American Pharoah Continues Breeders’ Cup Classic Preparations

Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer of $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic morning line favorite American Pharoah, took the conservative approach again with the Triple Crown winner’s preparations on Thursday morning after tack-walking him the day before.

“We took him out to the (Polytrack) training track because when we checked out the main track yesterday afternoon it looked pretty wet still, and when it starts to dry out, it can get a little deep,” he said.

The Zayat Stable’s homebred 3yo colt, who galloped under regular exercise rider Jorgie Alvarez, signaled that he is full of fire and vinegar going into the final race of his history making career.

“We took him around the training track and it looked like he was pretty aggressive and was full of himself. He looked pretty happy. What we saw today was very encouraging. He was tough. He couldn’t have gone any slower. He didn’t go very far. As long as he doesn’t go very far like that, he’s okay,” he said. “He was a little fresh today because he didn’t do anything yesterday. He won’t be like that tomorrow. He’ll be more relaxed.”

American Pharoah has had a two-month break from his last race in the Travers Stakes, and in the interim has added weight and muscle so that he now tips the scales at 1,195 pounds.

“The time off gave him the chance to get his strength back,” Baffert said. “He’s at his peak he’s happy and he’s doing really well. He’s going to come out of there running.”

“They still have to get the trip and we’re hoping he gets a clean break, a clean trip and a good trip,” he said, while making no predictions about how the race will unfold. “I haven’t even sat down and figured anything out yet. My job is to have him at peak performance. Then it’s up to Victor Espinoza to play the break and decide what he’s going to do with him. He has an idea because he’s on the inside (post 4) so there’s not a lot of thinking going on there.

Baffert continued, “The trip is going to be important…the pace, the trip. A lot of jockeys get excited and you don’t know who is going to do what. I told Victor ‘Just ride your horse and don’t worry about anyone else. Don’t panic.’ I told him to keep him happy and stay in his groove. He can’t worry about what’s going on around him.”

American Pharoah won’t be schooled in the paddock before the race. Baffert said that training plans for tomor-row morning are not finalized, but he expects that the horse will gallop over the main track.

“It’s important for me to see him go out with a win because I’m his caretaker.  This one is for ‘Pharoah’ This isn’t for Bob Baffert, it’s for the horse,” the trainer said.

With the defection of Beholder from the Classic, American Pharoah was installed as the 4-5 favorite morning line after being originally listed at odds of 6-5.

Hartman Enjoying His First Breeders’ Cup Experience

Black Hawk Stable’s multiple Graded stakes winner Alsvid jogged one mile around main track for 2015 Oak-lawn leading trainer Chris Hartman, who is soaking in his first Breeders’ Cup experience.

“I’m just overjoyed with the experience so far. This has been a lot of fun,” Hartman said.
            
Hartman expects the dual Graded stakes winning son of Officer to come from off the pace in Saturday’s race, which is his usual running style.

“There’s enough speed in the race and he’s going to be in a tactical position,” he said. “With us drawing the rail, he shouldn’t lose any ground, so that should be to his benefit. Hopefully the rail’s not dead.”

Morse and Street Strategy Make Breeders’ Cup Debut

Three-time Oaklawn winner Street Strategy is scheduled to make his Grade 1 debut in Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Trained by Randy Morse, Street Strategy is coming of a 1 ¼-length vic-tory at a mile Oct. 9 at Keeneland. It was the second consecutive victory for the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and fifth in nine starts overall.

Because Street Strategy is based in Kentucky and in top form, Morse said he decided the 4-year-old colt de-served a Breeders’ Cup shot.

“If we had to ship halfway around the country, we probably wouldn’t run him,” Morse said Thursday morning. “But it’s right here in our backyard. He’s doing good. I don’t think he’s a 50-1 shot myself.”

Street Strategy (50-1 on the morning line) is scheduled to break from post 6 under two-time Oaklawn riding champion Robby Albarado. He will be making his first start since the Oct. 18 death of his owner, Dave Clark of Little Rock, Ark., who purchased the colt for $425,000 as a 2-year-old.

Morse said he has about a half-dozen horses for Clark and is unsure about the future of Street Strategy or the others following the owner’s death.

“Just don’t know,” Morse said.

Street Strategy broke his maiden at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting before finishing sixth in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2). Morse said Street Strategy tore the main supporting ligament in his stifle in the Rebel, an injury that sidelined the gray colt for the remainder of 2014.

Street Strategy won two allowance races this year at Oaklawn before finishing fifth in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 11.

Probable post time for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is 3:10 p.m. (Central).

Also entered is Tapiture, winner of Oaklawn’s $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in 2014, and Mr. Z, third in this year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
 
Taking it Easy

Sarah Sis, winner of the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 7 at Oaklawn, is turned out at famed Lane’s End farm in central Kentucky awaiting Sunday’s Fasig-Tipton Sale, trainer Ingrid Mason said Wednesday morning.

Mason said if Sarah Sis isn’t sold, she’ll be pointed for the $100,000 Pippin Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 17 at Oaklawn.

Mason said Sarah Sis earned a 30-day vacation after a 10-race campaign this year, highlighted by a half-length victory in the $250,000 Raven Run Stakes (G2) at 7 furlongs Oct. 17 at Keeneland.

“I haven’t given her a day off since she’s been in training,” Mason said. “She needs a break. Every horse needs a break. She’s been running hard all year.”

Before winning the Honeybee, Sarah Sis began 2015 with a runner-up finish behind champion Take Charge Brandi in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 at Oaklawn.

Sarah Sis, a $20,000 2-year-old purchase, also won the $200,000 Iowa Oaks (G3) and $75,000 Panthers Stakes earlier this year at Prairie Meadows.

Sarah Sis earned a career-high 92 Beyer Speed Figure for her half-length victory in the Raven Run, the biggest of Mason’s training career.

Sarah Sis has won 6 of 13 starts and $566,400 in her career.
 
The Big Beast Retired

Grade I winner The Big Beast, who finished second in his career debut at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting and was a March 1 allowance winner in Hot Springs in his 2015 debut, was retired Tuesday to begin a stallion career next year at Ocala Stud in Florida.

Owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark., The Big Beast retires with a 4-3-1 record from nine life-time starts and earnings of $676,300.

Alex Lieblong said Monday morning that he and his wife will retain 75 percent of The Big Beast, who became popular nationally because of his race record and fitting name – the 4-year-old son of Yes It’s True is more than 18 hands.

Lieblong, a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission, had considered running The Big Beast as a 5-year-old and said it was a “very, very tough decision” to retire the colt.

“Right now, there’s a little bit of a demand for him,” Lieblong said. “He’s got a following. I think he’ll do well as a stud down there.”

Trained by Tony Dutrow, The Big Beast scored his biggest career victory in the $500,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) last year at Saratoga.

The Big Beast had a small ankle chip removed shortly after the King’s Bishop and was sidelined the remainder of the year.

After winning his March 1 comeback race at Oaklawn, The Big Beast finished fourth in the $400,000 Carter Handicap (G1) April 4 at Aqueduct, second in the $350,000 Vanderbilt (G1) Aug. 1 at Saratoga and second in the $700,000 Forego (G1) Aug. 29 at Saratoga. He had been shut down for the remainder of 2015 because of minor physical issues, Lieblong said.

Looking to 2016

Mo for the Money, a 2-year-old son of Uncle Mo, broke his maiden Wednesday at Belmont Park for the Lieblongs and Dutrow.
    
Mo for the Money was a $225,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase for the Lieblongs, among Oaklawn’s leading owners this year.

The Lieblongs and Dutrow are scheduled to send out Play Big, a 2-year-old son of Twirling Candy, for his ca-reer debut Sunday at Parx. He was purchased for $500,000 earlier this year.

Set the Trappe, a 2-year-old son of Trappe Shot, is entered in a maiden race Sunday at Churchill Downs for the Lieblongs and trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs. The $300,000 yearling purchase, made his first two career starts for Dutrow at Saratoga, including a sixth-place finish in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 7.

Twirling Cinnamon, a 2-year-old Twirling Candy colt, is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Juvenile Dirt Stakes at Keeneland.  Twirling Cinnamon is owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers and trained by Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s co-third-leading trainer this year.

Cox is also scheduled to send out Uncle Brennie, a 2-year-old Uncle Mo colt, for his dirt debut in Sunday’s $80,000 Street Sense Stakes at Keeneland.

Also entered in the 1-mile race is My Majestic Flight, a Majestic Warrior colt who broke his maiden Oct. 7 at Keeneland for trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage, an Oaklawn regular.
 
Finish Lines

March 18 Oaklawn allowance winner Den’s Legacy drew the rail for Thursday’s $100,000 Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland. Also entered are Oaklawn stakes grads Falling Sky and Coastline. … Race Day, winner of this year’s $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) and $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2), drew post 3 for Friday’s $200,000 Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. Also entered is another Oaklawn stakes winner, Hoppertunity, who won the $600,000 Rebel (G2) in 2014. … Oaklawn stakes veterans Hebbronville and Bayerd are scheduled to meet for the sixth time this year in Saturday’s $100,000 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland. … Trainer Ingrid Mason, an Oaklawn regular, has set a career high for purse earnings this year ($1,337,659), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Mason’s stable earned $1,157,197 last year. Mason saddled her first winner in 2005. … Owner Alex Lieblong said multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Spring Included and Grade II winner High Dollar Woman won’t be in Sunday’s Fasig-Tipton Sale and instead point for a 2016 Oaklawn campaign. High Dollar Woman finished fifth in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 at Oaklawn.


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