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News and Opinion

Over the weekend at Zia Park the thoroughbred mare Peppers Pride set the modern-day record for consecutive wins when she won her 17th straight. Purists will argue that she is not the quality of Cigar and Citation who both won 16 in a row. There is no disputing that. This is an issue of quantity not quality. Consider the thousands of horses racing in North America that are unable to even win a race much less string three together. Seventeen is difficult to fathom…

It appears that Tom Petters may be guilty of fraud to the tune of $3 billion. It also has been reported that he lost $10 million to Las Vegas casinos. Then again, it isn’t really losing when you are playing with someone else’s money….Why can Minnesotans trade stocks over the internet but they can’t legally place a wager on a horse race in that manner? Take a look at your 401(k) and tell me the stock market isn’t a gamble. Also please explain why the two licensed pari-mutuel operations in Minnesota can’t accept phone and internet wagers from the state’s residents yet those same residents can place wagers with companies based outside the border?

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin will get serious at Santa Anita Park this Monday, when he works five furlongs over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic main track between races. The work, which will be performed in company with another Steve Asmussen trainee, has been scheduled between races four and five (approx. 2:45 p.m. PT) and it is expected that if all goes well with the work, he will be pre-entered on Tuesday for a defense of his $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic title and a showdown with Big Brown at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

“Our biggest concern with Curlin is the difference in the way the track plays between morning and afternoon,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi. “This is going to be a smooth 5/8 [of a mile] in company. We’ll come on the track up in the quarter-mile chute and just jog-off from there and break-off at the 5/8 pole. He’ll be working with another horse of ours named Hawaii Calls.”
Curlin arrived at Santa Anita the day after winning the Grade I, 1 ¼-miles Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, and he had his first workout since the race this past Monday, breezing a half mile in :52.80.

“His serious work here at Santa Anita will be on Monday,” said Blasi. “It’ll be a normal 5/8 work. We’re not looking for anything real fast, but it’ll be done the way we do things in company.”
Beyond Monday’s drill, Blasi said, “Everything else with his training will be routine. That’s what we’re looking for right now.”

Should Curlin start in the Classic on Oct. 25, a much-anticipated showdown for 2008 Horse of the Year honors would be finalized with this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown.

As was the case this past Monday, Asmussen is expected to fly in from his Texas base to oversee Curlin’s work. Among those scheduled to work Monday morning for Asmussen in addition to Curlin are 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Pyro and multiple Grade I winner Student Council.

Undefeated Casino Drive has been entered to run at Santa Anita on Sunday in what his connections hope will lead to a start in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25.

Casino Drive drew post position two in an optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles going as the eighth on a nine-race program.

A three-year-old son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, Casino Drive breezed five furlongs Thursday on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in 1:02. “We’re very happy with it,” said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive’s owner, Hidetoshi Yamamoto. “I spoke with Mr. Yamamoto in Japan, and we decided to enter the allowance race on Sunday.”

Casino Drive, a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, has not raced since winning the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 10. A stone bruise in his left hind foot forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes and has sidelined him since. Casino Drive subsequently was returned to Japan and arrived at Hollywood Park last month.

Casino Drive won his first start in Japan on Feb. 23 this year, scoring by 11 1/2 lengths in a nine-furlong race. In his only other career start, the Peter Pan, he scored by nearly six lengths.

Rosa Grace (GB) will look for revenge against Backseat Rhythm when she makes her first start for trainer Christophe Clement in the 25th running of the Grade I, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday in Lexington, Ky. The invitational race is for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

A daughter of German Horse of the Year Lomitas (GB), Rosa Grace won three of the first seven starts of her career in England and Ireland. In June at Newbury, she took the Ballymacoll Stud Lord Weinstock Memorial at a little over 1 ¼ miles on a course rated as good.

For trainer Rae Guest, Rosa Grace made her North American debut at Saratoga on August 15 and finished second to eventual Grade I winner Backseat Rhythm in the 1 1/8-mile Lake Placid Stakes on a yielding turf course. She then was transferred to Clement’s barn at Belmont Park.

“She’s a nice filly,” said Ben Colebrook, Clement’s assistant at Keeneland. “She’s won on good turf in England, and I think she probably likes it a little better firm.”

Rosa Grace has a tough assignment in the QEII as every starter in the field of 11 is a stakes winner. Two of those horses are coming off Grade I turf wins: Backseat Rhythm and Magical Fantasy. Third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Backseat Rhythm took the Grade I Garden City Stakes over 1 1/8 miles at Belmont on September 6. Magical Fantasy won the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Oaks on August 16.

Two stakes winner from Keeneland’s spring meeting, Ariege and Alwajeeha, return in the QEII. Ariege, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks in March, won the Stonerside Beaumont, run at about seven furlongs on the Polytrack, and Alwajeeha took the Appalachian at one mile on turf.

Other starters include Lake George Stakes winner My Princess Jess; Closeout, coming off a win in Arlington’s Pucker Up Stakes on September 6, and Storm Mesa, whose five-race win streak included the San Clemente at Del Mar and the Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows before she ran fifth in the Del Mar Oaks. Rounding out the field are stakes winners Lickety Lemon, My Baby Baby and Sefroua. All starters will carry 121 pounds.

The Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs announced this week that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at the historic Louisville racetrack for a record seventh time in 2010.
The 27th Breeders’ Cup, currently consisting of 14 races held over two days with purses totaling $25.5 million, will be run on Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6, 2010, and will be televised live on ESPN, ABC and to a worldwide audience of more than 120 countries.

Churchill Downs has previously hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2006 and has been the site of six of the seven largest crowds in Breeders’ Cup history. In 1998, 80,452 fans attended the Breeders’ Cup. That record eclipsed the mark set in 1994 at Churchill, when 71,671 were on hand. The 2006 event, which was attended by 76,132 fans, also produced all-time Breeders’ Cup records for single day on-track handle, $18,259,971, and total worldwide single day wagering of $140,332,198.

“We are delighted to be returning the Breeders’ Cup to Churchill Downs and to our great supporters in Kentucky and throughout the region,” said Breeders’ Cup Chairman William S. Farish, Jr. “Churchill Downs has proven to be an outstanding Breeders’ Cup venue and is extremely popular with our horsemen and fans from around the world.”

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25. Championship Friday will feature five Breeders’ Cup races on the first-ever all female racing card. The Championships continue on Saturday with nine open Breeders’ Cup races. The 2009 Breeders’ Cup will also be held at Oak Tree.