Friday night's $500,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) is expected to draw a field of five to seven horses with a list of solid credentials for the mile and an eighth test. The one with the most impressive resume is Robert Meyerhoff's Include, winner five of six starts in 2001, including a win in the Pimlico Special (gr. I).
"This race fits perfectly into his schedule," said trainer Grover "Bud" Delp, who conditioned 1979 Meadowlands Cup winner Spectacular Bid. "I'm happy I won this race once. We had Shoemaker then and for this one we'll have Bailey. I'm happy to have him. He likes this horse and fits him real good."
A 4-year-old colt by 1986 Meadowlands Cup winner Broad Brush, Include kicked off his campaign this year with a win in the Whirlaway Handicap at the Fair Grounds followed by a win in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) three weeks later. The colt then prepped with a win in the Jennings Handicap for Maryland-breds at Pimlico in April before defeating Albert the Great by a neck in the Pimlico Special.
Include was shipped north in June to Suffolk Downs where he captured the Mass 'Cap (gr. II) over a sloppy track besting Sir Bear and Broken Vow. His last start before the Meadowlands Cup was on July 1, at Belmont Park in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) where he finished third behind Albert the Great and Lido Palace.
"We had a setback out of his last race," Delp said. "He irritated a splint and we had to back off on him. We got that corrected and it just was a question of are we going to make it (the Breeders' Cup) or not? I think we're right on schedule."
As for long-term plans with Include, "The Breeders' Cup right now," Delp said. "Mr. Meyerhoff would like to race him next year too. "He's definitely the second best horse I've ever trained. He's got tactical speed, but doesn't have the same speed as Spectacular Bid. He hasn't proven he's great yet, but he's got time to prove it."
Include will have to prove that greatness Friday night against his expected rivals including Broken Vow, who he faced earlier this year in the Mass 'Cap. The H. Graham Motion-trained Broken Vow brings a three-race win streak to Meadowlands, including a win earlier this summer in the Iselin Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth Park.
Also expected are trainer John Terranova's Gander, a multiple stakes winner against New York-breds and grade I-placed, and Open Sesame, a winner of his last two against allowance company, trained by James A. Jerkens. Possibles are Generous Rosi, trained by Niall O'Callaghan and the Mark Hennig-trained Perfect Cat.
Four-time Meadowlands Cup winning jockey Angel Cordero Jr. will return to the Big M Friday night to sign autographs on the paddock level from 7-9 p.m. All paid admissions Friday night will receive a commemorative travel bag, while supplies last. All proceeds from wagers on this year's Meadowlands Cup, as well as admissions day and night on Friday, will be donated to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's New York Heroes Fund with a $100,000 guarantee.