This year's Breeders' Cup races at Aqueduct on Nov. 2 will settle several divisional championships, but Estrapade is a mare who should be able to stay home in California and still win an Eclipse Award.
Summa Stable's 5-year-old chestnut boosted her title chances Saturday before a crowd of 32,985 at Santa Anita, winning the $120,850 Las Palmas Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths over L'Attrayante and nine other turf females who were even farther back.
The win was Estrapade's fourth of the year, with two of the others coming in major races--the Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Santa Ana Handicap at Santa Anita.
Summa, whose partners include Bruce McNall, Allen Paulson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, who bred Estrapade in Kentucky, has two reasons for not going on to the $2-million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Aqueduct.
One is money. Since Estrapade was not nominated, it would cost $240,000 to supplement her into the race.
The other is medication. An internal bleeder who runs while being treated with a diuretic in California, Estrapade wouldn't have that benefit in New York, where horses can't race with medication.
"We feel we have a real good chance at the Eclipse Award (for fillies and mares on grass)," McNall said. "And if she wins the Yellow Ribbon, she should bring a big price when we sell her, along with about 14 other horses at a Summa dispersal sale in Kentucky next month."
The $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Invitational is scheduled for Nov. 10 at Santa Anita, and Saturday Charlie Whittingham, Estrapade's trainer, was already salivating over the possibilities.
"They'll all carry 126 pounds then," Whittingham said. In the Las Palmas, Estrapade carried only 124, but she spotted the rest of the field from 5 to 12 pounds in earning $69,100.
Whittingham, despite remaining second in the national training standings, behind Wayne Lukas, hadn't won a stake in more than three months until Estrapade and Temerity Prince, in Wednesday's Ancient Title Handicap, gave the trainer two in four days.
The Las Palmas also reunited Whittingham and Bill Shoemaker, who have 126 years and 97 Santa Anita stakes wins between them. The 54-year-old Shoemaker, who won the first race he ever rode at Santa Anita, the day after Christmas in 1949, has 932 career stakes wins, 213 of them in $100,000 races.
Shoemaker, who's not a strong whip rider, anyway, didn't even need his stick Saturday. "She pulled me right up to the lead," the jockey said. "And after that she continued to run hard. She was doing her best all the way."
With Gala Event, who would finish last, setting the pace just ahead of Johnica and Barbie Karen going down the backstretch, Shoemaker had Estrapade in fourth place. On the turn for home, Estrapade made her move, got the lead at the top of the stretch and coasted to the wire in 1:47 1/5 for the 1 1/8 miles, the time being 1 1/5 seconds slower than the stakes record.
Estrapade, the even-money favorite with her stablemate Eastland, who finished ninth, paid $4, $2.80 and $2.40. L'Attrayante's prices were $4.40 and $3, and Johnica, who missed second by a nose, paid $2.80.
"She's back on her game again," Whittingham said of Estrapade, "and this sets us up perfectly for the Yellow Ribbon." Estrapade had been second, third and fourth in three non-winning starts after winning the Gamely in June.
A daughter of Vaguely Noble, who won the Arc de Triomphe, France's marquee race, Estrapade should bring a top price at the Kentucky auction. The record price for a broodmare was set last year, when Priceless Fame sold for $6 million.
"If she wins the Yellow Ribbon," McNall said, "she should sell for something right in that range. If they try to buy her too cheap, I'll buy her myself. That's if Allen Paulson would let me."
Horse Racing Notes