Trainer Kathleen O'Connell is employing the same philosophy with Breeders' Cup candidates Well Defined and Stormy Embrace that has been the foundation of a 2000-win career – doing things her way.
O'Connell reported Thursday that Well Defined, a candidate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), and Stormy Embrace, who holds a fees-paid 'Win & You're In' berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), are both training well at Gulfstream Park West in preparation for their scheduled starts at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.
Stonehedge LLC's Well Defined is coming off a sparkling 7 ½-length front-running triumph in the $400,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality at Gulfstream Park Sept. 29. O'Connell said there is no definite schedule for the son of With Distinction's return to the worktab at Gulfstream Park West.
“I don't breeze Saturday or any particular day. I go when the track's good and when the horse is ready,” said O'Connell, whose 93-year-old father passed away last week. “My schedule has been totally thrown out of balance. He's a pretty fit horse. Everybody knows I prefer two-minute licks over solid breezes. He has natural speed anyway.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has been confirmed as Well Define's rider in the Juvenile.
“I'm blessed with two good riders. Mike Smith is going to ride him in the Breeders' Cup and Sebastian (Madrid), who rides him in the morning, will continue to ride him,” O'Connell said.
Matalona Thoroughbreds LLC's Stormy Embrace earned her 'Win & You're In' berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with a five-length romp in the $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) on the June 30 Summit of Speed card at Gulfstream.
The 4-year-old daughter of Circular Quay, who finished a troubled third in the $100,000 Sheer Drama at Gulfstream Sept. 6, has had one five-furlong breeze since her last start.
O'Connell said a rider hasn't been confirmed for Stormy Embrace, who was ridden to victory in the Princess Rooney by Wilmer Garcia, who was subsequently sidelined in a mishap at Monmouth Park.
“Her regular rider got hurt at Monmouth. We were hoping he'd get medical clearance to have time to ride a few races and be back in the saddle [for the Filly & Mare Sprint}, but I don't know if that's going to happen,” O'Connell said.
Plans to ship her two trainees to Churchill Downs have not been firmed up.
“I'm trying to firm them up. I prefer to do all the work and all the breezes where we're stationed and I've always been that way,” O'Connell said. “I'll ship in for the race, gallop over the track and run. I'm not going to go for an extended period of time up at Churchill. “
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