Good trip a must in Kilroe
ARCADIA, Calif. -- With 14 entrants in Saturday's $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita, racing luck will have as much to do with the result as a contender's last race or workout.
No matter how well prepared a horse is, it won't matter if he is stuck in traffic or is wide in the final three furlongs.
"The turf races are a lot like Nascar," trainer Bob Baffert said. "It's whoever gets the trip."
Baffert starts Senor Swinger, who won the Thunder Road Handicap against nine opponents on Feb. 8. It was an ideal prep for Senor Swinger, who rallied from seventh through traffic to win by a head over an unlucky Terroplane.
That's the good news for Senor Swinger. The bad news is he has drawn the outside post in the Kilroe Mile.
"You've got to have a good horse, but you've got to have the trip," Baffert said. "I think Senor Swinger deserves to be in there. He's a good miler. He's very sharp right now."
The Grade 1 Kilroe is so competitive that the spread in the handicap is only three pounds, with the French import Cacique carrying top weight of 117 pounds.
Trained by Bobby Frankel for Juddmonte Farms, Cacique has yet to start in the United States. A closer, he has won three group stakes in his career.
Cacique will have to catch expected pacesetter Willow O Wisp, a 4-year-old gelding who won three stakes last year, including the Del Mar Derby. Willow O Wisp was last of 12 in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, but had traffic problems on both turns.
"He can press the pace, or be on the pace," trainer Vladimir Cerin said of Willow O Wisp. "He had a lot of trouble in the last race. He got bounced around in the first turn and he lost his action. He came out of it in good shape. I expect him to run really well."
A quick pace would help closers such as Charmo, Drum Major, Milk It Mick, Senor Swinger, and Toasted - if they can avoid trouble.
Charmo, trained by Julio Canani, has won 3 of his last 4 starts. Drum Major, trained in Florida by George Weaver, won the Pete Axthelm Stakes at Calder on Dec. 31. Milk It Mick, a Group 1 winner in England in 2003, was a game second in the San Marcos Stakes here on Jan. 22, his U.S. debut. Toasted was a troubled third in the Thunder Road.
Charmo was ineffective in group stakes in France last year, but has developed quickly under Canani.
"I've got to run for the money," Canani said. "I hope there is speed. If there is no speed, we're dead."
Neil Drysdale has two starters - Aragorn and Terroplane.
Aragorn won the Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf last October, his most recent start.
"He's going very well," Drysdale said. "I'm starting off at a mile because the race came up at a mile. I don't think he's limited by distance."
Terroplane won an allowance race at a mile on turf on Jan. 20, his first start of the year. He was last with a half-mile remaining in the Thunder Road and missed by a head after running through traffic in the stretch.
"I think he should have won the race," Drysdale said. "It was just rough."