Phil Johnson hoping Volponi can follow same path to another BC Classic trophy.

Phil Johnson hoping Volponi can follow same path to another BC Classic trophy.

Skip Dickstein

Volponi: Back to the Future

Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson has decided to follow the same route in October that Volponi traveled to an upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last year.

Johnson said that Volponi, who is winless this season, will make his next start in the Meadowlands Cup (gr. III) at the Meadowlands on Oct. 3. Volponi was second in the Meadowlands Cup a year ago.

After toying with the idea of running Volponi in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), Johnson said he has decided to take his 5-year-old back to the Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. The son of Cryptoclearance has a record of 7-12-4 from 29 starts and career earnings of $3,143,232.

"He'd have to run terrible at the Meadowlands for me to change my mind," Johnson said. "It will be the Classic. I would like that because there are so many good horses going in the Classic that they're not going to be paying attention to us sneaking up on them."

Even though Volponi has five seconds and a third in his six starts this season, it's unlikely that he will go off at odds of 43-1 like he did last year when he came from off the pace to win by 6 1/2 lengths at Arlington Park.

Johnson mentioned most of the names of the top contenders for the Classic: Mineshaft, Candy Ride, Congaree, Empire Maker, and Medaglia d'Oro.

"Hopefully, they'll kill each other off," he said. "I want to run a quarter mile. They all want to run a mile and a quarter."

Volponi finished third as the favorite in the Belmont Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) Handicap on Sept. 13. It was his first turf start of the season and his first race with jockey John Velazquez.

"He came out of it great," Johnson said. "What happened was I thought there was going to be some kind of pace in the race. I really didn't give John any orders. I just said, `Don't rush him.' The next thing you know he was a half-length off of quarter in 25 seconds. He couldn't hold him any more around the turn and he opened up by three. And he doesn't want to do that that early.

"Then, when they passed him he came on and was only beaten a length and a half. It looked like he was going to get beat six lengths."