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Santa Anita Breeders' Cup races have been good to this trainer

Richard Mandella has two horses in this weekend's $25-million event. He's won multiple races there in two other Breeders' Cup championships.

October 30, 2013|Bill Dwyre
  • Jockey Gary Stevens rides Beholder to victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes a Del Mar in September. Beholder has won seven of 10 races for trainer Richard Mandella.
Jockey Gary Stevens rides Beholder to victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines… (Associated Press )

It is the 2013 Breeders' Cup this weekend at Santa Anita. That means, if you believe in trends, Richard Mandella will drive to the races in a Brinks truck.

Mandella is 63, a Hall of Fame trainer as active as ever in the high-stakes world of thoroughbred racing. He will saddle two horses in this weekend's $25-million showcase of the sport.

The two entries also mean something: He will not take a shot at the previous Breeders' Cup record-holder, who won four races in 2003. That record-holder was Richard Mandella.

Going into those '03 races at Santa Anita, he hadn't won a thing on racing's big autumn day since 1993, when he also won four races at Santa Anita, two of them Breeders' Cup races and two on the supplemental program.

One can only imagine the rise of goose bumps on Mandella's arms when it was announced that the 2013 Breeders' Cup would be at … ta-da … Santa Anita. His 10-year increment was alive.

"You'd think it was a fluke," Mandella says, "except we did it twice."

His entries are Beholder in Friday's $2-million Distaff at 5-2 morning-line odds and Indy Point in Saturday's $3-million Turf at 9-2. Riding both will be Gary Stevens, who kept the numbers-watchers paying attention with his own four-bagger, four wins in Sunday's Santa Anita program.

Beholder gave Mandella his seventh Breeders' Cup title last year by winning the Juvenile Fillies. Since she broke her maiden last summer at Del Mar, she has won seven of 10 starts and $1.975 million.

One of those losses was in the Kentucky Oaks to 38-1 Princess Of Sylmar, ridden from behind by Mike Smith. The favorite in the Distaff, however, is neither Beholder nor Princess Of Sylmar, but twice-defending champion Royal Delta, who will be ridden by Smith.

Even a win by Beholder, followed by the same from Indy Point, could not match the record-setting day of Oct. 25, 2003, although it would be yet another 10-year cash call for Mandella.

The Breeders' Cup was a one-day event in those days. It was 99 degrees at Santa Anita, 53 degrees warmer than the previous year's races at Arlington Park in Chicago.

Nothing was as hot as Mandella.

Julie Krone started it aboard Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies. She was a gifted rider, and Halfbridled was among the best in the race, but the No. 14 post was problematic. Krone, still the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race ('93 Belmont), kept her horse steady, didn't try to rush from the outside, and waited and waited. Halfbridled's final dash to the tape made Krone the first female to ride a Breeders' Cup winner, not matched until last year's ride by Rosie Napravnik on Shanghai Bobby in the Juvenile.

"Julie did a masterful job that day," Mandella says.

Next for Mandella was Action This Day in the Juvenile with David Flores beating another Mandella horse, Minister Eric, on a horse that left the gate at 12-1 odds.

"We had rushed to get him into a race early in the Oak Tree meeting" a month before the Breeders' Cup, Mandella says of Action This Day, "because he hadn't broken his maiden. But we had a good feeling."

The last two races on the card were the Turf and the Classic.

In the Turf, Alex Solis rode 6-1 Johar to a rare dead-heat victory (with High Chaparral) and then changed owner's silks and climbed aboard 6-1 Pleasantly Perfect for the Classic.

"It took forever to get the final ruling on the dead heat," Mandella says, "so I had to dash back to the paddock just in time to saddle Pleasantly Perfect.

"I remember getting back to our box to wait for the race, and the day really started to hit me. I was going for No. 4. I remember thinking about Pleasantly Perfect," and how that poor horse "must feel like he is carrying 500 pounds. It was like having the entire grandstand resting on his shoulders.

"Then he ran the race of his life."

When the day was done, the numbers Mandella had put up were startling. For perspective, remember that the Breeders' Cup offered a total prize package in '03 of $14 million, $11 million less than now.

Mandella's winning races alone — he had other horses that also hit the board — brought his owners 60% of $8.5 million, or $5.1 million. His 10% was worth $510,000.

But he found more.

"Long after it was over," he says, "I was walking out, starting to come back to Earth. I had my tie loosened and was headed home, but I walked past the guys on TVG and they were still broadcasting. They saw me, called me over, and so I joined them.

"And as we were talking, I remembered something. My son [trainer Gary Mandella] told me when we were at Del Mar that summer that Pleasantly Perfect was listed at 40-1 in the Classic at one of the future books in Vegas.

"I gave him $20, he made the bet, and the morning of the Classic, I put the ticket in my shoe for good luck.

"Then I forgot about it until I was sitting there on the TV set. So I reached down, pulled it out and held it up."

The ticket was worth $820.

So, the next time you are searching for the definition of a good day, think Oct. 25, 2003, and Richard Mandella.

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