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Updated on 09/17/2011 11:37PM
BC Classic: Somebody has to draw outside
ELMONT, N.Y. - They rolled out the welcome mat on Wednesday at Belmont Park and lined it with banana peels.
Starcraft, who has traveled from the Antipodes to Europe, and on to America in order to make his first start on dirt - for which his owner had to pony up an $800,000 supplemental fee - landed the outside post when 14 runners were entered Wednesday in the on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Starcraft, welcome to New York!
"We came all this way to get the best draw in the house," said Starcraft's trainer, Luca Cumani, the sarcasm dripping from every pore in his body. "It'll just make him have to run a little bit faster."
Run at 1 1/4 miles, the Classic starts on the turn at Belmont Park, so horses with outside posts are generally considered to be at a disadvantage. Unbridled, however, won the Classic from post 14 at this track in 1990.
That was comfort for Richard Dutrow Jr., the trainer of Saint Liam, the morning-line favorite in the Classic. He ended up in post 13.
"It satisfies me just fine," Dutrow said. "If he breaks good, he should get a good trip."
Posts were drawn for all eight Breeders' Cup races Wednesday morning. The Classic, the last of the eight races, was one of several races that saw highly regarded horses get potentially poor posts.
In the Mile, which starts out of a dogleg chute, morning-line favorite Leroidesanimaux ended up in post 11 in a field of 12. In the Filly and Mare Turf, defending race winner Ouija Board drew post 13 in a field of 14. Jerry Bailey rides both Ouija Board and Saint Liam. His agent, Ron Anderson, left the draw breakfast mumbling to himself.
"He'll figure things out," Anderson said.
A total of 101 horses were entered in the eight races, the third highest in history, and the most since 105 were entered in 2000. There are at least 10 horses in each race. Three races have the maximum of 14 runners, and in two of those races - the Juvenile and the Classic - there were more entries than starting spots, so runners had to be excluded. A.P. Arrow and Lord of the Game did not make the cut in the Classic, based on the rankings of an international panel of racing officials that were announced one week earlier.
Jockey John Velazquez is the only rider with mounts in all eight races. Todd Pletcher had the most entrants among trainers, with eight. Velazquez and Pletcher will team up in five races, including the Classic with Flower Alley.
Flower Alley drew post 7 in the Classic, well inside Saint Liam.
"Drawing 13 at a mile and a quarter can't be an advantage," Pletcher said of Saint Liam.
In seven of the races, supplemental fees from horses not originally nominated to the Breeders' Cup have swelled the purses.
The Breeders' Cup guarantees $14 million in purses, but the supplements bring this year's total to $15,755,000. The Classic's purse will be $4,680,000. Of the $800,000 put up by Paul Makin, the owner of Starcraft, $680,000 goes into the purse. Every starter in the Classic pays $120,000 in entry and starting fees.
Among those paying supplements Wednesday was Harry Aleo, the owner of Lost in the Fog, the unbeaten favorite in the Sprint. Eric Donovan, the morning-line maker at Belmont Park, made Lost in the Fog the shortest price on the day, at even-money. The Sprint is the fourth of the eight Breeders' Cup races.
Donovan's other favorites, in race order, are Folklore (5-2 odds) in the Juvenile Fillies, First Samurai (8-5) in the Juvenile, Ouija Board (5-2) in the Filly and Mare Turf, Leroidesanimaux (7-5) in the Mile, Ashado (2-1) in the Distaff, Shakespeare (3-1) in the Turf, and Saint Liam (3-1) in the Classic.
Saturday's races are expected to determine nearly every divisional championship and Horse of the Year. There are several Horse of the Year candidates in the Classic, including Borrego, Rock Hard Ten, and Saint Liam.
Of those three, Rock Hard Ten unquestionably got the best of the draw. The Santa Anita Handicap winner, who arrived Wednesday on a flight from California, got the rail. Borrego, the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, got post 11. Borrego vs. Rock Hard Ten is the Head2Head matchup in this race.
The complete Classic field, including jockeys, is Rock Hard Ten (Gary Stevens the rider), Sun King (Rafael Bejarano), Choctaw Nation (Victor Espinoza), Oratorio (Kieren Fallon), Perfect Drift (Mark Guidry), Sir Shackleton (Javier Castellano), Super Frolic (Eibar Coa), Suave (Edgar Prado), Flower Alley (Velazquez), Jack Sullivan (Frankie Dettori), Borrego (Garrett Gomez), A Bit O'Gold (Jono Jones), Saint Liam (Bailey), and Starcraft (Patrick Valenzuela).
Valenzuela is known for his skill at getting a horse away from the gate smoothly and quickly, but Cumani said he would not necessarily instruct Valenzuela to send Starcraft early to try and overcome the post.
"We have to play to his strength. He has to find a rhythm at his own pace," Cumani said. "It's best to let the horse do his own thing. But you don't want to lose ground, so we may have to adjust."
The three European runners - Jack Sullivan, Oratorio, and Starcraft - all will race with Lasix for the first time.
This will be the fifth Breeders' Cup held in New York, and the fourth at Belmont Park. The venue is popular with European runners, because of its proximity, climate, and sweeping turns.
"We think Belmont is perhaps our best horse venue," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., the president of Breeders' Cup Ltd. "The racecourses lend themselves to international competition."
For Charles Hayward, the head of the beleaguered New York Racing Association, "This is my favorite day of the year."
"It's Christmas in October," Hayward said.
It sure feels like Christmas. It has been chilly all week, but at least it did not rain Wednesday. The National Weather Service forecast is for high temperatures in the mid-50's the rest of the week, including Saturday, with rain showers possible Thursday night and into Friday. It is supposed to be partly cloudy, but with no rain, on Saturday.
Breeders' Cup Classic
Purse: $4,680,000; 1 1/4 miles; Grade 1
|1||Rock Hard Ten||G. Stevens||126||7-2|
|2||Sun King||R. Bejarano||122||30-1|
|3||Choctaw Nation||V. Espinoza||126||15-1|
|5||Perfect Drift||M. Guidry||126||12-1|
|6||Sir Shackleton||J. Castellano||126||20-1|
|7||Super Frolic||E. Coa||126||30-1|
|9||Flower Alley||J. Velazquez||122||10-1|
|10||Jack Sullivan||F. Dettori||126||50-1|
|12||A Bit O'Gold||J. Jones||126||30-1|
|13||Saint Liam||J. Bailey||126||3-1|
* Track odds
* Television: Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Eastern, NBC