For trainer Wally Dollase, his journey to this year's Breeders' Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge (gr. I), has been something of a deja-vu.
Dollase's barn star, the 3-year-old colt Ten Most Wanted, put together an impressive winning record over the summer to land himself as not only one of the probable favorites for the World Thoroughbred Championships' marquee event, but also easily the top sophomore contender for the 1 ¼-mile race. The bay son of Deputy Commander won the mid-summer Derby -- the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga -- and then the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs, both coming after his runner-up finish in the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park back in July.
It was a schedule any seasoned racing fan would recognize.
In 1997, the Dollase-trained Deputy Commander finished second to Skip Away in the Classic, but not after following what at the time was considered a somewhat off-the-beaten path schedule. Just like Ten Most Wanted, Deputy Commander finished second in the Swaps Stakes (gr. I) before going on to win the Travers and Super Derby. The plan worked well, so it was easy for Dollase to plan the same route for Deputy Commander's best son.
"They're very much alike," Dollase said of sire and son. "Physically they look similar and they have the same disposition and mannerisms. They've also developed very similarly. Both are easy going and kind, but aggressive"
Ten Most Wanted and Deputy Commander both broke their maidens at second asking, although the latter runner had a second chance at breaking his maiden after being disqualified from his initial score. Both horses struggled a bit as developing sophomores, but found their best strides midway through their 3-year-old seasons. Deputy Commander earned his first stakes victory in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) and Ten Most Wanted notched his in the Illinois Derby (gr. II).
Deputy Commander skipped the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) while Ten Most Wanted disappointed in it. But after a heroic runner-up finish in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes (gr. I) this year Dollase saw exactly what it was about Ten Most Wanted that reminded him of his standout sire.
"They matured at the same time," Dollase said. "Ten Most Wanted started getting serious at about the same time as Deputy Commander. They grew at the same times in their lives and like Deputy Commander, Ten Most Wanted knows what his job is."
While a runner-up finish in the Classic for Ten Most Wanted, just like his sire, would be a thrill, earning the victory in the $4 million race would be a dream come true. Dollase also knows he's got just the 3-year-old that can pull it off.
"He's a very special horse," Dollase said. "He makes my job easy. He's doing everything right and at the right time, which is why he'll run in the Classic. I am very lucky to have had both him and his sire, that's for sure."
From 13 starters in past Breeders' Cups, Dollase has been represented by one win, with Jewel princess in the 1996 Distaff (gr. I).