Borell picks up a major new client; Runhappy & Cavorting favored as Santa Anita opens with pair of Grade 1 stakes
BY DICK POWELL
It may not be the happy ending we wished for but the Maria Borell saga has taken a positive turn. Drawing Away Stable announced that beginning immediately, Borell will begin training for them at Gulfstream Park.
Borell was unceremoniously sacked by owner James Mcingvale right after RUNHAPPY (Super Saver) won the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and most likely clinched a sprint championship. Accusations, and litigation, have flown since then but at least Borell’s work on Runhappy is being rewarded.
Drawing Away Stable had a great run of success with David Jacobson, a relationship that ended more than a year ago. The unique business model allowed Jacobson to do what he wanted, claiming horses and dropping them, but it also meant the Drawing Away partners spent a lot of time in the winner’s circle.
Since parting ways, Drawing Away has employed a number of trainers and it is not known how big a role Borell will play compared to the others. Still, it’s a great opportunity for her to show her stuff and maintain a profile that was very high following victories in the King’s Bishop (G1) and the Sprint.
Speaking of Runhappy, he is entered in Saturday’s Malibu Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds on Santa Anita’s opening day. Favored at 6-to-5 in the last Grade 1 of 2015, the Super Saver colt will be ridden by Gary Stevens since Edgar Prado was recently injured. Former trainer Laura Wohlers is now the current trainer and his regular groom, Cordell Anderson, has been in California since Runhappy’s arrival in early December.
A fast horse on a fast track is always dangerous and Runhappy has continued to train bullets like he always does. Can’t wait to see Andy Harrington’s workout report on the last two works at Santa Anita.
Only six horses are entered against him and Godolphin’s MARKING (Bernardini) is a fascinating challenger. His own biggest enemy, Marking developed a bad habit of acting up before the race but Kiaran McLaughlin and staff have worked with him to the point that it is not the problem it used to be.
The Bernardini colt broke his maiden first time out at Belmont Park in September in a fast time going 6 ½ furlongs and came back on Aqueduct’s main track to easily defeat allowance foes by a five-length margin at a mile. McLaughlin resisted the urge of the Cigar Mile (G1) and got a recent at Santa Anita into Marking and stablemate WATERSHED (Bernardini).
Like Marking, Watershed is a Godolphin homebred by Bernardini. The bay colt looked great breaking his maiden in a fast time at Saratoga going six furlongs in his career debut, earning a 101 BRIS Speed rating, and McLaughlin thought enough of his promising charge to run him back in the King’s Bishop the second time out.
Watershed got away slow in an 11-horse King’s Bishop field and rallied wide for fourth, six lengths behind Runhappy. He rebounded in a Keeneland allowance on October 15, winning a long sprint by almost two lengths, and appears to have been working in company with Marking in the last couple of moves.
The always dangerous Bob Baffert sends out LORD NELSON (Pulpit) in search of his third Malibu win. Already a Grade 2 stakes winner at the 7-furlong distance over the track, Lord Nelson has been off 238 days but Baffert is deadly (25% off long layoffs) when he points a good horse for a big race. The Pulpit colt has been training steadily for this and once again, check Andy Harrington’s workout report for his opinion of Lord Nelson’s local workouts.
3-year-old fillies will be in action the race before in the 7-furlong La Brea Stakes (G1). A field of 10 has been entered and McLaughlin will send out the 5-to-2 morning line favorite, CAVORTING (Bernardini), winner of Saratoga’s Test Stakes (G1) at the same distance and the Prioress Stakes (G2) at six furlongs. She’s also by Bernardini but is owned by Stonestreet Stables,
Cavorting went off the lukewarm favorite in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) but could not overcome post 14, rallying out in the middle of the track for fourth, beaten only three lengths for all the money. With her running style, she really had little shot last time but Cavortng draws favorably in post three for the La Brea and Irad Ortiz Jr. flies out for his regular ride. As long as the Santa Anita main track is not crazy speed-favoring, Cavorting should be the one flying in the stretch.
The co-second choice on the morning line is the blazing-fast HOT CITY GIRL (City Zip), who seeks her fourth straight win for Lady Sheila Stable and trainer Linda Rice. These are the same connections of millionaire LA VERDAD (City Zip), a full-sister to Hot City Girl. Even La Verdad’s regular rider, Jose Ortiz, will be out for the mount.
Since Rice added blinkers, Hot City Girl has won three straight by wide margins and dominated on the front end. She’s won twice at the distance, including an eight-length romp last out in the Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel.
If looking for an upset, how about BIRDATTHEWIRE (Summer Bird)? She won the Forward Gal (G2) going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park and the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) two starts later at two turns. In the Kentucky Oaks (G1), she was victimized by post 13 and finished fifth.
Birdatthewire has had two starts since the Oaks, both even efforts against Grade 2 rivals going long, and I like the turn back to a distance she’s won at. She’ll be far back early with Mike Smith but will be flying late, and if the race and pace falls apart, Birdatthewire could be picking up all the pieces at the wire.