Welcome to the Rubic's Cube of horse races, better known as the 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Go ahead; just try to figure this one out.
Actually, there are a few key questions, and all you have to do is answer each one correctly and you'll stand a fighting chance of solving this perplexing puzzle.
First the 3-year-olds. How will Came Home, War Emblem, and Medaglia d'Oro handle a nine-week layoff? No Classic winner has ever gone into the race off such a long layoff. Will War Emblem be able to get an uncontested lead, especially with a fresh E Dubai? And if not, can he win without one? Considering Came Home's only two career defeats--both out-of-the-money performances--have come outside California, how effective will he be hitting the road again? And which of his 1 1/4-mile races was the fluke, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) or the Pacific Classic (gr. I)? How effective will Harlan's Holiday be going 1 1/4 miles around two turns? Can Perfect Drift jump up to 1 1/4 miles off a 1 1/16-mile stakes victory at Hoosier Park, his first start since his Belmont Stakes (gr. I) debacle? Can Hawk Wing and/or Rock of Gibraltar handle the dirt?
OK, got that part figured out? Now for the older horses. Speaking of E Dubai, what is he going to do coming off a 16-week layoff and an injured foot? Do you forgive Frank Stronach's two horses, Milwaukee Brew and Macho Uno, for their disappointing efforts last time out or do you look elsewhere? Will Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Evening Attire be as effective over a fast track as he is over a wet one? Can Dollar Bill and Momentum finally find the winner's circle or have they forgotten where it is?
There are two ways to look at this year's Classic. You can say it's a sub-par field and not delve any deeper. Or you can be uplifting and optimistic, and say it's a great betting race with some exciting young horses that can elevate themselves to a much higher level with a victory. If Kentucky Derby, Preakness (gr. I), and Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner War Emblem, or Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Pacific Classic, and Swaps (gr. II) winner Came Home, or Travers (gr. I) and Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner Medaglia d'Oro emerge victorious, will anyone question their place among the top 3-year-olds of the past 20 years?
If Rock of Gibraltar wins, will he not go down as one of the most remarkable horses of the modern era? If Hawk Wing wins would he not be a true international champion, not to mention the avenger of Giant's Causeway?
If the rapidly improving Evening Attire wins, will anyone question the possibility that stardom awaits him next year?
And for your super duper longshot special, how about Volponi, who has switched surfaces seven times in his career. He's the most versatile horse in the field, running short or long, on dirt and grass, with equal prowess.
So, just because you don't see any stars up there now doesn't mean there won't be one shining brightly on the night of Oct. 26.