A few months ago it seemed like it was so far off in the future. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I kept telling myself, it’s coming it’s coming, relax. So I relaxed, (kind of) and just waited.
Finally, the time has come. Wednesday I leave for a week in southern California. I’m going to something called the Breeders' Cup, maybe you have heard of it?? Yes I know you have heard of it and I’m being a little silly but hey, it’s one of the biggest events in the sport that I cover so I have the right to get a little juiced.
I will be there as a Golden Gate Fields informant/photographer shooting most of the races from the track and covering our local hopefuls. Luckily, we do have a few.
First and foremost, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (above) will send two horses to post. Chosen Miracle will start in the Turf Sprint and is 20-1 on the morning line. His other entrant is a horse many of us locals know well. Nonios, started his career at GGF winning his first two starts before finishing third. He then went on to win the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes and ran second in both the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park and the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth. After a fifth place finish in the Travers at Saratoga, he ran a good second to Game on Dude in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, where he lost by 3 ¼ lengths.
Nonios has run just 8 races but has performed at five different tracks and is 20-1 on the morning line in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Hollendrofer had pre-entered him in both the Classic and the Dirt Mile, but decided to go for the gusto.
“My horse is doing really good right now and when your doing good, maybe you should go for the big one,“ Hollendorfer said Saturday before officially announcing which race he would go in. “I have a horse that probably can’t make the lead in either race even if he wanted to but I think there is more beyer speed in the Classic. I never thought I was shooting too high with this horse, I felt I was giving a deserving horse a chance.”
It’s going to be a tough race with Game on Dude, Flat Out, Fort Larned and Ron the Greek, but here’s hoping our little Nonios can come through and shock the world.
Russell Baze (above) will be attempting to win his first Breeders Cup race when he rides Washington based Class Included, trained by Jim Penney, in the Ladies Classic. Billed as the toughest race of the weekend, the Ladies Classic will feature undefeated Awesome Feather (10-for-10), defending champion Royal Delta, winner of 3 of her last 4 and My Miss Aurelia who is 6-for-6 in her career.
Class Included has some good credentials herself, with 10 wins and 6 seconds in 16 lifetime starts including a win in the Grade 3 Ballerina Stakes at Hastings Park last month with Baze in the saddle.
“That’s a tough bunch of horses, but there are two good things,” Baze said. “One, my horse likes the distance and likes running on the dirt track, and two, it’s a small field and the chances of getting in a compromising position are a lot less prominent.”
Nonetheless, Baze is going in with high hopes.
“I like the filly, she has a lot of talent and she’s smart,” he said. “ She puts herself in a good position. Question is, is she at that level.”
The odds makers don’t believe so and she is by far the longest shot on the board at 30-1.
Trainer Jeff Bonde will have two entrants. In the Juvenile Fillies Sprint he sends postward Unusual Way, who won the Wine Country Debutante Stakes at Pleasanton this summer and the other is the ever popular Smiling Tiger. Bonde’s pride and joy will go in the Sprint and is 15-1 on the morning line.
The Tiger has not had a good 2012, managing just a third place finish is three races but my sources tell me he could be primed for a big effort, especially if he reverts back to his 2011 form when he won 3 of 7 starts.
It’s a tough race no doubt with the likes of favored Amazombie, and the Bob Baffert entrants of Coil and Capital Account. But I know more than any other horse in the Breeders' Cup, Smiling Tiger will have more fans from the bay area than any other.
Here we go, it’s time to pack. Breeders' Cup here comes the Backstretch.