SANTA ANITA : A Classic Showdown Heads Big Day

The races that will attract most of the attention at Santa Anita today will be contested far from Arcadia.

Although eight races will be run locally, Breeders' Cup VI is the main attraction.

Specifically, the $3-million Classic, featuring a fourth meeting between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer and the first since the latter's romp in the Belmont Stakes.

Most observers think a similar result is a certainty at Gulfstream Park, along with Easy Goer's acclamation as horse of the year and decade.

Maybe the majority is right and New York's favorite son has moved into another dimension, far above Sunday Silence.

But that kind of talk was heard before the Triple Crown series began and all Charlie Whittingham's colt did was take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

It's not smart to overlook anything Whittingham sends out in events of these types, and people close to him are saying he is confident heading into the Classic.

Most important, the Halo colt has worked superbly over the Gulfstream surface and is entering fresh with only one race since his surprising loss in the Swaps.

Another spot where an upset is a strong possibility is the Distaff.

Bayakoa is the strong favorite in the $1-million race and deservedly so. She has failed to fire only once in 10 starts and should win the Eclipse Award no matter what happens in Florida.

However, the Argentine mare is stuck on the fence with three dedicated front-runners outside her.

In her lone 1989 stinker, she was caught inside Kool Arrival and Rosadora at Del Mar and wouldn't relax. Of course, it also didn't help that she was in heat that afternoon.

If she's beaten by the Wayne Lukas trio of Highest Glory, Wonders Delight and Winning Colors, Gorgeous could be the one to beat.

Neil Drysdale's 3-year-old filly hasn't been out since making a mockery of the Hollywood Oaks, but she has been training extremely well, as if the time off has done her good.

Gorgeous has already demonstrated she can fire fresh. After breaking her maiden at Hollywood Park last December, she came back three months later to win the restricted Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita at a mile and a sixteenth.

What also helps is the jockey. Eddie Delahoussaye was dominating Oak Tree before he headed south and it's hard to believe anyone in the country could be riding any better.

Lukas has a fourth contestant in the Distaff, Open Mind. After winning her first eight starts this year, she has lost her last two and she was non-competitive in the Beldame. There appears no reason she can't turn it around.

The other five Cup races are largely wide-open and lack any true stars.

Any of about a half-dozen could win the Sprint without anyone being surprised. Sam Who could be the way to go if he comes close to repeating his last effort at Santa Anita.

The 2-year-old races are more notable for the horses missing rather than the ones who will be in the starting gate.

Absent are fillies Dominant Dancer and Rue De Palm and colts Red Ransom, Summer Squall and Magical Mile. It would be easier to get up for the Juvenile events if they were present.

The Mile is the better of the turf extravaganzas, featuring some quality Americans--Steinlen, Political Ambition, Simply Majestic and Sabona--against the European flash Zilzal, unbeaten in five appearances. Why not stick with Drysdale and Delahoussaye again and take the consistent Political Ambition.

The Turf is hardly worthy of its $2-million purse. Since the Americans aren't much, let's try the French filly Behera, fresh off a second-place finish in the Arc de Triomphe.

Coastal Voyage, a winner in his comeback race last month, and Patchy Groundfog, a stakes winner who has been away since April, head a field of 12 set for the $75,000-added Morvich Handicap, the feature event of the eight races to be held at Santa Anita today.

The Morvich, at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, will highlight the local portion of a 15-race card, which also includes the seven Breeders' Cup races simulcast from Florida. Post time for the day's first race is 9:30 a.m. The first Breeders' Cup Race will run as the fourth race at 10:55, and the Morvich is carded as the day's 14th event.

Coastal Voyage is a lightly raced 5-year-old with five victories from nine career starts. He raced in the East through last spring and counts the 1988 Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth Park among his wins. He hadn't been seen since March when he resurfaced early in this meeting and captured an allowance race down the hill.

Patchy Groundfog began 1989 with a victory at Santa Anita and parlayed that into the Turf Paradise Handicap championship at Phoenix. He added the Arcadia Handicap to his credentials in March and just missed to Political Ambition in the El Rincon Handicap at Santa Anita before going to the sidelines.

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