While unbeaten superstar Zenyatta commanded the lion’s share of attention in the John Shirreffs stable at Hollywood Park Sunday before her final public appearance on Zenyatta Day, the most repeated question in the stable area concerned stablemate Life Is Sweet.
Several horsemen were understandably curious whether Life Is Sweet, a 4-year-old filly nominated to the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap Saturday, would run in the Grade II test for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
Owner-breeder Marty Wygod said Sunday that a work at Hollywood Park early this week would clarify the status of the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita on November 6. She has worked here once since then, four furlongs in 50 seconds on Wednesday.
Life Is Sweet, a 4-year-old filly, scored the biggest victory of her career in the $2-million Ladies Classic. The victory was her fourth stake of the year, the second Grade I, and raised her earnings to $1,770,810.
“The first race under consideration for her next year, the Santa Maria Handicap, is not until February, a long time between drinks,” explained Wygod of the decision to consider the Bayakoa. “And she was just coming into her own in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Wygod and Shirreffs would have to find a replacement for regular jockey Garrett Gomez, who will be in Japan next weekend in international riding competition.
Wygod also nominated Smooth Performer, a 4-year-old filly he owns in partnership with John Spohler. Wygod said Smooth Performer, winner of the E.B. Johnston Stakes at Fairplex Park in September and runner-up in the Cat’s Cradle Handicap here on November 15 for trainer Cliff Sise, is also possible.
Wygod won the Bayakoa with Pirate’s Revenge in 1995 and Feverish in 2000.
Probable starters include Argentine-bred Teamgeist, third-place finisher in the Spinster Stakes for trainer Ken McPeek, with Alex Solis up for the first time; the well-traveled Lucky Copy, to be ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano for trainer Todd Pletcher; and Silver Swallow, stakes-placed here three times for Bruce Headley, withMike Smith up.
Others under consideration, many anxiously awaiting the Life Is Sweet decision, include defending champion Briecat, Cat By The Tale, Czechers, Eissoai, Floating Heart, Freedom Star, Gadget Queen, Lady Railrider, Made For Magic, St Trinians and Zardana.
Noble Court, who closed strongly to finish third in the Vernon Underwood Stakes last year, heads a trio of John Sadler-trained nominees for the $100,000 Grade III test at six furlongs on Cushion Track next Sunday.
Sadler also nominated Machismo and Partywithlarryz to the race in quest of a record third victory. Sadler, who won the sprint with Olympic Prospect in 1989 and Frost Free in 1990, is tied with Wesley Ward with two victories.
Noble Court, a 5-year-old horse owned by Joy Ride Racing, has won six of 17 starts and earned $431,778. He won the Ack Ack Handicap here in June before facing the best in his division and finishing third in the Triple Bend Handicap here in July, second in the Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar in September and seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on November 7. Joel Rosario has the call.
Other probable starters include Delta Storm (Rafael Bejarano), Talkin to Mom Roo (Joseph Talamo), Paul’s Hope, Kinsale King (Martin Garcia) and Mr. Cacht (Felipe Valdez).
Mr. Cacht, an Argentine-bred 5-year-old horse, will make his United States debut for trainer Jeff Mullins. The son of Numerous won 10 of 18 starts in Argentina.
Lava Man stood outside Barn 63 North Sunday, posing for photographers as he readied for his first start since July, 2008.
“He will work again Wednesday, his last work before the Native Diver,” said trainer Doug O’Neill of the 8-year-old gelding’s expected return in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track December 12.
Lava Man, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup three consecutive times, has won 17 of 46 starts and earned $5,268,706. Stem cell therapy on his front ankles has enabled the star to launch a comeback.
Trainer Humberto Ascanio remained the man of the hour in the stable area Sunday, accepting congratulations after recording the first two Grade I stakes victories of his career during Turf Festival races Friday and Saturday.
“This is unbelievable, like a dream,” said Ascanio after sending out longshot Fluke to victory in the $300,000 Citation Handicap Friday and heavily favored Ventura to victory in the $300,000 Matriarch Saturday.
Ascanio, 62, gave all the credit to his boss of 35 years, Bobby Frankel, who died November 16 from lymphoma. Ascanio took over the stable after that.
Ascanio said that Brazilian-bred Fluke would probably return on the turf at Santa Anita and that Ventura would be shipped to Kentucky to begin a broodmare career.
“Bobby really wanted to retire the mare a winner,” said Ascanio, wearing a urple Ventura Breeders’ Cup baseball cap, happy Frankel‘s last wish was granted. “I was blessed to be around him all these years. There is only one Bobby Frankel.”
Mickey Gonzalez, owner of Generous Stakes winner Who’s Up, said the 2-year-old colt could return in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19.
Who’s Up won the Grade III Generous in a brisk 1:34.39 for a mile on turf Saturday under jockey Victor Espinoza for trainer Kathy Walsh. “We’ll see how he comes out of the race and talk it over with Kathy,” said Gonzalez of the Grade I Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track.
Walsh said she thought the colt was as good on Cushion Track as turf after his second victory in four starts.
Gonzalez, a resident of Puerto Rico who races under M Racing, explained the name of the colt. “I had a good horse in Puerto Rico years ago named Who’s Next,” said Gonzalez. “This one looked so much like him I put in for the same name. But I couldn’t get it, so I tried with Who’s Up.”
Trainer Bob Baffert said that he has several colts under consideration for the Futurity, headed by Lookin at Lucky, winner of the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Baffert said he is also considering Marcello, Conveyance and The Program.
Other probable starters include Noble’s Promise, third in the Juvenile; and American Lion, winner of the Hollywood Prevue Stakes.
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