By Jimmy Goldenberg
Trainer Larry Rivelli is preparing for his annual move of horses from the Chicago area to Florida, where he again will maintain bases at Tampa Bay Downs and at Gulfstream Park.
This year, along with his two-year-old colt Wellabled, he has taken a detour to Arcadia, Calif., for a Breeders’ Cup race.
On Friday at Santa Anita Park, the graded-stakes winner Wellabled will run in the in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade 1) at one mile. The two-year-old Shackleford colt will be ridden by long-time Chicago-based jockey E.T. Baird. Scheduled post time is 5:25 p.m. Eastern.
Wellabled has settled nicely into his California digs since arriving last week. Rivelli called his training leading up to the race “perfect.” He had two strong works at Hawthorne Racecourse before leaving the Chicago area. The morning line odds list Wellabled at 15-1, but the long shot price has done little to discourage his connections.
“The race came up real tough,” Rivelli said. “It’s the Breeders Cup. That’s what you suspect. I’m a very competitive person. If I didn’t think he could win I wouldn’t have shipped. I don’t care what kind of a race it is stake or otherwise,2-1 to 100-1 it doesn’t matter he will be tough.”
That fiery determination has served Rivelli well, in addition to capturing his fourth Arlington Park title this summer, he also surpassed the 1,000 win milestone.
“I love it,” he said. “I get worked up for a bottom claimer just as much as a big race. When that excitement goes, I’ll quit.” Wellabled has provided his trainer several thrills in his short career. He has three wins in four lifetime starts. That Includes victories in his most recent race the Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile Stakes at Presque Isle Downs and the Arlington-Washington-Futurity (Grade 3) at Arlington.
Wellabled’s only defeat was in his lone turf start where he was nosed out at the wire in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga in August. Rivelli is confident that both the distance and the surface will be to Wellabled’s liking, and there is no secret in terms of strategy.
“He’s going to be in front,” Rivelli said. “If the course is tight and firm it could play like a synthetic. They will have to run him down.”
Baird is noted for his ability to get horses out of the gate and being hard to pass down the lane. Wellabled will be is Rivelli’s second Breeders Cup Start, He finished 5th in the Juvenile last year with Cocked and Loaded, and over the years he has had great success with a number of two-year-olds.
But he believes that Wellabled is the best he has ever had, and he knew he was special the first day he saw him. “He just stood out at the sale (April Ocala Breeders), ” Rivelli remembered. “He was a man among boys. He worked great, something like 20.2 (for a quarter mile). We got into a bit of bidding war. I got the go ahead from Carolyn (Wilson) and we got him.”
The $340,000 price tag has been well worth it. This will be the first Breeders’ Cup entry from longtime horse owner and racing enthusiast Carolyn Wilson, an owner Rivelli holds in the highest regard.
He said: “Winning a Breeders Cup race has been a goal but to win one for Carolyn would be even the more special. If there was an ever an owner that deserved a Breeders cup win it would be her. She has given so much to the sport.” Rivelli plans to give Wellabled a short rest following the race, He will lay up with many of his stablemates at Dr. Jean White’s farm in Ocala.
During that time and depending on how the colt performers in the Breeders Cup, Rivelli will formulate a plan for his three-year-old season which may include a switch to the dirt and a run at the Triple Crown.