Cup stars to keep on racing
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Seven of the eight Breeders' Cup race winners on Saturday, including Classic hero Ghostzapper, will remain in training next year, their respective trainers said.
Some, such as 2-year-olds Sweet Catomine (the Juvenile Fillies winner) and Wilko (Juvenile) - whose careers have only just begun - and the gelding Better Talk Now (Turf) are staying in training for obvious reasons. But after the fan and media backlash that surrounded Smarty Jones being whisked off to stud earlier this year, the choice of keeping horses such as Ashado (Distaff), Ghostzapper, Ouija Board (Filly and Mare Turf), and Singletary (Mile) around for another year is a refreshing development.
Singletary, in fact, could race again this year. His connections are considering running him in Hollywood Park's Citation Handicap later this month.
The only Breeders' Cup winner who is headed straight to the breeding shed is Sprint winner Speightstown, who, at age 6, was the oldest Breeders' Cup winner on Saturday at Lone Star Park.
Ghostzapper returned to New York after the Classic. He will head to Florida for the winter to train, but will not start there. Instead, trainer Bobby Frankel said Ghostzapper's early 2005 objective will be the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day at Belmont Park. With the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park next year, and with Ghostzapper having already shown a liking for that track, there is little reason for Ghostzapper to be in anything but a New York state of mind next year.
Frank Stronach, who bred and owns Ghostzapper, was eager to run the horse next year at age 5. And he emphasized that Ghostzapper will race in the United States, nowhere else.
"He is a very exciting horse and I think I owe it to the racing public to run him next year," Stronach said. "I will race him in America. I don't plan for any races outside the country. We won't be going to Japan or Dubai with him."
Pleasantly Perfect, who won the Dubai World Cup, has had the Japan Cup Dirt on his itinerary as his career finale. But that start is on hold. Pleasantly Perfect came out of the Classic with some filling in a hind ankle, according to trainer Richard Mandella. On Monday, Mandella said the swelling had subsided, and though X-rays were negative, Mandella said Pleasantly Perfect was scheduled to undergo a nuclear scintigraphy scan on Tuesday at Santa Anita.
"He was a little stiff behind after the race," Mandella said from his Santa Anita barn. "We'll know more in a couple of days."
The mare Azeri, who finished fifth in the Classic, could race a couple more times before heading to the breeding shed in February, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. Azeri on Monday returned to Churchill Downs, which plays host to the Falls City Handicap later this month.
Lukas said he had "no remorse" about running Azeri in the Classic instead of the Distaff, in which she would have been a heavy favorite.
"We took a shot and swung for the fence and unfortunately the ball fell back in the field," Lukas said.
Azeri's defection from the Distaff made Ashado the favorite, and she responded with a victory. Ashado, like Ghostzapper, will spend the winter at the Palm Meadows training facility in Florida. An early season objective for her might be the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, a race Azeri won the past three years.
Better Talk Now also will be in Florida this winter, as will 2003 Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, who finished 10th in the Classic.
Both Sweet Catomine and Wilko will spend the winter in California with designs on the major early season races for 3-year-olds. Sweet Catomine will get the rest of the year off because she "is growing very rapidly," said Marty Wygod, who bred and owns Sweet Catomine with his wife, Pam.
Wilko made his first 10 starts in Europe before heading to the United States. He was trained through Saturday by British-based Jeremy Noseda, but now will be trained by Craig Dollase, who is based at Hollywood Park.
Ouija Board will return to Europe for a 4-year-old campaign; her final act could be another Breeders' Cup appearance. She had a fantastic year, with victories in the English and Irish Oaks and a third-place finish against males in the Arc de Triomphe.
John Velazquez, who rode two winners and finished second in three other races on Saturday, was voted the second annual Bill Shoemaker Award by the media. The Shoemaker Award is presented to the day's outstanding jockey. Alex Solis was the inaugural winner last year.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch