Updated on 09/15/2011 2:12PM

Aptitude has risen to top of class


LAS VEGAS - Beset by physical problems throughout his career, Aptitude (by A.P. Indy) has finally fulfilled the promise he suggested in his early races at 3. Aptitude's lopsided victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup not only makes him a solid contender for the Breeders' Cup Classic, it emphatically stamps him as the horse to beat.

There are three reasons why Aptitude has turned the corner:

* The most important reason is that he has never been in such great physical shape.

* Like so many quality individuals (such as Timber Country), the California racing surfaces are not conducive to Aptitude's running style

* The addition of blinkers.

Aptitude is bred to be most effective at 1 1/4 miles. He inherited stamina and abundant class from both his sire and female family. His unraced dam, Dokki (Northern Dancer), is a half-sister to champion Slew o' Gold and Belmont Stakes winner Coastal. Aptitude has now won four of six races at 1 1/4 miles, and because the Breeders' Cup Classic will be run over the same distance and surface as the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he has an important edge over his competition.

Frankel also trains Skimming (Nureyev) and Lido Palace (Rich Man's Gold), but neither is likely to run in the Classic. Lido Palace, an impressive winner of the Woodward Stakes, would have to be supplemented to the Classic for $800,000.

Other American contenders

After a solid effort in the Woodward Stakes off a six-month layoff, Tiznow (Cee's Tizzy) appeared to be ready to defend his victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His third-place finish in the Goodwood Handicap, however, does not inspire confidence. Tiznow just does not seem to be the same animal that he was last year. Nevertheless, the Goodwood was still a prep, and if the real Tiznow shows up at Belmont in two weeks, they could all be running for second.

Of the other older runners, Include (Broad Brush) may be the forgotten horse and is on target to peak on Breeders' Cup Day.

The strongest asset of Albert the Great (Go for Gin) has always been his natural speed, and he was taken out of his game in his fourth-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. A front-runner, his chances of winning the Classic would be greatly enhanced if the track were to come up wet.

After the Triple Crown, much was written about the prospect of the 3-year-olds dominating the Breeders' Cup Classic. With Point Given, Monarchos, Congaree, and Millennium Wind either retired or on the sidelines, Macho Uno (Holy Bull) may be the only American-based 3-year-old in the race, but he is not bred to be a 1 1/4-mile horse.

European pair shaky on dirt

The intriguing horses for the Classic remain the European superstars Galileo (Sadler's Wells) and Fantastic Light (Rahy). Last year, the European Giant's Causeway just missed winning the Classic in his only race on dirt. He had a pedigree equally potent for grass or dirt. Because Giant's Causeway was by Storm Cat out of Mariah's Storm, a multiple stakes winner on dirt in this country, there was every reason to believe he could transfer his talent to the dirt.

Fantastic Light would be favored to win the Breeders' Cup Turf, but is questionable on dirt. His sire, Rahy, was a top sprinter in England, and although many of his best runners have won on the dirt (Serena's Song, Mariah's Storm, Exotic Wood, Raw Gold), some have been much more effective on turf (Hawksley Hill, Tranquility Lake, Noverre). Early Pioneer, a son of Rahy, won the Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, but it's a rare Rahy who wins on the dirt at the Classic distance.

Galileo, far and away Europe's best 3-year-old, has a very classy pedigree. His sire, Sadler's Wells, has sired the winners of nearly every important group race in England and Ireland, but his offspring have not had many opportunities to race on dirt. Galileo's dam, Urban Sea, was champion older mare in France, and won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Like Fantastic Light, Galileo would be a standout in the Breeders' Cup Turf but is a shaky proposition on dirt.