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Updated on 09/15/2011 1:03PM
Attack alters prep plans for Championships
The countdown has begun to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park, but with a muted tone and altered schedule as a result of last week's terrorist attacks.
Belmont Park had to cancel several important stakes last weekend. Some horses scheduled to run in this weekend's Kentucky Cup races at Turfway Park could not make timely connections from California and have passed the races. Trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday that his two best 2-year-olds, the colt Officer and the filly Habibti, would have their final Breeders' Cup preps at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, not at Belmont Park as originally planned.
Although the inconveniences facing horsemen seem insignificant when compared with the tragedies from the attacks, some horsemen have been enmeshed in both. Trainer Nick Zito has been concentrating on getting both Albert the Great and A P Valentine prepared for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 6 at Belmont Park, and the subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic. Yet Zito also has had to deal with the grief shared by the family of Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach and co-owner of A P Valentine, whose brother-in-law, Billy Minardi, worked on the 104th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center, the first to be hit by an airplane. Minardi, the brother of Pitino's wife, Joanne, is among the thousands missing and presumed dead.
This year's program of Breeders' Cup races will be the 18th. The eight-race, $13 million program, which was renamed over the summer, will be televised live by NBC in a five-hour broadcast. The final race of the day is the richest, the $4 million Classic, in which 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow will seek a repeat victory.
Despite the premature retirement of Point Given, the Classic still is shaping up as a compelling race. Tiznow recently returned to action, finishing a sharp third behind Lido Palace and Albert the Great in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 8. Tiznow was stranded in New York after the terrorist attacks, and finally returned to California on Tuesday. His co-owner, Michael Cooper, on Wednesday said both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Santa Anita's Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 7 are under consideration for Tiznow's next start.
But Cooper spoke for many when he said, "It's been hard for me to get excited. With this other thing, it doesn't seem that important. At this time last year, I was so excited I couldn't sleep."
The only other Classic horse of significance being prepared for the Goodwood is Skimming, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar for the second straight year in his last start.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup will have at least Albert the Great, A P Valentine, and Aptitude, who won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap in his last start for red-hot trainer Bobby Frankel. Zito said that Albert the Great will have a new rider, with Gary Stevens replacing Jorge Chavez. Stevens became open for the Classic when Point Given was retired.
Lido Palace, who like Aptitude and Skimming is trained by Frankel, likely will skip the Gold Cup, and his chances of running in the Classic are uncertain. Lido Palace would need to be supplemented to the Classic for $800,000 because neither he nor his sire, Rich Man's Gold, were nominated to the Breeders' Cup. Frankel has advised John Amerman, Lido Palace's principal owner, that the supplemental fee makes no sense economically.
"You could run second and lose money after you pay the trainer, the stable, and the jockey," Frankel said. Frankel added that he believes the Japan Cup Dirt in Tokyo in late November is a better option for Lido Palace.
Europe will be well represented if both Fantastic Light and Galileo come to the Breeders' Cup for the Classic, as previously announced. Fantastic Light, who beat the previously undefeated Galileo last time out in the Irish Champion Stakes, is expected to arrive in New York in early October, according to assistant trainer Tom Albertrani.
Macho Uno, the winner of the Pennsylvania Derby, will have his final prep for the Classic in the Ohio Derby on Sept. 29 at Thistledown, a track owned by Macho Uno's owner, Frank Stronach. Red Bullet, who like Macho Uno is owned by Stronach and trained by Joe Orseno, will run in the Meadowlands Cup on Sept. 28, but Orseno said Red Bullet is uncertain for the Classic because the colt has run poorly both times he has raced at Belmont. "He picked a heck of a track not to like," Orseno said. Others pointing for the Meadowlands Cup include Broken Vow and Generous Rosi.
This weekend's most significant races for Classic aspirants include the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park, featuring Balto Star and Guided Tour, and the Super Derby, with Travers runner-up E Dubai. Dixie Dot Com, the Pacific Classic runner-up, was expected to run in the Kentucky Cup Classic, but could not make proper travel plans from California.
Among those off the Classic trail is Captain Steve, the Dubai World Cup winner, who finished third in last year's Classic. He is being given a lengthy rest following a series of poor races this summer.
Here is a rundown of developments in the other Breeders' Cup races:
Such highly regarded runners as Beautiful Pleasure, Printemps, Shine Again, and Spain were among those who were going to run in last week's Ruffian Handicap, which was cancelled. Spain, the Distaff's defending champ, will instead run in Saturday's Turfway Breeders' Cup. Flute, the nation's leading 3-year-old filly, will face older females, such as Gourmet Girl and Serra Lake, in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 6. Beautiful Pleasure, the 1999 Distaff winner, will run in either the Beldame or the Overbrook Spinster Stakes, on Oct. 7 at Keeneland. Pompeii is also headed to the Spinster. Saudi Poetry has been retired and will be bred to Point Given.
Filly and Mare Turf
Astra needs to bounce back from her soft-turf debacle in the Beverly D. Stakes. England's Legend, the Beverly D. winner, is headed next to the Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 29. Starine will be supplemented to the Filly and Mare Turf for $90,000, according to Frankel, who owns and trains her.
The strength in the division is in California, with Came Home and Officer, both unbeaten. They have yet to meet. Belmont Park cancelled last week's Futurity, but no horses of national significance had been scheduled to run. Officer will run in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29 instead of the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 6. Saturday's Kentucky Cup Juvenile features Gold Dollar. Ecstatic passed the Kentucky Cup, and will run next in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
You had to miss a scheduled start when last week's Matron Stakes was cancelled by Belmont Park. Horses who were to run in the Matron and whose connections desire a New York prep will have to run in the Frizette Stakes on Oct. 6, setting up a potential rematch between You and Cashier's Dream. Habibti, originally scheduled to run in the Frizette, will now run in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 30. Tempera goes straight into the Breeders' Cup.
Dr. Kashnikow, Forbidden Apple, Hap, and Union One all were entered in last weekend's Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, which was cancelled. Belmont's Kelso Handicap on Oct. 6, and Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile, on Oct. 7, are the next significant races for this division.
This could be one of the day's best races, should defending champion Kona Gold and challengers Caller One, El Corredor, Peeping Tom, Say Florida Sandy, and Squirtle Squirt all make it.
A popped splint has kept Bienamado from training since the Arlington Million. He is extremely doubtful to make the Breeders' Cup. King Cugat, Senure, and With Anticipation are the top contenders for this race, assuming Fantastic Light and Galileo both go to the Classic.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee
Breeders' Cup contenders field
3yo & up, 1 1/4 miles, purse: $4 million
|1.||Tiznow||J. Robbins||Woodward comeback solid; all set now||4-1|
|2.||Lido Palace||R. Frankel||Hope he runs, but supplemental fee is exorbitant||5-1|
|3.||Albert the Great||N. Zito||No longer seems invincible at Belmont Park||9-2|
|4.||Fantastic Light||S. bin Suroor||The distance fits, but dirt is a question||6-1|
|5.||Galileo||A. O'Brien||Barn just missed last year with Giant's Causeway||5-1|
|6.||Aptitude||R. Frankel||May have put his underachieving ways behind him||8-1|
|7.||Macho Uno||J. Orseno||Back in form, but needs more improvement||12-1|
|8.||Include||G. Delp||Plans on coming back in The Meadowlands Cup||12-1|
|9.||E Dubai||S. bin Suroor||Showed substance finishing second in Travers||15-1|
|10.||Broken Vow||H. G. Motion||Has yet to succeed against the big guns||20-1|
The top 10 contenders are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. The actual field for the Classic will have up to 14 starters.