Local owners win Breeders’ Cup races and rank among national leaders

By Julie Sarno

Racehorses owned by local residents won three of the 30th Breeders’ Cup World Championship races at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Two of the runners captured a second Breeders’ Cup victory. The two-day 14-race Breeders’ Cup was held at the Arcadia track for the second year in a row and seventh time since its first running in 1984. All are prestigious Grade 1 races. The 2014 Breeders’ Cup will be run at Santa Anita as well.

The first locally-owned runner to make it to the Winner’s Circle was Mizdirection, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the seventh race on the Saturday program. She is owned by Del Mar resident Bill Strauss in partnership with Jungle Racing of sportscaster Jim Rome, Nish, Grohs, MSK Racing Ventures LLC and Beljak. Bill and his wife, Margie, were among the group in the Winners Circle.

Mizdirection recorded her second victory in the GEICO Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. The now-5-year-old mare is a two-time winner of the race, having won the prestigious Grade 1 event in 2012. The $1 million race drew only two female runners in a 14-horse field. The other filly in the race, Reneesgotzip, finished second. This victory gave winning jockey Mike Smith his third 2013 Breeders’ Cup win and a record 20th win overall.

Mizdirection has now earned over $1.7 million for her owners. As the group races horses but does not retain them for breeding purposes, they entered the mare in the Nov. 4 Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington, Kentucky. A daughter of the stallion Mizzen Mast, Mizdirection was recently sold for $2.7 million.

“She loves it here,” said trainer Mike Puype after the race. “She loves Santa Anita. She’s seven-for-seven on the turf. She’s really tenacious, but it’s really quite sad that she is getting on a plane tomorrow and heading for the sales (in Kentucky.)”

Saturday’s eighth race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also went to a locally-owned runner. Rancho Santa Fe residents Gary and Mary West won their first-ever Breeders’ Cup race, the G1 Juvenile, with New Year’s Day. Thoroughbred owners since the 1980s, the Wests had never before won a Breeders’ Cup race.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, for 2-year-old male runners, attracted a full field of 14. The winner receives 55 percent of the $2 million prize. As dictated by the rules, 5 percent of the owner’s share goes to trainer Bob Baffert and five percent to jockey Martin Garcia. Baffert and his wife, Jill, have a residence in Del Mar.

New Year’s Day had only raced twice before the Breeders Cup, both times at Del Mar this past summer. The son of Street Cry finished third in his Aug. 17 debut and won a maiden special weight event on Aug. 31. New Year’s Day was purchased for $425,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Look for this colt on the Kentucky Derby trail next spring.

The victory in the Juvenile has catapulted the Wests into third place in earnings among Thoroughbred owners in North America. The West Stable has earned $4,390,686 in 2013 through Nov. 3. Their previous best was in 2012 when they ranked 12th at year’s end with stable earnings of just over $3.2 million.

Two races later, trainer Baffert was back in the Winner’s Circle when Saturday’s 10th race, the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint was won by Secret Circle. Secret Circle is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Secret Circle also is a repeat Breeders’ Cup winner, having won the inaugural Juvenile Sprint in 2011 as a 2-year-old. Pegram owns a home in Del Mar.

The Sprint carries a purse of $1.5 million. The winning owners collect $850,000, and, once again, the trainer and jockey Garcia each receive 5 percent. Secret Circle is a 4-year-old son of Eddington. Pegram owned earlier Breeders’ Cup winner Silverbulletday, winner of the 1998 Juvenile Fillies and, with Watson and Weitman, campaigned two-time Sprint (2007 and 2008) winner Midnight Lute. All were trained by Baffert.

Baffert was the only trainer to saddle two Breeders’ Cup race winners this year. After the Championship races, Baffert currently ranks second in purses earned in 2013 by runners he trains with $14,029,072, behind New York-based Todd Pletcher, with $22,741,575. Baffert’s two Breeders’ Cup winners this year bring his total of Cup winners to 10, second only to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has 19.