Although the Jockey Club Gold Cup did not draw one of its better fields, the dramatic victory by Funny Cide certainly adds a new dimension to the Classic field. The race gets a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner and one of the most popular horses of recent years. Funny Cide, as he did in the spring of 2003, brought down the house with his improbable triumph after looking hopelessly beaten at the five-sixteenths pole. Whether you believe he's capable of beating the best horses in the country at Lone Star, you have to admire the gelding's consistency and toughness. If ridden correctly and allowed to do his thing, he still can compete with anyone.Runner-up Newfoundland, who is a solid mile-and-a-quarter horse on his best day, also will head to Lone Star for the Classic. The $3.3 million yearling purchase does not like getting dirt kicked in his face, and is at his best when kept on the outside and up close to the pace.The Classic is shaping up this way: The definites are Pleasantly Perfect, Ghostzapper, Roses in May, Birdstone, Funny Cide, Saint Liam, and Newfoundland. Freefourinternet, who upset the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) is a possibility, as is runner-up and beaten favorite Perfect Drift. Trainer Murray Johnson said he and owner Dr. William Reed are upset and frustrated over yet another second-place finish, and felt Pat Day waited too long before asking the horse to run. "(Perfect Drift) put those two horses away without being asked, but there was another horse to put away, and that horse was past him before he had a chance to get going. We needed to be running at that point," Johnson said.The status of Dynever and Toccet will be decided in Friday night's Meadowlands Cup (gr. II). If Dynever runs a big race, he could be the dark horse for the Classic, especially being the only starter who will have run (and won) at Lone Star Park. Another horse to watch at Meadowlands is Balto Star, who likely will be cross-entered in the Classic and Turf if he runs a big race.And then there is Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Bago, who has been pointing for the Classic since his victory in the 10-furlong Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I). The son of Nashwan, who is owned by the Niarchos family, was being hailed as the next super-horse last year as a 2-year-old, and trainer Jonathan Pease has been telling anyone who would listen that this was the best horse he's ever trained, by far, and that includes Breeders' Cup winners Tikkanen and Spinning World. After winning his first six career starts, he suffered a pair of losses, but his third in the Prix Niel – his first try at 1 1/2 miles – was good enough to set him up for a huge performance in the Arc, in which he knifed his way through the field to run down a tough foe in Cherry Mix.The colt's connections want to wait a few days before making any final decision on the Classic. If he does come, he will be a horse to reckon with. This no doubt is a very gifted horse. Although Bago is sired by a European turf horse, the classic-winning Nashwan, and his broodmare sire is Nureyev, his dam is a half-sister to Snake Mountain, a multiple stakes winner on dirt in New York. There also are plenty of dirt influences in his female family, with the presence of Mr. Prospector, Halo, and Hoist the Flag, and she is inbred to Native Dancer. His second dam, Coup de Genie, defeated colts twice in group I company in France at two, and was third in the English One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at three.Frankel's Forces
With Light Jig's powerful victory in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT), trainer Bobby Frankel pretty much has his Breeders' Cup roster set. Ghostzapper, who Frankel says is training better than he ever has, will be favorite or second favorite in the Classic; Light Jig will be his sole representative in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT); Cajun Beat, who should improve dramatically off the Vosburgh (gr. I), and Midas Eyes head to the Sprint (gr. I); and Nothing to Lose will run in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT) if he performs well this weekend in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. As mentioned earlier, if Toccet turns in a big effort in Friday night's Meadowlands Cup (gr. II), he probably will try the Classic. Frankel said his Goodwood winner, Lundy's Liability, likely will skip the Classic and point for the Japan Cup Dirt. When asked about the possibility of Sightseek running in the Nextel Distaff (gr. I) if she runs big in Saturday's Beldame (gr. I), Frankel said flat out, "She's not running."Freaky Fashion
Will there be any horse in this year's Breeders' Cup who has had a stranger career than Island Fashion? Don't think so. After having won big stakes for three different trainers; running her eyeballs out in the Santa Anita Handicap; taking a bizarre trip to Japan to run in a one-mile race right smack in the middle of the year; and winning the Lady's Secret (gr. II) under unheralded jockey Kerwin John, a native of St. Croix, Island Fashion somehow has made it to the Distaff, and with a big chance to win.This is truly an amazing filly, who has run some monster races in her career. For her to return from that fiasco in Japan back in June to win the Lady's Secret, after getting in a dogfight with the tough Elloluv, shows just how exceptional she is. Although naming an unknown jockey like John to ride her is yet another weird move, it's hard to imagine anyone riding her better. John has an excellent seat on a horse, and he always had a nice relaxed hold of her. He timed her move perfectly and rode her brilliantly down the stretch. It will be interesting to see if he remains on for the Distaff. With the Lady's Secret under her belt, it's going to take a big effort to beat her on Oct. 30.Juvenile Jumble
Roman Ruler has taken some knocks for his victory in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II), mainly due to being rank early and not winning by the length of the stretch against a small and vastly overmatched field. The rankness has to be of some concern, the way he was running with his mouth open around the first turn. And he certainly could have been smoother and more professional in the stretch. But Bob Baffert is well aware of all this. He intends to shave back the blinkers to allow the colt to see more, and he feels horses tend to relax better the second time they go two turns. For some reason, these four-horse fields can be killers when you have an overwhelming favorite.The bottom line is that Roman Ruler is an extremely talented colt, and is still the horse to beat in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), especially with no other horses, with the exception of Afleet Alex, asserting themselves so far in top company. Afleet Alex will attempt to remain undefeated when he runs in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) this weekend. But he, too, must show more professionalism than he did in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). On the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) front, if Sense of Style wins the Darley Alcibiades (gr. II) on Friday, Oct. 8, then we have a super East vs. West showdown in store following the powerful performance of Sweet Catomine in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I), in which she blew her opponents away with one sweeping move at the quarter pole.