ESPINOZA: CHROME ‘DOING HIS BEST RIGHT NOW’MELATONIN WORKS FOR BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSICBAFFERT MULLS HIS AWESOME AGAIN STARTERSOPTIONS ARE OPEN FOR VERSATILE TARA’S TANGO CALIFORNIA CHROME ‘NEVER BETTER’ FOR AWESOME AGAIN If anybody knows California Chrome better than trainer Art Sherman and his son and assistant, Alan, it’s Victor Espinoza.The regular pilot of the storybook California-bred, Espinoza has ridden the five-year-old chestnut 17 times, winning 12, including the last five in a row. He will be heavily favored to make it six a week from Saturday, Oct. 1, when he runs in the Awesome Again Stakes, one of five Grade I, “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge events on the second day of Santa Anita’s 23-day Autumn Meet.Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented ninth time on Nov. 4 and 5.Espinoza says California Chrome is better than ever, but walked the tightrope when asked whether his “Slipped Saddle Saga” in the Dubai World Cup last March 26 or his spectacular, front-running, five-length triumph in the Pacific Classic Aug. 20 was his best race. “He ran insane in Dubai,” the gregarious and ever-accommodating Espinoza said by phone from New York where he was visiting family. “Going a mile and a quarter on a track a world away with the saddle slipping and running the way he did was amazing.“The saddle slipped all the way to his hind end. The girth was fully up on his hips. It was tough for me to handle, but we got it done (winning comfortably by nearly four lengths).“I don’t know whether the Dubai race or the Pacific Classic was his best, but I’m confident of one thing: He’s doing his best right now.“I watched a video of his workout last Saturday and he looked great. He’s absolutely better than he’s ever been. I’ve never seen him doing as well as he’s doing now, except perhaps in his three-year-old season when he was on his way to the Kentucky Derby.”Be that as it may, it’s a no-brainer that Espinoza and Chrome are on their way to the Hall of Fame. And lest we forget, it was just 15 months ago that Espinoza guided American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown sweep in 37 years.Perhaps only one question lingers: will their selections be unanimous?The Awesome Again shares the marquee with the Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, expected to lure three-time champion Beholder and Stellar Wind, the champion three-year-old filly of 2015 who upset three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar July 30.Supplementing the headline events will be the FrontRunner Stakes for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; the Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; and the Rodeo Drive Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 ¼ miles on Santa Anita’s renovated turf course.Victory gives the winning horse in each race a fees paid berth to its respective Breeders’ Cup event.On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship for three year olds and up at six furlongs will serve as a springboard to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5.Santa Anita’s 23-day Autumn Meet starts on Friday, Sept. 30 and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 6. Friday’s feature is the $100,000, Grade III Eddie D., named for one of the game’s greatest riders, Hall of Fame member Eddie Delahoussaye who celebrates his 65th birthday today. The ever-popular Cajun will be on hand to present a trophy to the winning connections.Entries for next Saturday and Sunday’s races will be taken a week from today, Wednesday, Sept. 28. Friday’s opening day card will be drawn on Tuesday, Sept. 27. First post time opening day will be 1 p.m. First post Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2, will be 12:30 p.m. ZENYATTA OR SPINSTER FOR TARA’S TANGOTara’s Tango, winner of the Grade I Santa Margarita at a mile and an eighth last March, is nominated to the Grade I, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at the same distance here on Oct. 1 but could wind up in the Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 9.The Spinster also is at 1 1/8 miles.“She’s going to run in one or the other,” Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, said Wednesday morning. “It would be easier for her to run in the Spinster than it would against Beholder and Stellar Wind here, that’s for sure, so it’s a possibility even though she’d have to ship. She’s training well.”Tara’s Tango, a four-year-old gray daughter of Unbridled’s Song, is owned and was bred by Stonestreet Stables, LLC, which also owns Cavorting, winner of the Grade I Personal Ensign and the Grade I Ogden Phipps. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Cavorting is ticketed for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. Depending on how she performs in her next start, Tara’s Tango could go there also, although the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs Nov. 5 could be an option should Stonestreet opt not to run both fillies in the Distaff.Tara’s Tango has fared well sprinting, having won the Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs Aug. 17 at Del Mar and finishing third by a neck in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs last Jan. 23. MELATONIN WORKS TOWARDS BC CLASSIC Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin worked five furlongs Wednesday morning in 1:02 as he prepares for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 5. His fractional times were 23.80, 37 flat and 50 flat.“He did it nice and easy,” trainer David Hofmans said. “We’re pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He seems to like the track. It’s in very good condition.“We backed off training over the main track at Del Mar, and although we jogged him and galloped him on the training track, I lost enough time where I couldn’t make the Awesome Again. He likes time between his races but this is a lot of time and the Awesome Again is a tough spot.”Melatonin last raced on June 25, winning the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita earning a fees paid berth to the Classic valued at $150,000.Meanwhile, Bob Baffert, just returned from the Keeneland Sales, was non-committal on which, if any, of the five horses he has nominated to the Awesome Again would compete in the race, although Cupid is out as he was en route to Parx for Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby.That leaves American Freedom, Arrogate, Dortmund and Hoppertunity.“It’s too early to make any calls on the race yet,” Baffert said Wednesday morning after watching Chandelier Stakes candidate American Cleopatra work five furlongs in company with Noted and Quoted. Each was timed in 59.60. “I just got back; I’ve got to watch them train.”Win the Space, who was “pulled up and walked off” when last of nine behind California Chrome in the Pacific Classic, will come back in the Awesome Again.“I guess it wasn’t his day,” trainer George Papaprodromou said of the four-year-old Pulpit colt who threw a scare into Melatonin in the Gold Cup when he finished second at 24-1 under Gary Stevens.“Maybe it was the track (at Del Mar), I don’t know. The horse came back fine. It was one of those things. He didn’t fire that day.”Papaprodromou said Stevens would be back aboard for the Awesome Again. FINISH LINES: Santa Anita will offer large guaranteed pools every day this meet, starting Saturday, Oct. 1 with $750,000 on the Late Pick 4 and a $100,000 Pick 6. Thursdays, Fridays and on holiday Mondays the Late pick 4 will be guaranteed at $300,000, and $500,000 on Saturdays and Sundays after Oct. 1, when the $100,000 Pick 6 will remain in play . . . Multiple graded turf stakes winner Om, a fast-closing second to front-running winner Midnight Storm in the Del Mar Derby, is ticketed for the Grade II City of Hope Mile on Saturday, Oct. 8, with the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 5 his ultimate goal. “I’m real happy with him,” trainer Dan Hendricks said. Stakes-winning turf specialist Obviously, also set for the City of Hope, worked six furlongs on the training track in 1:12.20 Monday for Phil D’Amato, who also sent Shoemaker Mile winner Midnight Storm five furlongs on the same surface in 1:01. The leading trainer at Santa Anita’s Summer Meet and the recent Del Mar session plans to bring the latter up to the Breeders’ Cup Mile on works. “Things are going well,” D’Amato said. “I can’t wait to debut a lot of two-year-olds here at Santa Anita.” . . . The California Horse Racing Board will hold its regular monthly meeting 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at Los Alamitos. The public is encouraged to attend. An audio-only webcast of the meeting can be heard through a link on the CHRB website (webcast) . . . Agent Tony Matos has Martin Garcia booked on War Envy in the Eddie D. Stakes for trainer Shelbe Ruis.
Ian KruljacMike SmithWayne SeltzerTyler SeltzerEric KruljacPress ConferenceTHE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is Finest City. Congratulations to all of you gentlemen. Incredible performance. We want to start with Mike Smith, the all-time winningest Breeders’ Cup jockey, because he’s got to ride some more today as we all know. So, Mike, we want to cut you loose. But maybe you can just describe the trip for us, your impressions of this race?MIKE SMITH: Let’s start out with, man, he has just done a tremendous job getting this mare ready for this race. I love going along on the turf, back to middle distance sprint on the dirt. Why he chose me to ride her, I don’t know, but I’m sure happy he did. I was able to get on her a few times for him, and she was really going into this race great. He did a wonderful job of getting her ready. She jumped very well today. I was able to just kind of put my hands down. Once they go a mile and an 1/8th they learn to relax, like Mr. Kruljac, we were talking about it earlier. She was well within herself. I knew she had her air in her being that she was running the distance. So it was just a matter if we could hold them off, and she did a great job of doing that. Again, just happy that I was part of the team today.Q. Mike, I think we know why they chose you to ride her. Does it ever get old being on the stage here at the Breeders’ Cup?MIKE SMITH: No, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t. We’re getting toward the end of my career, so every one of these means a whole lot to me. I’ve got to get that Breeders’ Cup record as high as I can. Because these young guys behind me, man, they’ll catch me so quick. So trying to get it as high as I can, and thank you all so much for giving me the opportunity. I appreciate it.THE MODERATOR: Good luck in the Classic today, and if you need to go, by all means.MIKE SMITH: Thank you, thank you.THE MODERATOR: Ian Kruljac is the winning trainer. Ian, congratulations to you.IAN KRULJAC: Thank you.THE MODERATOR: If I’m not mistaken, she’s your only winner on the year, correct?IAN KRULJAC: Yes. I’ve had a couple seconds, I believe.THE MODERATOR: Yeah, you’ve had two wins with her this year, and now you’ve got a Breeders’ Cup victory. You’ve been training for, what, five years on your own?IAN KRULJAC: A year.THE MODERATOR: Oh, a year on your own.IAN KRULJAC: Or so. Who is counting (laughing)?THE MODERATOR: Tell us what was going through your mind when she hit the wire and you won the Breeders’ Cup Race?IAN KRULJAC: I saw the 10 coming at her, and she dug down and started to pull away more, so I know she’s got a lot of heart, and definitely a fighter.THE MODERATOR: Just talk about your feelings on her coming into today and the way that she prepared for this race? How live did you think you were?IAN KRULJAC: Well, to get a Group 1 for a filly is everything you can do in this game, especially on this stage. There’s nothing more you can dream for. So I’m very happy for her.THE MODERATOR: Very good. We’re also joined by the winning owners Tyler and Wayne Seltzer. Tyler on the left, Wayne in the middle. Tyler, congratulations to you.TYLER SELTZER: Thank you very much.THE MODERATOR: Give us your impressions of this race today.TYLER SELTZER: Well, I’ve got to tell you, my wife will tell I talk too much, so if I talk too much, just cut me off.THE MODERATOR: No, by all means.TYLER SELTZER: Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I went upstairs to my office in my house, and I found a mug from the first time I ever attended a Breeders’ Cup when I was 11 years old. It was November 1st, 1986, 30 years ago this month here at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. And I came with my mom. My mom’s no longer alive. And her initials are on the back of our silks. She’s been deceased for about nine years now. But I fell in love with horseracing at a very young age. To be back here 30 years later at a place like this in a race like this, with people like this and a horse like that, is just beyond belief. It’s really — I’m probably going to get too emotional, but it’s really special to be here. And I have my wife, my kids, in-laws, family friends, it’s a fantastic day. I’ve got to thank the Kruljacs, as I said out there. An honor to have a Hall of Fame legend to ride her, is pretty special.THE MODERATOR: Can you talk about the connection between you guys and the Kruljac family and how you came to send this horse to Ian?TYLER SELTZER: Sure, absolutely. So about 9 or 10 years ago, my father-in-law, who I should shout out to him as well, he’s back home in San Diego, he has some health problems, but he’s been going to the horse races at Del Mar for 40-plus years. So he was going to be here today, but he couldn’t come. So hopefully he’s watching at home. Lloyd, shout out to you if you are watching. He has known a lot of people in this game. So he introduced us to the Kruljacs, and I met Eric. We bought our very first yearling with him, a colt by the name of Triumphant Flight. We had some success. I actually was on my own at that time. And after one good horse my dad, Wayne, thought this seems like an easy game. You buy one horse with a trainer, you win Stakes races, let me get in on this as well. So we started with thoroughbreds and here we are ten years later. So through that time obviously got to know Ian really well. Have a tremendous amount of faith and trust in him, Eric, the whole family. Obviously it’s a family business, as owners, to deal with a wonderful family like that. I feel weird calling him a young man. I guess I am older than he is. But still he and his wife, just tremendous people. It’s nice to see — I guess I have to be careful how I say this, it’s nice to see some of the good guys win in this game. So it’s an honor to be here with them.THE MODERATOR: Eric Kruljac is here in the corner. Ian, can you talk about what you learned from your father and the decision to go out on your own when you did?ERIC KRULJAC: Well, I’m very fortunate to get a filly like this. So I’ve just taken her and she’s taken me and hopefully we keep going.FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports