ARCADIA, Calif. — Once the lively banter of the cocktail hour subsided and the Breeders’ Cup draw officially began late Monday afternoon, the temporary structure with a sky-high ceiling at the top of the Santa Anita Park stretch was oddly quiet.
Presenters Britney Eurton and Nick Luck went about their business, announcing the horses and their starting positions, but there was little else.
No gasps for bad rail or wide draws, no cheers for fan favorites—not even a displeased grumble to be heard. If not for the consistent hum of the Big Ass Fans® arranged around the room, the occasional shake of ice from the bartender, a hot-mic moment and a chuckle at the almost painfully enunciated “Big Ass” by Luck, a pin drop could have been heard.
The eclectic collection of buttoned-up suits, California-cool V-necks, frilly hats and jeans with boots—all cramped into the steel-beamed trackside chalet—diligently and politely scribbled on their draw sheets as each number popped on the big screen behind the stage. As each race passed, there was no rumble of anticipation. Just quiet.
The stillness was particularly palpable when the number came up for Dennis’ Moment, the 8-5 morning-line favorite for Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Trainer Dale Romans sat in the far right-hand corner of the room unmoved, with a single finger pressed to his face, and ruminated when he heard the Tiznow colt will break from post 1 in the field of nine for the 1 1/16-mile test. It was hard to tell if the pause was based in frustration or confidence—or maybe a combo platter. Later Romans admitted he would have preferred a post from 2-4 and would have liked to avoid the rail with the Iroquois Stakes (G3) winner.
“Maybe inside will be the place to be,” Romans said. “He’s going to be fast enough to be up close. It just makes it more important that he breaks clean. … He’s 8-5 for a reason, but it’s a good race. There’s some good horses in this field, and I don’t think anybody is going to be satisfied with second.”
But it’s not the Kentucky Derby (G1), where the rail brings utter despair. It’s the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, with a (relatively) short field.
“Somebody has to get it, right?”
“(Dennis’ Moment) is so talented and so versatile. He’s taken some dirt in his face, so if he has to take back, I’m sure we can do that,” Romans said. “It’s a short field with a great rider and a great horse, so everything we need to do is just about over.”
Other inside-drawn favorites include Donna Veloce (Juvenile Fillies) and Covfefe (Filly & Mare Sprint), and second choices Catalina Cruiser (Sprint) and Paradise Woods (Distaff), but there was no bellyaching. Veteran horsemen know not to fret over things they can’t control.
“Somebody has to get it, right?” said John Shirreffs, who trained Paradise Woods to a victories in the Santa Margarita (G2) and Zenyatta (G2), both at Santa Anita, this season. The last time she drew the rail, she finished fifth in the Santa Monica (G2), but that was around one turn. “I just hope she stays calm while the horses load, because you’re in the gate for a long time from the 1.
“You know, in all these kinds of races, especially Grade 1s, all this stuff can happen, but something has to go right to win—whether it’s the beginning of the race, middle of the race or the end of the race. So maybe it’s going to happen there.”