10/09/2008 12:00AM

Carriage Trail excels as synthetic specialist

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The race name may be different, and the surface may be new, but there will be something quite familiar when the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic is run on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. Three times in its previous 24 runnings, which came on dirt as the Distaff, trainer Shug McGaughey won the race, with the magnificent Personal Ensign, Hall of Famer Inside Information, and longshot Pleasant Home.

McGaughey will try to add a fourth win this year with Carriage Trail, who earned a berth in the Ladies' Classic when she set a track record in the Spinster Stakes last Sunday at Keeneland.

Carriage Trail is an example of a horse whose Breeders' Cup participation this year is largely due to her performances on synthetic surfaces. She has won 3 of 4 starts at Keeneland, which has Polytrack. McGaughey is hoping she can transfer that form to Pro-Ride, the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

"She's definitely a horse for course at Keeneland," McGaughey said from Belmont Park, where Carriage Trail returned on Monday and where she will train for the next two weeks. "I hope that includes Pro-Ride, too. Off this race, as much as I respect Zenyatta, it's worth a shot."

McGaughey said the Ladies' Classic will be the final race for Carriage Trail, 5, who has won 6 of 15 starts. The Spinster was her first win in a Grade 1 race, and only her second win in a graded stakes.

McGaughey said there was "no doubt" he went to Keeneland in order to prep for the Breeders' Cup on a synthetic surface, rather than run the previous week at home in the Beldame at Belmont Park.

"I thought Zenyatta wouldn't come there, and I figured if Hystericalady came east, she would run in the Beldame, not on synthetic," McGaughey said. "Ginger Punch was going to run in the Beldame. If Zenyatta was going to come to Keeneland, I might have been a little hesitant."

Here at Hollywood Park, Zenyatta had a routine training morning Wednesday. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, said that within the next day or two she would have her first work since her victory last month in the Lady's Secret. Shirreffs said Zenyatta would remain at Hollywood Park "until I have to" leave for Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup.

With Zenyatta in the race, along with such outstanding runners as Hystericalady, Cocoa Beach, and the 3-year-old Music Note, there are few others eager to take them on. The field for the Ladies' Classic figures to be the smallest of the 14 Breeders' Cup races held Oct. 24-25. Although pre-entries are not submitted until next Tuesday, and final entries are not due until Oct. 21, a field of fewer than 10 seems certain.

Trainer Neil Drysdale said Wednesday that Spinster runner-up Model will skip the race.

"It's too tough," Drysdale said. "Hystericalady beat everybody back East, and then Zenyatta beat her. She just didn't beat her. It was - whoosh."

Little Belle, who disappointed in the Spinster, also will skip the Ladies' Classic, according to Simon Crisford, racing manager of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, which still will have Cocoa Beach and Music Note in the race.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Unbridled Belle, who ran poorly in her first try on a synthetic surface in the Spinster, also will pass the Ladies' Classic.

However, Santa Teresita, who chased Zenyatta and Hystericalady in the Lady's Secret, will try them again in the Ladies' Classic, trainer Eric Guillot said Wednesday.