Black trainer taking aim at Breeders’ Cup with modest filly

Nov 4, 2021, 4:09 AM | Updated: 4:11 pm
An exercise rider rides A Case Of You during morning workouts at Del Mar racetrack prior to the Bre...

An exercise rider rides A Case Of You during morning workouts at Del Mar racetrack prior to the Breeders' Cup World Championship horse races Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Del Mar, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

              People watch a horse race at Del Mar Thorughbred Club race Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in Del Mar, Calif. The Breeders' Cup will be held at Del Mar on Friday and Saturday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
            
              Knicks Go ridden by an exercise rider stands on a track during morning workouts at Del Mar racetrack prior to the Breeders' Cup World Championship horse races Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Del Mar, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
            
              An exercise rider rides A Case Of You during morning workouts at Del Mar racetrack prior to the Breeders' Cup World Championship horse races Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Del Mar, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) — California Angel has already beaten the odds before she even runs in the Breeders’ Cup. The 2-year-old filly cost just $5,500, a drop in the bucket compared to her blue-blooded rivals. She earned her way into the world championships with a late-running victory at 17-1 odds.

Her trainer, George Leonard III, is believed to be the first Black conditioner with a horse in the Breeders’ Cup.

California Angel, by way of Indiana, takes on 13 rivals in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, one of five races Friday that kick off Breeders’ Cup weekend at Del Mar, the seaside track north of San Diego.

“I realize it’s phenomenal even being here,” said Leonard, a Louisiana native who has a 19-horse stable.

Indiana Grand is supporting its hometown filly by offering the first 200 fans in attendance on Friday a $20 win wager on her. Owner Chris Walsh is from Columbus, Indiana.

Walsh has already turned down several offers to buy California Angel, a daughter of 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome. Her name was inspired by her sire as well as Leonard’s habit of calling the filly “Angel.”

“I have the best horse I’ve ever touched,” he said. “We think we don’t really know her full potential yet.”

California Angel charged from 12th place to win the Grade 2 Jessamine last month at Keeneland, Leonard’s first time in a graded stakes race, the sport’s highest level of competition.

The son of a trainer, he struck out in 1991 and opened his own stable. Unlike most of the high-profile trainers and deep-pocketed owners at the Breeders’ Cup, Leonard stocks his stalls with claimers, horses he buys out of races featuring modest purses.

“You got to love it because there’s plenty other things you can do to make a lot more money,” he said of his chosen profession. “I always feel I never work a day in my life when I do what I enjoy.”

Pizza Bianca, owned and bred by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, is the early 5-1 favorite in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

California Angel, at 8-1 odds, drew the far outside post in the field of 14.

“I have lots of confidence in my horse,” Leonard said.

His wife and stablehand, Isabel, said, “We always come to win. I never pay attention to the odds.”

Friday’s card is topped by the $2 million Juvenile, whose winner is tabbed as the horse to watch heading into next year’s Kentucky Derby. The early favorite is 9-5 shot Jack Christopher, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz. The undefeated colt drew the rail in the 12-horse field.

“I didn’t really want to be there,” Brown said. “Hopefully, he breaks clean and gets out there. We’ll leave it up to Jose to see if he just lets him roll along or we just play it by ear if someone is hellbent on having the lead.”

Embattled trainer Bob Baffert has three entries: 5-2 Corniche, 8-1 Pinehurst and 10-1 Barossa. Baffert is being allowed to compete after he agreed to increased security and testing standards for his eight horses. The Hall of Famer has had five positive drug tests in his stable in the last year.

Baffert is seeking a record fifth victory in the Juvenile.

“The could be hot, especially with Jack Christopher breaking from the rail,” Baffert said. “These are all good horses. It’s why there’s a championship at stake. The margin for victory is so small. It’s so tough to win these races.”

Todd Pletcher will saddle 5-1 shot Commandperformance and 20-1 shot Double Thunder.

Friday’s races all featuring 2-year-olds are a prelude to another nine on Saturday, culminating in the $6 million Classic where Knicks Go is the 5-2 early favorite for trainer Brad Cox. The top horses from the U.S., Europe and Japan will be running for more than $31 million in purses over both days.

In the other races on Friday:

— Averly Jane is the 5-2 favorite in the $1 million Juvenile Turf Sprint

— Echo Zulu is the 4-5 favorite in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies

— Ireland-bred Dubawi Legend is the 4-1 favorite in the $1 million Juvenile Turf

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Coleman leads Hawaii to 72-65 victory over Texas State

LAIE, Hawaii (AP) — Noel Coleman scored 21 points and Hawaii held off Texas State 72-65 in the North Shore Classic on Saturday night. Coleman sank 6 of 11 shots with two 3-pointers and made 7 of 9 foul shots for the Rainbow Warriors (5-1). Bernardo Da Silva pitched in with 14 points and seven […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Podziemski powers Santa Clara to 86-76 victory over Iona

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandin Podziemski finished with 27 points and nine rebounds to propel Santa Clara to an 86-76 victory over Iona in the Las Vegas Classic on Saturday night. Podziemski sank 7 of 13 shots, all three of his 3-pointers and 10 of 12 free throws for the Broncos (5-2). He added three […]
24 hours ago
BYU tight end Isaac Rex (83) celebrates with teammates after scoring a 43-yard touchdown against St...
Associated Press

BYU rolls past Stanford 35-26 in regular-season finale

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Jaren Hall threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead BYU to a 35-26 victory over Stanford on Saturday night. The Cougars (7-5) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to take control in their regular-season finale and assure themselves of a winning record for a fifth straight […]
24 hours ago
Washington running back Wayne Taulapapa, right, carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA c...
Associated Press

No. 12 Washington outlasts Washington St 55-31 in Apple Cup

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. threw for 484 yards and had five total touchdowns and No. 12 Washington reclaimed the Apple Cup with a wild 51-33 victory over Washington State on Saturday night. A year after the Huskies watched the Cougars celebrate snapping a seven-game losing streak on the turf of Husky Stadium, […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Montana stuns Southeast Missouri State 34-24 in FCS playoffs

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Malik Flowers scored on a kickoff return, Junior Bergen scored on a punt return and Montana scored 31 straight points over an 11-minute span to stun Southeast Missouri State 34-24 in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday night. Robby Hauck finished with 15 tackles for Montana , becoming […]
24 hours ago
Two anti-riot police officers wave the Iranian flags during a street celebration after Iran defeate...
Associated Press

US soccer displays Iran flag minus Islamic Republic emblem

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The U.S. men’s soccer team has begun displaying Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic as nationwide protests challenging Tehran’s theocratic government continue. The Twitter account of the U.S. men’s team on Sunday displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with […]
24 hours ago
Black trainer taking aim at Breeders’ Cup with modest filly