By Ron Mitchell and Claire Novak
A day after one of the closest first-to-last finishes in the history of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), connections of the horses that participated in the race won by Drosselmeyer were at the track early Nov. 6.
While plans for some of the Classic horses and other participants in the two-day World Championships were uncertain, most were shipping out for welcome breaks from competition.
Trainer Bill Mott, who saddled WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer to upset the Classic (gr. I), said both the winner and seventh-place finisher To Honor and Serve returned from the race in good order.
With Drosselmeyer going off at nearly 15-1 odds and To Honor and Serve sent to post at nearly 10-1, the winner could have been considered the least likely of the two to win.
“The one thing about him (Drosselmeyer) is we were certain he could get the trip and he was doing well,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner. “Our main concern was putting up the $150,000 (entry fee). You know, we had to ask, ‘Do we really feel like we have a good chance to get this back?'
“You just do what you do and hopefully at the end of the year you end up with one like this and take part in the big day,” Mott said. “On Wednesday (Nov. 9), it will be back to reality. We will be looking at a maiden (and) $7,500-$10,000 non-winners of two.”
Mott said the weekend sweep of the Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) with Royal Delta and the Classic reaffirmed his decision to move his Breeders’ Cup horses to Churchill Downs a month ago to acclimate them to the unique dirt surface.
“It paid off,” he said.
Peter Hutton, assistant to Bob Baffert, said Game On Dude came out of his runner-up finish in the Classic no worse for the wear, and “ate up well” the morning after the race.
“He’s walking great, everything looks good, he’s bright-eyed and happy,” Hutton. “The next thing will be to send him back to California, and Bob will determine what he’ll do from there.”
Several of Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup contenders were on a plane back to California Nov. 6, but The Factor , Plum Pretty, and Game On Dude remained in the barn. Sentient Jet Sprint (gr. I) contender Euroears had departed for the Nov. 6 Fasig-Tipton November Sale after a troubled ninth-place finish, and Irish Gypsy was bound for Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington off an eighth-place showing in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I).
Hutton said the remaining Baffert trainees would likely be loaded on a van leaving Churchill Downs at 5:15 a.m. Nov. 7 to catch a Tex Sutton charter departing that morning.
Trainer Kelly Breen reported Classic third-place finisher Ruler On Ice lost his right front shoe in the race. This year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner received a visit from the blacksmith on the morning of Nov. 6.
“He lost his right front shoe in the race, but other than that he looks good,” said trainer Kelly Breen. “We canceled the van that was leaving today; he’ll stay here for right now. We’re keeping our options open with him. He looks really good this morning considering; his foot and everything look good in spite of losing the shoe.”
Trainer Larry Jones said Havre de Grace, the filly who finished fourth, was fine a day after the Classic, although he could tell the race took its toll on her.
“You could tell she put some effort into this one, but she’s fine,” he said. “I sure don’t see anything that’s an issue.”
Jones said Havre de Grace, who will remain in training, will be sent to Vinery in Lexington where there will be a party held next week in her honor.
Flat Out , the Classic favorite, was tired after his fifth-place finish. In an atypical move, he spent some time lying down to rest in his stall the morning after the race. Trainer Scooter Dickey reported that all was well, however, and mentioned a potential start in the Nov. 25 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
”He’s fine, he’s real good, no problems,” Dickey said. “I have stalls in Florida and Arkansas. I know if he did well in the Classic, (owner) Art (Preston) wanted him to go to Florida for the winter. We wanted to try him on the turf, maybe, somewhere.”
As far as the race was concerned, the 70-year-old conditioner said the going may not have been exactly to Flat Out’s liking.
“Only thing I can say is it looked like he might have been fighting the track a little bit,” he remarked. “But he was in a perfect position and (jockey) Alex (Solis) said we had no excuses or anything.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher said his Classic duo of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty , 10th and 11th, respectively, were fine the morning of Nov. 6.
“John (Velazquez) felt like Uncle Mo was struggling with the racetrack a little bit,” Pletcher said. “He came back in good order. He hit himself a little bit in the behind and up front, indicative of a horse that is sliding around on the racetrack.
“I think it was strange that 7 1/2 lengths separated the entire field in a dirt race like that,” Pletcher said. “It speaks to how the track surface was."
Pletcher said Churchill's current track "surface is quite a bit different from what it was in the spring and a lot different from the one we ran over at the Breeders’ Cup last year. Stay Thirsty just never got into a good position or a comfortable rhythm.”
Pletcher said a decision on the future plans for Uncle Mo, the 2010 2-year-old champion who was sidelined earlier this year by a liver ailment, will be made within the next several days.