DEL MAR, Calif. — Bloom Racing’s 2-year-old colt Snapper Sinclair hadn’t even cooled out after capturing Kentucky Downs’ $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile when the plans were made to send him to Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said at Kentucky Downs that Snapper Sinclair would not have another race in between, having three weeks earlier impressively won a turf maiden race at Saratoga after finishing sixth in his debut on dirt.
Instead, Snapper Sinclair and stablemate Gun Runner, America’s top-ranked horse heading into Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, were among the first horse Eastern horses to arrive in California, shipping five weeks ago to Santa Anita to begin acclimation even though unable to get into Del Mar until a week ago. When Snapper Sinclair worked the race-week standard “Asmussen easy half-mile” earning Sunday morning in 49 4/5 seconds, it marked his fifth timed workout in California.
What Asmussen and owner Jeff Bloom didn’t expect in their meticulous planning is that Snapper Sinclair would need two defections from the Juvenile Turf pre-entrants in order to make the body of the field when entries are taken Monday. At worst, he will be on the also-eligible list, able to compete if there are the necessary defections before 8 a.m. PT Friday.
“We felt like trying to squeeze another race in between the Breeders’ Cup and ship out to the West Coast would be asking too much of him,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who accompanied the horses to California. “We thought we did the right thing. He’s come out here and worked brilliantly. His work on the grass last week at Santa Anita was so pretty, and we’re just hoping to get in. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have any control over it. But we thought breaking his maiden at Saratoga and winning a $350,000 would get you in the body.”
“It’s kind of frustrating that he didn’t make it into the body of the race. Surprising,” Bloom said. “But from what we’re hearing it sounds like we have a really good chance to make it in. So Steve Asmussen, Scott Blasi, the whole team, we’re preparing as if we are and that it’s all ‘go’ time for the race.”
The Asmussen-trained Tap Daddy, also pre-entered in the Juvenile Turf, needs at least one horse to come out to even make the two-horse also-eligible list. Tap Daddy, who easily won a Kentucky Downs maiden race in his first race on grass and second start overall, finished third by a total of a head in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bourbon but was moved up to second on the disqualification of runner-up Tigers Rule for interference in the stakes, which was taken off the turf after heavy rain. Tap Daddy also worked a half-mile in 49 4/5 seconds under Angel Garcia.
Bloom, who lives not far from Del Mar, had never been to Kentucky Downs when he came for the Fasig-Tipton Juvenile, in which Snapper Sinclair was ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. Bloom didn’t try to hide his excitement after the victory, saying later that he was thinking, “I think I’m going to get a fine from the stewards for whipping myself too many times before he hit the wire.”
“Kentucky Downs is such a really cool place,” he said Sunday. “It’s fun. The purses are so big. It’s such a unique track configuration. And that was such a big race to win. It’s a big deal. Also, Snapper was so impressive breaking his maiden at Saratoga, so to come to that race at Kentucky Downs and perform as well as he did with the added distance, and to dominate the way he did, solidified what we always felt: That this is a very talented horse, and at that time stamped his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, as far as we were concerned.”
Gun Runner will get his own easy half-mile work Monday morning.
From analyst to owner: Bloom wears multiple hats this week at Del Mar. He’s head of the syndicate that not only has Snapper Sinclair, but the Bill Spawr-trained Skye Diamonds in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Bloom, a former jockey, also is an analyst for the Lexington-based Horse Racing Radio Network.
Bloom and partners Chuck and Lori Allen were out dark and early to watch Snappy Sinclair’s work, the colt only visible for a brief time in the stretch.
“If you think about it, you go to the barn and they get him tacked up,” Bloom said. “You stand around and you wait. You walk for a half-mile to come over and watch the horse take like three steps in front of you going down the stretch. But those brief moments, watching the horse in the final stages of his workout in their final prep, tell you everything. So I can tell you this: He could not look any better. I loved the way he got over the track. He worked over the dirt, even though he’s running on the turf. But he’s training so well. The horse really is an old pro. He takes to any situation or setting that he has.”
Bloom will be helping Horse Racing Radio Network with its Breeders’ Cup Countdown show (streamed live at horseracingradio.net Tuesday through Thursday, 11a-1p Eastern).
“There might be some preferential treatment for Snapper Sinclair and Skye Diamonds,” he joked.
Note: Chuck Allen named Snapper Sinclair after a Mickey Rooney character in the old movie Down the Stretch.
Kentucky horses’ workouts at Del Mar: Wesley Ward’s Keeneland-based Cup contingent worked on turf, highlighted by Kentucky Downs’ Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies winner Ultima D (47 4/5 seconds for the half-mile) working in company with the Ramsey-owned Hemp Hemp Hurray (47 3/5). Stonestreet Stables’ marvelous Lady Aurelia — who while stabled in Kentucky has raced in America only twice (two wins at Keeneland) while shipping to Europe for five races — worked in 48 3/5 with Kentucky Downs’ Franklin-Simpson winner Master Merion (49), who is entered in Wednesday’s Let It Ride Stakes.
The Kenny McPeek-trained Alcibiades runner-up Princess Warrior worked a half-mile in 48 2/5 seconds for the Juvenile Fillies.
The 6-year-old Bigger Picture, winner of the Grade 1 United Nations, worked a half-mile in 51 seconds for the Turf, a time that was immaterial to trainer Mike Maker, whose main base is Churchill Downs’ Trackside training center.
“We didn’t want him to do anything special,” Maker said. “He did it well in hand. I was pleased.”
Maker trained Bigger Picture for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Nicholasville, Ky., for his first four starts before he was claimed for $32,000 following a 6 1/2-month layoff. But he always followed the gelding and claimed him for $32,000 at Aqueduct two years ago for new client Three Diamonds Farm, which is becoming an increasing bigger player in the game.
Bigger Picture became yet another former claiming horse to win graded stakes with Maker, his three graded victories including the Grade 1 United Nations on July 1. Since then he was a close second in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Bowling Green and close third in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, running out more than $800,000 since joining Maker’s stable.
Bigger Picture also was a very good fourth in Kentucky Downs’ Old Friends Stakes last year. He was under consideration for the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup but Maker opted to train up to the Breeders’ Cup. “I think we’re undefeated running him fresh,” he said of the more than two months off that Bigger Picture has had.”
Maker, fresh off winning his fifth Keeneland training title, also has Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint winner Hogy in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He also pre-entered Kentucky Downs’ Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup winner Oscar Nominated and Ramsey Farm winner Kitten’s Roar, both owned by the Ramseys and both needing defections to run. Oscar Nominated didn’t even ship to California for the Turf and Maker said he doesn’t expect Kitten’s Roar to get in the Filly & Mare Turf. She’ll run instead in an undercard stakes.
Monday’s Breeders’ Cup post-position draw will be streamed live on breederscup.com, the Breeders’ Cup mobile app, Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube Live.