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Breeders' Cup Classic Notes - November 3
By Breeders' Cup
Drosselmeyer, To Honor and Serve – Both of trainer Bill Mott’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders galloped before the rain arrived Thursday morning and the Hall of Fame trainer seemed more than pleased with their progress since arriving here.
To Honor and Serve, who was considered a confirmed front-runner during his outstanding 2yo campaign, seems to have matured into a more patient stalker in the latter stages of his sophomore season.
He sat second after 4f in his last two races, both convincing victories going 1 1/8m. That’s where he’ll likely be on Saturday.
“There appears to be two obvious speed horses in the race, one being Uncle Mo and the other one being Mr. Baffert (Game On Dude),” Mott said. “Those are the two fastest horses in the race. Hopefully they’ll set a pretty good pace and we’ll be able to get good trips and be in the right position.”
To Honor and Serve was given three months off following his victories in the Remsen and Nashua as a 2yo. Mott took the Like Oak Plantation colt to Florida and immediately thrust him into a pair of distance races, the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby.
He was a “disappointing” third in both stakes, then a minor leg injury took the Bernardini colt out of Triple Crown contention. Mott gave him some time off and returned him this time in a sprint, the Amsterdam at Saratoga. It was his worst performance to date, but three weeks later he was back on track and won a third-level allowance at the Spa going 1 1/8m.
“I think because it (sprinting) might not be their best distance they’re going to get beat,” Mott said. “You go a mile and an eighth first time out of the box against horses that have been running all winter like we ran To Honor and Serve over the course of the winter – horses that had been at Calder and hadn’t missed a dance. They finish 1-2, so you’re still not sure. He couldn’t be doing any better right now.”
Mott knows he has a lot on the line in this race and it could make up for a lot of that winter/spring disappointment.
“If he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he’d be 3-year-old champion it seems to me,” Mott said. “These are all big ifs, but you’d have to say that would be as good as what (Derby winner) Animal Kingdom did, as good as what (Preakness winner) Shackleford did. If he beats (Belmont winner) Ruler On Ice, that’d be enough. The 3-year-old championship could well be determined by the Classic.”
Drosselmeyer, last year’s Belmont Stakes winner, is looking for only his second victory since the 2010 Belmont.
Flat Out – Trainer Scooter Dickey was asked his opinion of the competition going into Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“I suppose they’re all going to try to beat me,” he joked. “That’s about all I can say about that.”
Expounding upon the subject, Dickey offered this point of view, “I think it’s shaping up to be a really good race, I really do. None of us are really shadowing the other. We’ve all been beat by one or another and they’re all running real good right now, the ones that are in there. This year you have a lot of nice horses to choose from of who you like and who you think will run good.”
The 70-year-old trainer sent the 5yo son of Flatter through a 1 ¼m gallop under exercise rider Otto Aguilar at 6:10 a.m. Thursday, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner was on the muscle as usual.
“He tried to get away from him early, but Otto kept it under control,” Dickey said. “He settled down for him and galloped like a nice boy, but he was on the bit pretty good this morning. We’re ready.”
Jockey Alex Solis will be in the saddle aboard Flat Out Friday morning, and will deviate slightly from his usual routine.
“I told Alex we’d like to go at 6:30, but if I get to talk to him today and he wants to do it at 7, well, it’s fine with me,” Dickey said. “We’ll do it a little different, the same distance and all that, but Alex will let him gallop out pretty good down the stretch.”
Dickey said he would bet $20 that Churchill Downs clockers would time the move and call it a work.
“Let’s just call it galloping through the lane, that’s what I’m telling them,” he said. “Alex clucks to him a little bit and sees how he’s feeling, he’s done that every time. It’s just to get where he knows where he’s at with the horse.”
Game On Dude – The Bob Baffert-trained Classic contender galloped an easy 1m under exercise rider George Alvarez Thursday morning and there were no complaints regarding the 4yo son of Awesome Again.
“He’s a ‘plain Jane’,” Hall of Famer Baffert remarked. “He just goes around there nice and easy and does his job. He’s a really cool customer. He just gets around there like it's no big deal.”
The winner of the Goodwood Stakes has been going to the track after the break, and Baffert was railside to observe his activities.
Game On Dude headlines a string of nine runners for Baffert to send postward in Breeders’ Cup races on Friday and Saturday. Back at the barn, he told HRTV’s Scott Hazelton that prerace preparations were keeping everybody on their toes.
“It’s very busy,” Baffert said. “We get them out and change it up a little every day. So far everything is going smooth. This is definitely the most I’ve had at a single Breeders’ Cup. I think at Gulfstream we had seven, maybe eight, but it’s pretty busy here. Everybody’s hitting the ground well, so that’s the most important thing.”
Havre de Grace –The lone filly in the Classic continued to build the confidence of her connections Thursday. Trainer Larry Jones was all smiles after returning from a 1 ½m gallop and trip to the starting gate.
“I’m really glad we came over here when we did,” said Jones, who had trained Havre de Grace mostly at Keeneland before bringing her to Churchill last Saturday. “On Sunday, I could tell she wasn’t real sure of the surface and then she worked slow on Monday.
“I was like, ‘Oh no,’ because I know some horses just don’t like this track. She ran third last year (in the Ladies’ Classic), so I thought she liked this track. The last two days, she’s really gotten over the track well, especially today. She was perfect getting over it.”
Headache – Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have started 16 Breeders’ Cup horses, with their lone win coming with the longshot Furthest Land in the 2009 Dirt Mile run over Santa Anita’s synthetic surface. They’re slated to run five horses over the course of this year’s event, including their fourth Classic starter in Headache.
The owners’ best previous Classic finish came in 2004 when Roses in May finished second. They’ve also run Catienus (13th in 1999), Pleasant Prince (9th in 2010).
Ice Box – Trainer Nick Zito sent Ice Box to the track for a 1 1/2m gallop under Carlos Correa Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Ice Box is 30-1 in the morning line for the Classic, but his Hall of Fame trainer said no one should be surprised that he dares to aim high with a horse that might be discounted by bettors.
“For that amount of money, we’re in the game – that’s how we’ve done it. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t have run Birdstone at 37-1 against Smarty Jones; I wouldn’t have run Da’ Tara at 39-1 against Big Brown,” said Zito referring to his 2004 and 2008 Belmont Stakes winners. “That’s how we’ve been doing it, and Ice Box was 20-1 when he won the Florida Derby. It’s the way I do it. Right or wrong?”
Rattlesnake Bridge – The 3yo son of Tapit galloped 1 1/4m under Rob Massey at Churchill Downs Thursday.
Rattlesnake Bridge, who finished second behind Stay Thirsty in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, will be ridden by Calvin Borel for the first time.
“Hopefully, he’s last going into the first turn, saving ground under Calvin Borel,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “That’s why we named (Borel) on him. So we hope that happens and he can work his way by a lot of them through the lane.”
Ruler On Ice – After one day away from his stable star, trainer Kelly Breen was very pleased with what he saw as he watched the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner gallop 1 1/2m Thursday. Breen, who had gone back to his New Jersey base for a day, was happy to see the rain, but doesn’t think Ruler On Ice needs an off track for a top performance even though two of three career wins have come in the slop.
“I wish the rain would have held off another 48 hours, but at the same time, I don’t think he needs it,” said Breen. “He seems to really like this track. We haven’t had any bad antics from him and he’s actually done quite well. We know he does well at home (at Monmouth Park), but we’re very pleased with him here.
“Everything is out of our control, but I think if he tries with his whole heart, he fits right in with these horses. He’s had a little attitude. I don’t think he’s changed mentally. We’ve just learned to work with him better.”
So You Think – Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien went to the quarantine barn Thursday morning to see his Classic challenger So You Think, who is likely to be seen on the track Friday morning.
“I am very happy with the horse. We had several options for him and we decided on the Classic,” O’Brien told the gathering media outside the barn.
“He is a very relaxed horse in his races and sometimes can become too relaxed so we put a pair of blinkers on him in a piece of work at home just to try and make him concentrate a little bit more.”
So You Think will run with ‘blinkers on’ for the first time since Nov. 7, 2009, in a race at Flemington in Australia.
Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo – If there is one thing that trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole agree upon (and there are actually many), it’s that one of their Classic runners could also be running for an Eclipse Award.
“I think the 3-year-old championship is definitely up for grabs,” Pletcher said after sending both colts out for 1 1/4m gallops Thursday before the rain came at Churchill Downs. “I think certainly if Stay Thirsty or Uncle Mo were to win they’d make a very good case for themselves. It’s sort of been one of those years when some horses have had a hard time putting together a lot of victories, so this one’s going to carry monumental weight I would think.”
There were three winners of Triple Crown races this year and only Belmont Stakes champion Ruler On Ice is entered in the Classic. Stay Thirsty won the Gotham, Jim Dandy and Travers among his seven starts this season. Uncle Mo, who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby and missed all three races, has the Timely Writer and Kelso on his resume from only four starts.
“I think that Uncle Mo has to win this race to be 3-year-old of the year,” Repole said. “I think To Honor and Serve has to win this race to be 3-year-old of the year and I think Ruler On Ice has to win this race to be 3-year-old of the year. I think if Stay Thirsty comes in second or third and loses to an older horse, I think he’s going to have a very good shot at winning it.”
Older horses have won the last two editions of the Classic, but 3yo competitors have been successful nine times in the showpiece’s history, the last coming from Raven’s Pass in 2008.
“Tizway’s defection has made a dent (in the older division),” Pletcher said. “Flat Out’s been consistent all summer and fall. Maybe it lacks a little bit of the depth we’ll see in it sometimes.”
Uncle Mo was pre-entered in both the Dirt Mile and Classic, but Pletcher decided on the Classic despite having lost at 1 1/8m in the Wood Memorial. Shortly thereafter and just before the Kentucky Derby, the son of Indian Charlie came down with a liver ailment later diagnosed as cholangiohepatitis. He returned to the races in late August.
Repole and Pletcher agreed on the decision to try the Classic, but he couldn’t resist pumping up his 2010 Juvenile winner had he gone in the Dirt Mile.
“I think Uncle Mo would beat Frankel in a one-mile race,” Repole boasted. “…. on dirt, on dirt.”