Peter Fornatale at Santa Anita

In Monday’s update from Santa Anita, Peter examines the clash between Mitole and Imperial Hint in the Sprint and lifts the lid on one of the buzz horses of the week.

  • Monday 28 October
  • Blog
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The big breaking news from Santa Anita this morning is that Magical will not be making an appearance at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. She apparently had a temperature this morning and will be staying home. Disappointing news, but obviously the most important thing is doing what’s right for her.

I was out early once again at the breakfast marquee and once again the first horse I laid eyes on was very impressive. Today it was MITOLE, the 5-2 favorite for the Sprint, looking every inch of the part. I saw him coming back from his track work just after sunrise, looking very strong behind, the muscles on his hind end rippling. He simply looks full of run and I like his chances.

Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.

It won’t be easy against the likes of Imperial Hint. Hint has won Grade 1s in his last two starts and was visually impressive in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, where he demolished a good field that included Mitole. I think it might be a mistake to take that form too literally though. That was Mitole’s first start since his strenuous Met Mile win, and he wasn’t asked to do much in training leading to that engagement. Not only that, but Mitole was on the wrong part of the Saratoga track that day. I’m not saying Mitole would have definitely beaten Imperial Hint that day – Hint was simply amazing – but at the least the margin would have been a lot closer.

The two make quite a contrast visually. Mitole, as mentioned, is a tremendous physical specimen. In comparative terms, Imperial Hint is small and average looking – nothing wrong with him at all, but visually he’s just a horse. But Hint is a fighter and will give a good account of himself. But I can’t shake the idea that Mitole will get the better of him this time around.


One of the buzz horses of the week so far is HIT THE ROAD in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Trained in California by Dan Blacker, he easily won the local prep race, the Zuma Beach, and has looked in fine health in the mornings.

Blacker is an easy guy to root for, young and charismatic. He was born in Oxford and did competitive showjumping as a teenager. In his early career he worked for trainers including Jonathan Pease and Jeremy Noseda. In the late 2000s he moved to California where he worked for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella. He’s been out on his own since 2011.

“He’s doing better than he’s ever done,” he said of his charge. “Whether that’s good enough to win a race like this we’ll find out.”

One thing Blacker knows that the trainers of the other leading lights don’t is that his horse handles the local grass course. It’s a tight, two-turn oval that suits his handy, quick frame. He’s got a good mind, too. Blacker describes him as “smart and laid back.”

Flavien Prat, generally regarded as the best grass rider on the California circuit, will be in the irons for the Juvenile Turf, and that must be considered a positive as well. On figures, he appears to be slower than some of his rivals but the ease of his victories suggests that he could continue to improve.

I mentioned to Blacker that a pro-punter friend of mine, Frank McGoey, was impressed with the appearance Hit The Road made on TV while working the other day, and he was amused to hear that. “Please,” Blacker joked with me, “tell me more about my horse.”

If you’re looking for more on the Breeders’ Cup, be sure to check out the Monster Podcasts I recorded late last week, with a different guest for each race. You can listen to the show about the Juvenile races here, the Turf races here, and the Dirt Races here.

Peter Fornatale at Santa Anita
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