Jockeys John Velazquez and Garrett Gomez offered opinions on their Breeders’ Cup mounts in an Oct. 25 press conference held at Monmouth Park the day before the Oct. 26-27 event was to get under way.
Velazquez, 36, rides nine Breeders’ Cup mounts, including 5-2 morning line favorite Lawyer Ron in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Gomez, 35, will be aboard eight starters, including TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) entry Midnight Lute, favored at 2-1 on the morning line.
With rain falling at steady intervals throughout the past two days at Monmouth, the jockeys immediately commented on the state of the track and its potential effects on their mounts.
“Yesterday, in my opinion, the turf was good to soft,” Velazquez said. “With the rain in the next few days it’s gonna be soft. We just have to hope our horses handle the ground.”
“In the back of our minds, we all think (Monmouth is speed favoring),” Gomez said. “But that’s not always true. Yesterday the track seemed pretty fair. With the water and the mud it’ll slow down, but as to how our horses handle it, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Of Lawyer Ron’s chances in the Classic, Velazquez was optimistic, but he expressed concern the keen Todd Pletcher trainee may be pressured by speedster Hard Spun.
“I still think he’s the best horse,” Velazquez said. “The most important thing for him to do is just relax a little bit the first part of the race, and I think he’ll be really, really tough. I’m gonna go and bide my time, but I’m not going to try and fight him … the only thing that really worries me is that Hard Spun breaks a little slow, and I’m on the lead he’ll push me along a little bit. I’m hoping that Lawyer Ron will come back for me and relax a little bit at first and not get caught in a head-and-head duel and go too fast."
In the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), Velazquez will be aboard Barclay Tagg trainee Nobiz Like Shobiz for the first time. The Elizabeth Velando homebred is unbeaten in three starts and has a four-length win in Belmont’s Jamaica Handicap (gr. II) to his credit after switching to the turf in August.
“He’s performed really well on the grass,” Velazquez said. “He’s actually shown that he can run with the big horses. Any time you step up to this caliber of race you’re obviously going to have to come and give your best game. I think Barclay has done a great job with him, and hopefully he’ll show up on Saturday.”
One of Gomez’s most intriguing mounts is Discreet Cat, entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The Godolphin Racing colt was unbeaten in six 2006 starts, but has not won this season after finishing seventh in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and third in the Sept. 30 Vosburg Stakes (gr. I).
“(Discreet Cat) has been training well since his last race; I breezed him last weekend and he breezed really, really well,” Gomez said. “He looks like his old self. Coming off the bench at Belmont he got a little tired on me and he actually hung in there and ran a really good third for us. Overall his performance in that race was actually a really good performance.”
Gomez will also be aboard Todd Pletcher trainee Any Given Saturday in the Classic.
“Every time he’s run, he’s run a very professional race and done what I’ve asked him to do,” Gomez said. “I’m glad the Breeders’ Cup is here because his Haskel (gr. I) win was probably his best race that I’ve ridden him in. We’re back on this kind of surface again, and hopefully he’ll show up and we’ll build a little bit more.”