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Repeat That, Slowly

The last time Breeders' Cup day was at Santa Anita, Mandella's feat of four wins took a while to sink in.

October 21, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

On the morning of Nov. 6, 1993, trainer Richard Mandella went through his barn, looking at the four horses he'd be starting at Santa Anita on Breeders' Cup day. He checked up on Kotashaan and Phone Chatter, both morning-line favorites in their races; and Memo and Region, who weren't Breeders' Cup horses but who would be running in a couple of other stakes on the 10-race card.

Region was also a morning-line favorite, but Memo had a string of second-place finishes on his record and would break from the No. 11 post in a 12-horse field.

"I thought they all had good chances," Mandella said. "I had won four races in a day once before, at Hollywood Park, but they weren't stakes. You never go in thinking you're going to win them all. Luck plays a part in this game, and there's always something that can get in your way."

But then they started running the races, and Mandella kept returning to the winner's circle. He could have saved himself a lot of shoe leather by camping out there.

"It was a great day," Mandella said, less than a week before he'll run eight horses in the 20th Breeders' Cup on Saturday at Santa Anita. "I wished I had the foresight to know that would happen. I was too much in shock to appreciate it. By the time I realized what I had done, everybody had gone home."

In the $1-million Juvenile Fillies, Phone Chatter hammered out a half-length win over Sardula, who wouldn't give up in the stretch. About 2 1/2 hours later, Kotashaan beat a familiar rival, Bien Bien, by a half-length in the $2-million Turf to thrust himself into horse-of-the-year contention. Then the other two horses added a coda to Mandella's perfect day, Memo winning the $100,000 Smile Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths and Region holding on to beat L'Express by a head in the $150,000 Skywalker Handicap. And how fitting: Region wore saddlecloth No. 4. Somebody took it away from jockey Corey Nakatani after he had weighed out and handed it to Mandella as a prop for the last of the four winner's-circle pictures.

Of Mandella's horses this year, Halfbridled, in the Juvenile Fillies, probably will be the only odds-on favorite on the eight-race Breeders' Cup card. Mandella also has Pleasantly Perfect in the Classic; Siphonizer, Minister Eric and Action This Day in the wide-open Juvenile; Johar and The Tin Man in the Turf; and Dessert in the Filly & Mare Turf. In the Seabiscuit Handicap, part of the Breeders' Cup undercard, Mandella might run Redattore.

Another four-win day would test the racing gods, but as they say along the backstretch, "You can't win unless you're in," and Mandella is in. Only trainer Bobby Frankel, with eight Breeders' Cup horses, has as many chances Saturday.

Halfbridled is owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, of the Chanel perfume family that also raced Kotashaan and Dare And Go. In 1996, Dare And Go won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar to snuff out Cigar's 16-race winning streak.

While Mandella's four wins in 1993 is a Breeders' Cup-day record, he fell one short of the overall mark. Just three weeks before, Shug McGaughey saddled five stakes winners -- Miner's Mark, Lure, Heavenly Prize, Dispute and Strolling Along -- at Belmont Park. At Santa Anita, Lure won the Mile, for the second consecutive year, but Miner's Mark, Heavenly Prize and Dispute were beaten.

Mandella can relate to the McGaughey roller coaster. He hasn't won a Breeders' Cup race since Phone Chatter and Kotashaan, losing with 13 starters, and he was 0 for 4 before 1993. His biggest disappointment was Gentlemen, an $800,000 supplementary starter who bled, failing to finish, in the 1998 Classic at Churchill Downs.

In 1993, Kotashaan started one more time after the Breeders' Cup, running second when his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, misjudged the finish line in the Japan Cup. But Eclipse Awards voters still favored Mandella's French-bred 5-year-old over Lure in close horse-of-the-year voting. Kotashaan, getting 116 votes to Lure's 101, was favored by two of the three groups in the Eclipse bloc voting system. Phone Chatter won the 2-year-old filly title on the strength of her Breeders' Cup win.

Different jockeys rode Mandella's four Breeders' Cup day winners. Besides Desormeaux on Kotashaan, and Nakatani on Region, Laffit Pincay rode Phone Chatter and Paul Atkinson was aboard Memo, an 11-1 shot. Mandella's loyalty showed when he stuck with Atkinson, who had suffered through most of those second-place finishes with the Chilean-bred and hadn't won in 62 races at the start of the Oak Tree-Breeders' Cup meet.

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