So preoccupied has everyone been with the gray skies stagnating over Monmouth Park that the local paper was even moved to run a front-page news story assuring its readers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships would be staged regardless of whether the skies were fair or foul.
And the rain is unlikely to prove a pain for West Coast-based NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) candidate After Market, according to his trainer, John Shirreffs.
The firmer, lower-cut turf surfaces of Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita Park are thought by some to be a different proposition to the conditions After Market will face Oct. 27. Even so, Shirreffs is unfazed.
“I was out on the track yesterday and the turf course looks excellent, actually,” Shirreffs said Oct. 25. “With all the rain they have had so far, it’s still in great shape. It has good drainage, and the horses are really getting hold of it. So unless something changes drastically, I think the turf course is going to be fine.
“There’s more rain forecast, so we’ll see. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, but so far it’s very good.”
After Market is by no means a specialist miler but neither, in terms of distance, does Shirreffs believe he is the “in-betweener” some have labeled him. The decision to run in the Mile was in part influenced by the 4-year-old’s sire, Storm Cat.
“The breeding played a strong part, and he has gone a mile and three-eights but he has never gone a mile and a half, which is a sort of a niche race--it takes a special horse to do it,” Shirreffs said. “So not having had that sort of experience, it was easier to drop back to a short distance.
“I wouldn’t call him an ‘in-betweener,’ I would call him a very versatile horse, because he has won at a mile and a sixteenth and he has won at a mile and three-eighths, so he has a lot of great qualities about him…and the best thing about him is that he has an unbelievable kick at the end. He can really finish. When he extends, he can just cover so much ground it’s amazing.”
In finishing second to Trippi’s Storm last time out in the Kelso Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park, After Market showed the kind of finishing surge to which Shirreffs referred.
“If he hadn’t zig-zagged in the straight there, he might have won that race,” the trainer said. “You’ll see it when he stretches and levels….he looks special.”
Early-morning exercise watchers have not seen too much of the After Market “stretch” this week, as he arrived at Monmouth a fully conditioned prospect.
“We worked him before he came out here, and because we’re shortening up to a shorter distance--a mile--we don’t have to do a lot,” Shirreffs said. “A matter of fact, we want to keep him as fresh and on his toes as possible. He’s a big horse who takes a while to get rolling, so we want to have it on his mind to get rolling a little quicker.”