Antonio Carlos Avila is one the best trainers nobody ever heard of. “A.C.” to friends and associates, Avila is referred to as “The Witch Doctor” by race track insiders, thanks to a history of longshot winners.
Avila hopes to continue that trend when he sends out Great Hot
in the $250,000, Win and You’re In Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up, one of five Breeders’ Cup World Championship prep races to be decided at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Zenyatta is the final major prep for the Grade I, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 1.
A 5-year-old Brazilian-bred mare by 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Orientate, Great Hot was eighth of 12 against males in the Grade II Pat O’Brien at seven furlongs on Del Mar’s Polytrack Aug. 25. You can draw a line through that race, according to Avila.
“There was no other place to run her, so we went in there,” said Avila, a native of Brazil who turns 60 on Nov. 30. “She’s a Breeders’ Cup nominee, so we’ll run in the Zenyatta and see what’s going on. After that, we’ll decide if she runs in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at a mile and an eighth or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (against males).”
Great Hot has certainly paid her way since coming from her native country early in 2011. With five wins from 24 starts and earnings of $574,177, her most notable victories came in a pair of Grade II events, the seven furlong Raven Run on Keeneland’s Polytrack in October 2011 and the Santa Maria on Santa Anita’s traditional dirt on Feb. 16 of this year.
She has run in sprints, routes, turf, dirt and on synthetics, so it’s not like she has to carry her track around with her.
“When she makes up her mind to run, like she did in winning the Santa Maria, she’s tough,” Avila said. “She can run on any surface, and she’s training well.”