirreffs, might opt for the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic next month instead of the $2 million Ladies Classic with the possibility of becoming the first female to win that pinnacle event against the likes of Mine That Bird. A decision will follow the 17th running of the Lady’s Secret.
Zenyatta drew post position No. 5 among eight entrants and will carry 123 pounds under the weight-for-age conditions. Her opposition includes Cocoa Beach, second last year in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, Anabaa’s Creation, who lost by a head to Zenyatta in Del Mar’s Clement Hirsch Stakes last August, and stablemate Life Is Sweet, runner-up to Zenyatta in a pair of graded stakes earlier this year at Hollywood Park.
Saturday’s array of top graded stakes is rounded out by the 33rd running of the $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf and the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile on turf. The Goodwood, the Lady’s Secret and the Oak Tree Mile will all be shown live on ESPN Classic from 5:00-7:30 p.m. (ET) as part of the cable network’s “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series” telecast.
KEENELAND OPENS TOMORROW, KICKS OFF MAJOR WEEKEND OF CUP PREPS
Keeneland begins its 2009 fall racing season tomorrow with the first day of FallStars Weekend, a showcase of many potential contenders for the $25 million Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 6-7 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Friday’s opening-day 10-race card that features two stakes, the 58th running of the Grade I Darley Alcibiades for two-year-old fillies and the 157th running of the Grade III Phoenix Stakes for older sprinters. Both stakes are “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 6 and 7 at Santa Anita.
During Keeneland’s 17-day race meeting that runs through October 31, the track will offer $5.125 million in purses for the 19 stakes races during the season, marking one of the richest stakes programs in North America. FallStars Weekend covers three days (October 9-11) of spectacular Thoroughbred racing, highlighted by nine stakes worth $3.25 million.
Five stakes will be run on Saturday, October 10: the Grade I, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the turf; the Grade I, $500,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Grade I, $400,000 First Lady for older fillies and mares at one mile on the turf; the Grade II, $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes for older fillies and mares at six furlongs; and the Grade III, $125,000 Woodford Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 5 ½ furlongs on turf. The Shadwell Turf Mile and the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity will each be televised live on ESPN Classic during a two-and-one-half-hour telecast from 5:00-7:30 p.m. (ET) that features a host of top stakes events Saturday from Keeneland and Santa Anita.
The Sunday, October 11, card at Keeneland features the Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade III, $125,000 Bourbon Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Each of those races will be shown live on ESPN from 5:00-6:00 p.m. (ET).
Among the horses to keep an eye on at Keeneland this Saturday are defending Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf champion Forever Together who, for the second straight year, will have her final Breeders’ Cup prep in the First Lady Stakes; and Justenuffhumor, who will bid for his seventh consecutive win in the Shadwell Turf Mile.
BENEFIT FOR INJURED JOCKEY MICHAEL STRAIGHT SET FOR OCTOBER 25
A benefit to assist jockey Michael Straight, who was seriously injured in an August 26 racing accident at Arlington Park, has been planned for Sunday, October 25 from 6:00-11:30 p.m. at Philly G’s Restaurant in Vernon Hills, Ill.
The event, which is open to the public, costs $50 per person and includes an evening of Hors d’Oeuvres, live music by Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields Forever, singer Victor Pacini and additional entertainment to be announced.
Additional fund raising efforts at the benefit will include raffles, games and a cash bar with proceeds earmarked to help offset the medical costs being incurred by the 23-year-old apprentice rider as he continues to recover from the injuries suffered in the spill.
Reservations/RSVPs are strongly encouraged as a full house is anticipated for this benefit. You can RSVP via e-mail to email@example.com.
Those unable to attend the event but wishing to make a tax deductible contribution to the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund earmarked for Michael Straight can do so by sending a check payable to the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, in care of Michael Straight, 547 Webford Avenue, Des Plaines, Ill. 60016.
Straight remains hospitalized at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., but it is expected that he will be moved to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in the coming days to continue his therapy.
TURFWAY’S LEADING RIDERS TO TAKE PART IN REUNION FOR CHARITY TONIGHT
Jockeys who won leading rider titles at Turfway Park over the past 50 years will return to the Northern Kentucky track tonight as the track closes out its historic 50th anniversary meet.
Approximately 25 jockeys are expected to welcome fans and sign autographs from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Most will be available throughout the evening in a designated area near the paddock. Those who have mounts Thursday will be available as time permits between races. The first 300 fans will receive a free poster picturing or naming all 61 jockeys who have won riding titles at the track.
Donations will be taken to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Established in 2006, the fund provides financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.
Among those representing the track’s early days is Mike Manganello, who won leading rider titles in 1964, 1969, and in 1970, the year he also won the Kentucky Derby aboard Dust Commander. Also expected in from the track’s days as Latonia are Billy Phelps, who won meets in 1965, 1967, and 1970; and Ron Herbstreit, winner of the 1965 winter/spring meet and today an accredited racing steward. At 66 years of age, Robert “Cowboy” Jones not only represents the early years, having tied for a 1972 title, but also still exercises horses and occasionally has a mount in a race.
Willie Martinez, who owns the most Turfway titles with nine, is also expected to be on hand for the event. Martinez earned five consecutive fall meet titles from 1995 through 1999 as well as three holiday meet titles and one winter/spring title. Martinez also is tied with Pat Day for the most stakes wins at the track with 37.Also planning to attend is Patricia “P.J.” Cooksey, who holds titles from the winter/spring meets of 1981, 1983, 1985 (tie), and 1995. Cooksey, one of the first women to ride with considerable success, at one time led all female riders nationally in career wins and is one of only three female jockeys to earn riding titles at Turfway.