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Halfbridled Will Be on Outside Looking In

The filly, who will be ridden by Krone, is a heavy favorite, but the No. 14 post position adds some drama to the race.

October 25, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

When the field of 14 goes to the starting gate for today's $1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, all eyes at Santa Anita will be on the favorite -- but not for the usual reasons.

Halfbridled might not be the last to load, but she will be the last in line, relegated to the far outside post by the luck of the draw.

And once the race starts, the dark brown filly and her jockey, Julie Krone, will have mere seconds to figure out exactly how to overcome that most unfavorable post position and thereby keep intact their unbeaten streak.

Said trainer Nick Hines, who saddles longshot Vino Tinto in the same race, "What's going to happen is, those fillies on the outside, they're going to keep [Halfbridled] out there unless [Krone] takes a sharp hold and drops in. It will be interesting."

There's no question about that. Had Halfbridled drawn a favorable post, there is little doubt that the winner of the Del Mar Derby and the Oak Leaf would have been an even more prohibitive favorite.

As it is, trainer Bob Baffert, who sends out Class Above and Victory U.S.A. in an effort to win the 1 1/16-mile race for the second time, has called Halfbridled "awesome" and said he was "surprised there are 14 horses in there" because Krone's filly should have scared some of them off.

Meanwhile, Halfbridled's trainer, Richard Mandella, has tried to make light of the No. 14 post.

"We thought it would create a nice little challenge for her," he said. "So far, she's been very nice to deal with. We're going to have to hope for a little luck and for her to cooperate nicely."

Mandella's filly already having won on the Santa Anita track could be helpful.

"I'd say the hometown advantage probably favors the 2-year-olds a little more than others," Mandella said. "They're not very experienced and their minds are developing weekly, changing for better or worse.

"I feel most comfortable [staying] at home with them [and] that I don't have to ship."

The Juvenile Fillies field has plenty of speed, not least of all that demonstrated by Forest Music, who set a Laurel track record for a filly or mare of 1:08 2/5 for six furlongs while winning her Oct. 8 debut race by 8 1/2 lengths.

Now, the Mark Shuman-trained Forest Music, ridden by Edgar Prado, will try to become the first horse to win a Breeders' Cup race in only its second start.

The challenge to Halfbridled is more likely to come from second-favorite Class Above, with David Flores riding, and stablemate Victory U.S.A., who will try to give jockey Jerry Bailey his third Juvenile Fillies triumph and his record 14th Breeders' Cup victory.

Also in serious contention is Society Selection, handled in the absence of 74-year-old Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens by assistant Fernando Abreu. Society Selection won the Grade I Frizette by a length and a quarter at Belmont Park on Oct. 3 under jockey Ray Ganpath, who will ride her today.

And then, of course, there is Wayne Lukas, who has trained more Breeders' Cup winners than anyone else -- 17 and counting -- and who sends out the pair of Be Gentle and Renaissance Lady.

Lukas discounts the latter, who pulled up in the Oak Leaf but still has four second-place finishes to her name, but likes the former and can't understand why the filly was made 20-1 on the morning line.

"Be Gentle is a very, very talented filly," he said. "I think you throw out a couple of the races that were on off tracks up in New York [Saratoga] and she's pretty solid.

"I think Be Gentle is our better chance, definitely."

All 14 entries have a chance, depending on how the race develops tactically, but Halfbridled will be the focus of attention.

Two days ago, Mandella, who won the Juvenile Fillies with Phone Chatter in 1993, said he was still determining a winning strategy.

"I don't have a plan yet," he said. "I'm not going to start worrying for at least another day."

But if history can repeat, he might not have to worry at all.

In the 1990 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park, the horse that won the Classic did so from the far outside, from the same No. 14 slot Halfbridled will break from today.

That horse's name was Unbridled. The Kentucky Derby winner was Halfbridled's sire.

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