Updated on 09/15/2011 1:19PM

Classic: Dreaming of championships


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel has called the last four months, during which his horses have dominated racing from coast-to-coast, "a dream come true." On Saturday at Belmont Park, Frankel will either continue to dream contentedly, or have a rude awakening.

Frankel has runners in six races, three of whom are morning-line favorites, including Aptitude in the day's richest race, the $4 million Classic. With a 0-for-36 record entering the Breeders' Cup, Frankel's fortunes will be the focal point of the World Thoroughbred Championships.

Aptitude has 12 rivals in the 1 1/4-mile Classic, including last year's winner, Tiznow, who secured the 2000 Horse of the Year title with his victory at Churchill Downs. This year's Classic also features two of Europe's best horses, Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee and English and Irish Derby winner Galileo.

Should Aptitude win, he will secure the Eclipse Award as champion older horse, and will further his chances toward being named Horse of the Year. The front-runner for Horse of the Year is Point Given, who won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes but was retired in August after suffering a career-ending injury.

This is the 18th Breeders' Cup, but the first run under the banner of the World Thoroughbred Championships, the new name bestowed upon the event following the merger last year of Breeders' Cup Ltd. and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. This will be the fourth Breeders' Cup held in New York, and the third at Belmont Park, which last played host to the event in 1995.

This year's races will be held six weeks after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, 22 miles from here. There will be heightened security both for patrons and horsemen at Belmont Park. But the world events did not alter the plans of the pre-eminent European-based stables, which sent to this year's Breeders' Cup one of the strongest contingents in the event's history.

When the Breeders' Cup was last held here, on a wet, wintry day, the crowd was announced as 37,246, the lowest in the event's history. New York Racing Association officials expect this year's crowd to be about 45,000. Although it was beautiful and 74 degrees at Belmont Park on Thursday, a cold front was forecast to move into the area Thursday night, bringing colder temperatures in its wake. The National Weather Service called for a high of 52 Saturday. It is expected to be dry but windy.

The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by NBC in a five-hour program that begins at 1 p.m.

Other than Point Given and Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, most of the top horses in American racing this year are in the Breeders' Cup. The horse attracting the most interest outside the Classic is the unbeaten Officer, who has rolled effortlessly to five straight wins and is expected to be the day's shortest-priced favorite when he runs in the Juvenile. The day's best race may be the Sprint, which attracted a brilliant group of sprinters, including Caller One, El Corredor, Swept Overboard, and the race's defending champion, Kona Gold.

Kona Gold is one of four horses seeking to win a Breeders' Cup race for the second straight year. The others are Spain in the Distaff, and both Macho Uno and Tiznow in the Classic. William Hill, the British bookmaker, on Thursday was offering 225-1 odds on the prospect that Kona Gold, Spain, and Tiznow would all win again.

Kentucky Oaks winner Flute is the morning-line favorite in the day's first race, the Distaff. You, like Flute trained by Frankel, is favored in the Juvenile Fillies. A wide-open Mile has attracted Forbidden Apple and Val Royal from the United States, the unbeaten Numerous Times from Canada, and European star Noverre. Lailani is the favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Fantastic Light will be a short price in the Turf.

The Classic closes the marathon program. And, more than most races on the card, it is filled with questions. Among them: Has Aptitude truly blossomed since coming East, or has he been feasting on substandard competition? Can Tiznow, who has developed an obstinate streak in the morning, bounce back from a disinterested effort in the Goodwood? Will Albert the Great, a terror at Belmont Park, snap back from his poor try in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, or has he tailed off? Is Macho Uno, last year's champion 2-year-old colt, good enough to pull off the unprecedented feat of winning the Juvenile one year and the Classic the next? And can the premier Europeans, Galileo and Sakhee, transfer their outstanding turf form to the dirt and knock off America's best older runners?

Galileo, Sakhee, and another European import, Black Minnaloushe, all are adding the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for the first time, so every horse in the Classic will race on Lasix.

Aptitude was an underachiever for most of his career, but he comes off two powerful victories in New York, including a 10-length romp in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. "He likes these tracks. He's sounder than ever here," Frankel said.

Aptitude's late-running style should be flattered by the expected hot pace in the Classic, which should be produced by Albert the Great, Gander, and Orientate. Aptitude wore wraps on his front legs in his last two starts. Frankel said it was because "he burns his heels a little bit."

If Aptitude does not fire, the race could unfold any number of ways. Tiznow should get an ideal stalking trip, and his best is certainly good enough. He has trained in recent days like his old self.

Gander held off Include in the Meadowlands Cup a month ago. He trains regularly at Belmont, where he has won four races. "This is his home track. He loves it here," said Gander's trainer, John Terranova.

Include was compromised by a slow pace in the Meadowlands Cup. That was his first start in nearly three months. He has a right to move forward. Earlier this year, he won five straight races.

Guided Tour has won three straight races, and enters the Classic in the best form of his career. His recent success attracted the interest of the Fustok family's Buckram Oak Farm, which this week purchased an interest in the 5-year-old gelding from owner Morton Fink.

Freedom Crest was a 39-1 upset winner over Tiznow in the Goodwood. His stalking style should have him close to the expected hot pace.

Galileo has lost just once, to Turf favorite Fantastic Light, but he has never raced on the dirt. Last year, however, trainer Aidan O'Brien nearly pulled off this feat with Giant's Causeway, a European import who lost narrowly to Tiznow. O'Brien also has Black Minnaloushe in the Classic.

O'Brien said he cannot anticipate how Galileo will adapt to the dirt. "He's never had any kicked back. He'll get plenty of it Saturday," O'Brien said. "You're never really sure until you run on it. He's danced every dance this year. We're hoping for a good run."