Updated on 09/16/2011 8:22AM

BC Countdown - Classic: Momentum can improve position


ARCADIA, Calif. - He has yet to win a race all year. He's finished second three times in those six starts, but has not won. And yet because of the wide-open nature of this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, Momentum looms as a solid, legitimate contender, a position he could enhance if he gets a long-overdue victory in Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Momentum lost narrowly to Came Home in the Pacific Classic, was nosed out by Sky Jack in the Hollywood Gold Cup, and was right behind Milwaukee Brew and Bosque Redondo in the Californian Stakes, each time earning a Beyer Speed Figure of at least 114. Keeping that good company should make him the favorite in the Goodwood, which serves as California's major prep for the $4 million Classic, the richest race of the World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park.

The Goodwood is one of two important 1 1/8-mile preps this weekend for the 1 1/4-mile Classic, but it is coming up light, with Euchre, Grey Memo, Kela, and Pleasantly Perfect among the probables. Friday night's Grade 2, $400,000 Meadowlands Cup drew a field of 11, with Include the topweight at 118 pounds. Other leading contenders in that race are Burning Roma, Express Tour, Gander, and Volponi.

A Goodwood-Classic double would reverse a year for Momentum that began with great promise and has been filled with disappointment. When Momentum switched to the dirt last fall and impressively won Hollywood Park's Native Diver Handicap, he appeared to be one of the major players for Santa Anita's Strub Series. But Momentum finished fifth as the even-money favorite in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes, then was pulled up in the Strub.

"He had a quarter crack in his left front," said Craig Dollase, Momentum's trainer. "He had a couple. He had one on a hind foot, too. It's been a battle with this horse. We gave him time and let the crack grow.

"They're tough deals. Mizzen Mast - that's what stopped him." Mizzen Mast is the Bobby Frankel-trained horse who won the Strub Stakes but has not raced since.

Momentum has run four sharp races since returning this summer, all with Garrett Gomez riding. But Corey Nakatani, Dollase's brother-in-law, will be back on Momentum on Sunday, reuniting Momentum with the last jockey to win with him.

Momentum regularly trains at Hollywood Park, where Dollase is based, but he has been at Santa Anita all week.

"I wanted to school him a couple of times," Dollase said. "I do that with all the horses I run at Santa Anita. He's laid back. He gets competitive on the track, but he's got a good demeanor. He's a smart horse."

Momentum and the top Dollase-trained sprinter Swept Overboard are owned by Paul Reddam, who made his fortune when he developed and then sold Ditech, a huge mortgage lender. Reddam has 20 horses with Dollase, "about half my barn," the trainer said.

The Goodwood could have been the final tune-up for 3-year-old stars Came Home and War Emblem, both of whom are training at Santa Anita, but both are going to the Classic off works.

Came Home, who beat War Emblem in the Pacific Classic last time out, looked particularly well Wednesday morning. He is scheduled to work again on Friday, trainer Paco Gonzalez said.

"He's doing better than ever," Gonzalez said. "I've never seen him look the way he does now."

War Emblem, the Kentucky Derby winner, galloped slowly with Larry Damore, who has taken over as his new exercise rider. "He gets him to gallop easy," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He's more relaxed here. At Del Mar, there's too much action. He was running off at Del Mar."

Baffert said War Emblem was "pretty knocked out" following the Pacific Classic, in which he finished sixth. Baffert said the race, combined with a trip to Monmouth three weeks earlier and a fast workout before the Pacific Classic, necessitated a brief break. War Emblem has had two drills since the Pacific Classic.

Both Gonzalez and Baffert said their colts would be sent to Arlington on Oct. 23, just three days before the Classic.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said he is still keeping Kentucky Cup winner Pure Prize in mind for the race in light of last weekend's upsets in Classic preps. "I'm keeping my options open," said McGaughey, who said he initially thought he would run Pure Prize in Keeneland's Fayette Handicap.