Big Score, Miss Southern Miss romp in Santa Anita’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile turf preps

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October 11th, 2016

George Krikorian’s homebred Big Score proved well named after his 3 1/4-length domination of the $102,415 Zuma Beach at Santa Anita. Exploding from midpack off a scalding pace, the Tim Yakteen trainee announced himself the leading local contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Big Score had been similarly emphatic in his debut score at Del Mar, but found himself with too much to do in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf. The May 19 foal still uncorked a strong rally to finish second to Bowies Hero. The combination of a much faster pace, on a different course, and better early placement all contributed to a resounding form reversal – despite covering extra ground from post 12.

With regular rider Flavien Prat aboard, the 9-2 chance raced several lengths off fractions of :21.89, :44.83, and 1:09.43. The stalking Ventry Bay struck the front briefly leaving the far turn, but Big Score was already circling and inhaled the new leader upon straightening. He reeled off a final furlong in :11.87 to finish the firm-turf mile in 1:33.56.

Sonic Boom grabbed second by a half-length from Ventry Bay, whose chart comment includes “bled mouth.” English import Harbour Master, last early and having to switch around traffic in the stretch, flashed home for fourth. The half-brother to Prize Exhibit didn’t miss second by much, and he’s one to watch with this experience under his belt. Bowies Hero, the 2-1 favorite, wound up eighth of 12.

Big Score’s connections all sounded the Breeders’ Cup theme in the postrace quotes.

“Since he won the first time out, I’ve thought he was a good horse,” Prat said. “Last time, I guess I was a little too far behind the rest of the field and had to wait a little bit to get through. The winner that day (Bowies Hero) is a good horse. My horse was running at the end, but I just couldn’t catch him.

“Today I took my time and put him right there, even though the pace was pretty fast. I wanted him right there and he always shows a good turn of foot.

“The Breeders’ Cup is what we’re looking for.”

“I would love to participate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf,” Yakteen said.

 “The pace was substantially faster today, the first part of the race, and Flavien kept him a little closer but it didn’t seem to compromise his kick. He still had a pretty good kick.

“I think he can handle more distance. I definitely don’t think distance will be any concern. I think he showed that he’s not one dimensional today. He doesn’t have to come from completely out of it.”

Big Score has now earned $117,800 from a 3-2-1-0 record, all compiled going a mile on turf.

The victory was extra special for Krikorian, since Big Score has put his stallion, the 17.2-hand Mr. Big, on the map. The 13-year-old son of Dynaformer never made it to stakes company in his limited career, but he’s transmitting his good genes.

“These horses by Mr. Big are showing a lot of promise,” Krikorian said. “I moved him (from Kentucky) to E.A. Ranches in Ramona (California) for this year and he was bred to 39 mares. If he keeps going the way he is, he could be the best son of Dynaformer at stud.”

In the companion Surfer Girl for two-year-old fillies, Peter L. Cantrell’s homebred Miss Southern Miss lived up to her turf-oriented pedigree and bolted up in her first try on the surface. The 9-2 daughter of More Than Ready became a budding stable star for the Desormeaux brothers, rising to the fore the same day that they lost Exaggerator to retirement.

Trained by Keith Desormeaux and piloted by his Hall of Fame brother Kent, Miss Southern Miss was a little tardy at the start, and raced well back through splits of :22.33, :46.25 and 1:11.16. In the span of the fourth quarter, though, she was an equine slingshot around the field. My Southern Miss bounded 2 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:35.08.

“According to her pedigree, she’s supposed to run like this,” Keith Desormeaux said. “I tell you what, since the two-year-old crop came in, there’s never been a doubt as to who is number one in the barn. So yeah, we expected it.

“The key was Kent today. If you watch her other races it was a struggle for him to get her to relax. And, even though he had a strong hold of her today, she seemed to be relaxed. I had a lot of confidence that she’d continue her run home. And, it’s the pedigree! It’s nice to see that kind of stuff come to fruition. She had them beat at the eighth pole. That’s cool.

“She’s been so exciting to have in the barn and she has all the things you want in a racehorse. I actually thought we’d see that on the dirt but she leveled off, didn’t she? But she’s going to be a really good horse on this turf.”

“We have always been very, very fond of her,” Kent agreed. “She works lights out but unfortunately, when she gets behind horses on the dirt, the spray sets her off. It wasn’t good for her mentally but on the grass, she just canters around there. She settled down the backside and never did take a deep breath today. She’s very talented and I guess she just needed a little grass under her feet.

“I hope she’s going to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) because I’d love to ride her there.”

Although jockey Florent Geroux lost the whip late aboard Happy Mesa, it didn’t amount to much since she held second anyway. La Force, who broke even more slowly than Miss Southern Miss in her U.S. debut, made eyecatching headway for third. The German-bred but formerly Italian-campaigned La Force can move forward off this. So can the 9-5 favorite, Con Te Partiro, who wound up fourth after encountering trouble in midstretch. Fifth-placer Miss Sugars likewise got tightened up at an inconvenient time, and the British import may show more with a cleaner trip.

Miss Southern Miss sports a mark of 5-2-2-0, $164,600. An impressive debut winner on the dirt here, she was runner-up in the Landaluce and Sorrento (G2). A lackluster fifth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) turned out to have a silver lining, as it prompted the surface switch.

Kent Desormeaux spared a thought for Exaggerator.

“Exaggerator certainly created a whole family of love for us, I know that,” the rider said. “Two country boys from the small town of Maurice, Louisiana…I’m just happy for WinStar Farm to acquire him because he’s one of the quickest horses I’ve ever ridden. From zero to 100 in just two jumps. He’s very, very fast.”

Photos by Benoit (Miss Southern Miss via SA Press Box on Twitter)