The Breeders' Cup at the Santa Anita Racetrack in California draws some of the world's fastest thoroughbreds to compete for $1 million in prize money.
And metro-east men own a 5-year-old gray gelding who this year qualified to run at Santa Anita.
"It's the biggest race event of the year," said Bob Santanello, of Freeburg. "It's a whole gamut of races: older horses, younger horses, dirt horses, turf horses."
The Breeders' Cup features 14 races and more than $24 million in purses. Santanello's horse, Taptowne, will run the dirt mile against horses older than 3.
"This is the best of racing as far as the U.S. is concerned," Santanello said. "There are quite a few horses who ship in from Europe and elsewhere to run in the Breeders' Cup. These are the champions from everywhere. Most of the horses who ship in from out of the country are turf horses. Taptowne is a dirt horse."
Taptowne is the progeny of thoroughbred stallion Tapit and a mare owned by Santanello, Holly's Wager. Santanello, who is a former real estate broker and owner of Santanello and Associates, once owned Clovertowne Farm on Town Hall Road in Belleville, but moved the breeding and training operation to Kentucky.
"We sold the farm because Illinois racing hasn't been doing that well," he said. "We moved our stock to Kentucky. It's beautiful down there. Lexington is the premiere area for racing. It's the old horsemen's capital and there's nothing else like it."
Since he started racing as a 2-year-old, Taptowne has earned $552,599. He has won six races out of 28 starts. He came in second seven times and third three times.
"He was a really nice horse as a 4-year-old," Santanello said. "We had several offers to buy him as a 4-year-old, offers over $100,000, but we rejected those offers and decided to keep him."
Santanello, former St. Clair County regional superintendent of schools Jed Deets, Brian Randall of Belleville and Tim Spivey, a former Belleville resident who now lives in Florida, all own a stake in Taptowne.
Taptowne lives in Kentucky and trains at Churchill Downs, but, on Sunday, he boarded a plane and headed to California to run in the Breeders' Cup. He walked the track Monday morning and spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday galloping.
Santanello has been involved with racehorses for nearly 40 years and this is the first time one of his horses has been invited to race in the Breeders' Cup.
"We're going to be there and we are nervous," Santanello added.
His race is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. PDT, which means he'll break from the gate about 5:05 p.m. CST Friday in a 13-horse field.
Tim Glyshaw is Taptowne's trainer, and his jockey for the Breeders' Cup will be Brian Hernandez. Hernandez and Taptowne will be wearing Clover Towne Farm's silks: Plum on the top, lime green on the bottom with a green clover leaf.
"He (Hernandez) worked the horse and got the fastest work the other day at Churchill Downs," Santanello said.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at email@example.com or 618-239-2667.