Richard Mandella, who will saddle Rock Hard Ten in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), said the 4-year-old colt is ready for action and doing well after a hoof bruise was discovered last week.
"If it had happened two or three days before the race we wouldn't have run," Mandella said in a press conference Thursday morning at Belmont Park. "We wouldn't have had time to deal with it as we did. So far he's responded well, and I think he's 100% right now. We hope it continues that way."
The trainer said the colt hasn't missed a day of training since winning the Goodwood Breeders Cup Handicap (gr. II) Oct. 1. "He came out of the race and breezed three-quarters in 12 and change and then the next week worked seven-eighths in 25 and change and the bruise surfaced that afternoon," Mandella said. "We gave him the next day off as we would have done anyway, and he's galloped every day since."
Once the bruise was detected, Mandella said he galloped Rock Hard Ten barefoot for a few days with a sponge-wrapped bandage on his foot. "He didn't miss anything," Mandella said of the colt owned by Mercedes Stables and Madeleine Pickens.
Rock Hard Ten is undefeated in four starts with Mandella since winning the Malibu (gr. I) at Santa Anita last December. When asked to confirm or dispel rumors that Rock Hard Ten was a difficult horse to train, Mandella offered a bit of humor.
"Rock Hard Ten has two different characters. One is very laid back, relaxed, sleepy and when you wake him he is a sleeping monster," Mandella said. "My wife says I was pretty hard to handle when I was younger and she straightened me out so I'm just using the same methods on him. I speak quietly and carry a big stick."
Mandella also recalled the days Beau Greeley worked for him. Greeley now trains Classic contender Borrego.
"He's was quite a character, I'll tell you that," Mandella said. "But he actually worked hard for me. He's a good kid and Beau taught us all to enjoy life a little better and it was good to have him around."
Mandella said he is most worried about competition from Borrego and was very impressed by his winning performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Oct. 1 at Belmont.
"I think he's very much the horse to beat," Mandella said.
Mandella, who will also saddle Laura's Lucky Boy in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), said he knows the Mercedes Stables-owned colt is an outsider in the race.
"My horse is an outsider looking in but I think he deserves a chance, and you can't win if you're not in it."
Rock Hard Ten drew post position one for the Classic and is second favorite to Saint Liam with morning-line odds of 7-2. Laura's Lucky Boy will break from post 11 with odds of 20-1.
Mandella's Breeders' Cup record stands at six wins from 27 attempts. Only trainers D.Wayne Lukas and Claude "Shug" McGaughey III have more wins.