Trainer Richard Dutrow is not tipping his hand when it comes to the strategy he will employ when Saint Liam faces a full field in the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 29.
Dutrow, one of several trainers and jockeys with Breeders' Cup horses who discussed their charges during Wednesday's breakfast to release the names of the pre-entries, told emcee and New York Racing Association announcer Tom Durkin that he does not need any instructions for jockey Jerry Bailey, the all-time leading rider in Cup wins with 17.
"Jerry, you aren't going to tell him anything (about riding) and Saint Liam knows how to run, so they will get along fine," said Dutrow, who is hoping his 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado can duplicate his two-length win in Belmont's Woodward Stakes (gr. I) under Bailey in his most recent start. "He (Saint Liam) is just going so good, we are very excited about watching him run here."
Bailey, who is riding in all eight of the Cup races, said the challenge faced by Saint Liam in the Classic "won't be easy. But on his game, Saint Liam is better than the rest."
Considering that the Classic was oversubscribed and will have a full field of 16 that starts from a position near a turn, Bailey said "a good post position draw on this corner would be very helpful."
Of Shakespeare, the undefeated son of Theatrical
who is likely favorite for the John Deere Turf (gr. I), Bailey said his only concern is whether the lightly-raced horse would handle the grass if the turf course is softened by rain prior to the Cup.
"He has been answering every question that's been asked of him -- distance, competition. The only thing, with a horse like that, the only question mark left is soft ground. He has never run over that, but he's not a huge heavy horse..."
The possibility of soft turf is also a concern for trainer Bobby Frankel with his pair of Intercontinental and Megahertz in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).
"I don't think either one of them like a real soft turf," Frankel said of the two horses based in California where the turf races are usually contested over firm going. "Especially, Magahertz. If it came up real soft I would not have confidence in her."
Trainer Todd Pletcher, with eight horses pre-entered in six different races, labeled the Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I), as the most competitive race on the card. Pletcher will be represented by Flower Alley in the $4-million race.
"The Classic has a big field and some horses coming up to it really well," Pletcher said.
Prodded by Durkin to name one of his Cup entrants who could be considered a "sleeper," Pletcher chose Host, pre-entered in the NetJets Mile (gr. IT).
Trainer Jim Toner, who won the inaugural Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) with Soaring Softly in 1999, is back with another shot with Wonder Again, third in the race last year.
"The Filly & Mare Turf keeps me in business," Toner quipped.
Breeders' Cup president D G. Van Clief cited the selection of Belmont Park to host its fifth Cup as one reason for the high number of pre-entries, which at 117, including 22 foreign horses, are the most since 2000.
``We're delighted to back at Belmont, our fifth time in New York,'' said Van Clief. ``It is one of our best venues. It is perhaps our most horse friendly, and certainly it is our most international friendly with the sweeping turns you see out there. We expected a large European contingent and we got it.''
Prior to the pre-entry breakfast, there was only one workout by a Cup horse, with winner heroine Sand Springs breezed four furlongs in :48 over the main track. The Bill Mott-trained mare is pre-entered in the Mile.