Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

BC Countdown - Classic: Fresh or prepped, there's the rub

Medaglia d'Oro (white star) beats Repent in the Travers. Repent will prep; Medaglia d'Oro won't.

Fresh is good for produce. But whether it is best for winning the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be put to the test this fall.

There is a clear line of demarcation among trainers preparing for the richest race of the World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park. In one corner stand Bob Baffert and Paco Gonzalez, the trainers of War Emblem and Came Home, who are bypassing a late-season prep in order to run in the Classic off a two-month break.

In the other corner are Ken McPeek and Joe Orseno, who will send out Repent and Macho Uno in key preps this weekend. And then there is Bobby Frankel, who has horses taking both paths. Medaglia d'Oro will not race again before the Classic, but both Lido Palace and Milwaukee Brew are scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

There are 29 days until the World Thoroughbred Championships, and the important preps for all eight Breeders' Cup races will take place over the next two weekends. The Classic's major preps this weekend include Friday night's Grade 2, $350,000 Pegasus Handicap at The Meadowlands, which is expected to feature Harlan's Holiday. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is expected to attract Lido Palace, Milwaukee Brew, and Repent. Macho Uno is scheduled to run in Sunday's Grade 2, $400,000 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington. And at Ascot in England on Saturday, Hawk Wing or Rock of Gibraltar will have a final Breeders' Cup prep in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

This will be the 19th edition of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, but it is the first time the event will be held at Arlington, the elegant, modern racetrack in the suburbs northwest of Chicago. That is not the only change for this year's Breeders' Cup. The races for 2-years-olds - the $1 million Juvenile and $1 million Juvenile Fillies - will both be run at 1 1/8 miles, one lap around Arlington's main track. In previous years, those races were either one mile or 1 1/16 miles.

What promises not to change is the high level of racing talent that annually flocks to the Breeders' Cup from both North America and Europe to settle Eclipse Award championships. In addition to those aiming for the Classic, such nationally ranked runners as Azeri, Beat Hollow, Farda Amiga, Golden Apples, Orientate, Sky Mesa, Storm Flag Flying, Summer Colony, Vindication, Whywhywhy, and With Anticipation are among those with designs on the Breeders' Cup from this country. Banks Hill, Hawk Wing, Nayef, and Rock of Gibraltar are among the European stars expected to arrive from overseas. Banks Hill, Kona Gold, and Macho Uno, all of whom won Breeders' Cup races in previous years, are attempting to do it again.

The Classic, per usual, should decide Horse of the Year. A victory by Came Home or War Emblem likely would sway voters. But this year's Classic is considered one of the most wide open in years. The nation's older horses have been an undistinguished lot, especially since the retirements of Left Bank and Street Cry. And though the 3-year-olds were considered a moderate group earlier this year, Came Home's victory in the Pacific Classic prompted a reassessment.

Repent will attempt to strike another blow for 3-year-olds when he faces older runners in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"I think he's got a big chance of winning," McPeek said.

Immediately following Repent's runner-up finish off a four-month layoff in the Travers Stakes, McPeek seemed to be leaning toward waiting until the Classic. But he changed his mind, for several reasons. "A mile and a quarter" - the distance of the Gold Cup and Classic - "is this horse's distance," McPeek said. "You don't skip a race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup just to point for another. He's run well at Belmont. He gets weight from older horses." And there's the not insignificant matter of this race being worth $1 million and a Grade 1.

As for taking on older horses, McPeek said he thinks Lido Palace "will find a tougher opponent than Gander in Repent."

Frankel believes both Lido Palace and Milwaukee Brew are capable of improved efforts in the Gold Cup. Lido Palace won the Woodward Stakes last time out, but had to work hard to get past dueling leaders Gander and Express Tour. "He was down inside early. When he wanted to run at first, there was no place to go," Frankel said of Lido Palace. "If he had drawn outside, he'd have won by five or six." Milwaukee Brew, according to Frankel, will do better at Belmont Park than at Del Mar, where he was third in the Pacific Classic. "He took the worst of it with traffic, having to wait for a spot to run," Frankel said. "Plus, the stretch out there is so short."

Harlan's Holiday will be entered in both the Pegasus, which is exclusively for 3-year-olds, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but his trainer, Todd Pletcher, is leaning toward the Pegasus. "We're trying to take a step forward, build off his last race," Pletcher said. Harlan's Holiday won the Pennsylvania Derby last time out. "His best race seems to be the third race in his form cycle. It might be best to take a baby step this time," Pletcher said.

Macho Uno, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2000, will seek to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Whitney Handicap when he runs in the Washington Park Handicap. Orseno said he decided to have Macho Uno prep at Arlington because "we're trying to win the big dance."

Came Home is waiting for the Classic because his logical prep, the Grade 2, $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 6 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, is adjudged by Gonzalez to be "too close" to the Breeders' Cup. "It's only 20 days," Gonzalez said. "If it was four weeks, that would make a difference. I don't want to give him another tough race, plus having to ship to Arlington."

With Came Home and War Emblem waiting for the Classic, and Milwaukee Brew having gone to New York, the Goodwood, the West's major prep for the Classic, is coming up quite light. Momentum, the Pacific Classic runner-up, is expected to head a small field.