09/26/2012 3:16PM

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: Rail Trip one of a few still on the fence

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Benoit & Associates
Rail Trip, winner of the Breeders Cup-qualifying San Diego Handicap, will start in the Awesome Again on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Like many of the Breeders’ Cup events, the lineup for the $1 million Dirt Mile has a lot of “ifs” to it, at least at this early juncture.

The results of the next two weekends, with such key races as the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park and Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita still to be run, should allow quite a bit of the proverbial dust to settle while determining the outlook for the Dirt Mile.

“We’re already in the Dirt Mile on a ‘Win and You’re In,’ ” said trainer Ron Ellis, who will send out Rail Trip, winner of the BC-qualifying San Diego Handicap, in the Awesome Again on Saturday. “But a lot depends on how he runs in this race as to whether we might want to go in the Classic. I’m sure a lot of horses are on the fence that way.”

Likewise, trainer Bill Mott is holding out on committing To Honor and Serve – winner of the Grade 1 Woodward last out and the favorite for the Kelso on Saturday – to the Dirt Mile, just in case the $5 million BC Classic makes better sense. And then there is Dominus, who runs next in the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, where trainer Todd Pletcher is planning on the race to serve as a prep for the $3 million BC Mile on the grass while also keeping the $1 million Dirt Mile in his back pocket as a contingency plan.

Otherwise, it looks as if Shackleford, Bourbon Courage, Coil, and Tapizar all seem pretty much set for the Dirt Mile - dependent, of course, on how they fare in their final preps. In particular, Shackleford needs to rebound in the Kelso off his disappointing run in the Vanderbilt and a subsequent scratch from the Forego that was forced by a minor but untimely illness. The $2.7-million earner has had three workouts at Churchill Downs this month, including a bullet five-furlong blowout on Sunday. “I really think I’ve got him back to himself and ready to make a big push his next two races,” said trainer Dale Romans.