The Kentucky Derby is America’s race, but in the eyes of Bob Baffert, who has won the Run for the Roses three times, the Breeders’ Cup is an inspirational and motivating event that has the potential to attract new blood and new bucks in an industry that sorely needs both.

Baffert should know. He has started 57 horses in Breeders’ Cup races since its inaugural run in 1984, winning seven. He also has nine seconds and three thirds, with earnings of $10,720,000.

On Friday and Saturday at Churchill Downs, the Hall of Fame trainer who turns 59 on Jan. 13, plans to start 10 horses. This is a personal record for the Nogales, Arizona native who with his distinctive shock of snow-white hair, is the most recognizable horseman on the planet.

Baffert’s Team of Ten candidates are: Secret Circle (Juvenile Sprint); Irish Gypsy (F&M Sprint); Candrea (Juvenile Fillies); Plum Pretty (Ladies’ Classic); The Factor (Dirt Mile or Sprint); Euroears (Sprint); Drill (Juvenile); Irrefutable (Dirt Mile); Game on Dude (Classic) and Prayer for Relief (Classic).

Euroears worked five furlongs Sunday morning under Martin Garcia on Santa Anita’s main track in a bullet :57.80, galloping out six furlongs in 1:09 3/5; Plum Pretty went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.60; Game on Dude went the same distance in 1:12.20, breezing, in company with Amazing Hearted (five furlongs in 1:01.40); and unbeaten Juvenile Sprint favorite Secret Circle went five furlongs in company with Visible Marq. They were clocked in :58.40 and :59.60, respectively.

“Everything went so smooth,” Baffert said after the drills. “I’m very happy.”

The Factor is scheduled to work Monday. “I don’t know how far,” Baffert said, “and which race he runs in depends on how he works tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Baffert is counting down until Friday.

“It’s probably the most I’ve ever had in a Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “Right now, we’re on pins and needles. We’re still a week away. A lot can happen, but we feel good about some of our chances. I couldn’t sleep last night but everything went really well this morning. I’m happy.

“At the same time, I don’t get too worked up thinking I’m going to go in there and win 10. If they run their races, some of them, they’re going to have to have good racing luck.

“I’ve been through it so many times. Charlie Whittingham, his favorite line was, ‘Expect the worst and hope for the best.’ I try to keep myself even-keeled. The owners, they dream in Technicolor; I dream in black and white. We’ve got a ways to go, but right now, everything looks really good. We haven’t had a hiccup, but you never know when that might come.”

While Baffert has thrice won the Derby and the first Saturday in May is always foremost on his agenda, he credits the Breeders’ Cup with providing the opportunity for industry growth.

“The Breeders’ Cup probably brings more horses into the business than the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “The Derby is sort of a crap shoot. You’ve got to be really, really lucky.

“But the Breeders’ Cup you can get lucky and find a horse maybe that can win one of the races. I remember I was training quarter horses and I was watching the ’84 Breeders’ Cup. It was so entertaining and I liked their (TV) shows. Tim Conway did a little entertainment segment and it struck me that maybe I could have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup some day.”

It didn’t take long. After finishing 11th with his first Breeders’ Cup starter, Soviet Sojourn in the 1991 Juvenile Fillies, he won the Sprint in 1992 with Thirty Slews.

“To me, the Breeders’ Cup gives people a feeling that maybe they can get into horse racing and compete in that event,” Baffert said. “To me, it’s even more exciting when you win a Breeders’ Cup race out of town.

“The Derby can be very intimidating, but not the Breeders’ Cup. The Breeders’ Cup is what got me in the Thoroughbred business.”

In other Breeders’ Cup news:

Caracortado (Turf Sprint) worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in company with J Man, going a bullet :46 flat, breezing, and :47.80, respectively. Zoe Cadman rode Caracortado, while the Cal-bred’s regular rider, Joe Talamo, was the “rabbit” aboard J Man.

“Awesome,” is how trainer Mike Machowsky summed up Caracortado’s work. “He couldn’t be going any better right now. Let’s hope next Saturday he feels like he did today.”

Machowsky said Caracortado ships for Kentucky Tuesday “and I go Monday on the redeye.” California Flag (Turf Sprint) worked four furlongs in “49.40, breezing. “Everything’s good,” trainer Brian Koriner said after the drill.

Trainer Mike Pender on Saturday’s four furlong work in :50 flat by Oak Tree Mile winner Jeranimo (Mile): “Jeranimo was in the dark under the lights Saturday morning doing his maintenance, easy half-mile with ears pricked, preparing for his blind date with European queen Goldikova. He seems up for the challenge.”

Gates open on the first Breeders’ Cup day, Friday, at 10 a.m., with post time for the first live race at Santa Anita at 12:50 p.m. The final live race is scheduled for 4:44 p.m.

On Saturday, gates open at 8 a.m. with the first live race at 10:40 a.m. The last race is set for 4:55 p.m.

Closing day, next Sunday, gates open at 10 a.m. First race post time is 12 noon.


Don Warren has endured severe back pain in recent years, but training horses which have the quality of Acclamation and Norvsky helps ease the hurt.

Warren, who has been training nearly 40 of his 60 years, sent out Norvsky to win Saturday’s $175,000 California Cup Classic. It marked the sixth straight stakes winner sent out by the barn.

“It’s great when you have one very good horse and one really good horse,” Warren said, referring to Norvsky and Acclamation, winner of five straight stakes himself before going to the sidelines with a soft tissue injury. “You can be a good trainer, but you’ve got to have the horses.

“Norvsky looked just fine this morning,” Warren said. “He’s nominated for the Citation Handicap (Grade II, $250,000 at 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 26). It’s a month away, so the timing should be right.”

As for his physical ills, Warren soldiers on. “I have this back thing going all the time,” he said. “I had back surgery to relieve the sciatica, but I still get some pretty bad lower back pain.”

Fortunately, the majority of the time it’s not contagious. It doesn’t affect his horses.

FINISH LINES: Rafael Bejarano’s five victories on Saturday’s California Cup card enabled him to overtake Joel Rosario, 30-28, in Santa Anita’s riding standings with five racing days remaining . . . Rosario rides Malibu Pier for Carla Gaines in next Sunday’s closing day feature, the Grade II Las Palmas Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf . . . After Garrett Gomez lost the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf mount on Cozi Rosie when she came down with an injury, agent Tony Matos booked him on Cambina in that race for trainer Jeff Bonde. With Cambina, it gives the 2007 Eclipse Award winner mounts in 12 of the 15 BC races: Shumoos (Juvenile Sprint); Stopshoppingmaria (Juvenile Fillies Turf); Shotgun Gulch (F&M Sprint); Miss Match (Ladies’ Classic); Cease (Marathon); Majestic City (Juvenile Turf); Broken Dreams (Turf Sprint); Alpha (Juvenile); Get Stormy (Mile); Tapizar (Dirt Mile); and Ruler on Ice (Classic) . . . Mensa Heat, an uncharacteristically dull seventh and last as the 3-2 favorite in Saturday’s California Cup Sprint, came out of the race with a bruised foot, trainer Ted H. West said . . . Mark Glatt said California Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Starlight Magic came out of her victory well as the 3-5 favorite and is nominated to the Grade I Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 10. “We’ll take a look at that race,” the trainer said . . . Santa Anita presents another of its popular Food Truck Festivals next Saturday. Gourmet food from 70 of Southern California’s finest mobile vendors will be available in the infield. Admission to the Festival is included with general admission purchase of $5 . . . ShowVivor lost one player Saturday, reducing the list to six with five racing days left . . . Papa Clem got 54 mares in foal in his first year at Legacy Ranch, not six as previously reported. “We have 47 foals on the ground this year, most of which look just like Papa,” reports Syndicate Manager Gayle Van Leer . . . HRTV’s Kurt Hoover points out that Platinum Mine, a 4-year-old Cal-bred daughter of Memo-Ultrafleet that won yesterday’s second race at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf, is a half-sister to downhill turf specialists California Flag and Cambiocorsa.