NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) candidate After Market will be given a crucial turf workout the morning of Oct. 26 to ensure his place in the lineup the following day.
His trainer, John Shirreffs, wants to make sure the 4-year-old is happy with the state of the course, which has been affected by wet conditions in central New Jersey, where Breeders’ Cup host track Monmouth Park is located.
Shirreffs said that as of midday Oct. 25, he was not considering scratching the Martin and Pam Wygod-owned colt. “At the moment, he is not a doubtful runner,” Shirreffs said. “We want to run. I am happy with the conditions, but I want the horse to tell me that he is happy with the conditions also.”
Shirreffs spoke after acclimatizing After Market, a bull of a horse who really fills the eye, with the Monmouth paddock, but earlier in the morning had spoken of his satisfaction with the course.
“I was out on the track yesterday and the turf course looks excellent, actually,” he said. “With all the rain they have had so far, it’s still in great shape. It has good drainage, and the horses are really getting hold of it. So unless something changes drastically, I think the turf course is going to be fine. There’s more rain forecast, so we’ll see. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, but so far it’s very good.”
After Market is by no means a specialist miler but neither, in terms of distance, does Shirreffs believe he is the “in-betweener” some have labeled him. The decision to run in the Mile was in part influenced by the 4-year-old’s sire, Storm Cat.
“The breeding played a strong part, and he has gone a mile-and-three-eights but he has never gone a mile-and-a-half, which is a sort of a niche race--it takes a special horse to do it,” Shirreffs said. “So not having had that sort of experience, it was easier to drop back to a short distance.
“I wouldn’t call him an ‘in-betweener.’ I would call him a very versatile horse, because he has won at a mile-and-a-sixteenth and he has won at a mile-and-three-eighths, so he has a lot of great qualities about him … and the best thing about him is that he has an unbelievable kick at the end. He can really finish. When he extends, he can just cover so much ground it’s amazing.”
In finishing second to Trippi’s Storm last time out in the Kelso Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park, After Market showed the kind of finishing surge to which Shirreffs referred.
“If he hadn’t zig-zagged in the straight there, he might have won that race,” the trainer said. “You’ll see it when he stretches and levels …. he looks special.”
Early-morning exercise watchers have not seen too much of the After Market “stretch” this week, as he arrived at Monmouth a fully conditioned prospect.
“We worked him before he came out here, and because we’re shortening up to a shorter distance--a mile--we don’t have to do a lot,” Shirreffs said. “A matter of fact, we want to keep him as fresh and on his toes as possible. He’s a big horse who takes a while to get rolling, so we want to have it on his mind to get rolling a little quicker.”