you could pick anywhere in the thoroughbred racing world to be this weekend Santa Anita has to be the choice. Talk about opening up the first weekend of the fall
meet with a bang. The card on Super Saturday alone includes four Breeders’ Cup
Series Qualifier races. Fall has arrived, we’re just over 30 days out and it’s time for
things to begin heating up.
there is a lot to talk about, there is only one race that I am interested in the
most. The 1 1/16-mile FrontRunner, formerly known as the Norfolk Stakes, is the
seventh race on the card and is scheduled for 4:07 pm PDT. The race has always
been an important prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So significant, it is almost guaranteed to remain a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for many more years
to come. But not only does a win in the FrontRunner Stakes now earn you an automatic
qualification into the Juvenile, it is now a stakes race that awards qualification
points for the Kentucky Derby. Those points are minimal (10-4-2-1) but the road
has to begin somewhere and so it does. Buckle up, this train is moving.
begin with the horse that everyone is talking about. Know More is an unusual
talent. Yes, he is the only the Graded Stakes winner in the field but a résumé like
his is almost unheard of. 2-yr-olds can be very immature sometimes. Other times
they can be full of energy and very surprising when they make strides much
sooner than anticipated. Despite rapid gains, most every 2-yr-old still needs a
race or two before they are ready to dip their hooves into the Graded Stakes waters. Know More on the other hand, he did not.
August 5 at Del Mar Know More began his racing career in the G2 Best Pal Stakes
(6½F). The only thing Know More had going for him in the racing form that day
was his connections. Son of Lion Heart (that 2nd place in the '04 Derby still hurts) the 2-yr-old colt is owned by Paul
Reddam and Trained by Doug O’Neil, the winning tag team of I’ll Have Another. Sure the silks looked familiar to the betting public but it was hard to disregard
that he had never raced.
tip my cap to anyone that had him; $19.20 to win is a very comfortable payout.
So the buzz began and he kept it going with a 2nd place finish to
another highly regarded West Coast 2-yr-old, Rolling Fog. The G1 Del Mar
Futurity (7F) pace set up nicely for Rolling Fog and he was just too tough for
Know More to track down in the stretch.
leads me to what I like the most about this young colt. In his two races Know More
has shown the style of a two-turn horse. In both, Garrett Gomez placed him
nicely just off the pace in close stalking position. Together it led to beautiful
moves in the final turn and very nice finishes down the stretch.
expect to see anything different in the FrontRunner on Saturday. Know More has
shown there should be fuel in the tank when Gomez calls on him. With a clean
break from the gate and no trouble through the first turn, I expect him to be
in prime position for another bold effort down the lane.
Know More to the FrontRunner after also racing in the Del Mar Futurity are Capo Bastone (4th), Gabriel Charles (6th) and The Whole Deal
(8th). Breaking from the gate next to Know More is the second choice
on the Morning Line, Capo Bastone. Victor Espinoza will be in the saddle for
the first time for Trainer John Sadler. He has trained well over the dirt at
Santa Anita twice this month – 5F 1:00.80; 6F 1:13.60 – so don’t expect the
switch from the synthetics at Del Mar to be too much of a concern.
father like son? Gabriel Charles is the son of Street Hero, winner of the 2008
Norfolk Stakes. It’s a tall order to repeat his dad but don’t count him out
without a good look. The Whole Deal on the other hand is really up against it.
Unlike the other two this colt, son of Holy Bull, did not win in his MSW debut.
In fact, he failed to finish in the top three again in his second attempt before the
Del Mar Futurity. So here’s a horse that needs to show what his trainer knows
that we don’t. Finishing three times without hitting the board before this stakes
race is not a good spot but that can change with a big jump on Saturday.
out, Bob Baffert is here! Rolling Fog was given a 60 day recovery by Baffert
after his win in the Del Mar Futurity due to bucked shins. But while his best
2-yr-old is on the side lines until late December it doesn’t mean that Baffert
isn’t coming to play. In fact, he brought three others with him in attempt to
extend his record 5 Wins in this stakes race.
his effort on the ML is Power Broker. His last time out was a 2nd
place finish to Dry Summer on the turf in the Oak Tree Juvenile. What’s curious
about this horse is that even though he has yet to win in three attempts and he
lost to Dry Summer, he was still given the slight advantage on the ML – 4/1 vs.
5/1. But maybe it’s not so curious. Baffert always has his mind on the big
races and he likes keeping his young horses on the home front in California. Because
the winner’s circle wasn’t visited doesn’t mean that his crop won’t perk up on
the dirt at Santa Anita.
long shot of the three is Den’s Legacy but Carving is an intriguing contender. He
enters a perfect 2 for 2 with a Maiden Claiming win at Del Mar followed by a
non-graded stakes win in the C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes. Fairplex Park isn’t a
common stop en route to Super Saturday at Santa Anita but maybe the $50k purse
was just easy money. The other attractive feature to this horse are his owners;
Bob Baffert’s wife Jill and Olympic Gold Medalist Bode Miller. That’s a big
trio here so I’m not sure which direction Carving is headed. Since it’s Baffert
I guess I won’t be surprised if he shows on Saturday that it’s a pretty good
the horses mentioned above don’t round out the field, I’ll let you decide for
yourself if any of the unmentioned earns your live long shot.
Race 7 | G1 $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt
||The Whole Deal
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby Winners
its inaugural edition in 1970 the Norfolk Stakes has had a much more prominent role
in determining the result of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile than the Kentucky
Derby. I will stand corrected but I believe my data is accurate: Five
Norfolk Stakes entries have gone on to win the BC Juvenile. Sure the majority
of them were in the first four years of the Breeders’ Cup (Chief’s Crown ’84,
Capote ’85, Success Express ’87) but let’s not discount Anees in ’99 and
Midshipman in ’08.
for its role in the Kentucky Derby the race needs a little attention.
By my accounts there is only one Derby winner that ever raced in the Norfolk
Stakes – Gato Del Sol 1982. As you can see the points won on Saturday have a
long road to travel before finding the winners circle at the Kentucky Derby.
But trends have a way of ending from time to time so it’s never a good idea to
dismiss the first “FrontRunner Stakes” winner.