"It was just nice and easy," said trainer Simon Callaghan as Slim Shadey approaches the Nov. 3 race. "It was a perfect work and couldn't have gone better. He seems ready."
Europeans historically do well in the Turf, and Slim Shadey is technically a Californian. But the Brits can certainly claim him. English owner Phil Cunningham bred him in Great Britain, and Callaghan is a British-born trainer who moved to Southern California three years ago. Slim Shadey spent his first two seasons racing in England and Ireland before joining Callaghan's stable this year.
"He just kind of lost his way a little bit in England," said Callaghan, who telephoned Cunningham and suggested he try the gelding in California. "Phil was really game for the idea. He'd never had a horse in America before."
The move worked. At the Santa Anita winter meeting, the 4-year-old son of Val Royal—Vino Veritas, by Chief's Crown, won the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT). His three subsequent seconds in graded stakes company came against top runners—fellow Turf entrant Bourbon Bay by just a head at Santa Anita, Little Mike (cross entered in both the Turf and the Mile, gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, and champion Acclamation at Betfair Hollywood Park. Most recently, Slim Shadey turned in a sparkling victory in the John Henry Turf Championship (gr. IIT) over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita.
In the John Henry, Slim Shadey defeated Todd Pletcher-trained Turbo Compressor. Callaghan spent a year working for Pletcher and had fun defeating a horse trained by his former boss.
"I kind of enjoyed that," Callaghan said, grinning.
Slim Shadey will face several Europeans in the Turf, though the major competition should come from New York-based Point of Entry, who is riding a five-race win streak, including three grade I stakes.
"Point of Entry is without doubt the horse to beat," said Callaghan. "St Nicholas Abbey is the defending champion of the race."
But Callaghan thinks the filly Shareta could give everyone a scare. Shareta is coming off a ninth in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), but before that she won the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) and Qatar Prix Vermeille (Fr-I).
Callaghan will be starting his second horse in the Breeders' Cup. Last year he trained Dubawi Heights to sixth in the Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).
"I think we've got a really good chance," said Callaghan. "The good thing about Slim Shadey is that he can be on the pace or he can rate in behind. Tactically, he can be pretty much anywhere in the race."