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Santa Anita Park, rich in racing lore for nearly eight decades, enhances its storied reputation come Saturday, Oct. 1, when reigning Thoroughbred king California Chrome seeks his sixth straight victory, this in the Awesome Again Stakes, one of five Grade I Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races.
Sharing the marquee with Chrome and the Awesome Again will be the Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, expected to lure three-time champion Beholder and Stellar Wind, the champion three-year-old filly of 2015 who upset three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar July 30.
Trainer Art Sherman said 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome would have his final major breeze for the Awesome Again Saturday at his Los Alamitos headquarters, then ship Sunday to Santa Anita for final preparations.
Larry Benavidez, assistant to trainer John Sadler, said Stellar Wind is scheduled to have her final major work for the Zenyatta Saturday morning.
Supplementing the headline events will be the FrontRunner Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on Santa Anita’s renovated turf course.
Victory gives the winning horse in each race a fees paid berth to its respective Breeders’ Cup event that will be held at Santa Anita for an unprecedented ninth time come Nov. 4 and 5.
On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship for three year olds and up at six furlongs will serve as a springboard to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5.
Santa Anita’s 23-day Autumn Meet starts Friday, Sept. 30 and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 6. Friday’s opening day feature is the $100,000, Grade III Eddie D. Stakes, named for one of the game’s most popular riders, Hall of Fame member Eddie Delahoussaye who will be on hand to present a trophy to the winning connections.
First post time Friday will be 1 p.m. First post Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, will be 12:30 p.m.
Richard Mandella plans one more work for Beholder on a day to be determined, adding that the six-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes is doing very well as she prepares for the Zenyatta Stakes on Oct. 1 which Mandella hopes she will win for an unprecedented fourth time.
Asked whether an overwhelming victory might lead to a change in plans, running against males in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 rather than the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff against her own sex on Nov. 4, Mandella left the door open but said the schedule right now calls for her to run in the Distaff.
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Fair Grounds Oaks winner Land Over Sea leave Wednesday for Philadelphia, where they will run in the Pennsylvania Derby and the Cotillion Stakes, offering $1.25 million and $1 million in purse money, respectively.
“It will be so exciting to see Nyquist back in action,” said Doug O’Neill, who conditions the champion two-year-old colt of 2015 for Paul and Zillah Reddam. “He looks good, he’s had a little growth spurt and put on weight to match his frame. We’re very pumped.”
In what now is an open battle for the divisional title, Nyquist will tackle Santa Anita Derby and Preakness winner Exaggerator, among others, in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby, which drew 12 entrants in the following post positions: Awesome Slew, Exaggerator, Summer Revolution, Connect Post, Cupid, Wild About Deb, Gun Runner, My Man Sam, Nyquist, Sunny Ridge, Discreet Lover and Hit It Once More.
Nyquist lost his last two starts, the Haskell and the Travers, while Exaggerator was 11th last out in the Travers. Nyquist has beaten Exaggerator in four of their six meetings.
FINISH LINES: Undefeated champion Songbird, who could face Beholder and Stellar Wind in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 if all the cards fall into place, left at 5:30 Monday morning for the East Coast where the magical Rick Porter-owned filly trained by Jerry Hollendorfer seeks her 11th victory in the Grade I Cotillion at Parx on Saturday. She arrived in Allentown, Pa., and an hour and four minutes later at Parx, some 12 hours after she left California. Through Sept. 16, Hall of Fame member Hollendorfer had 7,150 career victories. Five fillies were entered against Songbird in the Cotillion which will be decided at 1 1/16 miles. The field in post position order: Carina Mia, Cathryn Sophia, Disco Rose, Land Over Sea, Songbird and Queena Esther. “It’s a very good post,” said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “Mike (Smith) will have a chance to pick and choose what he wants to do and it’s the best part of the track, too.” . . . Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin, who earned a fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic by virtue of his victory in the “Win and You’re In” Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25, will skip the Awesome Again and train up to the Classic. “We missed a lot of time with him at Del Mar and backed off,” said Brent Fabrizzi, nephew of and assistant to trainer David Hofmans. “We’re just behind right now.” Melatonin is scheduled to work five furlongs Wednesday morning . . . Surging Norberto Arroyo rides Zapperkat for trainer Richard Baltas in the “Win and You’re In” Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 1. The daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper was a 5 ¼-length maiden winner at Del Mar on Aug. 20 . . . Richard Mandella plans to enter Avenge and Majestic Heat in the “Win and You’re In” Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on turf Oct. 1. Other probables include Frenzified, Generosidade, Real Smart, Sobradora and Zipessa . . . Multiple graded stakes winners Dortmund (59.80), Hoppertunity (1:00) and Lord Nelson (a bullet 59.20) each worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Monday for Bob Baffert. Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund is a candidate for the Awesome Again . . . The board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) have appointed Gary Fenton to fill a vacancy created by the recent resignation of Billy Morey. Fenton, who began his career as an entertainment attorney, currently is managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing, one of California’s leading owners with more than 40 horses and 300 active runners. Their Nodiac is scheduled to run in the Unzip Me Stakes on Oct. 1 . . . Santa Anita hosts Oktoberfest Trackside Saturday, Oct. 1. Beer, Oktoberfest-themed games, German-inspired cuisine, beer tasting, a Santa Anita Park trucker cap, souvenir steins and more will be available. Use promo code OKTOBERFEST 16 for a $10 off General Admission and VIP package (online only) . . . Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens gave a thumbs up to Santa Anita’s rejuvenated main track, saying horses are “getting over it good.”
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