10/12/2011 3:37PM

Breeders' Cup: Defections leave Turf without clear favorite

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Shigeki Kikkawa
An ankle injury will keep Champ Pegasus out of this year's Breeders' Cup Turf.

If things keep going this way, Breeders’ Cup might be hanging posters in racing offices around the country.

Wanted: 12-furlong grass horses for $3 million race. Graded stakes experience not required.

The past week has brought three significant defections from an already dicey prospective group of starters in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf. On Monday, the connections of smashing Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream ended speculation about a potential trip to Louisville for the Turf or Filly and Mare Turf, saying that Danedream either will be put away for a 2012 campaign or travel east for the Japan Cup later in the year.

Tuesday afternoon brought word of a foot bruise afflicting West Coast standout Acclamation, who would have set the pace as one of the favorites in the Turf. Acclamation, winner of five straight races, will be given a period of rest and is out of the Breeders’ Cup.

The loss of those two high-quality performers figured to be Champ Pegasus’s gain. Second in the 2010 BC Turf at Churchill, Champ Pegasus appeared to be on the way back to peak form following a rough trip to Dubai late last winter. He finished a good second behind Acclamation in the Oct. 2 Clement Hirsch and seemed poised for further improvement in his second trip to the BC Turf. But Tuesday night, trainer Dick Mandella said that Champ Pegasus was out of the Turf because of a recurring ankle injury.

“We had an ankle problem after we got back from Dubai,” Mandella said. “It’s not a serious one, but it’s coming back a little bit. We’re X-raying it, doing a workup on it. He’s going to get a rest. It might be a short rest, it might be a longer rest, but he’s not going to go to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The recent announcements come after Cape Blanco, a three-time U.S. Grade 1 turf winner and the likely BC Turf favorite, was retired with an injury following his win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Oct. 1, and for now, the Turf lacks anything resembling a solid favorite.

The Michael Stoute-trained 3-year-old Sea Moon is likely to ship for the race, and Sea Moon’s blowout win in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes in August is making him look better by the day. Meeznah, a Grade 2-winning European 4-year-old filly, is listed as a possible runner by Breeders’ Cup officials. This weekend’s Canadian International at Woodbine could produce a Turf runner or two, and one still wonders if trainer Aidan O’Brien, Cape Blanco’s trainer, might send the capable St. Nicholas Abbey for a BC Turf tilt.

It’s not like he’d have all that much to beat.