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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• MANDELLA HAS 10-YEAR BREEDERS’ CUP ITCH AS SANTA ANITA BECKONS
• GAME ON DUDE VS. WISE DAN IN HORSE OF THE YEAR BATTLE
• CARACORTADO’S BACK AND SANTA ANITA HAS HIM
• GARY STEVENS ENJOYING A BANNER COMEBACK
ANNIVERSARY OF MANDELLA’S BREEDERS’ CUP ‘GRAND SLAM’ AT SANTA ANITA
Proud though he is, Richard Mandella doesn’t boast about the fact that he made racing history in 2003 when he won four of eight Breeders’ Cup races.
Ten years ago this Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, Mandella accomplished perhaps the sport’s greatest single-day achievement when he sent out Pleasantly Perfect to win the Classic; Johar to dead-heat for first in the Turf; Action This Day to upset in the Juvenile; and Halfbridled to capture the Juvenile Fillies.
Mandella, who turns 63 on Nov. 5, three days after the second day of Breeders’ Cup races will be run at Santa Anita this year, manages to stay focused on the mundane trappings involved in the day-to-day training of a major Thoroughbred operation while adding an occasional nugget to his Hall of Fame resume.
Chances are there will be no “Grand Slam” when the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are presented for the 30th time and the second of three straight years at Santa Anita, on Nov. 1 and 2. “I would bet we wouldn’t win four this time,” Mandella said.
His best chance at victory should come with last year’s 2-year-old filly champion Beholder, who is ticketed for the $2 million Distaff on Nov. 1, should she fare well in the Zenyatta Stakes next Saturday. The Zenyatta is one of six Grade I Breeders’ Cup prep races to be run at Santa Anita the first two weekends of its 24-day meet that begins Friday, Sept. 27.
“Obviously, winning those four Breeders’ Cup races pops in my head now and then,” said Mandella, who has a 10-year thing going in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. With apologies to Tom Ewell, call it “The 10-Year Itch.”
Mandella won four stakes on Breeders’ Cup day at Santa Anita 20 years ago in 1993, two of them Breeders’ Cup races, with Horse of the Year Kotashaan in the Turf and 2-year-old filly champion Phone Chatter in the Juvenile Fillies. He also captured two lesser stakes, the Skywalker Handicap with Region and the Smile Handicap with Memo.
“From time to time, I’m reminded of that day 10 years ago, and that’s nice,” Mandella recounted. “When things aren’t going well, it’s a boost to remember it. I thought I had a lot of good chances that day. I felt Halfbridled should win, but being in the 14 post, I had concerns.
“She needed a good trip, which she got. Julie Krone did a masterful job getting her around there. The colt was doing great, too. I felt good about Action This Day going into the race, and he justified that. Minister Eric ran a great second to him in the same race.
“I always had the sense that Johar could win a Breeders’ Cup race. We actually pushed him along pretty hard to make the race, probably more aggressively than I’ve ever pushed one. It got the job done but we had to share it with Aiden O’Brien and his horse (High Chaparral).
“Then Pleasantly Perfect was going to the gate in the Classic and I thought, ‘Geez, we’ve probably used up our luck. What chance could he have?’ But I always had confidence in him and he ran the race of his life. It all happened so fast I really didn’t have time to dwell on it until later. I was doing my job running back and forth, but when it was over, it was pretty nice.”
Mandella is known for his self-deprecating sense of humor, but it wasn’t always thus. He was born in Altadena the son of a blacksmith, so one might say pun in cheek Mandella was a shoe-in to have a career in racing. He had designs on becoming a jockey until his mid teens.
“I had to make an occupational change at about 15,” Mandella said. “I had always ridden and I dreamed of being a jockey. At 15 I grew out of that job and had to take the only alternate thing I could, and that was train horses.
“My father (Gene) was a very good horseman and he was very strong on the basic care of the horse. Hard work was very important to him.” Another dominant influence on the young Mandella was the late trainer, V.J. (Lefty) Nickerson, with whom Mandella spent 18 months as an assistant in New York in the early 1970s, Nickerson portraying the avuncular family member as well as mentor.
“Lefty kind of took my father’s philosophy to another level,” Mandella said. “Lefty was a very intelligent horse trainer and a very smart man. He taught me more of the finer points and encouraged me to expose my sense of humor, which I always had. Being as young as I was and wanting to become successful as fast as I could, I tried to be very serious.
“But Lefty was quite a character and he got me to enjoy the process and keep a sense of humor about it. That made a lot of difference.”
Just as Mandella has made a difference in racing worldwide, not only at his home base of Santa Anita, which hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the seventh time on the expansive green landscape draped around the majestic San Gabriel Mountains that is unique to the historic venue. This is Mandella’s Camelot.
“I love Santa Anita,” said Mandella, who resides in nearby Bradbury. “I think the nickname it carries–The Great Race Place–is very fitting. With the good weather, I can’t think of a better place to have the Breeders’ Cup. I’m very spoiled and lucky to have it in my backyard. It’s always better not to have to travel,” he said, before adding one caveat.
“But you do have to have the best horse, no matter what.”
STREAKING GAME ON DUE WORKS TOWARDS BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC
Game On Dude moved a step closer Wednesday to possibly dethroning Wise Dan as Horse of the Year should he win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, working four furlongs on the main track in 49.60, breezing.
Martin Garcia was aboard for the drill. Game On Dude’s regular work rider, Garcia replaced the gelding’s regular race rider, Mike Smith, in winning the Pacific Classic on Aug. 25 by 8 ½ lengths.
Asked who would ride Game On Dude in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Baffert said, “Now that’s a good question.”
Agent Brad Pegram, meanwhile, appears to be sitting pretty. He represents both Garcia and Smith.
“We gave Game On Dude a little time in between his races and so far that’s worked for me,” Baffert said. “I just want to keep him healthy and keep his weight on. I knew he was going to run huge (on Del Mar’s Polytrack), but I didn’t think he was going to do that.
“I knew he could win; he was training great for the race, but the ease with which he won was pretty impressive. He’s doing great. His record speaks for itself. There’s nothing I can really add to it. He’s won six in a row. It’s been a great year.”
CARACORTADO IN OPENING DAY EDDIE D. AFTER TWO-YEAR ABSENCE
Come January, it will be two years since Caracortado ran his last race. A persistent problem with the frog in his right front foot forced the California-bred gelding to the sidelines following a win in the Grade III Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita in spectacular come-from-behind fashion on Jan. 8, 2012.
The ailment finally resolved, Caracortado is scheduled to work in company Friday morning at Santa Anita, after which trainer and part owner Mike Machowsky plans to start the son of Cat Dreams in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course on opening day next Friday.
The frog is an integral part of a horse’s hoof located on the underside. It acts as a shock absorber for the foot and facilitates circulation when it makes impact with the ground.
Machowsky’s major goal for the 6-year-old chestnut is the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint over the same course as the Eddie D. on Nov. 2.
“He had lost that whole frog and it took a lot of time to strengthen and grow out properly,” Machowsky said. “It’s never to going to look perfect. There’s always going to be a little deformity to it because of the way it’s grown back.
“But we’ve been able to string together works and it’s looking good now.”
Caracortado has nine wins, two seconds and three thirds from 19 starts, with earnings of $864,105. The rags-to-riches gelding broke his maiden in his first start, winning a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Fairplex Park on Sept. 24, 2009.
As a 3-year-old in 2010, he won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, was fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, missed by a head in the Grade I Kilroe Mile on turf as a 4-year-old, and won the Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap on grass at 4 and the Daytona at 5 before his extended sabbatical.
AGE NO DETERRENT FOR YOUNG AT HEART STEVENS
Gary Stevens couldn’t be happier with the revival of his Hall of Fame career. He returned to riding at the age of 50 last January after a seven-year retirement.
“We’re tickled to death,” Stevens said, referring to his agent, Craig O’Bryan. “With the horses I’m riding and the way things have gone, winning some major races this year (specifically the Preakness on Oxbow for longtime patron and fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas), it’s been a lot of fun.
“With the Breeders’ Cup and the prep races coming, we’re pretty well armed right now.”
One potent piece of ammunition Stevens has in his holster is Beholder, Eclipse Award winner as champion 2-year-old filly of 2012. Stevens rides the 3-year-old filly owned by B. Wayne Hughes in Saturday’s Win and You’re In Zenyatta Stakes, a major prep for the $2 million Distaff on Nov. 1.
“She gave me an unbelievable feeling,” Stevens said, speaking of his 2 ¾-length victory in the Torrey Pines at Del Mar on Sept. 1. “It was like driving a brand new Ferrari for the first time.”
FINISH LINES: Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man, 2013 Sprint winner Trinniberg and South American invader Ever Rider are among the out-of-towners already on hand at Santa Anita preparing for the World Championship events on Nov. 1 and 2. Mucho Macho Man, trained by Kathy Ritvo, is a candidate for the Classic; Eclipse champion Trinniberg, conditioned by Shivanada Parbhoo, returns in the Sprint, while Ever Rider, winner of the Group 2 Clasico General Belgrano at Palermo Racetrack in Argentina, is ticketed for the Marathon by trainer Carlos Bianchi. Last year’s Clasico General Belgrano winner, Calidoscopio, won the Marathon at Santa Anita under Aaron Gryder, becoming the first horse from Argentina to win a Breeders’ Cup race . . . Breeders’ Cup Classic candidate Paynter worked in company with Liaison Thursday for Bob Baffert on Santa Anita’s fast main track. They went five furlongs in 1:00.20 and a bullet 59.60, respectively . . . Rosie Ybarra nears her 35th year as “Hostess with the Mostess” at Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita’s popular top of the stretch watering hole that has been accommodating horsemen and fans alike with zesty breakfast fare and conversation during workout hours from 4:30 in the morning until 10 a.m.