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O'Neill Active On Breeders' Cup Undercard



The beat goes on for Doug O’Neill, Breeders’ Cup or no. Thrust suddenly but firmly onto racing’s global landscape with I’ll Have Another’s victory in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, the 45-year-old trainer of one of the largest operations on the West Coast not only has seven horses entered in Breeders’ Cup races, he has several on Friday and Saturday’s attractive undercard.

Among them are Cal Gal and Smoove It in Friday’s $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies at a mile on dirt, and Avare in Friday’s Grade II, $150,000 Twilight Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

“Cal Gal has always trained like a stakes filly, although she kind of laid a couple eggs until we got her on the grass,” O’Neill said, referring to her two disappointing efforts on Del Mar’s Polytrack before breaking her maiden going about 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course Oct.5.

“She really came to life on the grass, so we’re hoping the light bulb went on and it wasn’t strictly the surface. If it was just the surface, then we’re in trouble. She’s always trained like a good filly. She’s trained on this dirt track just fine, so I think she’s got a chance.”

Smoove It, a daughter of promising young sire Square Eddie owned and bred by J. Paul Reddam, who owned I’ll Have Another, drew the rail for the third straight time, but going a mile as opposed to sprinting the last two times, it should be advantageous.

“She’s doing well,” O’Neill said. “These Square Eddies are all runners. They’ve got their father’s speed and heart. Both are nice fillies. I think we’ll see Smoove It be more involved early in the race and hopefully both them really involved late in the race.”

Avare, upset winner of the Pomona Derby at odds of nearly 10-1 last out on Sept. 21, is owned by Rick Pitino, coach of the NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals, and former Santa Anita head honcho Mark Verge. Pitino runs as RAP Racing, while Verge campaigns under the nom de course of Westside Rentals.com.

With Avare listed at 20-1 on the morning for the Twilight Derby, O’Neill figures the 3-year-old gelded son of Johannesburg is an overlay.

“He’ll outrun those odds,” O’Neill said of the front-running Kentucky-bred, who won the Eddie Logan Stakes in 2012. “He’s training great. He was gelded a few starts ago and that’s really helped him.

“He’s always had talent but he would sometimes get himself a little too worked up in the paddock and in the post parade. He’s really calmed down a lot and now focuses on running. If he can be on or near the lead without crazy fractions, I give him a big chance.”

 

GANGNAM GUY OFF THE FENCE FOR GOLDEN STATE JUVENILE

Classify this as breaking news: Gangnam Guy is off the rail. The 2-year-old Roi Charmant colt owned by Richard Barton and trained by Mike Machowsky has had nothing but inside posts during his brief career, breaking from No. 1 four times and No. 2 twice in six starts.

In Friday’s $200,000 Golden State Juvenile at one mile, the bay drew post position four in a field of nine, causing Machowsky to exhale in relief. Breaking from the one hole last out in the 6 ½ furlong Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park on Sept. 15, Gangnam Guy finished fourth by nearly nine lengths.

“He didn’t handle the turns at all,” Machowsky said. “He was never comfortable on that track, and he draws the rail every damn time he runs. But he’s a pretty solid horse. Going a mile on dirt, I don’t know, but he worked real well going seven furlongs here on Sept. 29 (a bullet 1:27 flat).

“I think he’d love going two turns on the grass, but we’ll have to see about a mile on dirt. This race is for a lot of money, and I think he’s going to run big.

“He can be on the lead or sit off it. When he worked seven-eighths, he broke off about eight lengths behind a team of horses I had, just to get some dirt in his face, and he finished up real nice.”

Machowsky said Barton owns a company called California Packaging in the Inland Empire and “has been in racing for a while and now has his sights set on bigger things.

“He bought Champ Pegasus (multiple graded stakes winner on grass and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up) from (Richard) Mandella and I think he’s going to stand the horse at Legacy (Ranch in the Northern California town of Clements).

“Barton’s putting together quite a big breeding program in California. His entire family loves racing.”

The field for the Golden State Juvenile: California Chrome, Alberto Delgado, 3-1; Life Is a Joy, Joel Rosario, 9-2; Electric Eddie, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Gangnam Guy, Edwin Maldonado, 9-2; Tribal Mystic, Corey Nakatani, 20-1; Sir Barclay, Chantal Sutherland Kruse, 15-1; Tamarando, Julien Leparoux, 8-5; Cinmars Dance, Alex Bisono, 8-1; and Better Bet, Martin Pedroza, 12-1.

 

FILLIES SET FOR MADDY, TURF SPRINT, SIMON SAYS

Simon Callaghan has two fillies running on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs Saturday, Love In The Desert in the $100,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes and Judy In Disguise in the Grade III, $100,000 Ken Maddy Stakes.

Similarities do not end there, although Love In The Desert is a 2-year-old making her U.S. debut and facing males, while Judy In Disguise is a 3-year-old making her ninth start in America. Each was bred in England and each has shown a fondness for turf sprints.

Love In The Desert’s four career starts across the pond have all been in grass sprints. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid broke her maiden going five furlongs on turf in England last June. Judy In Disguise, a daughter of Elusive City, already has a stakes win going 6 ½ down the hill at Santa Anita, having captured the Sweet Life last Feb. 16.

Love In The Desert has not raced since July 27, when she finished fourth in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Juddmonte Stakes at Ascot.

“She’s training well,” Callaghan said. “It’s a competitive race but we’re hoping for a good run, being her first in America.”

Judy In Disguise has won four of her 12 starts and never failed to earn a check in the U.S. She was fourth in the Unzip Me Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on grass on Sept. 28. It was her first race in more than two months.

“She’s a pretty consistent filly,” Callaghan said. “She’s won going down the hill, but this is against older (fillies) so it’s kind of a tough race. But she’s training well and we think we’ve got her in good shape.

“We’re hopeful; we think she’s got a good chance.”

 

ZEEWAT TACKLES 2-5 FLASHBACK IN DAMASCUS STAKES

Zeewat moves from East to her his old stomping grounds back West when he runs in Saturday’s $100,000 Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.

“He’s a really nice horse,” said Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who also owns a piece of the Harlan’s Holiday colt with George Todaro. “We’ve got (Rafael) Bejarano on him and we’ve had a lot of success with him.”

Zeewat’s last race came at Parx outside of Philadelphia, where he finished fourth in the Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes, beaten two lengths despite a wide trip. Previously, the bay raced mainly in Northern California, where Hollendorfer has ruled the training ranks for decades.

Told he had a 2-5 morning line favorite to beat in Flashback, Hollendorfer said, “If we can do it, it would be fun.”

The Damascus field: Flashback, Martin Garcia, 2-5; Tour Guide, Luis Saez, 8-1; Zeewat, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Show Some Magic, E.P. Gomez, 5-1; and Anillo, Edwin Maldonado, 8-1.

 

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