Unbeaten Halfbridled finds no luck in draw

2-year-old filly saddled with handicap: post 14

October 23, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARCADIA, Calif. - The post-position draw yesterday for the eight Breeders' Cup races Saturday at Santa Anita Park was cruel to perhaps the event's brightest budding star.

Halfbridled, the undefeated 2-year-old filly, drew post 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. That is the outside post in a 1 1/16-mile race.

At Santa Anita, as at many tracks, the starting gate for races that distance is so close to the first turn as to put outside horses at a huge disadvantage.

"I guess we want to see how good she really is," said Richard Mandella, the filly's trainer. "All I can do is hope for good luck, which is more important than good post position."

That, of course, isn't necessarily true if you're a young horse breaking outside 13 others a mere eighth of a mile from the turn.

Said trainer Bob Baffert of Halfbridled's draw: "I wouldn't wish that kind of luck on anybody. At certain tracks, they should have only 12-horse fields."

In Halfbridled's three races she hasn't faced more than six opponents. She has started from post 4 once and post 1 twice.

No horse has finished within 4 1/2 lengths of Halfbridled, a daughter of Unbridled bred and owned by the French brothers Alain and Gerald Wertheimer, who own the Chanel perfume-manufacturing business.

Julie Krone has ridden her in each race, and the Hall of Fame jockey will ride her again in the Breeders' Cup. Halfbridled is the 7-5 morning-line favorite; the odds were set before the draw.

"It's an honor to sit on her back," Krone said. "My heart goes bam, bam, bam. Becky and I were talking the other day, and she said you almost feel as if you shouldn't even touch Halfbridled."

Becky Witzman, 26, is Mandella's assistant. She has worked nine years with the Hall of Fame trainer, the past six full-time.

"The way she runs, she just seems to be in her own world, and you follow her in it," Witzman said. "Just being in her presence? I mean, the air she carries around with her ... ?"

She didn't complete the sentence.

"We always joked that she was Ruffian - a big, dark filly with a little white star," Witzman said. "That was before she ran. Now it's not so funny. We're not allowed to say it anymore."

The draw was also unkind to Cuvee, the 8-5 early favorite in the Juvenile, another 1 1/16-mile race. The Steve Asmussen-trainee drew post 12 in a 12-horse field.

In the Classic, Ten Most Wanted drew the outside 10 post, but that delighted Wally Dollase, the 3-year-old's trainer. The colt is antsy in the starting gate, he said; he'll be loaded last and won't have to stand there long.

"We can be sitting in the garden spot on the outside, and then let him go," Dollase said.

Dan Borislow, who owns Laurel-based Toccet, decided to run the 3-year-old colt in the Turf rather than in the Classic. John Scanlan, Toccet's trainer, said the strategy is simple.

"Go to the front and see if they can catch him," Scanlan said.

Told that Balto Star is a notorious front-runner who has slashed to the lead in his past four turf starts, Scanlan said: "We'll be in front of him."

Toccet has never raced on grass, although he has breezed twice on it. After a stellar 2-year-old campaign in which he was voted a finalist for the juvenile Eclipse Award, Toccet has been hindered this year by nagging injuries and, Scanlan said, mismanagement and ill-advised rides.

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