Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California
The 2012 Breeders’ Cup is just ’round the bend, and I can’t stop singing this year’s theme song by Frank Sinatra, “The best is yet to come”! All arrangements have been made: air, hotel, car, and, most importantly, a special new dress and hat hanging in my closet. The proverbial “Countdown to Christmas” for any Thoroughbred racing fan! But hold your horses!
Super Saturday! On September 29, the East and West Coasts will play host to a smorgasbord of graded stakes events. Belmont Park in bustling New York is a battleground for horses to claim their slot in the Breeders’ Cup.
Equally spectacular, Santa Anita Park offers the glorious San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop for horses hailing from every division going head to head to claim their spots on the Breeders’ Cup totem pole. Santa Anita’s Saturday card flaunts five Grade 1 races, each offering a purse of $250,000 and a position in the starting gates five weeks later on the same track that will host the Breeders’ Cup races.
Santa Anita’s fall meet, formerly known as the Oak Tree meet, is now preparing for its second year after parting ways with the Oak Tree Racing Association. Santa Anita has decided to rename 15 of their stakes contests, six of which are G1s.
All the races this Saturday bear new names: the Goodwood Stakes for older males is now the Awesome Again Stakes (G1), the female’s equivilant, the Lady’s Secret, is now the Zenyatta Stakes (G1), and the Yellow Ribbon, offering top females a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) will now be held as the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1). Previously the Norfolk Stakes, the Frontrunner Stakes (G1) will feature the leading juvenile colts from West Coast. Executiveprivilege looks to solidify her position as the best of the West in the fillies’ equivalent: the Chandelier Stakes (G1) (previously the Oak Leaf Stakes).
Executiveprivilege in the Landaluce Stakes, Betfair Hollywood Park, July 14, 2012
Game On Dude would be a fitting winner of this year’s Awesome Again Stakes, being sired by the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1)-winning horse for which the race was named. Expected to be the favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race, Game On Dude will carry trainer Bob Baffert’s first-call rider, Rafael Bejarano, to the post for the first time since winning an allowance race at the start of 2011. Game On Dude, runner-up to Dullahan last time out in the Pacific Classic Stakes (G1), will face a formidable field in the Awesome Again, possibly including contenders such as the seasoned Rail Trip, the Argentinian star Suggestive Boy, and the commendable Kettle Corn.
Game On Dude in the Californian Stakes (G2), Betfair Hollywood Park, June 2, 2012
The unveiling of Nina Kaiser’s Zenyatta statue in the paddock gardens will be one of the highlights of Santa Anita’s Super Saturday –as will the Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares attempting to go for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI). The 2010 Horse of the Year, Zenyatta herself actually won this race on three occasions in 2008 through 2010 when it was hailed as the Lady’s Secret.
Zenyatta, 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park
Hoping to fill Zenyatta’s shoes in her own race are an expected cast of classy mares, such as the Argentinian Amani, Include Me Out, Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) victress Love and Pride, Vanity Handicap (G1) winner Love Theway Youare, and the resilient mare Switch. Last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) favorite Joyful Victory carries the colors of Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm to the post and Ellafitz represents Bob Baffert, who trains horses competing in four of the five G1 races at Santa Anita’s Super Saturday.