It’s very humbling.
The contingent wearing the Darley and Godolphin colors at this weekend’s Breeders Cup at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., with Aiken connections will have a very strong presence. The names Alpha, Dancing House, Sky Painter and Dance Card resonate loudly, with the first three being broken and trained in Aiken by Tim Jones.
However, its been a team effort, involving a number of horsemen, in different states, that has played a role in the aforementioned horses success.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, will be run Friday at 6:50 p.m., and the $1 million, 1-mile turf race will feature a full field of 14 horses, and two of those horses trained over the Aiken Training Track.
“What’s amazing is that there are 14 horses running in that race, and that we get to be a part of it,” said Jones. “I’m very humbled to know that we as a group in Aiken, the grooms, the riders and everyone who plays a part in making the operation work, and the people in Kentucky that send the horses here in a good mental and physical state, have two of the 14 entries participating in such a prestigious race.”
The two juvenile fillies, Sky Painter and Dancing House, are both conditioned at the racetrack by Kiaran McLaughlin, and are very different physically, said Jones.
Godolphin Racing’s Dancing House will break from post position no. 9, will have hall of fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons, and is 20/1 on the morning line.
The gray daughter of Grade 1 winner Tapit, placed third in her last start, the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 6, 2013.
“She’s a smaller filly, and that was my biggest concern about her, but she sure ran like a big horse (in the Miss Grillo Stakes),” said Jones.
Sky Painter is by Grade 1 winner Sky Mesa, and is out of the multiple graded stakes winning broodmare, Skylighter, and the Darley homebred is the larger of the two fillies. The daughter of Street Cry will break from the 13 hole, with Luis Saez up, and is 15/1 on the morning line. Sky Painter missed by a nose her last out, finishing second to Testa Rossi, in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes, the same race where Dancing House finished third.
“I think Sky Painter is just starting to figure this thing out,” said Jones. “She knew exactly what she was doing the first couple of races. I think she has some real raw talent that has yet to be seen. Win, lose or draw, I’m not saying we’re going to win the race, but I think she’ll be in contention. Sky Painter has some substance to her.”
The 2012 Aiken Trained Horse of the Year, Godolphin Racing’s Alpha, will contest the $1 million, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and will break from post position no. 7. The diminutive son of Bernardini continues to prove the critics wrong as the dual Grade 1 winner has had to fight for respect.
“I don’t think they’ve ever counted him in,” said Jones. “Even up to the Travers, I don’t think they ever considered him a major player.”
Alpha placed first in four stakes races during his sophomore campaign, and would race overseas as a 4-year-old before returning to the United States, winning the the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes this summer over an off track at Saratoga Race Course.
“I’ve always felt like he deserved far more respect than people gave him,” said Jones. “I feel he has a legitimate shot.”
A winner of nearly $1.8 million dollars, Alpha will have the services of the jockey who rode him in his last start.
“Joe Bravo is an excellent choice,” said Jones. “He’s been around a long time, and he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to fool those guys when he’s on the lead. I feel like we’re going to be close to the lead.”
Godolphin Racing’s Dance Card, will contest Saturday’s 7-furlong, Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, drew the 4 hole, and is 8/1 on the morning line. Dance Card was purchased at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Olds in Training Florida Sale from the consignment of Stephens Thoroughbreds, who were acting as agent for Vision Racing and Sales. Dance Card is a half-sister to graded stakes placed Tempted to Tapit. The filly has never finished off the board in six lifetime starts.
Dance Card placed third in her last start, the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap, after a 10-month layoff.
“She’s had a race back,” said Jones. “She’s as fresh as any horse in the field. I believe that filly could jump up. I believe she’s sitting on it.”
The Darley/Godolphin runners are certainly a group of horses that can’t be dismissed, and will be formidable rivals this weekend.
“I’d like to win, but just being there is an accomplishment,” said Jones. “We have a good shot. We’re under the radar. We’re not odds on favorites, and I kind of like that.”