Although no horse has won the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) coming off a layoff of more than 49 days, Richard Mandella, trainer of Pleasantly Perfect, and Marylou Whitney, owner of Birdstone, are confident taking their respective horses to Lone Star Park for the Oct. 30 World Thoroughbred Championships off layoffs of 69 and 63 days.
Mandella said that, unlike last year, when Pleasantly Perfect missed the entire summer, he has had two starts at Del Mar this year, and has the Japan Cup Dirt (Jap-I) on his agenda following the Classic.
"Last year, we didn't run all summer, so I needed a prep," Mandella said on a national teleconference Oct. 20. "This year, we went to Dubai, came back and pointed for the Pacific Classic (gr. I), and were fortunate enough to win that. Dubai is a hard trip and taxing on horses, but I don't agree that you can't come back and be as good as you were. You just have to make sure you don't over-race them. We wanted to give him enough rest after that to be ready for the Classic, and if he does well, we'll take him to Japan, and that will be his last race. I thought it was more important to focus on those two races than a $500,000 prep race (Goodwood Handicap-gr. II). Remember, we went to Dubai off a similar layoff and that didn't seem to hurt him."
As for Pleasantly Perfect's condition following a series of long works, including a 1 1/8-mile drill in 1:50 3/5, Mandella said, "He's as good or better now than he's ever been."
Mandella said he's not concerned with racing at Lone Star Park for the first time. "I don't have much experience there. I've run once on the turf there and once on dirt," he said. "But so far, I haven't found a track my horse doesn't like, so I wouldn't know what to look for or not to look for."
Whitney is in a different situation with Birdstone, as the diminutive colt's schedule has to be geared around what he is able to accomplish from a physical standpoint. To demonstrate his ability to win a big race off a long layoff, the son of Grindstone captured the Travers Stakes (gr. I) 84 days after winning the Belmont Stakes (gr. I)."Our little horse needs a lot of time between races," Whitney said. "He's not someone who can race back every week or so. He's just not that kind of horse. Nick (Zito) knows our horse and I know our horse and I know we're doing the right thing. Right now, I'm not thinking of anything other than getting Birdstone into the race sound and healthy, and I hope nothing happens to him. This horse doesn't owe us anything. He's done so much for us and has made my life so wonderful. I just go to the little chapel around here and pray to God that he stays sound. He's such a wonderful horse."If Birdstone runs well and comes out of the Classic in good shape, Whitney said her main goal will be to run him in next year's Whitney Handicap (gr. I). "I like to see a colt race at four," she said. "And (running in the Whitney) is what I'm really looking forward to."