Breeders' Cup, Horse racing, Santa Anita

California here we come … again

The groans can be heard from outside the state lines every time Santa Anita Park is named to host the Breeders’ Cup, thoroughbred racing’s championship days.

The Arcadia track will host the event for the seventh time in 30 years beginning on Friday with five races and continuing on Saturday with nine more races.

Santa Anita has already been named to host BC 31 next year, too.

The howls from those in the industry and fans always complain about a home-court advantage for California’s entries, but some Eastern horsemen don’t mind.

“They probably have the advantage, but we’ve done pretty well going out there,” said Hall of Fame trainer and New York-based Bill Mott last week on a national teleconference. “I’m happy enough to go make the trip out there. The weather is good; the turf is firm and the track seems to be bearing up. … I think most of the horses seem to have a fair chance.”

As Mott correctly later pointed out, if the Breeders’ Cup had been held in New York last year, Superstorm Sandy might have cancelled the proceedings and there was the year the event was held in a deluge at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.

If truth be told, Californians may not have an advantage.

Only two of the 15 races were won last year by California-based horses when Mizdirection took the Turf Sprint and Beholder scored in the Juvenile Fillies. In 2009, four of the 14 races were taken by Golden State connections for a total of 21 percent winners the last two times the event was held in Arcadia.

When the draw was held for the 15 races only three California horses —- Mizdirection (4-1) trying to repeat in the Turf Sprint; Private Zone (3-1) in the Sprint and Game On Dude (8-5) in the Classic —- were made favorites by morning-line maker Jon White.

That doesn’t mean California couldn’t come up big. Nearly 33 percent of the horses entered (49 of 150) are based in California, but Bob Baffert, Game On Dude’s trainer, says it’s not the same racing surface from year to year or even on a daily basis.

“Santa Anita is real sandy, a loose track,” Baffert said. “It’s different from last year. It changes from day to day.”

That didn’t stop Baffert from entering eight horses this week —- Eastern-based Chad Brown entered an event-high 11. The silver-haired Baffert has big shots with Tap It Rich (6-1) in the Juvenile and Secret Circle (4-1) in the Sprint.

Trainer Richard Mandella won four races when the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita in 2003. He will be looking for double this year with Beholder (5-2) in the Distaff on Friday and Indy Point (9-2) in the Turf on Saturday.

The numbers say California’s best chances will come on Saturday when it has 50 percent (25 of 50) of the horses entered in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Turf Sprint, Juvenile and Mile.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter


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