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Breeders' Cup 2017

O'Neill Discusses Richard's Kid, Goldencents

On the morning after Friday’s $100,000 Cougar II Handicap, Richard’s Kid held his head high outside his stall in trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn and received physical strokes to the muzzle and verbal strokes to the mind from minority owner Maureen Peatross.

The verbal strokes were loving praise for the two-time $1 million TVG Pacific Classic winner’s second straight victory in the Cougar II. Friday’s win was achieved by a half-length in 2:30.93 for the 1 ½ miles on Polytrack under a first-time ride from Joe Talamo. It  came one 0-for-10 year after Richard’s Kid took the Cougar by 1 ½ lengths in 2:29.22 under Rafael Bejarano.

Snapping a 10-race winless streak, all of it in the wake of a sale and transfer from the stable of Bob Baffert, was an understandably big relief to O’Neill, and the ownership group.

“It just shows you how much he loves the environment down here,” O’Neill said. “Loves the track, loves the weather, loves the people. This horse has such an amazing past, and to see him come back and run a big race after running sub-par there for a little bit is very exciting.

“We went out last night, enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated the big effort he gave us.”

The slower time than in 2012 was not of concern to O’Neill.

“The pace was slower,” O’Neill said. “He got a 99 Beyer (speed figure) winning the race last year and he got a 100 this year. It’s a winning effort, and that’s the bottom line.”

Richard’s Kid has used the Cougar II as a prep for the TVG Pacific Classic three of the past four years. Second and third-place finishes in the Cougar II preceded Classic victories in 2009 and 2010. Following the 2012 Cougar II victory, the then 7-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid finished third, behind Dullahan and Game On Dude, in the Classic.

The $60,000 winner’s share of the Cougar purse increased Richard’s Kid’s earnings over Del Mar’s main track to $1.485 million in seven starts.

...Sunday, Goldencents Takes His Turn

It would make for one highly-productive, double-stakes weekend for Team O’Neill if Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents can prevail in Sunday’s $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes, the second of seven Grade I events during the meeting.

Goldencents is the 3-1 third choice on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line behind Comma to the Top (2-1) and Jimmy Creed (5-2).  By winning the Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents, the only 3-year-old in the Crosby field of six, took O’Neill and his crew back to Louisville seeking a Kentucky Derby victory to go with the one by I’ll Have Another in 2012.

The result, however, was a distant 17th place finish.

“The Kentucky Derby is a very difficult chore to put a horse through,” O’Neill said Saturday morning. “There’s so much stress for them with all that’s going on and the race didn’t unfold perfectly for him.

“I was so proud of the way he bounced out of that and, to me, ran a respectable race (fifth) in the Preakness. We put him away for awhile then brought him back. He’s just full of energy and we’re really pleased with him right now.”

The six furlongs of the Crosby represent the shortest race for Goldencents since his romping, 7 ½-length racing debut victory in a 5 ½-furlong event at Del Mar during the final Sunday of the 2012 meeting.

If sprinting work for Goldencents, O’Neill said he’d likely stick with it.

“I would think so, yeah,” O’Neill said “We’d have to talk it over. But if we get a big effort from him (Sunday) I would assume we’d be keeping him at a mile or under for awhile.”

Crosby Winner Will Have Breeders’ Cup Options

Sunday’s $300,000 Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes is the first of five designated races at Del Mar that are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series by which horses qualify for racing’s fall championship events in November at Santa Anita.

The six-furlong Crosby, named for the  track’s founder and to be run for the 68th time, is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. But the connections for the winner are not necessarily locked in to that event.

“If the horse is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program, or supplements to it, they can take that $30,000 (Turf Sprint) entry fee and apply it to another race,” Gluckson said.  The difference is that the Crosby winner will not be an automatic entrant in any Breeders’ Cup race other than the Turf Sprint and will have to qualify via a points system based on race results or be chosen by the Cup selection committee.

The Crosby’s designation for the Turf Sprint, Gluckson said, was because of a dearth of graded turf sprints in the country and the historic success horses going from synthetic surface racing to grass.



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