The Breeders' Cup Classic suffered a major blow earlier this month when Point Given retired due to an injury, followed on Sept. 8 by the defeats of European superstar Galileo in the Irish Champion Stakes and defending Horse of the Year and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow in the Woodward Stakes. That was compounded by the victory in the Woodward by Chilean-bred Lido Palace, who is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and likely will not be supplemented.
So, now we must mix the colors and try to paint a new picture. Tiznow and Galileo still will be formidable off their defeats, in which both colts ran strong races. Tiznow, obviously in need of the Woodward after a six-month layoff, had been stranded in New York for the past week, but finally was able to fly home Sept. 18, departing from Islip, Long Island. The son of Cee's Tizzy likely will remain in California for the Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 7, where he'll face the always dangerous front-runner Skimming, easy winner of the Pacific Classic. The alternative would be returning to New York for the previous day's Jockey Club Gold Cup, which appears to be coming up light, with only three horses – Albert the Great, Aptitude, and A P Valentine – pointing for the mile and a quarter race. Even NYRA racing secretary Mike Lakow couldn't come up with another name at this point.
Trainer Jay Robbins said that Tiznow arrived home in excellent shape, and in fact may have picked up a few pounds. He was pleased with the colt's performance in the Woodward, but would have preferred if jockey Chris McCarron hadn't taken a hold of him, racing inside of Albert the Great. "But that's history," Robbins said. "What's important is that he came out of the race in great shape. I'll discuss with (owner Michael Cooper) where to run him next. If we send him back to New York for the Gold Cup, he'll have to stay there for the next three weeks leading up to the Classic."
Getting back to Galileo, the main question will be whether he'll be as effective on the dirt. While his pedigree is basically all grass, there is enough dirt influence for his connections to remain hopeful. His conqueror in the Irish Champion, Fantastic Light, has a great deal of classy dirt influences, and off that, probably looks a little stronger of the two. Fantastic Light also looks to be more effective at 1 1/4 miles, the distance of the Irish Champion. In that race, he was giving the younger Galileo seven pounds, compared to 12 pounds in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, in which Galileo held off Fantastic Light's strong challenge. There is no doubt off the Irish Champion, both colts are true warriors, much like Giant's Causeway last year. With their class and brilliance, they will be major threats in the Classic. Now it's just a matter of whether or not they come. At the present time, both colts are still pointing to the Classic.
The race that should be the most competitive leading up to the Classic is the Meadowlands Cup. Run on Sept. 29, it gives Classic-bound horses an extra week before the big race. Among those pointing for the race is Include, once considered the leading older horse in the East. After suffering a splint injury in the Suburban, he underwent successful electrical treatment and has been working like gangbusters at Laurel for trainer Bud Delp, including a seven-furlong drill in 1:25 1/5. When asked if he were considering the Classic, Delp shot back, "Hell, yeah." But Delp added he'd have to win the Meadowlands Cup, something he fully expects the colt to do.
But it won't be easy with Broken Vow, Gander, and Generous Rosi all pointing for the race. John Terranova said Gander could wait for the Gold Cup, but the Meadowlands Cup gives him the option of coming back in the Empire Classic for New York-breds instead of the Breeders' Cup Classic. Generous Rosi has won his last two on dirt, including a victory in the Turfway Park Fall Championship. But trainer Niall O'Callaghan has Guided Tour for Saturday's Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway, and will ship Generous Rosi to the Meadowlands. O'Callaghan also said that at this point he's not considering the Breeders' Cup Classic for Guided Tour, due in part to the owner's ill health, and won't look past Saturday's race. It'll be interesting to see how Balto Star fares in the Kentucky Cup Classic, as he returns to the site of his Spiral Stakes victory.
Another race of interest will be Sunday's Super Derby, featuring E Dubai, who should be tough to beat, setting or stalking the pace. Godolphin chose the Super Derby for Dwyer winner E Dubai to give him five weeks to the Classic instead of three weeks had he run in the Gold Cup. The question is whether he'll go in that direction if Fantastic Light shows up.
As for the Gold Cup, Bobby Frankel is convinced Aptitude has developed into one of the top mile and a quarter horses in the country. But the small field and apparent lack of speed will make it hard for the colt to beat Albert the Great should the race remain as it is now. We'll have to wait and see what Tiznow does. A big closing punch by Aptitude would make him a dangerous foe in the Classic. Remember, this is a horse who ran a huge second in last year's Kentucky Derby to Fusaichi Pegasus. Albert the Great will be looking to rebound from his defeat in the Woodward, in which he had to turn back several challenges from Tiznow, and appears to be a better horse at 1 1/4 miles. He gets a new rider in Gary Stevens. A P Valentine needs to show big improvement off his two defeats at Saratoga, and should fare better at Belmont, where he won the Champagne last year and was second in this year's Belmont Stakes.
Finally, we have last year's 2-year-old champ Macho Uno heading for the Sept. 29 Ohio Derby following his victory in the Pennsylvania Derby, in which he defeated Unbridled Elaine and Touch Tone with incredible ease. Trainer Joe Orseno said a decision will be made Friday whether to continue on with Red Bullet, who suffered a slight muscle injury in the Woodward that will require only maintenance.