11/05/2011 03:18 AM
November 3, 2011
1 ¼ miles; $5 million; 3up; Saturday, Nov. 5th at 7:00 p.m.
You knew this race was aptly named after the stretch run of the inaugural running when eventual winner Wild Again played bumper cars along with Slew o’ Gold and Gate Dancer. Ferdinand won the battle of the Kentucky Derby winners over Alysheba in 1987 before Alysheba claimed his own classic Victory the following year.
In the final chapter of their brief, yet intense rivalry, Sunday Silence held off the desperate surge of Easy Goer to win in 1989. Jerry Bailey won three in a row, starting in 1993 with Arcangues, the longest priced winner in Breeders’ Cup history and ending with the great Cigar in 1995 who capped a perfect 10 for 10 season with a fantastic score. Awesome Again split rivals in deep stretch to win a wild one in 1998 over Silver Charm and Swain.
Tiznow gutted out two of the greatest wins over a pair of tough Europeans in 2000 and 2001, making his trainer Jay Robbins and the great Charlie Whittingham the only two time winners of the race.
Volponi blew up the toteboard, then the Pick 6 scandal, in 2002 with his win at 43-1.Ghostzapper set the stakes record with a gate-to-wire, tour de force victory in 2004. Curlin capped his Horse of the Year campaign in 2007 with a win before finishing fourth as the sports leading money winner in 2008.
Finally, the great Zenyatta kept the undefeated dream alive with a remarkable last-to-first run in 2009 before falling a head short of Blame in last years renewal and finishing he career with 19 wins from 20 starts.
The Classic indeed!!!!
Favorites: 8 for 27 (29%)
Shortest: $3.40 (Cigar, 1995)
Highest: $269.20 (Arcangues, 1993) *Highest price in history of the Breeders’ Cup*
Average win price: $29.00
The role of 5-2 morning line favorite rests on the shoulders of UNCLE MO. In one of the more remarkable stories of the past decade, it’s amazing the Uncle Mo is even around to run in the Breeders’ Cup, let alone come into the race as the favorite and with a more than reasonable chance at winning.
After capping off an undefeated juvenile season with a crushing 4 ½ length score in the Juvenile, the next several months after are a mystery. Questions like “did he have ankle surgery to remove chips?, was he pin-fired?, was he sick?” were all questions that arose when he returned in the Timely Writer at Gulfstream, an overnight stakes that took the place of what was supposed to be his return, the G2 Tampa Bay Derby.
He didn’t look like the Uncle Mo people remembered from 2010 but he sure ran like him, galloping home almost four lengths ahead of his overmatched rivals while galloping out strongly after the mile affair. In the G1 Wood Memorial, what was supposed to be his final prep for the G1 Kentucky Derby, the rumors gained momentum as he tired in the final furlong after setting a strong pace throughout to finish third. And though he shipped to Kentucky for the Derby and was entered, he was scratched the day before the race when things just didn’t seem right.
The next few months would be critical in the survival of Uncle Mo. He was sent to WinStar farm to get evaluated and recuperate from what turned out to be a rare liver ailment and, after it was rumored he was at death’s door, starting gaining weight and resumed training.
The G1 King’s Bishop was the site of his return up at Saratoga and it looked like he was going to win but got nailed in the last couple of strides by Caleb’s Posse. There would be no doubts in the G2 Kelso however as John Velazquez put him on the lead, held off a middle move by Sprint contender Jackson Bend, and drew off to a three length win, stopping the clock in 1:33 4/5 over a muddy Belmont Park strip for trainer Todd Pletcher.
In recent days, many have questioned his fitness, have knocked his training style and continue to question his ability to get this trip. While they are all valid gripes, the great ones overcome these adversities. He’ll answer the question of his greatness, one way or another, come Saturday.
I must say, especially in the age where fillies like Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have proved that when you’re great in this sport gender really doesn’t matter, I was surprised that HAVRE DE GRACE was not made the morning line favorite, because on paper no one in this field has accomplished more this season.
Starting her year with a romp in the G3 Azeri at Oaklawn, Havre de Grace came back to win the G1 Apple Blossom by the easiest ¾ of a length you’ll ever see. Her brilliance was on display again when she won the G3 Obeah, the local Delaware Park prep for their signature event, the G2 Delaware Park Handicap which was shaping up to be yet another showdown between Havre de Grace and archrival Blind Luck. They didn’t disappoint.
In what some have called one of the greatest races they’ve ever seen, the two powerful fillies hooked up at the quarter pole and weren’t separated by more than a half length with Blind Luck getting her nose down on the wire, making Havre de Grace winless in both starts at this distance.
Havre de Grace took on the boys in the G1 Woodward and rallied from mid-pack to win by 1 ¼ lengths before cruising to an 8 ¼ length romp in the G1 Beldame over a muddy track at Belmont last out. She finished third in the Ladies’ Classic last year for former trainer Tony Dutrow before being transferred to current trainer Larry Jones. Ramon Dominguez will ride from post 9.
The Classic will be a bit of a homecoming for FLAT OUT as he’s stabled at Churchill most of the year though he’s finished off the board in both of his starts under the famed twin spires for his trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey.
Quarter cracks have plagued Flat Out for most of his career, but it seems he’s finally overcome them and has turned the corner. Since a sixth place finish in the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill, Flat Out has raced exclusively in New York. It must be true what they say about the water, because it’s like he’s turned into a different horse, especially at Belmont. In his first start in the Empire State, Flat Out rolled to a convincing 6 ½ length score in the G2 Suburban back in July and just last out took the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in by a workmanlike 2 ¼ lengths over several rivals he’ll face again in here in his lone start at the Classic distance.
In two starts at Saratoga in between his Belmont wins, Flat Out finished second to the recently retired, one time Classic contender Tizway in the G1 Whitney before a runner-up finish to Havre de Grace in the Woodward. Much to the chagrin of Dickey, Flat Out will break from post 1 under Alex Solis, who won this in 2003 aboard Pleasantly Perfect, after Prayer for Relief was forced to scratch out of the Classic due to a fever.
One thing that is missing from the resume of international training superstar Aidan O’Brien is a Classic victory and this year he’ll try and scratch it off his bucket list by sending out 1 ¼ specialist SO YOU THINK.
O’Brien is adding both Lasix and blinkers to So You Think who’s coming into this off of a pair of defeats, the only time that’s happened in his career. Overall, he’s seven for nine at the distance, though all of his races have come on the turf. His pedigree doesn’t necessarily suggest he’s crying out to run on dirt, but his build and affinity for the distance should help his cause. Combine that with the fact that every contender in here have their own questions to ask, this might be O’Brien’s’ best shot to win one of these.
So You Think began his career in Australia, where he won six G1 races including the prestigious Cox Plate in both 2009 and 2010 before winning a pair of G1s this year in Europe. Ryan Moore rides from post 4.
GAME ON DUDE would certainly have to be considered a Horse of the Year candidate should he win the Classic. Like Drosselmeyer, Game On Dude was shelved after finishing fourth in last years Belmont and returned in January to win a second level optional claimer from just off the pace.
In one of the more controversial races of the year, Game On Dude gutted out a nose victory, then survived a 17 minute inquiry to win the G1 Santa Anita Handicap in his first start under Chantal Sutherland. He’d go winless in his next four races, finishing second in the G3 Charles Town Classic and in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup by a nose.
A fourth place finish in the G1 Pacific Classic off a brief layoff was followed by a ½ length score in the G1 Goodwood last out where he set early fractions before holding off a late rally of the nine-year-old Awesome Gem for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. His work this past weekend, which was supposed to be in company, turned out to be more of a trial race as the two Baffert workers came across two more workers and it forced Game On Dude extremely wide but also made him rate and actually close ground in the stretch. That could help him avoid a likely speed duel in here. He’ll break from post 7.
STAY THIRSTY, like Game On Dude, wave to be given a long look in regards to the top Eclipse honor should he find a way to mildly upset this field. In the shadow of Uncle Mo throughout most of his career, Stay Thirsty really stepped up to field his stablemates void since finishing twelfth in the Kentucky Derby.
His second place finish in the Belmont by less than a length might have turned into a victory had he not been stuck down along a dead rail. Upon returning to arguably his favorite track, Saratoga, Stay Thirsty put in two top notch efforts, winning the G2 Jim Dandy by a comfortable three lengths before turning in one of the best efforts in the G1 Travers in recent memory, overcoming a slight bobble at the break to run hard every step of the way en route to a 1 ¼ length victory for Pletcher.
Last out in the Jockey Cub Gold Cup, he raced a few lengths off the pace and held well to finish third despite not appearing to handle the muddy track, sentiments echoed by his regular rider Javier Castellano after the race. Castellano piloted Ghostzapper to a stakes record setting win in the 2004 renewal of this race. Stay Thirsty will break from post 8 and has been rumored to be training much better than his more popular stablemate
Much like last season, TO HONOR AND SERVE seems to be getting good at the right time. Last fall, To Honor and serve won the last three starts of his juvenile campaign in autumn, including the G2 Nashua and G2 Remsen in easy fashion at Aqueduct.
When he returned this year from a three month layoff in the G2 Fountain of Youth, To Honor and Serve tired after making a solid middle move into eventual winner Soldat and followed that effort up with a third place finish in the G1 Florida Derby after receiving a curious ride. It was discovered he had a slight suspensory injury after that race and was forced to miss the Triple Crown races.
He attended a fast early pace in the G2 Amsterdam going 6 ½ furlongs at Saratoga before tiring late then came back with an authoritative 8 ½ length score in an optional claimer. Last out, To Honor and Serve rolled home to a 2 ¼ length, track record setting score in the G2 Pennsylvania Derby for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won this back in 1995 with the incomparable Cigar. Jose Lezcano returns from post 11.
Another sent out by Mott is DROSSELMEYER, who’s been victorious in just one of his six starts since capturing the 2010 G1 Belmont Stakes. That win came in a minor stakes at Belmont, a prep for the G2 Brooklyn in his third start off an extended layoff, a race he finished second in to loose-on-the-lead stablemate and Marathon contender Birdrun.
Earlier this year he was off the board in his return, the G3 Skip Away and finished last in the G1 Sword Dancer on the turf. Last out, he raced inside early on, a place he doesn’t like to be before swinging wide on the turn to make up a good chunk of ground to be second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Drosselmeyer, who’s trained brilliantly since his Churchill return, the track he broke his maiden over, will be reunited with Mike Smith, who rode him in the Belmont. Smith, who won the 1997 Classic with Skip Away and of course piloted the amazing Zenyatta to her 2009 score against the boys, should be able to overcome their inside, post 2 draw.
RULER ON ICE parlayed his love of wet tracks into the biggest win of his career when he sat just off the pace en route to his upset of the Belmont Stakes back in June when he raced in blinkers for the first time for trainer Kelly Breen.
In his three subsequent starts, Ruler On Ice has been a bit further of the pace, with a third place finish in the G1 Haskell coming before he seemed to fire his best shot when fourth in the Travers. Last out in the Pennsylvania Derby, Ruler On Ice was taken further back than he had ever been in his career and responded with a hard charging second place finish in his first start under Garrett Gomez. Gomez is back aboard in here from post 3 and is looking for back to back Classic scores having been aboard Blame in his win over Zenyatta in one of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport.
HEADACHE has turned it up a notch in the past six months, winning three of his four starts with his lone defeat coming in the Whitney where he completely missed the break and found some traffic trouble on the far turn before winding up fifth.
In his two starts before the Whitney, Headache defeated optional claimers by 7 ½ lengths at Churchill before shipping in the Prairie Meadows to capture the G3 Cornhusker by 2 ½ lengths over Awesome Gem. In his last start, Headache rallied from far back into an ordinary pace to win the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup by a ½ length in a field that included Marathon runners Cease and Giant Oak.
A former claimer, Headache has run 26 times, most for trainer Mike Maker, is three for seven with a second and third over the course and has hit the board in all three of his starts at the distance, including that win last out. Paco Lopez rides from post 10.
RATTLESNAKE BRIDGE was a late arrival to the dance, seemingly coming from nowhere as a last minute pre entry. Eligible for a second level allowance contest, Rattlesnake Bridge owns just a maiden score and neck victory in the Long Branch at Monmouth as far as the win column is concerned but has hit the board in several graded stakes and did finish second to Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer.
In his most recent efforts, Rattlesnake Bridge closed from the back of the pack to come within a 1 ¼ lengths of winning the Travers before tiring a bit after coming with a wide run on the far turn to end up third in the Pennsylvania Derby. Calvin Borel rides for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won this in 2006 with Invasor, from post 6
ICE BOX hasn’t come close to repeating his efforts in the 2010 G1 Florida Derby or Kentucky Derby, races he won by a nose and finished second by 2 ½ lengths with a troubled trip, for Hall of Famer Nick Zito.
In fact in seven starts since the Derby, he’s manages to hit the board just once in an optional claimer at Saratoga three starts back. He beat just two horses in the Woodward before finishing dead last in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last out. Corey Nakatani rides from post 5.
Front Runners: Game On Dude, Stay Thirsty, To Honor and Serve, Uncle Mo
Mid-pack: Havre de Grace, So You Think
Closers: Drosselmeyer, Flat Out, Headache, Rattlesnake Bridge, Ruler On Ice, Ice Box
I feel that every favorite has a serious question to answer, so this one appears to be up for grabs. A spread, especially in all multi-race exotics is suggested.
Headache should be a crazy price and could come running late at what figures to be a fast pace. If it falls apart, stranger things have happened. 25-1 or better is adequate.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: