Updated on 09/16/2011 8:32AM

BC Countdown - Classic: It's the Mile for the Rock

Early DRF favorite Medaglia d'Oro, under Rudy Rodriguez, gallops at Arlington on Wednesday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Last week, it seemed as though trainer Aidan O'Brien were leaning toward running both Rock of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing in Saturday's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park. But earlier this week, O'Brien started to backpedal, and on Wednesday he entered Rock of Gibraltar in the Mile along with stablemate Landseer, leaving Hawk Wing as the lone representative in the Classic for the superstar Irish trainer.

Hawk Wing and Rock of Gibraltar were pre-entered last week in both the Mile on turf and the 1 1/4-mile Classic on dirt, and their status was the major issue at the draw for post positions on Wednesday morning, the day after O'Brien's seven-horse Breeders' Cup contingent arrived from Ireland.

Rock of Gibraltar is owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and Susan Magnier. He has won all five of his starts this year in Europe, all Group 1 races at one mile. He has never raced on dirt, or beyond a mile.

"We looked at the situation and decided Rock of Gibraltar has a turf pedigree, and we should stick with the race that we know," said Mike Dillon, the racing manager for Ferguson.

The field for the Classic will now number 12, with Horse of the Year candidates Came Home, Medaglia d'Oro, and War Emblem heading the field. Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Medaglia d'Oro the 7-2 early favorite. Arlington's morning line set by Mike Battaglia, which will appear in official programs around the country, has War Emblem favored at 3-1.

Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Medaglia d'Oro, said he was surprised War Emblem was favored over his colt.

"His form's not that good right now," Frankel said of War Emblem, who is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic. "We'll see who the public makes the favorite."

Bob Baffert, War Emblem's trainer, thought his colt, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, deserved to be favored.

"I thought he would be. He's got the best credentials," Baffert said, and added, joking, "He's got the best trainer."

Final fields were declared, and post positions drawn, for all eight Breeders' Cup races on Wednesday morning. Two horses were excluded at entry time from the Mile, which had the maximum 14 runners.

Post positions are seemingly key in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, and the Mile, all of which have an abbreviated run to the first turn. Westerly Breeze and Appleby Gardens, two longshots, drew poorly in the 11-runner Juvenile Fillies. Wando and Toccet have the outside posts in the 14-horse Juvenile. Rock of Gibraltar (post 10) and stablemate Landseer (13) did not get ideal spots in the 14-horse Mile.

Medaglia d'Oro and Sky Mesa, who runs in the Juvenile, at 7-2 are the highest-priced favorites on Watchmaker's line. His shortest price is on Storm Flag Flying, whom he has at even money in the Juvenile Fillies. Watchmaker's other early favorites are Azeri (7-5) in the Distaff, Rock of Gibraltar (6-5) in the Mile, Orientate (2-1) in the Sprint, Golden Apples (3-1) in the Filly and Mare Turf, and High Chaparral (8-5) in the Turf.

With Rock of Gibraltar in the Mile, O'Brien has two early favorites. His other is High Chaparral, who finished third in the Arc de Triomphe in his last start.

O'Brien's horses probably feel right at home at Arlington, where the weather on Wednesday mirrored that of Ireland. It was cloudy, drizzling, and cold, with a high in the mid-40's. According to the National Weather Service, the light rain was expected to end by Thursday morning. The forecast was for cloudy days through Saturday, but no rain, and a high for Breeders' Cup Day in the upper 50's.

Came Home and War Emblem both arrived at Arlington on Thursday after an early morning flight from Ontario, Calif. The post draw was being held around the time they arrived. Came Home drew near the outside of the field, in post 11. War Emblem ended up in post 3, but another speed horse, E Dubai, drew the rail.

"My main concern is E Dubai going from the 1-hole," said Baffert, who has said that War Emblem's best chance is to try to lead from start to finish.

Medaglia d'Oro ended up in post 7, an ideal spot from which to stalk the early leaders.

"The draw is so important in these races. I'm very happy with that post," Frankel said. "I like E Dubai being in the 1-hole. There's some pace in the race. I'm outside the two speeds."

Frankel was the focal point of Breeders' Cup coverage last year, because he entered that year's World Thoroughbred Championships with an inglorious 0-for-36 record. Squirtle Squirt's victory in the Sprint gave Frankel his first win, and though his current 1-for-42 record is still inexplicably poor, Frankel said that one victory has made this year's build up easier to bear.

"I haven't had too many questions about it," Frankel said. "You know, if Squirtle Squirt hadn't won, it probably wouldn't be too much fun this year. That did take some pressure off, actually."

The Classic field, from the rail out, is E Dubai (Jorge Chavez riding), Volponi (Jose Santos), War Emblem (Victor Espinoza), Dollar Bill (Pat Day), Perfect Drift (Robby Albarado), Macho Uno (Gary Stevens), Medaglia d'Oro (Jerry Bailey), Evening Attire (Shaun Bridgmohan), Harlan's Holiday (John Velazquez), Hawk Wing (Mick Kinane), Came Home (Mike Smith), and Milwaukee Brew (Edgar Prado).



Total purse: $4 million; 1 1/4 miles; Grade 1

1E DubaiJ. Chavez12615-1
2VolponiJ. Santos12630-1
3War EmblemV. Espinoza1215-1
4Dollar BillP. Day12630-1
5Perfect DriftR. Albarado12130-1
6Macho UnoG. Stevens12620-1
7Medaglia d'OroJ. Bailey1217-2
8Evening AttireS. Bridgmohan1269-2
9Harlan's HolidayJ. Velazquez12110-1
10Hawk WingM. Kinane1218-1
11Came HomeM. Smith1214-1
12Milwaukee BrewE. Prado12612-1

Odds by Mike Watchmaker

Televison: Saturday, 1 p.m. (Eastern), NBC