Flat Out, Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve, all three members of trainer Bill Mott's Breeders' Cup Classic team, galloped about 1 1/4 miles on the main track at Santa Anita Wednesday morning.
Mott is in the rare situation of saddling three starters in America's biggest race. The late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel had three starters in 1993.
Flat Out is owned by Preston Stables and was transferred to Mott's care this year. Ron the Greek was moved to Mott's stable late last year by the ownership group of Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer. To Honor and Serve, owned by Live Oak Plantation, has been with Mott throughout his three-season, 16-race career.
"We train them all as individuals and we want to give each horse their best chance," Mott said. "All three horses are trained for different owners and all three horses have earned their way into this race. Actually, two of them (Ron the Greek and Flat Out) have won 'Win and You're In' races. Their fees are already paid.
"To Honor and Serve is not one of those, but he won the Grade 1 Woodward and proved that he is top-class. He won the (Grade 1) Cigar Mile last year. He's a very good horse in his own right.
"We've got three horses that we can really make a strong case for running in the race. Not that I look to run against myself and normally on a day-to-day basis we don't do that. On the championship day, when it boils down to the biggest race of the year, you just have to do that and may the best horse win. Hopefully, one of them is good enough to win the race."
Ron the Greek is the only one of Mott's Classic horses to compete at Santa Anita. Mott sent him to California from Florida in late winter and the Full Mandate five-year-old won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths. It was a doubly important win because it set him up for the Classic.
"When Ron the Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap last spring we were excited, of course, knowing that the Breeders' Cup was going to be run here this fall," Mott said. "It's a good sign when they've run the distance and they've run over the track. That's one hurdle out of the way that he's already handled. He's doing good.
"I know they've changed the racetrack here a little bit in the last few months and have added a little sand. It's probably not exactly the same racetrack surface that he won over, but I'm sure it's somewhat similar.
"'Ron' seems to be happy out here. He's doing well. He's galloping good over this surface right now. He seems to be happy to be back in California."
Mott's defending Ladies' Classic champion Royal Delta also galloped about 1 1/4 miles on the main track Wednesday morning. The daughter of Empire Maker was pre-entered this year to both the Ladies' Classic and Classic. It was decided that she would stay in her own division rather than tackle males in the Classic.
"Our original plan was to run in the Ladies' Classic," Mott said. "Looking at the competition in there, it's very competitive in both races. I felt that running against the girls was probably the way to go. I guess it's probably a conservative approach, but we have discussed Royal Delta running next year and discussed long ago that if she were doing well (next year) to run her in the Classic.
"I think that is a valid plan. You never know how many races a horse has left in them, but she's going to be a five-year-old next year, and if you're going to reach out a little bit, there's no reason not to do it at that time. She'll be a little older, and if she's in as good a form as she is now, I think we'd be more than happy to take a shot.
"But the fact is that this isn't going to be her last race, and we have another chance to do that."
Mott acknowledged that racing is something of a "now business," so full of uncertainties and variables that horsemen often don't pass on an immediate challenge with a healthy and sound horse.
"There's something to be said about that. But it's not like we're going over there and running for peanuts," he said. "We're running for a very important race, and I would think that if she would run well in the Ladies' Classic, if she were lucky enough to win another one, she sews up another (Eclipse Award) championship. That, for me, would be wonderful."
Mott said that the filly is recovering nicely from the small cut on her right rear that she suffered while being shipped from Newburgh, New York, on Monday. Royal Delta was slightly injured when she was being backed into her stall on the plane.
"Everything is still good. She's feeling very good," Mott said. "The wound looks good. It's a non-issue."
Trainer Bob Baffert is running 10 horses in the Breeders' Cup this weekend, so you need a program just to work your way through his stable list. But if you want to refer to his Breeders' Cup Classic hopeful Game on Dude, the morning-line favorite, you simply have to ask about "the big horse."
Wednesday morning "the big horse" was out for a good gallop with the Baffert stable's first Breeders' Cup set at 7:45 a.m. with regular exercise rider Dana Barnes up. Baffert took a break from those duties to watch "the big horse" and his stablemates train from a location along the Santa Anita grandstand terrace.
The Hall of Fame trainer was asked if he would be giving rider Rafael Bejarano any special instructions prior to Game on Dude loading into the gate Saturday afternoon.
"Naw," Baffert said, "he knows the horse. You've got to remember, he's been working him all along, just like he works a lot of my horses. He knows him better than most anyone. He used to give (jockey) Chantal (Sutherland, who was the horse's regular rider prior to Bejarano taking over for his most recent start) instructions and help with him when she was riding.
"(Bejarano) is a real team player. Even when he wasn't riding him, he was willing to help out. How about that -- you've got the leading rider around here and he's willing to put his ego aside and be part of our team."
Pool Play may be the 30-1 co-long shot in the Classic field, but the Silver Deputy seven-year-old has looked so good out on the track in the mornings that he's turning heads and creating a bit of buzz on social media sites and at Clockers' Corner.
"He is getting some good reviews. Knock on wood, he's coming up to this race really good. I think he's peaking just at the right time," said trainer Mark Casse, who has saddled 10 Breeders' Cup horses but never one in the Classic. "I think people are underestimating him."
Casse sent Pool Play out for a 1 1/2-mile gallop on Wednesday morning with owner Bill Farish looking on. While the other four hopefuls in Casse's contingent of World Championships contenders were schooled at the gate, the dark bay got to play hooky.
"He's an old pro. He doesn't need to go," Casse said. "He knows what to do."
To ensure that the Santa Anita paddock was familiar come race day, Pool Play was scheduled to accompany his stablemates to the paddock for schooling Wednesday and Thursday.
Trainer Ron McAnally watched Suggestive Boy gallop 1 1/2 miles under regular exercise rider Juan Vasquez on Wednesday morning and when he runs in Saturday's Mile, he will be the Hall of Fame trainer's 31st Breeders' Cup starter dating back to the inaugural running in 1984.
Moreover, Suggestive Boy is an Argentine-bred and no other North American trainer, arguably, has enjoyed more success with horses brought from that country than McAnally. Bayakoa was the back-to-back winner of the Distaff in 1989-90 and Paseana earned the blanket of flowers in the 1992 edition of the same race. The pair of champion Argentine-bred mares account for three of McAnally's four Breeders' Cup winners.
"I sure have had a lot of good ones from Argentina," said McAnally, now 80 years old. "They can all really run."
Classic contender Fort Larned, whom owner Janis R. Whitam bred in Kentucky, is a grandson of Bayakoa and she was campaigned by Whitam with her late husband, Frank. Fort Larned is being bedded down in the barn of McAnally, who also trained his dam.
"It will be very nice to have Bayakoa's grandson in my barn," McAnally said. "It's nice to keep the family tradition going."
McAnally is among those who are considering this edition of the Mile the toughest of all 15 Breeders' Cup races, but he knows his horse will be ready when the gate opens.
"He's as good as he's ever been," he said. "He's ready."
Shackleford made another fine appearance Wednesday and has his trainer Dale Romans thinking he's sitting on a big effort as he attempts to avenge his loss in last year's Dirt Mile.
"He couldn't be training any better," Romans said. "I've never seen him train better."
While it is likely the Dirt Mile will be the last race of Shackleford's career, it is not a certainty according to his trainer.
"We'll have to see what happens this weekend," Romans said. "We could go in the (Grade 1) Cigar Mile or that race at Churchill (Grade 1 Clark Handicap). It would be nice to send him out with a bang for his owners and fans."
Shackleford has developed quite a following since winning the 2011 Preakness and last Saturday nearly 100 fans came by the barn to see the Forestry colt on invitation by his connections.
"We had a lot more people than I expected," Romans said. "I think the fans have been attracted to him because he's so tough. He's shown up at every dance. And, he's such a good looking horse. All the good horses have funny characteristics that people latch on to. We were happy to have all the people come to see him. The fans are the backbone of this business."
In other Breeders' Cup news:
Trainer John Shirreffs was forced to declare Nereid from the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Wednesday.
"She is off in her right hind," Shirreffs said. "She had already come over (Tuesday from Hollywood Park). She must have kicked the wall or something. The injury is very minor but came at the worst possible time."
Fort Larned was ridden in the shedrow at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning before departing to Louisville International Airport and a flight to Southern California.
"He's on the plane," said trainer Ian Wilkes, who flew to California on Tuesday. "We will see how he is the morning and go from there (with regard to Thursday training)."
The Tex Sutton charter, which left Louisville at 11:16 a.m. (ET) was scheduled to land at Ontario Airport shortly before noon (PDT).
Fellow Classic entrants Brilliant Speed and Mucho Macho Man were also aboard Tex Sutton flight headed to California on Wednesday. Brilliant Speed was scheduled to arrive in California around noon on Wednesday while Mucho Macho Man was aboard the charter that originated at Newburgh, New York and was due at the Ontario, California, airport around noon.
Unable to book a flight for herself because of the havoc Hurricane Sandy has played on the airline industry, trainer Kathy Ritvo accompanied Mucho Macho Man on the flight.
Dirt Mile runner Jersey Town was aboard the same Tex Sutton flight as Mucho Macho Man.
Ladies' Classic contender Grace Hall was a passenger on the last flight that arrived from New York at noon Wednesday. While unable to get Grace Hall on the grounds because of Hurricane Sandy and the storm's aftermath, trainer Anthony Dutrow had her gallop and kept her fit at Fair Hills Training Center in Maryland near his Delaware Park base. He reported that she has never been better and is coming into the Ladies' Classic at the top of her game.
Dutrow, who had also been stuck on the east coast, was scheduled to arrive in Arcadia on Wednesday afternoon as well.
Wise Dan tack-walked in the shedrow at trainer Charles Lopresti's barn at Keeneland Wednesday morning before getting on a van to Louisville for a flight to California.
Trainer Todd Pletcher's Filly & Mare Sprint runner Turbulent Descent and Juvenile contender Shanghai Bobby were on board a flight from New York that landed at Ontario Airport at approximately noon Wednesday.