TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I)

(gr. I , 6f ,)

SILVER TRAIN (DK B/ h, 124 lb) $551,200
Old Trieste —Ridden in Thestars , by Cormorant
B—John Mulholland, KY.; O—Buckram Oak Farm; T—Richard E. Dutrow, Jr.

Taste of Paradise (DK B/ h, 126 lb) $212,000
Conquistador Cielo —Tastetheteardrops , by What Luck
B—Abrahams, Snukal & Bloom, KY.; O—David B. Bloom; T—Gary Mandella

Lion Tamer (CH h, 126 lb) $116,600
Will's Way —Tippecanoe Creek , by Olympio
B—Paul Smith, KY.; O—Michael B. Tabor; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Margins: head, 3, neck. Others: Attila's Storm 124($60,420) , Elusive Jazz 126($31,800) , Lifestyle 126 , Lost in the Fog 124 , Imperialism 126 , Gygistar 126 , Wildcat Heir 126 , Battle Won 126 . Winning Jockey, Edgar S. Prado.

Belmont Park was home to the 2005 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, but Aqueduct proved to be the heart and soul of the 22nd edition. As the focus sharpened on Belmont and New York hosting the event for the fifth time, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. was over at the Big A, putting the finishing touches on his two starters, Silver Train and Saint Liam.

Both would deliver big-time victories for the controversial 46-year-old trainer and both delivered a one-two punch to the Horse of the Year picture. Silver Train would put an end to Lost in the Fog’s storybook season and Horse of the Year hopes, and Saint Liam would later win the Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), stamping himself a leading candidate for the year-end award.

The star of the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), and the whole program for that matter, was unbeaten Lost in the Fog. The winner of 10 straight had made his seventh cross-country trek from Northern California, and he was the media darling and fan favorite. His good looks and colorful connections of owner Harry Aleo and trainer Greg Gilchrist caused a swarm of activity around Barn 11 on Belmont’s backstretch Breeders’ Cup week.

Every move was closely followed. A film crew shadowed Aleo the day before the race as he watched his pride and joy tear through a two-mile gallop. Day in and day out, Gilchrist rattled off interview after interview, never once shrugging his shoulders, answering every question about his 3-year-old star concisely and with courtesy.

Gilchrist continually told the tale of the sprint star’s rise, of resisting the temptation to join the Derby (gr. I) trail, and what it would be like—gasp—if they might lose.

“Most of them get beat, and you wonder how you’re going to respond to that,” the trainer said. “I think you don’t ever get too high, don’t ever get too low, keep yourself in the middle somewhere. Don’t ever set yourself up for some big disappointment.

“The main thing that concerns me is stepping up against older horses and finding out how he’ll do. What better place to find out than right here.”

Not too far from “here,” Silver Train was quietly being primed for the race of his life. The son of Old Trieste, owned by Mahmoud Fustok’s Buckram Oak Farm, was also a 3-year-old and also had 10 starts to his credit, but with three wins, two seconds, and three thirds, he wasn’t of Lost in the Fog’s caliber…or was he?

“The last couple of weeks have been special,” Dutrow said. “He trained up for this race as good as any horse except for Saint Liam. My same boy, Gustavo Rodriguez, has been getting up on him every day and he told me a few weeks ago—and he’s been working for the family for 20 years—he said, ‘Rick, this is the best the horse has gone for me.’ I was excited watching him train, watching him coming up to this race.”

His works had been terrific. Since winning the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) going a mile at Belmont Sept. 11, he’d put in five five-furlong works, the last four being bullets.

Dutrow has only had Silver Train for about six months. He recalled the day he won the Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III) with Offlee Wild at Aqueduct early in April when he got a cell phone call from Mohammed Moubarak of Buckram Oak.

“I was eating with some friends,” Dutrow said. “He called me and said, ‘Rick, I want you to train some of our horses.’ The next day he started sending me some.”

At that point, Silver Train, who was bred in Kentucky by the Mulholland family at their farm in Scott County and was plucked out of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale for $140,000 by Moubarak, was eligible for non-winners of one “other than.” Dutrow knew he had some work to do, and he was also about ready to stare down a 60-day suspension for two drug positives and a claiming violation.

“When I train horses, if the horses can’t push off behind, they’re not going to be as good as they’re supposed to be,” Dutrow said. “My concentration is on them pushing off behind in the right way. Silver Train wasn’t even close to doing that. We had to do a few different procedures with him. Once we got him pushing off the right way, we ran him in a stakes here at Belmont and he was in trouble the whole way.”

That troubled start was a third-place finish in the $60,000 Lite the Fuse Stakes. He followed that with a telling 63¼4-length allowance win at Belmont. He was pitched into the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga. He ran third.

“I had no idea he didn’t like that track, because he broke his maiden there by seven (the previous August), but after the race up there, he hit himself behind like in eight different places on both hind legs,” Dutrow said. “I’ve never seen that before. I knew it was because of the track.”

The next two starts, back at Belmont, would be tailor made for him—a romp in the one-mile Jerome, and then the Sprint.

“The other day when I breezed him, Gustavo told me, ‘You know, turning for home, he slipped a little bit and he hit himself,’ ” Dutrow said. “I had Dr. (Steve) Allday there, who is my specialist on hind ends. He saw a little thing with him. There wasn’t anything we could do. So I had to revert to putting training into him. I used a magnetic blanket. I did everything that I possibly could to take some of the soreness out. It worked.

“Since the race was run at Belmont, we decided to take a chance and run him in this race,” he said. “He just loves this track and this race was tailor made for him. We had nothing to lose by trying it and everything to gain.”

The Sprint lost three horses from the Oct. 19 pre-entry stage to the draw Oct. 26. Live Oak Plantation’s High Fly, another 3-year-old, suffered a condylar fracture Oct. 22, putting his racing career on hold. Fog City Stable’s Roman Ruler, also three, went to the sidelines. And on Oct. 26, Michael Tabor’s Pomeroy was declared out of the race after an injured left front foot surfaced following his final tune-up over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.

A field of 11 would go to the post in the Sprint, and there was plenty of speculation regarding strategy. The question of whether to “send” or not for Lost in the Fog was alleviated when the Florida-bred son of Lost Soldier drew a mid-pack post of seven.

David Bloom’s Taste of Paradise, the longshot winner of the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 1 at Belmont, drew the rail. Trainer Gary Mandella’s runner, a stone closer at six furlongs, would not be bothered by the post, but his conditioner broke the race down by saying, “If you ask 10 people how much speed there is in this race, you’ll get five guys that say there is a lot of speed and five guys that say no,” he said. “I think it’s going to take the situation for somebody to ‘send’ for there to be that much pace.

“I’m counting on P Val (jockey Pat Valenzuela, who rode 45-1 shot Attila’s Storm from post two) doing what he always does. I’m glad he has a horse in the race. He’s notorious for sending out of the gate and attacking big favorites and riding them out of races. He does it every day in California. If he rides the way he normally does, there will be plenty of pace.

Mandella, a former analyst for TVG, nailed the race to a tee.

P Val sent Attila’s Storm right to the front at the break and he was joined by Battle Won and Wildcat Heir from posts four and six, respectively. Hall of Fame rider Russell Baze, aboard Lost in the Fog in all of his races, save one when he was ridden by Edgar Prado, had his runner right in the hunt, sitting fourth after an opening quarter of :22.01.

Prado, who was aboard Silver Train, kept him right in the bridle while fifth along the inside.

At each call of Lost in the Fog from announcer Tom Durkin, the crowd roared for the 3-5 shot. Baze and the Fog eased up to the lead and took command while wide over Battle Won and Wildcat Heir after a half in a testing :44.56. While he had the lead as the field turned for home, it was apparent Lost in the Fog was in for more challenges...and quickly.

“I really didn’t ask him to run until we turned for home,” Baze said. “I cocked my stick and I shook it at him and he gave a little move and a dozen jumps later, I was out of horse. When I dug into him, usually he’ll respond for me, but today, it was nothing.”

At the instant it became apparent Lost in the Fog wasn’t going to win, it looked likely Silver Train would. However, Taste of Paradise would have some say in the matter, too. Prado swung Silver Train out off the rail to pass Lost in the Fog and then went to work on his mount as Garrett Gomez came with a vengeance on Taste of Paradise between the two. There was a gentle squeeze near the eighth pole after five furlongs in :56.65.

Gomez took a hold of Taste of Paradise, then swung him to the outside of Silver Train for a re-rally bid. Taste of Paradise lengthened his stride, and foot by foot ate into Silver Train’s lead. They hit the line together, with Silver Train holding on by a head in 1:08.86. It was three lengths back to the late-running Lion Tamer. Lost in the Fog faded to finish seventh.

As the field crossed the line, Wildcat Heir, who finished 10th, tumbled to the ground, tossing jockey Stewart Elliott. The colt gathered himself up and trotted toward the gap. Despite some cuts and scrapes, both horse and rider were OK.

Seconds later, the inquiry sign went up as Gomez claimed foul against the winner for allegedly coming in at the eighth pole. After some tense moments, the stewards let the final order stand.

“I came here thinking, ‘I’m running against Lost in the Fog. If I run second to Lost in the Fog, you know, that’s pretty good,’ ” a disappointed Mandella said. “I was talking myself into that. That would be pretty good, but to run second, get beat a head, and be interfered with in the stretch…that’s not as sweet. I wish I could have gotten there with one more jump, or the stewards would have seen it our way. There’s not a question in my mind that I had the best horse today and I get beat a head.”

In the tunnel back to the paddock, Aleo and the entire Fog crew couldn’t have been more gracious in defeat.

Aleo, a minor league baseball player in his day, said it was like “it’s the bottom of the ninth inning and you’re ahead by 8-1 and the other team scores eight runs and beats you. You can’t win them all. There’s always another day.”

While Dutrow said he was drained by his first Breeders’ Cup success, he had to save plenty of his emotion left for Saint Liam’s race a few hours later. After his win in the Classic, Dutrow was able to let loose.

Fustok has long been involved in the Thoroughbred industry and finally scored his first Breeders’ Cup win. A successful breeder and owner in France, producing two-time champion Green Forest, the 69-year-old Fustok purchased and developed Buckram Oak Farm, a 500-acre spread on Old Frankfort Pike near Lexington in 1978. Wanting to put more of a focus on a 200-acre farm near Ocala, Fla., he recently sold the Kentucky farm to wine baron Jess Jackson.

Moubarak, a longtime family friend, was formerly Fustok’s trainer but now oversees the operation and is the contact with Buckram Oak’s trainers that include Dutrow, Nick Zito, Vladimir Cerin, and Ralph Ziadie. Moubarak has a knack for picking out potential graded stakes winners for moderate prices at the sales. Besides Silver Train, Buckram Oak has recently campaigned grade I winner Silver Wagon, a $120,000 2-year-old sale purchase, and multiple grade III winner Najran, a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2000.

Looking forward out of the Sprint, Silver Train, Taste of Paradise, and Lost in the Fog should be back. Aleo was upbeat about the future despite the loss and can look forward to stretching him out.

“We’re going to turn him out, give him a rest—that’s what we were going to do win or lose—and then we’ll bring him back and get him ready for the Strub series at Santa Anita. He’ll be all right. Even Secretariat got beat, didn’t he?”

Dutrow clearly looks ahead to another year at Belmont with Silver Train. “I want to win one more race with him, and that’s the Met Mile (gr. I),” he said. “It’s at this track and we’ll have him ready. And if he wins that, these people are going to have one hell of a stallion on their hands.

“I have a special feeling. I think one day other than this, we’re going to win a big race together,” he said of his relationship with Fustok, Moubarak, and Buckram Oak. “I have good karma with them.”

Good karma with a silver lining. b