Steve Haskin's Classic Preview: A Perfect Final Prep

Steve Haskin's Classic Preview: A Perfect Final Prep
Photo: AP/Jim McKnight<p>
Travers winner Medaglia d'Oro worked Tuesday in preparation for the Classic.
Well, this is it, like it or not. With the exception of the Ballydoyle representative, if any, the field for the Breeders' Cup Classic is pretty much set. John Amerman, owner of Lido Palace said Tuesday he will not put up the $800,000 to supplement. "Financially, it makes no sense," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "We'll have a good horse for next year."

Amerman added, "Looking at his (speed) sheets numbers for the Gold Cup, I think we'd have a very good shot in the Classic. On the other hand I have to look at some facts. The stretch at Arlington is short and our horse is a grinder who runs you down, and the shorter the stretch, the more difficult it becomes. You can draw a bad post, and what happens then? The only horse to supplement for $800,000 was Gentlemen, and he bled and finished last.

"The important thing is that the Breeders' Cup and the NTRA have changed the name to World Thoroughbred Championships, and that has stuck in my craw. I accept anybody's rules, but on the other hand, when they call themselves the World Thoroughbred Championships and then have rules that preclude any horse from the Southern Hemisphere running in the races, it seems to me that's wrong. When I bought the horse I didn't dream of the consequences of the Breeders' Cup. Anyway, it was a close call, but it became a matter of principle. We're going to continue campaigning Lido Palace and sit and watch the race and say, 'Gee, what might have been.' We're looking at the Clark Handicap at Churchill."

It's been said how decimated the crop of older horses is, and that this is one of the weaker groups of older horses in the history of the Breeders' Cup Classic. The latter statement may or may not be true, but when one looks hard enough, perhaps this division is not quite as decimated as people think.

Sure, we've lost the Whitney and Stephen Foster winners, but there was no guarantee by any means that Left Bank would have been as effective going 1 1/4 miles. When you get down to it, we do have the Santa Anita Handicap and Californian winner; the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Saratoga Breeders' Cup winner; The Goodwood Breeders' Cup winner; the Suburban Handicap winner; the Massachusetts Handicap winner; and the Hollywood Gold Cup runner-up (by a nose). How good they are will be determined on Oct. 26.

Trainer Phil Johnson told Daily Racing Form he is leaning toward the Classic with Meadowlands Cup runner-up Volponi, who has been racing mostly on grass this year.

What may be lacking in the older horse division certainly is made up for in the 3-year-old division. It is a rarity to have the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Travers, Santa Anita Derby, Haskell Invitational, Florida Derby, Blue Grass, Louisiana Derby, and Pennsylvania Derby all pointing for the Classic. And you already have had a 3-year-old – Came Home – knock off the older horses in the Pacific Classic. And we still haven't found out who Ballydoyle will be sending. There's a chance we'll either get the dual classic winner Rock of Gibraltar, winner of a record seven straight group I races, or Eclipse Stakes winner Hawk Wing, runner-up in the English Derby, 2,000 Guineas, Irish Champion Stakes, and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

One of the more intriguing Classic horses emerged this past weekend. With racing fans starving for a monster performance in any the major preps, Pleasantly Perfect delivered big-time in Sunday's Goodwood Breeders' Cup. True, he wasn't meeting a top-class field, and he will have to pick up 11 pounds in the Classic, but this son of Pleasant colony is getting good so quickly we really have no idea just what we're dealing with.

When Alex Solis pulled the trigger nearing the half-mile pole, Pleasantly Perfect took off, circling horses, then inhaled the leaders in a matter of a few strides. He quickly drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:46 4/5, closing his final five furlongs in a blistering :59 1/5.

This is a big, powerful colt, with the pedigree to run all day. And it is well documented that the Pleasant Colonys get good later in their careers. This is a horse who once used to get so exhausted from his gallops, trainer Dick Mandella said he would come back as if he had galloped 10 miles. It was learned he had a virus that had affected his heart, causing it to swell. Each time he exercised, his heart rate actually would go down. Once that was taken care of, he began to improve at a rapid clip, and appears to be peaking right in time for the Classic.

The runner-up in the Goodwood was Momentum, whose trainer Craig Dollase attributes his string of defeats, all solid efforts, to quarter crack problems. Dollase said he missed some time with Momentum prior to the Goodwood because of the quarter cracks, and was pleased with the colt's effort.

Pleasantly Perfect and Momentum are scheduled to fly to Chicago on Oct. 19 with the first Tex Sutton shipment of Breeders' Cup horses. They will join Macho Uno, who is already on the grounds, having competed in the Washington Park Handicap. Trainer Joe Orseno said Macho Uno, who had not run since the Whitney in early August, had virtually no training going into the race, only a pair of slow breezes. He is expecting a much better performance in the Classic with that race under him.

On Monday, Oct. 21, Frankel ships to Arlington with Medaglia d'Oro and Milwaukee Brew, along with five or six other horses. Frankel said Medaglia d'Oro's coat is shining, and he "looks out of this world." The son of El Prado turned in a sharp six-furlong work in 1:13 Tuesday. "He worked great," Frankel said. "He went his first three-eighths in :38 and came home his final three-eighths in :35, galloping out seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5. I'll probably give him two more five-furlong works before shipping to Arlington."

Also on that flight from New York will be Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Evening Attire. Trainer Pat Kelly had originally planned to arrive on Oct. 16, but Frankel, who was booked on that flight, decided to stay in New York a little longer to work his horses at Belmont on the 19th or 20th. With Frankel's 6-8 horses off that early flight, Tex Sutton decided to cancel it and go on the 21st.

On Oct. 22, the Ballydoyle horses of Aidan O'Brien arrive from Ireland. The following day is a busy one for Tex Sutton. They will pick up War Emblem and Came Home in the wee hours, along with several other California-based horses, and arrive at Arlington at 10 a.m. Then it's off to New York to get Harlan's Holiday and a large group of Belmont-based horses. They are expected to arrive at Arlington between 2 and 3 p.m.

Then it's back to New York, where they'll stay overnight, then bring E Dubai and the rest of the Belmont-based Godolphin horses the morning of the 24th.

Repent and Dollar Bill will be vanning to Arlington from Kentucky, where they both have been stabled.

Trainer Shug McGaughey still hasn't ruled out the Classic for Kentucky Cup Classic winner Pure Prize, but said it is 80-20 right now that he won't run.

William Hills in England has Medaglia d'Oro and War Emblem listed as 5-1 co-favorites, with Evening Attire 7-1 and Came Home 8-1. They quote Hawk Wing at 12-1, along with Harlan's Holiday, Macho Uno, Pleasantly Perfect, and Repent.

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