Pick 6: Wise to bank on Dan
Our man trackside at Santa Anita, Graham Cunningham, brings us six more observations in his latest Pick 6 column.
- Related Content
Dan looks the banker man as further Mile glory beckons
Thursday morning at Santa Anita and things are hotting up in more ways than one, with Aidan O'Brien's team out on the track for the first time and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan also among the main attractions.
It's a time for finalising opinions and getting off the fence.
And the majority view among the British media posse is that Wise Dan is impossible to oppose both as a Pick6 banker and for win only purposes in Saturday's Mile.
Trainer Charles LoPresti was taking nothing for granted when I spoke to him this morning but his confidence is clear and fully justified.
Wise Dan is almost certainly at least as good as when winning last year's BC Mile and this year's field is potentially a fair bit less demanding.
In short, he looks a genuine 4/6 chance who can be backed at even money. Time to bet accordingly, ladies and gentlemen.
The dream lives on - but not for Aidan
California Dreaming is all well and good, but Breeders' Cup Classic dreaming is firmly off the agenda for Aidan O'Brien ahead of Declaration of War's bid for Saturday's showpiece.
O'Brien has chased this $5m prize all across America over more than a decade with some superstar turf horses and the frustration of defeat for the likes of Galileo, Giant's Causeway, the ill-fated George Washington and So You Think has left its mark based on his comments at a press conference this morning.
"We know how important this race is and we've tried with so many horses but at this stage I don't even dream about winning the Classic," he said.
That said, Declaration of War lines up with a stronger dirt pedigree than most of his Ballydoyle predecessors and O'Brien shed some valuable light on a trip to Southwell for a behind-closed-doors workout recently.
"That said, Declaration of War lines up with a stronger dirt pedigree than most of his Ballydoyle predecessors and O'Brien shed some valuable light on a trip to Southwell for a behind-closed-doors workout recently."
Courtesy of Si Clare Images
"He followed two Group 1 winners and worked very impressively, though he maybe didn't get as much kickback as we hoped for because he jumped out so well," added O'Brien.
"Jerry Bailey says the kickback here at Santa Anita is one of the worst in the country and we'll probably know where we stand early on."
Ever the optimist, I took to the microphone to say "surely you will permit yourself one little dream over the next two nights?"
The answer was short and sweet and consisted of one word, "No."
Kickback could be a kick in the teeth if the dirt starts to fly
Forewarned is forearmed and the issue of kickback on the Santa Anita dirt track this weekend is clearly something well worth considering.
Plenty of good horses struggled to land a blow as the speed horses dominated on the main track last year and Michael Peterson, a professor of engineering at the University of Maine, hardly sounded confident that the problem has been eradicated.
"There is quite a bit of kickback and it's certainly undesirable," he said. "There have been ongoing modifications and I absolutely think it's better than it was, but the situation is very moisture dependent."
Trouble ahoy as Hughes and Ryan head to the movies
Time spent with Pat Healy is seldom wasted and Ireland's most prolific racing photographer reports that his Wednesday night out involved going to a plush Pasadena cinema with Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes to see the latest Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips.
Film buffs will be well aware that the character played by Hanks ends in a world of trouble surrounded by dangerous foreigners after steering a valuable cargo on a very risky course.
Any similarities with Hughesie's experience on Sky Lantern in last year's BC are purely coincidental.
Security bowls the champion a bouncer ahead of breakfast
That man Healy was in the right place at the right time again as Britain's champion jockey - looking ever more like a young Henry Kelly - tried to gain access to the VIP hospitality area.
"If ever a picture told a story then this is the one. And if this bloke says it is Thursday then it is most definitely Thursday."
If ever a picture told a story then this is the one. And if this bloke says it is Thursday then it is most definitely Thursday.
Badges - we do need those stinking badges
Right then, time to sign off for Thursday with a tremendous quiz prize generously donated by leading American owner Ken Ramsey.
Cuddly Ken has a raft of runners by his stallion Kitten's Joy this weekend and has marked the occasion with a special Pick6 Kitten badge and another metal pin featuring his famous red and white silks.
It's a one-off chance to snare a piece of BC history. And the badges go to the first person to email the name of Saturday's BC Classic winner to: email@example.com