Thoroughbred trainers Arnaud Delacour and Ben Colebrook have more in common than formerly being assistants to classic-winning French conditioner Christophe Clement.
Besides sharing a barn on the Tampa Bay Downs backside during the 2015-2016 meeting, Delacour (right) and Colebrook have each started a horse in the Breeders’ Cup. Delacour saddled Lael Stables’ mare Ageless for a fourth-place finish in the 2014 Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, while Colebrook sent out Limousine Liberal, a gelding owned by Katherine G. Ball, for an also-ran performance in last year’s TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Although they won’t be in the same barn this season due to an increase in Colebrook’s numbers, both trainers are preparing for the upcoming Oldsmar meeting that resumes with the Opening Day card on Saturday, Nov. 26.
First, though, the friendly rivals look to settle the question of which horse is the top sprinter for 2016 in Saturday’s $1.5-million, six-furlong TwinSpires Sprint at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
Delacour trains the hard-nosed 6-year-old gelding A.P. Indian, whose six-race winning streak (all in 2016) includes two Grade I victories at Saratoga. Colebrook is back with 4-year-old Limousine Liberal, who fell by a nose against A.P. Indian in the Grade II Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7, with the winner setting a six-furlong track record of 1:08.43.
The TwinSpires Sprint is the sixth race on Saturday’s card, with a scheduled post time of 4:21 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. First-race post time is 1:15 p.m. EDT.
All 13 Breeders’ Cup XXXIII races Friday and Saturday will be simulcast at Tampa Bay Downs and Tampa Greyhound Track Poker & Racebook, with Friday’s four Breeders’ Cup races starting at 5:25 p.m. EDT. That day’s $2-million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, featuring the showdown between 6-year-old Beholder, 4-year-old Stellar Wind and unbeaten 3-year-old sensation Songbird (11-for-11), is the ninth race at 7:35.
Saturday’s $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic is the 12th race on the card, with a post time of 8:35 p.m. The top three contenders in the 10-horse field are 5-year-old California Chrome, 3-year-old Arrogate and 4-year-old Frosted.
Tampa Bay Downs jockey Scott Spieth, who has ridden more than 4,500 winners in his career, will be making his first Breeders’ Cup start in the Classic aboard 30-1 shot War Story, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Loooch Racing Stables in a partnership deal.
Back for a few moments to the TwinSpires Sprint and A.P. Indian, a homebred racing for the Green Lantern Stables operation of Richard and Sue Ann Masson. A.P. Indian breezed five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 Saturday at Delacour’s Fair Hill Training Center base in Maryland. “He came back happy and eating well, and there are no signs he is tailing off,” Delacour said. “All the indications are that he is doing as well as he has all summer.”
A.P. Indian started once at Tampa Bay Downs, winning a six-and-a-half furlong allowance/optional claiming race on Feb. 27, 2015 in his first start for Delacour. “We thought he was a special horse from the time he came to us,” Delacour said. “We (he and his wife Leigh) have been training at Tampa Bay Downs for eight years, and there are only so many horses that can breeze (five furlongs) there in 59 seconds.
“On top of his talent, he is a real fighter. He likes to be head-to-head with another horse next to him; it seems to give him a little extra heart,” Delacour said.
A.P. Indian owns another Tampa Bay Downs connection, as his dam is Ender’s Sister, who won both the Suncoast Stakes and the Florida Oaks here in 2004.
Joe Bravo, who has ridden A.P. Indian in his last five starts, will again be on board. "He has a lot of faith in the horse," Delacour said. "They connect very well and he knows the competition and when to pull the trigger."
Colebrook is equally high on Limousine Liberal, who is 3-for-11 lifetime with five seconds. He didn’t break well in last year’s Sprint and has yet to win a stakes, but his record includes a strong second to 2015 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Runhappy in last year’s King’s Bishop at Saratoga, in addition to the close call in the Phoenix.
“I added blinkers for that last race, and I think they gave him a little more focus,” said Colebrook, who followed Delacour as Clement’s main assistant four years ago before going out on his own full-time in 2014. “He is starting to grow up and be more of a man. I think he is coming into the race the right way, and we would have hated not giving him a chance after he came so close to A.P. Indian last time.”
Jose Ortiz, who rode Limousine Liberal in both the King’s Bishop and the Phoenix, will be aboard. The Sprint field has been reduced to seven with the scratches of multiple Grade I-winner Lord Nelson due to an infection and Grade I Vosburgh Stakes winner Joking due to an illness.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of Lord Nelson, will send out the lightly raced but talented 3-year-old Drefong. Another top challenger is the surging 6-year-old Masochistic, from the barn of Ron Ellis.
Win or lose, A.P. Indian will garner plenty of support for an Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter among voters, although Masochistic or Drefong would have a strong case with a victory. The others, including Limousine Liberal, probably haven't accomplished enough throughout the year to gain the nod among the Eclipse panel.
"I'm not really thinking about that now," Delacour said. "I'm just trying to bring my horse to the race in the best possible condition, but after that, (the Eclipse process) is out of my control."
Another Sprint entrant is the 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Delta Bluesman, who made his first three starts at Tampa Bay Downs as a 3-year-old and needed 17 starts to break his maiden but has blossomed this year under former Tampa Bay Downs trainer Jorge Navarro.
As for veteran jockey Spieth (right), he was assisting his partner, trainer Aldana Gonzalez, with preparations for shipping horses to Tampa Bay Downs when contacted today.
“I’ve always wanted to ride in the Breeders’ Cup, and it’s an even greater thrill to have a horse for the Classic,” said Spieth, who turned 50 last week. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Spieth has ridden numerous horses over the years for Loooch Racing Stables owner Ron Paolucci, who won the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Ria Antonia via disqualification. Spieth, who has ridden in the mid-Atlantic region since the 2015-2016 Oldsmar season concluded, worked War Story six furlongs on a muddy Parx Racing strip in 1:14 3/5 for trainer Mario Serey, Jr.
“He was four or five-wide the whole way around and galloped out nice,” Spieth said. “Mario believes he is going to run well Saturday, and I’m very grateful to have this opportunity.”
Several other equine and human connections to Tampa Bay Downs dot the two-day extravaganza, which debuted in 1984 as a vehicle for the sport to determine its yearly champions and introduce new fans to racing.
Tampa resident Carolyn Wilson, whose Wilson Company manages commercial real estate and who owns the Franklin Exchange, a three-building block in downtown Tampa featuring The Vault (a popular special-events gathering place), will be at Santa Anita to cheer on her 2-year-old colt Wellabled in Friday’s $1-million Juvenile Turf.
The Grade III winner is trained by Oldsmar conditioner Larry Rivelli. The Juvenile Turf kicks off the Breeders’ Cup competition at 5:25 p.m.
Wilson’s numerous successes at Tampa Bay Downs include a victory in the 2012 Wayward Lass Stakes with her mare Arena Elvira, a multiple graded-stakes winner trained by Hall of Fame conditioner William Mott.
Wilson bought Wellabled for $340,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April sale. “I was sitting with (Rivelli), and he felt so strongly about the horse that we kept going (in the bidding),” Wilson said. Wellabled has won three of four starts, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity in September.
“I know how hard it is to get a horse to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Wilson, who will be leading the cheers for Wellabled from an owner’s box. “Larry has managed him beautifully and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
Veteran jockey E.T. Baird has been named to ride Wellabled.
Trainer H. Graham Motion, who won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby in 2014 with Ring Weekend, has entered the 5-year-old Grade I-winning gelding in the $2-million Mile (on the turf), along with his multiple Grade I-winning 4-year-old filly, Miss Temple City. The Mile is the 11th race on Saturday’s card.
Motion, who will again stable horses at Tampa Bay Downs after shipping in last season, has also entered Happy Mesa in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies Turf and Dancing Rags in Saturday’s 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies.
Tampa Bay Downs fans might choose to take a stand against Motion’s Mile duo in favor of reigning Eclipse Award Champion Grass Female Tepin, the 5-year-old mare who captured last season’s Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour and Grade II Hillsborough Stakes at the Oldsmar oval, the latter in course-record time of 1:46.26 for the mile-and-an-eighth on the turf.
Tepin is one of seven Breeders’ Cup starters for trainer Mark Casse. The fourth-place finisher in the Endeavour, trainer Todd Pletcher’s 5-year-old mare Photo Call, is also entered in the Mile.
Oldsmar regulars of longer standing may be intrigued by 4-year-old filly Irish Jasper, a Filly & Mare Sprint entrant Saturday. Now trained by Chad Brown, Irish Jasper won the 2014 Gasparilla Stakes here as a 2-year-old while in the barn of Derek Ryan in stakes-record time of 1:22.41 for seven furlongs.