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THE BREEDER'S CUP

The Four-Horse Man

Trainer Mandella has the biggest day in the history of the event with four winners, including Pleasantly Perfect in the Classic.

October 26, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Play it again, Dick.

On the hottest day in Breeders' Cup history -- it was 99 degrees in the shadows of the smoke-ridden San Gabriel Mountains -- trainer Richard Mandella became the Breeders' Cup's hottest trainer. He treated a crowd of 51,648 at Santa Anita to one win after another, and when the Mandella smoke had cleared, he had totaled four wins, the last by the improbable Pleasantly Perfect in the $4-million Classic, the richest race in the United States.

Only once before, in the 19-year history of these races, had a trainer saddled as many as three winners. That came when Wayne Lukas saddled a winning trio at Churchill Downs in 1988.

Julie Krone also made history Saturday by becoming the first female jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race, riding Mandella's Halfbridled to victory in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies.

If there was a flaw to Mandella's record-breaking day, it was win No. 3, when Johar, another longshot, dead-heated for the win with High Chaparral in the $2-million Turf, the race before the Classic. Mandella's earlier successes were clean victories -- Halfbridled's powerful win in the Juvenile Fillies and Action This Day's surprising victory in the $1.5-million Juvenile.

Mandella joined Lukas (1988) and Patrick Byrne (1997) as the only trainers to sweep the races for 2-year-olds in the same year.

It had been 10 years since Mandella had won a Breeders' Cup race, dating to the last time the event was staged at Santa Anita. In 1993, Mandella won the Turf with Kotashaan and the Juvenile Fillies with Phone Chatter at his home track, and as an end-of-the-card fillip he added two more non-Breeders' Cup stakes wins.

"I might just move [all the Breeders' Cups] here," Mandella said not long after Pleasantly Perfect's victory, which probably threw the horse-of-the-year title into the barn of Mineshaft, retired last month after minor injuries.

Medaglia d'Oro, Perfect Drift and Funny Cide, the horses who might have dislodged Mineshaft with a victory in the Classic, ran second, sixth and ninth, respectively. Medaglia d'Oro, favored in the Classic for the second consecutive year, was again the runner-up, finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind Pleasantly Perfect.

With fires burning 30 miles to the east, this was a day dominated by Mandella and the European horses, who were perceived to be at a disadvantage because of the weeklong temperatures that ran as much as 20 degrees above the average. "Like I keep saying," trainer Aidan O'Brien said, "I'm happier with heat than cold, because I live in Ireland all winter."

O'Brien's High Chaparral joined Miesque, Bayakoa, Lure, Da Hoss and Tiznow as the sixth double winner in the Breeders' Cup by sharing honors in the Turf with Johar. Earlier, Six Perfections, from France, gave jockey Jerry Bailey his 14th Breeders' Cup win with a convincing victory in the $1.5-million Mile, and Islington presented England with its first win in six Southern California Breeders' Cups by prevailing in the $1-million Filly and Mare Turf.

The only outsiders to crack the Mandella-European vise were Adoration, winner of the $2-million Distaff in the first Cup race of the day, and Cajun Beat, a longshot winner from Kentucky in the $1-million Sprint. Only two of the eight Breeders' Cup winners -- Halfbridled and Islington -- were favored. There was only one winning pick-six ticket -- worth $2.6 million -- that correctly had the winners of the final six Breeders' Cup races.

There was record betting. The on-track handle for the 12-race card passed $17 million, shattering the mark that was set when the Oak Tree Racing Assn. -- Santa Anita's tenant -- hosted the Breeders' Cup in 1986. Saturday's worldwide Breeders' Cup handle of more than $121 million was also a high.

"Those records made it a very satisfying day," said Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of Oak Tree. "We were also pleased that the Europeans did so well. They liked our turf course, obviously, and the heat didn't matter, things that should bring them back in greater numbers for future Breeders' Cups in California."

Halfbridled, paying $6.60 for $2, was Mandella's only winning favorite. The undefeated filly, ridden by Krone, had to overcome the outside post in a 14-horse field. Krone, who had been away from racing for 3 1/2 years before her return last Dec. 26, had conditioned herself for the comeback by riding Mandella horses during training hours the last two summers at Del Mar.

Action This Day, who had broken his maiden only a month ago, paid $55.60; Johar returned $13.60 -- and would have been a $30 horse but for the dead heat; and Pleasantly Perfect's win mutuel was $30.46.

"The fact that three of them were not favorites made it more fun," Mandella said. "You knew the world wasn't going to come to an end if they didn't win."

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