Aptitude's Gold Cup "was a break-out race that catapulted the son of A.P. Indy right up to the head of the class."

Aptitude's Gold Cup "was a break-out race that catapulted the son of A.P. Indy right up to the head of the class."

Steve Haskin's Classic Report: One Step Forward, Two Backward

It seems for every step forward the Classic takes, it takes two steps backward. Last weekend, it took three steps backward, with the defeats of Albert the Great, Tiznow, and Skimming, the last two at the hands of 39-1 shot Freedom Crest. On the other hand, Aptitude's 10-length tour-de-force in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was a break-out race that catapulted the son of A.P. Indy right up to the head of the class.

It wasn't too long ago that Aptitude was considered an underachiever who couldn't shed the label of bridesmaid. But just like that, he turned in three big efforts, and now assumes the role of likely Breeders' Cup Classic favorite. Since being equipped with blinkers two races back, he has been a different horse. He's now much more focused and has decimated his opposition with a pair of explosive moves.

Frankly, the only horses we now see who could challenge him for favoritism are Galileo and possibly Fantastic Light. If Aptitude bounces back and runs anything near the race he did in the Gold Cup he'll no doubt be tough to beat.

The most disappointing effort was turned in by Albert the Great, who never seemed to be in the race. Even when he moved up to challenge longshot Generous Rosi, it quickly became apparent he wasn't going to get by him. From there on, he went into reverse and kept dropping farther and farther out of it. It appears as if he's tailing off, but he did turn in a clinker in last year's Jim Dandy before running huge in the Travers, so Nick Zito may give him a chance to redeem himself in the Classic. Zito's other Gold Cup disappointment, A P Valentine, bled in the race and has been retired.

There were two ways of looking at Tiznow's race in the Goodwood. The most disturbing part was not that he was beaten again, it was that when McCarron started pushing on him leaving the three-eighths pole there was no response. McCarron had to go to a very early whip, but that accomplished nothing. Visually, it appeared as if he had finally found his best stride with 70 yards remaining, but remember, Freedom Crest and Skimming were coming home their last three-eighths in a tardy :39 2/5 and final eighth in :13 2/5. By comparison, when Tiznow won the Goodwood last year, he came home his last three-eighths in :36 2/5. This is a fighter, who likes to bang heads and bully his opponents. But in his last two starts, he's basically gone through the motions and never really dug down or shown the fire he has in the past.

On the plus side, he was giving eight pounds to the winner, and he really doesn't like his races run in :45 and change and 1:09 and change. He simply doesn't have the turn of foot to accelerate off those kind of fractions. He likes to grind it out through slower fractions and then slug it out in the stretch. In last year's Classic, they went in :47 2/5 and 1:12. In last year's Goodwood, they went in :47 and 1:10 4/5. They won't be going any :45 and 1:09 at Belmont, and with a slower pace, he'll be able to get into the race sooner and run the way he likes to.

Skimming ran his race, but simply couldn't hold off Freedom Crest, who turned in the race of his life. Bobby Frankel said Skimming is through for the year, and he'll bring him back for the big races next summer. Skimming has not shown a liking for Belmont, and Frankel wants to have another strong year with him in 2002, hoping he'll take to Arlington Park as he does Del Mar. Frankel also said Lido Palace definitely will not be supplemented for the Classic, and instead will point for the Japan Cup.

Richard Baltas, trainer of Freedom Crest, said they are seriously considering the Classic with this rags-to-riches gelding. The weekend's results also have inspired Niall O'Callaghan to cast his vote for pointing for the big one with Guided Tour.

"We'll talk it over this week, but I've always been a risk taker, so I'll probably recommend to the owners that we run," O'Callaghan said. "That's what it's all about. He's done some phenomenal things in his last few races, but, of course, those horses he was beating weren't Aptitude, Galileo, or Fantastic Light. But with that kind of purse, I'm leaning on the side of going."

Speaking of Galileo and Fantastic Light, both colts are on totally different travel schedules. Fantastic Light is scheduled to arrive at Belmont tomorrow (Tuesday), while Galileo will not be coming until Oct. 23. Following a day in quarantine, he'll finally make his first appearance on the Belmont track two days before the Classic.

Buddy Delp said that Pimlico Special winner Include is doing "100 percent," and will be heading for Belmont on the Wednesday before the race. Delp originally was going to work the son of Broad Brush at Belmont on that Tuesday, but has decided to work him at home and ship the next day. He'll take up residence in Bill Mott's barn. With Jerry Bailey sticking with Aptitude, Delp has named John Velazquez to ride Include.

Another who is likely to enter the Classic picture is Gander, winner of the Meadowlands Cup. Co-owner Mike Gatsas said he would make an official decision Tuesday afternoon, but stated he was leaning toward running. Broken Vow, runner-up in the Meadowlands Cup is still being considered, but trainer Graham Motion said it is more likely they will decide to pass.

Definitely pointing for the Classic is Pennsylvania Derby winner Macho Uno, while Outofthebox, winner of the Super Derby, is a possibility.

Archive of Steve Haskin's Classic Reports