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They Couldn't Have Drawn It Much Better

There's little controversy in Breeders' Cup post positions (except for Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies), but heat is a concern.

October 23, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Two topics dominated racetrack conversation at Santa Anita on Wednesday morning -- except, of course, among visitors from Chicago who still were bemoaning the Cubs' downfall.

One subject was the draw for Saturday's eight Breeders' Cup races. The other was the heat.

And, like the faithful at Wrigley Field who were powerless to change their team's fortunes, so the Breeders' Cup trainers were unable to do anything about the high temperatures that will last through the weekend or the post positions their horses drew.

Some, at least, were philosophical about it.

"It doesn't matter what hole [post position] you're in," Bob Baffert said. "I've had perfect holes before and if they don't break [well], it doesn't matter."

Relatively small fields -- nine will run in the $2-million Turf and 10 in the $4-million Classic -- have made the post positions a less influential factor in those races, and there wasn't much controversy elsewhere either.

In fact, the only moment in the draw that caused a raised eyebrow was when Halfbridled was given the far outside spot in the 14-horse field for the Juvenile Fillies.

"I wouldn't wish that kind of luck on anybody," said Baffert, who believes Santa Anita's track is too narrow to handle a large field.

"At certain tracks, they should have only 12-horse fields," he said.

Halfbridled, the second-most prohibitive Breeders' Cup favorite at 7-5 behind Sightseek, who was made the 6-5 morning line favorite in the Distaff, is trained by Richard Mandella.

Like Baffert, Mandella shrugged at the draw's outcome.

"I think that's where I'm stuck," he said. "I can't get out of it. We'll just have to hope for good racing luck."

In the same race, the Baffert-trained pair of Class Above and Victory U.S.A. were drawn side by side in the center of the pack.

"I think they drew well, but I hate to see my horses together like that," he said. "I would have preferred them to be away from each other, but they're doing fine and that's the main thing.

"Once they break, you can't worry about what the other guy's going to do or think what they might do. They're 2-year-olds, they're babies, they're just learning how to run. So you just let them run away from there and see what happens."

Baffert was less sanguine about the Classic, where his Hollywood Gold Cup winner Congaree got post position nine, with 3-1 favorite Medaglia d'Oro just on his inside and Ten Most Wanted, another short-priced contender, on his out- side.

"He's never been 6-1 in his life," Baffert said of Congaree's morning-line odds. "He's doing well. I think it's going to be an exciting race. Even though you don't have Mineshaft in there, you still have some great horses [such as] Medaglia d'Oro and Perfect Drift. I think it's going to be a great Classic.

"Once the draw kicks off, then you start feeling the buzz. I'm finally feeling it. I think everybody will today. Once the draw is held, then you know for sure who all the players are [and] everybody gets their pencils out and their charts and starts mapping out what's going to happen.

"I really like the way we drew. There was no disastrous drawing."

Bobby Frankel trains three Breeders' Cup favorites -- Sightseek in the Distaff, Aldebaran in the Sprint and Medaglia d'Oro in the Classic -- and had no complaints at all.

"I think we drew pretty good with all of them," he said. "I was lucky all day long. I think every one of them got a good post. I won't have any excuses because of the post position."

With the draw providing little in the way of sparks, the hottest topic remained the heat.

It was in the 90s in Arcadia on Wednesday and the long-range forecast calls for temperatures to dip only into the mid-80s by Saturday.

"It worries me a little bit," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "We're probably taking the worst of it, coming from cooler weather, but at least it's kind of nice conditions to train in in the [early] morning.

"But I think it would be a little bit of a disadvantage for European and East Coast horses that are coming out of cooler weather."

Not that the Europeans seemed overly concerned.

"We've had a very hot summer in France," said Alan Cooper, the racing manager for the Niarchos Family, whose Six Perfections will run in the Mile. "So she's well used to the heat. We've had record temperatures.... So the heat is just a continuation of the summer for us."

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