Logistics count 'Win and You're In' horse out of Breeders' Cup

By Tom Pedulla/Special to HRN
October 17, 2019 08:45am
The lure of an automatic, fees-paid berth in a Breeders’ Cup race is enough to convince most trainers to go on to the world championships regardless of location.

Not Florida-based Kathleen O’Connell.

After exploring every available flight from Florida to Los Angeles, the veteran conditioner determined that the travel would be too rigorous for Stormy Embrace. She has informed Breeders’ Cup officials connections will decline the berth her 5-year-old mare gained in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

“She’s doing awesome, just super, and it’s always painful to miss a race when they’re doing good,” O’Connell said. “But it was going to be a tough task, and it was going to be a tough trip as far as how to get there. There is no good way to get there.”

Various Florida trainers have been confronted with the same problem and reluctantly settled on lengthy itineraries. Stormy Embrace could have joined Classic-bound Math Wizard in leaving from Fort Lauderdale International Airport on Oct. 29, stopping in Memphis and then going on to Los Angeles.

O’Connell, a trainer since 1981, was not sure how well-equipped Stormy Embrace would have been to oppose crack sprinters Covfefe and Come Dancing four days later. Assuming there were no delays, the trip would have lasted 14 hours.

“It’s just too tough to get there in the shape you would want to get there for a race of that caliber,” O’Connell said.

Her other option was to ship perhaps a month ahead of the Nov. 2 Filly & Mare Sprint, but that would have been difficult for her relatively small operation.

Stormy Embrace, bred and owned by Florida-based Matalona Thoroughbreds LLC, had earned the fees-paid berth by defending her title with a two-length decision in the seven-furlong Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) on June 29 at Gulfstream Park.

She would have been a longshot in the Filly & Mare sprint, however. She ran a distant 11th in last year’s race at Churchill Downs. Stormy Embrace also finished fourth in the Sheer Drama Stakes, a seven-furlong race restricted to Florida-breds on Sept. 7 at Gulfstream Park, in her most recent start. The daughter of Circular Quay never fired in that contest.

Stormy Embrace has won half of her four starts this year with one third-place finish for earnings of $233,560. She owns nine victories in 26 career starts. She was a runner-up six times and took third on four other occasions. Her career bankroll stands at $714,830.

O’Connell said she would target a race for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park West in lieu of the Breeders’ Cup.

When asked about turning her back on a $1 million purse, O’Connell responded, “I’ve found in all of the years of doing this that what is best for the horse is best for the owner at the end of the day.”

 

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