ARCADIA, Calif. -- It was a day for the aged -- and the odd -- at the Breeders’ Cup.
After a record 19th victory Friday from 77-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 17-1 shot Calidoscopio became the oldest horse ever to win a Breeders’ Cup race at age 9, beating Grassy by 41Ž4 lengths to take the $500,000 Marathon, longest of the Breeders’ Cup races.
But an unusual age is only the beginning of the eccentricities of a horse whose name is Spanish for kaleidoscope and resembles a crazy uncle more than a kindly grandpa.
Calidoscopio was unmistakable in the two weeks he trained at Santa Anita after shipping in from Argentina.
He was galloped bareback in his daily workouts, and wore a white "bonnet" of sorts wrapped around his head.
The lack of saddle is an old tradition in Argentina and the horse is "too old to change his routine," according to trainer Guillermo Frankel.
And the bonnet? To prevent "head colds," said Frankel, a 54-year-old former veterinarian from Buenos Aires.
The quirks extend to race day too. Calidoscopio wears a blindfold that covers his whole face all the way down to his chest to help ease him into the starting gate.
And after Friday’s big victory his connections, including a group of seven owners led by Juan Carlos Echeverz, celebrated with soccer-style singing, chanting and flag-waving, bringing a shock to the usually staid winner’s circle at Santa Anita.
John Fulton, a South American representative of the Breeders’ Cup who served as translator in the post-race news conference, said Frankel is known in his home country for using his veterinary skills to bring horses along slowly.
"If he needs time, he gives it, and he has allowed this horse to stay strong and mature and get better."
Asked if Calidoscopio would race at 10, Fulton said "I guess we should ask the horse. At least five more years!"
Hundreds of horses have run thousands of furlongs in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup. But nobody this week is moving more than French trainer Mikel Delzangles, whose heavy travel schedule paid off with a chance to saddle Flotilla in her victory in Friday’s $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf.
After training his defending champion Dunaden in preparation for next week’s Melbourne Cup, Delzangeles flew from Australia to Southern California on Wednesday to supervise the final few workouts then saddle two Breeders’ Cup starters on Friday.
Flotilla, a 2-year-old bred in France, used an outside rally under jockey Christophe Lemaire to beat Ireland-bred Watsdachances by 11Ž4 lengths in the mile-long Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The trainer’s other filly, Ridasiyna, was fourth behind winner and fellow French-bred Zagora in the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf.
Delzangles was slated to immediately get back on a plane and fly back to Australia to saddle Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.
That’s nearly 16,000 air miles in just a few days, but the jet lag doesn’t hurt so much with a world title in your baggage.
"It’s a world tour, but when things happen like today, it’s quite easy," Delzangles said through a translator.
Questing, expected to contend in the Ladies’ Classic, was last out of the gate and eased down the stretch by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., but an initial examination found no injury.
The British-bred filly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin scored a pair of U.S. Grade 1 stakes wins earlier in the year and is among the favorites to win an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 3-year-old female.
There was no indication of trouble during the training week, and McLaughlin said Thursday that he planned to have the filly speed straight to the lead in the Ladies’ Classic.
A veterinarian examined Questing after the race, but found nothing physically wrong. Santa Anita’s stewards ordered a precautionary blood test.
The on-track attendance at Santa Anita for Friday’s first day of the Breeders’ Cup was 34,619.
That’s down from the first days of 2010 and 2011 when the event was held at Churchill Downs and drew more than 40,000, but very close to the average Friday since the event was expanded to two days in 2007.
The wagering total was $47,586,765, a 5 percent decline from Friday’s total of $50,053,505 bet last year, and also down from the 2009 card at Santa Anita.
"Considering the effects of Hurricane Sandy and difficult circumstances for much of the East Coast, to be within 5 percent of last year’s total handle is a success," said Ken Kirchner, senior wagering consultant for the event.