11/02/2011 5:11PM

Breeders' Cup: Trappe Shot, The Factor top competitive Dirt Mile field

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Four horses are stretching out in distance. Four horses are cutting back. The only member of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile field who last ran at the distance was beaten 11 lengths.

Such is the dilemma facing handicappers when trying to come up with the winner of the $1 million Dirt Mile, which despite a boatload of defections – both expected and unexpected – came up an extremely competitive race. As it is run at Churchill Downs, the Dirt Mile is a one-turn race.

Trappe Shot, Caleb’s Posse, and The Factor were three of nine horses pre-entered in the Dirt Mile and another Breeders’ Cup race. Their connections felt the Dirt Mile was the right race.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin points to Trappe Shot’s victory in the Long Branch at 1 1/16 miles and his runner-up finish to Lookin At Lucky in the Haskell – both last year – as races that showed him the mile will fit Trappe Shot. To date, Trappe Shot’s biggest victory came in the six-furlong True North.

“We wanted to do it this year, but the timing of the races didn’t allow it except on Kelso day, and that was a Grade 2, and this is a Grade 1 horse,” McLaughlin said. “Uncle Mo was a prohibitive favorite in the Kelso. We weren’t afraid of him, we were trying to be a Grade 1 winner.”

McLaughlin said he feels Trappe Shot was compromised by speed-favoring, wet surfaces when beaten as the favorite in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga and the Vosburgh at Belmont. Saturday, Trappe Shot will break from post 9 under John Velazquez.

The three primary speed horses – The Factor, Shackleford, and Tapizar – drew the three inside post positions.

That should help Trappe Shot and Caleb’s Posse. Caleb’s Posse won a pair of one-turn stakes at Saratoga, including a nose victory over Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at seven furlongs. Uncle Mo came back to win the Kelso impressively, but opted for the Classic.

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel opted to prep Caleb’s Posse in the Indiana Derby, a two-turn race at 1 1/16 miles, where he finished third. Though the distance of the Dirt Mile is longer than the Amsterdam and King’s Bishop, Von Hemel said he believes the race is still a sprint.

“It’s a one-turn race, and usually, it plays out like a sprint with pace,” said Von Hemel, whose horse will break from post 8 under Rajiv Maragh.

One of the strongest closers expected for the Dirt Mile, Jackson Bend, winner of the Grade 1 Forego, elected to run in the Sprint instead.

The Factor won the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien going seven furlongs at Del Mar before getting fried in a speed duel when he finished fourth in the six-furlong Ancient Title at Santa Anita. The Factor drew the rail that day and was forced to use speed to obtain some position. Trainer Bob Baffert also felt his horse was a little flat for the Ancient Title.

Based on The Factor’s sharp six-furlong work in 1:10.60 on Monday at Santa Anita, he said he feels the horse is back to form. Unfortunately, The Factor drew the rail again.

“I think the mile is a good spot for him once he gets into that stride of his,” Baffert said. “The way he worked the other day, he looked like his old self.”

Shackleford ran in all three Triple Crown races and won the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles. He is coming off a second-place finish in the Indiana Derby, but his training here this week has led trainer Dale Romans to say the competition “will have their hands full.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen has the intriguing duo of Wilburn and Tapizar. Wilburn’s 4 3/4-length victory in the Indiana Derby was his third consecutive victory. His form is reminiscent of Morning Line, a late-developing 3-year-old who got beat a head in this race last year.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile: Get graded entries, comments by Mike Watchmaker, and more

“He got a dream trip, the door was open, but he went through it very impressively,” Asmussen said of Wilburn’s Indiana Derby. “I do think with a horse as big as he is, he’s going to have to get a trip. With Julien [Leparoux] being on him, I think he’s in very capable of hands to work out the trip.”

Tapizar, who missed eight months because of a knee chip, comes into the Mile off a front-running score against a stakes caliber field in a Belmont allowance race Oct. 8.

“I definitely thought he looked fast,” Asmussen said.

Jersey Town won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last fall, making him the only member of the field to have won a one-turn mile race. He is coming off an 11-length loss to Uncle Mo in the Kelso.

Tres Borrachos got an all-fees paid trip to the Mile by winning the San Diego at Del Mar in July. That was his only win in his last 16 starts.

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  HORSE / TRAINER JOCKEY LAST 3 BEYERS COMMENT ODDS
Wilburn
S. Asmussen
J. Leparoux 103, 99, 95 Benefitted from a great trip winning Indiana Derby; might get another here 5-1
Trappe Shot
K. McLaughlin
J. Velazquez 97, 112, 111 The stretch out in distance suits; just question who he beat in his big victories 2-1
The Factor
B. Baffert
M. Garcia 90, 104, 84 Didn't like the way he gave way last out, must deal with Tapizar early here 5-2
Caleb's Posse
D. Von Hemel
R. Maragh 92, 106, 105 Will appreciate the return to one turn, and would relish a contested pace 6-1
Shackleford
D. Romans
J. Castanon 95, 68, 96 He's 0 for 4 since he upset the Preakness, a win that he must validate now 6-1
Jersey Town
B. Tagg
C. Velasquez 97, 100, 90 Crushed in the Kelso, but the top two in there aren't here; current form iffy 15-1
Irrefutable
B. Baffert
R. Bejarano 102, 91, 85 Got a favorable pace set up when second in Ancient Title; in over his head 20-1
Tapizar
S. Asmussen
G. Gomez 95, 81, 98 Nice comeback win; this is a lot to ask from a colt whose quality is unknown 20-1
Tres Borrachos
M. Jones
J. Rosario 93, 90, 97 This 'Win and You're In' race winner has never been up to this sort of task 30-1