Updated on 09/15/2011 2:19PM

Classic: Godolphin switcheroo

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Sakhee works out under Darren Thomas at Belmont. Pundits thought he would run in the Turf.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Randy Johnson is not the only one in a fall classic with a wicked curveball. Godolphin Racing threw one at the Breeders' Cup on Wednesday morning, when the stable managed by the Maktoum brothers of Dubai decided to run Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee in the $4 million Classic and Fantastic Light in the $2 million Turf, in Saturday's World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park.

The decision, the opposite of what was expected, was stunning considering that Fantastic Light, not Sakhee, appeared to best handle Belmont's main track in a workout on Tuesday. Even those closest to the scene admitted they were surprised.

"I was, yes," said jockey Frankie Dettori, who will ride both horses. "I'm glad we have two good shots in two big races. It's hard enough to win a Breeders' Cup race. If we win the Turf, our job will be half done."

Bobby Frankel, who trains the Classic's morning-line favorite, Aptitude, said he "was a little surprised." Frankel had said he feared Fantastic Light most because his pedigree seemed better suited to dirt racing than Sakhee's. Neither horse has ever raced on dirt.

Aidan O'Brien, who trains Galileo, the winner of the English and Irish Derbies, seemed disappointed that Galileo would not have a rubber match against Fantastic Light. Those horses had split two previous meetings in England and Ireland. Galileo also will be racing on dirt for the first time in the Classic.

"I was looking forward to running against Fantastic Light in the Classic," said O'Brien. Was he surprised? "Nothing surprises me in racing," he said, smiling.

Saeed bin Suroor, who trains Fantastic Light and Sakhee for Godolphin, said the decision was made by Sheikhs Maktoum, Mohammed, and Hamdan following a discussion Tuesday night. Sheikh Hamdan, who runs Mutaman in the name of his Shadwell Stable in the Turf, had the final say, Suroor said.

"All the Maktoum family decided. Sheikh Hamdan decided Sakhee would run in the Classic," said Suroor, who said the Maktoums were "trying to do what's best for the horses, to give them their best chance."

The decision had to be made by Wednesday morning. Horses who had been pre-entered last week in more than one race - like Fantastic Light and Sakhee - had to be named to one race. After that, post positions were drawn for all eight races.

A total of 98 horses were entered. This is only the third year that the Breeders' Cup has had an eight-race program. The number of total entries is down slightly. There were 102 horses entered in 1999, and 105 in 2000.

Including supplemental entry fees, those 98 horses will be chasing $14,030,000 in prize money.

A maximum of 14 horses can run in a Breeders' Cup race. The only race in which more than 14 horses were intended to run was the Sprint. Eight horses made the field based on points earned during the year in graded stakes. Six others were chosen by an international selection committee. Two horses - Snow Ridge and Yonaguska, both trained by D. Wayne Lukas - were excluded from the Sprint field by the committee.

The fields include four horses - Kona Gold, Macho Uno, Spain, and Tiznow - who won Breeders' Cup races last year at Churchill Downs. Also entered is this country's most-exciting 2-year-old colt, the unbeaten Officer, along with an outstanding group of European runners who captured the continent's major races this year.

"This is the strongest group of Europeans we've ever had," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., the president of Breeders' Cup Ltd.

The Breeders' Cup will be televised live by NBC Sports in a five-hour telecast beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The National Weather Service forecast for Saturday is for a high of 55 degrees, with blustery conditions.

According to Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, the early favorites in the eight races are Flute (2-1) in the Distaff, You (9-5) in the Juvenile Fillies, Noverre (7-2) in the Mile, Kona Gold (3-1) in the Sprint, Lailani (3-1) in the Filly and Mare Turf, Officer (3-5) in the Juvenile, Fantastic Light (7-5) in the Turf, and Aptitude (8-5) in the Classic. Jerry Bailey, who rides Aptitude, is the only jockey with a mount in all eight races.

Aptitude landed post 12 in the field of 13. With the start for the 1 1/4-mile Classic beginning on the clubhouse turn, Aptitude will be forced to lose ground early.

"Terrible, just terrible," Frankel said of the draw. "Bailey will have to figure it out. I hate that mile-and-a-quarter chute. The one good thing is that I have a good rider. He'll worry more about that than I will because he has to ride him."

Jay Robbins, the trainer of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, was glad the defending champion in the Classic landed more to the outside of the field than the inside.

"I'm glad he drew out a little bit," Robbins said. "He'll be all right out there."

Richard Baltas, who trains Freedom Crest, said he believes that Goodwood winner can overcome the outside post because of his stalking style.

"Aptitude's inside of me and he doesn't have a whole lot of speed, so we should be all right," Baltas said.

Galileo arrived Tuesday night after a flight from Ireland. He was in quarantine at the track on Wednesday, and was expected to take his first steps on the Belmont main track on Thursday morning.