For Proud Man's trainer Christophe Clement, this weekend's one-mile grass test is a "major race" and he wants to get past it before worrying about the Florida-bred's next date.
"This race is very important and you cannot look past it," said Clement. "He's doing as well as we could expect and so if he does run like we expect then we will know for sure about the Sunshine Millions."
The 5-year-old son of Manlove has success on the Gulfstream turf course, having won the 2001 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) in his lone start there. Clement thinks his ideal course and distance would be closer to a one-turn mile, the likes of which he could find at Belmont Park, but his proven affinity for Florida allays any distance concerns in this two-turn mile contest.
"This distance suits him very well," said Clement. "You can't get too many opportunities to race at his best distance, but this one is close. I think he should get a better pace scenario than in his last two races."
Those last two efforts came in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap where he was beaten only a nose by Freefourinternet at Belmont, and a third-place finish in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Handicap at Calder where a troubled break disrupted his usual running style.
Proud Man's last win came in the West Virginia House Speaker's Cup Handicap at Mountaineer Park in August. Edgar Prado, who was aboard that night, will reunite with the horse for Sunday's race.Political Attack, coming off a 1 1/2-length victory in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Dec. 6 at Calder, is the 118-pound high weight in the full field, but drew the outside post position 12. $150,000 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. French Charmer (KY), 117, Christopher P. DeCarlo
2. Justification (FL), 114, Jorge F. Chavez
3. Remind (KY), 115, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. (MTO) Newfoundland (KY), 115, John R. Velazquez
5. Sforza (FR), 114, Horacio Karamanos
6. Proud Man (FL), 116, Edgar S. Prado
7. Stormy Roman (FL), 114, Manuel Aguilar
8. New York Hero (MD), 114, Jose A. Santos
9. Millennium Dragon (GB), 116, Richard Migliore
10. Al's Dearly Bred (KY), 116, Eibar Coa
11. Miesque's Approval (FL), 117, Jerry D. Bailey
12. Political Attack (KY), 118, Rene R. Douglas
AE Military Man, 113, Jose A. Santos
AE Supah Blitz (FL), 113, John R. Velazquez
AE Everything to Gain (KY), 113, Craig Perret