The main track was sloppy Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

The main track was sloppy Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

Mathea Kelley

Classic Horses Breeze; Training on the Turf

Churchill Downs was permitting turf training the morning of Nov. 4.

Two horses who will face off in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I)--Flat Out  and To Honor and Serve—breezed a quarter of a mile over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs the morning of Nov. 4.

Flat Out “blew out” a quarter mile in :24 3/5 and To Honor and Serve went in a :24 clip for the two furlongs.

Flat Out is the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner who is the 6-1 third choice in the Classic. To Honor and Serve, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is a 12-1 morning line shot.

TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) contender Strong Suit and Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) contender Sea Moon also took to the track the morning of Nov. 4.

Strong Suit blew out a quarter mile on the yielding turf in :23 4/5, while Sea Moon breezed three furlongs on the same surface in :41 1/5, covering his last quarter mile in :25 2/5.
Strong Suit, a 3-year-old son of Rahy, is trained by Richard Hannon for Qatar Bloodstock and has morning line odds of 10-1. He has won his last two starts, both group II events in England.
Sea Moon, a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Sir Michael Stoute, was supposed to work four furlongs on the Churchill grass Nov. 3, but was turf course was closed due to rain. The son of Beat Hollow, who won the Aug. 18 Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II), is 4-1 on the morning line.

With a later post time for the Nov. 4 first of two days of World Championships racing and regular training hours at the Louisville, Ky., oval, many of the Breeders’ Cup contenders went to the track Nov. 4 under cloudy skies as the track continued to dry out from rain the previous day and overnight. Rain ended at about 4 a.m. Nov. 4.

Churchill Downs vice president and track superintendent Butch Lehr said the main track was sloppy early but he expected it to be upgraded to muddy following the morning maintenance break.

Lehr predicted that with no more rain forecast and winds between 11-13 miles per hour, the track would likely be rated good for the first race at 2 p.m.

The track superintendent also said there would be training over the turf course rated as yielding Nov. 4. As rain began to fall around 9:30 a.m. Nov. 3, turf workouts were cancelled, upsetting some of the European connections whose horses were expected to train over the grass course for the first time.

“We’re going to let the horses train on turf today because we’re racing on the hedge for the next two days and they’ll train in Lane 3 (22 feet out) around the dogs (cones set up on the course to keep the horses from too close to the inside hedge),” Lehr said. “Yesterday I had to cancel turf training because we ran the stakes race (the grade III Commonwealth Turf) in Lane 3 and we had to protect the lanes. The decision to cancel yesterday was made with safety in mind.”

One of the first horses on the track was Havre De Grace, the mare who is the 3-1 second choice in the Classic.

Trainer Larry Jones said he found the early morning track condition in some ways to be preferable to an overly dry track at Churchill Downs.

“It has a good bottom,” Jones said of the Nov. 4 track condition. “She galloped well over it. I hate to say it, but I have had most of my success here over a track with some water in it. When it is dry, it is very cuppy.”

Also on the track early were the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Stay Thirsty  and Uncle Mo , the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Classic.

Ben Huffman, the CD racing secretary who was making the rounds in the stable area, said he was not overly concerned with the track condition. “I have seen our (track maintenance) crew do some amazing things,” Huffman said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting cloudy skies through mid-morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 59. Overnight, skies will be mostly clear with a low around 36, and northeast wind between 5-8 miles per hour.

The forecast for Nov. 5 is sunny skies with a high near 61 degrees and East wind between 5-7 miles per hour.