It is now official.
The mystery surrounding where the world's top-rated miler would run on Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships day has been settled by his owner Paul Makin: Starcraft will contest the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered By Dodge (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.
Starcraft will be tackling the dirt surface for the first time in his career rather than running in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT), for which he was also pre-entered.
Makin, Starcraft's senior owner, said he paid the supplementary fee on Tuesday. Opting for the Classic will cost Makin $800,000, which is 20% of the race's purse of $4 million. The fee to run in the Mile would have been $300,000.
He worked on a surface similar to the dirt in England before departing there and he reveled in it. Makin, a former professional gambler, sees this as a better platform to show the world how great his galloper is. "I like challenges and running in a foreign country on a foreign surface appeals to me," he said with a smile.
Starcraft, the Australian superstar who has been wooing the world over in Europe this summer, is a star on turf, boasting multiple group I wins in both hemispheres and is currently rated the best turf miler in the world.
Trained by Luca Cumani, Starcraft left England last Friday and traveled through the night and arrived Saturday morning. "My traveling head lad assures me everything went smoothly. He is settling in well, but a little bit jet-lagged; it won't take too long to adjust though," said Cumani.
Cumani summed up the challenge: "It's very difficult because they (the Americans) are at home and we are away. He's had a long journey and a change of scenery and a change in the racing conditions: by running on the dirt, you get a change of surface as well. All in all, it's very challenging; but it can be done."
"This will be Starcraft's greatest test yet -- who knows if he will be as effective on dirt as he has been on turf -- we're in the lap of the gods here," said Arrowfield's John Messara. Starcraft has been secured by Arrowfield for Southern Hemisphere stallion duties in 2006. If he wins at Belmont, Messara would entertain offers to reverse shuttle him for stud duties in the United States.