Trainer Tom Albetrani said his Bernardini will be facing the most difficult task of his life Saturday in the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I). The 3-year-old colt, who has been a racing sensation since his victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in late May, was made the even-money favorite for the race after yesterday's draw.
Bernardini, a Darley homebred son of A.P. Indy
, drew post 3 in the 13-horse field going 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs.
"This is going to be the most difficult task he's had to face," Albertrani said during a press conference after training hours Thursday. "I thought his race in the Travers was the hardest race when he ran against Bluegrass Cat. The Jockey Club Gold Cup really wasn't a difficult task for him while facing only two other older horses. This is the toughest one while taking on Lava Man, Invasor, and the rest of them."
After the Preakness, and a nine-length romp in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), Bernardini won the Travers by 7 ½ lengths, then strolled to a 6 ¾-length victory against just three rivals in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Oct. 7 at Belmont Park.
Bernardini took to the Churchill main track this morning for the first time since arriving on the backstretch yesterday afternoon.
He entered the track and was taken around the clubhouse in the wrong direction. He changed direction in the stretch and was galloped around the track. He had a slow, 1 ¼-mile gallop.
"If goes out there and just runs the race he's been running back to back, I'll be pretty confident going into the race," Albertrani said. "I still feel really confident that he's doing really well. If he just runs back to his same race, he's going to be very difficult himself."
Among those facing those "difficulties" are the top older horses in training.
From the U.S. is Shadwell's Invasor, who is unbeaten in three grade I races this year in the U.S. The Argentina-bred colt has won the Pimlico Special, Suburban, and Whitney Handicaps from mid-May to early August. At the head of the division is Lava Man is unbeaten in seven starts this year and is the first horse in history to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic (all gr. I) in one year.
From Europe comes the classic-winning George Washington, who is stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time, and David Junior, a grade I winner in both Dubai and England this year.
"They've certainly established themselves as the top horses in Europe, but I think the question always remains if they handle the dirt," Albertrani said at the press conference.
Albertrani will also saddle Darley's Balletto in the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). Balletto, unfortunately, drew post 14.
"We'll just have to tuck in somewhere," Albertrani said of the post position. "I don't think it's that important, but we'd actually would have preferred to have our post positions (with Bernardini) reversed.