Most of the Eastern trainers, unhappy with the late date for the Breeders' Cup, are staying away from the seven races worth $10 million on Nov. 21 at Hollywood Park.
One of the few New York trainers who will be heavily represented is LeRoy Jolley, who despite losing last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Manila, to injury has brought 10 horses to California.
Early Sunday at Santa Anita, Jolley was asked why he's treading ground that almost all of his New York counterparts are avoiding.
"Maybe I'm the only one dumb enough to come," Jolley said.
There was basis for that self-deprecation in two early races. Jolley saddled a couple of well-bred colts, who weren't considered Breeders' Cup candidates to begin with, and they finished sixth and eighth.
"I was thinking about packing my clothes about then," the trainer said.
But the day turned around quickly for Jolley. Tsarbaby, a 2-year-old colt who had trouble winning in New York because he kept running into Forty Niner, the probable divisional champion, won the $48,800 Flying Paster Stakes. With Forty Niner retired for the year, Tsarbaby is headed for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race that Jolley said is impossible to handicap.
A half-hour later, Jolley saddled Double Feint, a 4-year-old colt that his son, Lee, usually trains, and he won the $107,200 Koester Handicap. Double Feint will return in the Breeders' Cup Mile, another grass race that is the same distance as the Koester.
Tsarbaby and Double Feint will give Jolley at least four Breeders' Cup starters. They'll be joined by Stately Don, who's scheduled to run in the Turf Stakes, and Gulch, who's expected to run in the Classic.
"The way I see it, there's only two Breeders' Cup horses--Theatrical and Groovy--who should go off solid favorites," Jolley said. "The rest of the races look wide open."
Jolley doesn't have to worry about Groovy, since he's not running a horse in the Sprint, but Stately Don will meet Theatrical, a horse who may beat out Manila for this year's male turf championship.
Gulch would appear to be better suited for a shorter distance than the 1-mile Classic, but Jolley seems more confident of beating Ferdinand than other trainers. Ferdinand tuned up for the Classic with an impressive win in the Goodwood Handicap Saturday at Santa Anita.
"Ferdinand's a better horse running with six weeks' rest," Jolley said. "Let's see what he does coming back after only two weeks."
Although owned by Peter Brant, the Connecticut sportsman, newsprint manufacturer and publisher, Double Feint has done most his running in California since he finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita last November. He was second in a division of the Hollywood Derby two weeks later and this past August, after being skittish in the post parade, he beat only one horse in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar.
Back home this fall, the Jolleys couldn't find a race for Double Feint because there was heavy rain in the East and they didn't think he could handle a soft course.
So the course came up good--slightly better than soft--for the Koester and Double Feint split horses in the stretch to beat the favorite, Deputy Governor, by four lengths. Vilzak, a Breeders' Cup probable, ran third, another length back.
Double Feint gave Fernando Toro his second stakes win of the weekend, the first being the victory aboard Nostalgia's Star in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Saturday. Nostalgia's Star, who was fourth in the Classic last year, may also return in the Breeders' Cup.
Of Double Feint's win, Toro said: "Going into the turn, I thought I was dead. But I got through, and that was the key to the race. It was like going through a tunnel. He's supposed to be much better on firm ground, but he handled this course perfectly.
"From the three-eighths pole home, I had a good trip. I saved ground, I didn't have to steady him for one jump and when he came between horses (Exclusive Partner and Big Sturgeon), he really took off."
Double Feint's time was 1:24 3/5 and he paid $12.20, $5.60 and $4.40, earning $64,810. Deputy Governor, who bobbled so badly in the first turn that jockey Eddie Delahoussaye thought he might have broken down, paid $3 and $2.60. Sure Swift paid $4.
Tsarbaby, paying $9.40 to win, won a tough stretch duel by a neck over Jeanne Jones, who was trapped on the inside through the entire 7 furlongs and probably still earned her way into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
"She hung in there," Jolley said. "She's a legitimate filly."
Tsarbaby and Jeanne Jones will go separate ways in the Breeders' Cup. Jolley seems to be wishing that his colt will get a fourth chance at beating Forty Niner.
"Forty Niner ran a terrible race last time at Keeneland," Jolley said. "He was all out to beat Hey Pat. Hey Pat's not a bad horse, but he's not the kind that should be giving Forty Niner that much trouble."
Forty Niner is staying back East with Woody Stephens, one of the many trainers who can't see what Jolley sees in coming to California.
Horse Racing Notes
Zany Tactics' owners are going to pay the required $120,000 to supplement the 6-year-old gelding into the Breeders' Cup Sprint. . . . In races with Breeders' Cup implications at Bay Meadows, Flying Victor outran trainer Wayne Lukas' entry, Seeker's Journey and Cougarized, to win the California Juvenile, and Bold Smoocher ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 to beat Zabaleta, with W.D. Jacks' four-race winning streak ending when he finished sixth. . . . There was betting on the Juvenile at Santa Anita, with Flying Victor paying $12.60. . . . Sunday's attendance was 36,013. . . . Ferdinand, Candi's Gold and Skywalker, who finished 1-2-3 in the Goodwood Handicap, are all scheduled to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic.