Don Lucarelli had two good shots at winning a Breeders’ Cup race in 2006 and 2007, with the filly Octave.
Judging from the morning line for Saturday’s BC Juvenile at Santa Anita, he has the best shot to win this one.
Shanghai Bobby is 2-1, and although Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has two promising 2-year-olds in there, Starlight Racing’s Shanghai Bobby will draw most of the attention because he’s a Grade I winner and undefeated from four starts.
Lucarelli, of Duanesburg, co-manages Starlight with Jack Wolf, and he expects even more pressure to win this time than he felt with Octave.
“No doubt about it, everybody’s shooting for him,” Lucarelli said. “We felt Octave had a real good shot. It’s heart-breaking when you go and don’t win, but, like any big race, there’s more pressure and adrenaline, and you can’t wait for the race to come and to get it on.
“This one is probably a little different.”
Shanghai Bobby will break from post No. 4, bookended by Baffert’s front-runner Title Contender on the rail and Grade I FrontRunner winner Power Broker all the way outside in post No. 9.
A son of Harlan’s Holiday out of the Orientate mare Steelin’, Shanghai Bobby won the Grade II Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course and the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park, but it was his maiden win at Aqueduct in April that convinced Starlight and trainer Todd Pletcher that they had some serious potential.
Rosie Napravnik has ridden all four starts, and she’s aboard again for the Juvenile.
“We weren’t sure what we had, but after his first race at Aqueduct, we knew we had something special,” Lucarelli said. “He was stuck down inside, he took a lot of dirt, and she swung him outside and hand-rode him.”
Lucarelli and his family were scheduled to arrive in California at 9 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Shanghai Bobby’s trip was delayed by Hurricane Sandy, and his charter didn’t make it to California until noon on Wednesday. That Tex Sutton plane also carried Pletcher’s other horses, along with Wise Dan, Fort Larned and Brilliant Speed, among others.
This will be the first time Shanghai Bobby has raced outside of New York, but by all reports, he settled in well at Santa Anita and had a comfortable gallop on Thursday morning.
“There’s a lot being thrown at him, but he’s a good horse, and he’ll handle it,” Lucarelli said. “You just hope he gets a clean trip and likes the track.
“The speed is definitely inside of us. Ultimately, I think we’ll be sitting third, with Fortify and Power Broker somewhere on the outside and just behind us. She needs to decide when to go to wear down the speed and also to get the jump on the other two. Then it comes down to talent. Our numbers look good, but these 2-year-olds can jump up at anytime.”
A win by Shanghai Bobby would clinch the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old male.
“There’s definitely more pressure, because, not only is he a colt, so there’s a stallion opportunity, but he also wins the Eclipse Award if he wins this,” Lucarelli said. “That’s the ultimate thing you can do with a horse. And the fact that we have partners this time, which we didn’t have with Octave, we want to do well for them. You want the best stallion prospect to market.”
Mechanicville native Chad Brown has six horses in the Breeders’ Cup, and he has a good shot to win with any of them, especially Awesome Feather, although the undefeated 4-year-old filly is in one of the toughest races of the weekend, tonight’s Ladies’ Classic at 7:30 (ET).
Purchased for $2.3 million by Frank Stronach after winning the 2010 BC Juvenile Fillies, Awesome Feather has overcome a bowed tendon that limited her to two races last year and two this year.
“She has a huge fan base,” Brown said. “We get letters, horse treats and flowers all the time. It’s nice that she has a following. She has terrific owners who have always done the right thing by her and will continue to after she’s done racing. It’s a great story. I’m very fortunate to have her in my barn. She’s just a very, very rare horse. You can breed thousands of horses and not get one like her.”
Also today, Brown will saddle Zagora in the Filly & Mare Turf and Watsdachances, who won the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
On Saturday, he’s got Balance the Books and Noble Tune in the Juvenile Turf, and Corporate Jungle in the Turf Sprint.
Zagora is a Grade I winner, having taken the Diana at Saratoga last year, but she’s in deep in the Filly & Mare Turf.
“She’s filled out and looked strong this year, and she’s run some really nice races,” Brown said. “I know that she hasn’t won a Grade I yet this year, but I don’t think that means she’s lost a step. If anything, a couple of her speed numbers are faster this year. We’re talking about a horse that has won four graded stakes already this year. That’s pretty good.”
DULLAHAN IN TURF
Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs will be watching the Turf with a keen eye on Saturday, but unfortunately for him, he won’t be watching it in California because he’s scheduled to take a five-hour exam for his second-degree black belt in karate.
Nevertheless, he’s excited to see how Dullahan does in that race, since he owns a minority share through Donegal Racing.
“It’s good and bad; I watched the Pacific Classic at Leon’s Restaurant, and this time we’ll be at Hibachi, because that’s where they’re having a dinner after the exam, so hopefully, that’ll be a good omen,” Bryan said.
Dullahan won the Pacific Classic on the synthetic at Del Mar two starts back, the second Grade I win for him in 2012; he also won the Grade I Blue Grass as a steppingstone to a third place in the Kentucky Derby.
Bryan jumped aboard Donegal just in time, agreeing to become a partner right before last year’s Breeders’ Cup. Dullahan then finished fourth to Union Rags in the Juvenile.
He was cross-entered in the Classic.
“I think if you’re intellectually honest, you can make more of an argument for the turf than the dirt,” Bryan said. “Our best is synthetic. The question is how good is he on both of the other surfaces, and, in my opinion, we still do not truly know.