By Julie Sarno
Numerous thoroughbred racehorses with local connections are entered in the prestigious Breeders' Cup. The two-day series has 14 rich races, featuring purses ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. The Breeders' Cup is scheduled for Nov. 5 and 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, this year after two years at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. It will be televised live on ABC/ESPN.
Runners with area ties slated to compete include Harmonious, owned by Martin, Pam and Emily Wygod; Sidney's Candy, owned by Jenny Craig and the Estate of Sid Craig; Dakota Phone, whose owners include Ted Aroney; Lookin at Lucky whose owners include Mike Pegram; and Awesome Gem and Tropic Storm owned by West Point Thoroughbreds.
Among the most enthusiastic owners are the West Point Thoroughbred crew who own fractional interests in Awesome Gem and Tropic Storm, both trained by Craig Dollase. The runners, both geldings, were shipped to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 27th Breeders' Cup. Awesome Gem is slated to race Friday in the 1 3/4 mile $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon and Tropic Storm is entered in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Saturday. Both face tough competition.
Former jockey Jeff Bloom is vice president, West Coast Operations for West Point Thoroughbreds, located regionally in Del Mar. West Point was begun in 1991 by founder/president Terry Finley and is headquartered in New Jersey. Bloom also has worked seasonally for the media department at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for the past 15 years. He is the knowledgeable announcer each weekend during the race meet for Daybreak at Del Mar, a program featuring breakfast held during the horses' morning workout hours.
"We're fortunate to have two older runners who are doing so well," said Bloom, 46. "Awesome Gem is the barn favorite. He's a real pleasure. He's all business on the racetrack. But in the barn he's learned to encourage people to feed him carrots and treats. He has a fun, happy personality."
Bloom believes that Awesome Gem will do well in the Breeders' Cup Marathon, one of the longest races run in the U.S., on Friday of Breeders' Cup weekend. This will be the seven-year-old's fourth consecutive start in a Breeders' Cup race. His best finish to date was a third-place finish behind Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. Awesome Gem will run on a dirt track, a change from the synthetic surfaces in California. At Churchill Downs, he will also face the long stretch that does not favor speed or front-running horses.
"This is one of those horses who tries every time," said J. Scott Cadwallader, who owns fractional interests in Awesome Gem and Tropic Storm. "Awesome Gem is a closer. He's the coolest horse, friendly, laid back, loves racing, loves competing. He's sound, he's happy. Everything you could want in a racehorse."
A West Point owner for five years, Cadwallader works in Rancho Santa Fe as marketing director for the Spirit of Liberty Foundation. Cadwallader originally became interested in ownership through his daughter, Christy, who has ridden dressage for years and subscribes to horse racing magazines.
"West Point gives an everyday person the opportunity to get into the racing game and enjoy it," said Cadwallader, who owns shares in other West Point runners. "You might own 5 percent of a horse, but you get the ownership experience. You flash your license and go into the track and sit in a box with friends and enjoy a day of racing."
"Winning the Hollywood Gold Cup was the highlight," said Cadwallader, speaking of Awesome Gem's biggest career victory to date this past July at Hollywood Park. "It does not get much better than that."
Awesome Gem was a $150,000 purchase at the Barrett's (Pomona) March 2005 sale of 2-year-olds in training. The chestnut gelding has 38 lifetimes starts, seven wins, 13 seconds and four thirds and earnings of $2,279,682. His regular jockey is David Flores.
West Point-owned Tropic Storm will carry the distinctive gold and black silks to post in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile on Saturday. The Mile will pit 6-year-old Tropic Storm against Dakota Phone, Mine That Bird looking for his first win since the 2009 Kentucky Derby, and other major stakes winners. Tropic Storm won the Windy Sands Handicap in early September at Del Mar and was third in the Oak Tree Mile at Hollywood Park on Oct. 3. He has raced 16 times, posting six wins, three seconds and five thirds and earning $397,805.
"Tropic Storm is so versatile," continued Bloom. "He is strong on grass, dirt or synthetic. He has run well this year coming off a long layoff. When horses are off for such a long time, you never know how they will come back. He enjoys what he is doing, he enjoys being a racehorse."