Seconds after Delightful Kiss qualified for the Breeders' Cup World Championships, trainer Pete Anderson began California dreamin'.
His experience continues Monday, when he accompanies the Tampa Bay Downs graduate on a flight from Kentucky to California for the BC $500,000 Marathon at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 25 in Arcadia.
"I'm 76, and being honest, I doubt if I'll have another chance to try to run in the Breeders' Cup," Anderson said. "So reality sets in.
"It's mighty, mighty important to me."
Delightful Kiss, a 4-year-old gelded son of 1993 Belmont Stakes runnerup Kissin Kris, advanced to the 11/2-mile Marathon by winning the Grade III $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship on Sept. 6 in Florence, Ky. Rallying from next to last in the field of 10 under Calvin Borel, Delightful Kiss defeated Star Plus to take the "win and you're in" BC Challenge.
Anderson had confidence in Delightful Kiss, although the Florida homebred — owned by 95-year-old Jack Dreyfus and his Hobeau Farm in Ocala — was in uncharted territory. In 18 previous races, Delightful Kiss had never run on a synthetic track or gone farther than 11/8 miles. He broke Turfway Park's 11/2-mile record (2 minutes, 32.25 seconds) by more than two seconds.
It was his first victory this year, snapping a five-race winless streak dating back 15 months. The dry spell began after he won the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, and Grade II Ohio Derby at Thistledown in East Randall, both in June 2007. Delightful Kiss is the only horse Anderson trains.
"He ran in West Virginia (Derby in August 2007 at Mountaineer in Chester) and didn't come out of the race as good as I hoped he would," Anderson said. "He had a minor problem and I was advised by veterinarians to give him 60 days off; I gave him 130 days off."
TBD put Delightful Kiss, an earner of $577,087, on the map. In the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby, he finished third, 6 lengths behind Street Sense, who defeated Any Given Saturday by a nose. Borel rode Street Sense.
"It showed me he could handle those kinds of horses," Anderson said. "He wasn't quite as good then, but has shown he's that caliber of horse for quite a while."
Borel told Turfway Park spokeswoman Sherry Pinson, "I've always wanted to ride this horse because he finished third to Street Sense."
Delightful Kiss has a winning pedigree. Kissin Kris, a $1.6-million career earner, won the Grade I Haskell in 1993 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Deputy's Delight, his dam, is by Grade II winner French Deputy. Two of Delightful Kiss' great grand sires, Roberto and Deputy Minister, were multiple Grade I winners.
Delightful Kiss is expected to prep for the Marathon by entering the Grade III $200,000 All-American Stakes on Sept. 27 at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif.
"He's a big powerful horse, and he's got a hell of a desire to win," Anderson said. "I think I'll be very, very tough to beat."
Monmouth Stakes: Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown returns to turf today in the $500,000 race (No. 9, 4:52 p.m.) at Monmouth Park. Rivals include 2007 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup winner Hotstufanthensome and Ballonenostrikes, runnerup in this year's edition of that race.