Updated on 09/15/2011 1:07PM

Footing, not route, could trip up King Cugat

Email

ELMONT, N.Y. - As far as trainer Bill Mott is concerned, distance is no longer a question for King Cugat. His ability to handle soft turf is another matter.

But soft turf is most likely what King Cugat will encounter when he goes off as the probable favorite in Saturday's $750,000, Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park. A field of eight was entered for the 1 1/2-mile race, which serves as a prep for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf on World Thoroughbred Championships Day here on Oct. 27. Honor Glide and Slew Valley are expected to scratch, however, because of the soft turf, their connections said.

In 15 races, King Cugat has finished off the board only once, an 11th-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile. At this point last year, Mott felt King Cugat was not up to negotiating the 12 furlongs of the Breeders' Cup Turf.

After winning the 11-furlong Bowling Green Handicap and finishing a troubled second in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer Invitational last month at Saratoga, King Cugat has earned his shot at this year's BC Turf. King Cugat steadied on all three turns of the Sword Dancer before finishing fast and fell three-quarters of a length short of With Anticipation.

"He proved last time that a mile and a half isn't a problem," said Mott, who won this race in 1987 with Theatrical.

Although King Cugat has a win and three seconds from four starts on less-than-firm turf courses, Mott still has concerns heading into Saturday.

"I'd like to see the turf course on the firm side. I know he handles that type of ground very well," Mott said. "We know soft ground could probably be a problem for him. He's a real big, heavy horse, a very strong horse, and I'm sure the firm ground would suit him much better."

More than three inches of rain fell in New York late last week, and there was 40 percent chance of showers Thursday and Friday.

In addition to the turf condition, a lack of pace could hinder the late-running King Cugat, who will break from post 5 under Jerry Bailey.

Slew Valley could have been the main speed, but trainer Michael Dickinson said he would scratch to run in Sunday's Canadian International at Woodbine.

The Bobby Frankel-trained Timboroa could inherit the lead. His best races - victories in last fall's C.F. Burke Handicap at Santa Anita and last month's Del Mar Handicap - were when Timboroa was put into the race early.

"He needs to be up close to the pace," Frankel said. "He likes to be in a fight. He doesn't have a turn of foot, he's just steady."

Three-year-olds have won six of the first 24 runnings of the Turf Classic and trainer Jimmy Toner would like to see Blazing Fury improve that figure. A son of Dynaformer, Blazing Fury comes off a rousing 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga.

Cetewayo, second to Buck's Boy in the 1998 Turf Classic, and European shipper With the Flow complete the field.ELMONT, N.Y. - As far as trainer Bill Mott is concerned, distance is no longer a question for King Cugat. His ability to handle soft turf is another matter.

But soft turf is most likely what King Cugat will encounter when he goes off as the probable favorite in Saturday's $750,000, Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park. A field of eight was entered for the 1 1/2-mile race, which serves as a prep for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf on World Thoroughbred Championships Day here on Oct. 27. Honor Glide and Slew Valley are expected to scratch, however, because of the soft turf, their connections said.

In 15 races, King Cugat has finished off the board only once, an 11th-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile. At this point last year, Mott felt King Cugat was not up to negotiating the 12 furlongs of the Breeders' Cup Turf.

After winning the 11-furlong Bowling Green Handicap and finishing a troubled second in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer Invitational last month at Saratoga, King Cugat has earned his shot at this year's BC Turf. King Cugat steadied on all three turns of the Sword Dancer before finishing fast and fell three-quarters of a length short of With Anticipation.

"He proved last time that a mile and a half isn't a problem," said Mott, who won this race in 1987 with Theatrical.

Although King Cugat has a win and three seconds from four starts on less-than-firm turf courses, Mott still has concerns heading into Saturday.

"I'd like to see the turf course on the firm side. I know he handles that type of ground very well," Mott said. "We know soft ground could probably be a problem for him. He's a real big, heavy horse, a very strong horse, and I'm sure the firm ground would suit him much better."

More than three inches of rain fell in New York late last week, and there was 40 percent chance of showers Thursday and Friday.

In addition to the turf condition, a lack of pace could hinder the late-running King Cugat, who will break from post 5 under Jerry Bailey.

Slew Valley could have been the main speed, but trainer Michael Dickinson said he would scratch to run in Sunday's Canadian International at Woodbine.

The Bobby Frankel-trained Timboroa could inherit the lead. His best races - victories in last fall's C.F. Burke Handicap at Santa Anita and last month's Del Mar Handicap - were when Timboroa was put into the race early.

"He needs to be up close to the pace," Frankel said. "He likes to be in a fight. He doesn't have a turn of foot, he's just steady."

Three-year-olds have won six of the first 24 runnings of the Turf Classic and trainer Jimmy Toner would like to see Blazing Fury improve that figure. A son of Dynaformer, Blazing Fury comes off a rousing 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga.

Cetewayo, second to Buck's Boy in the 1998 Turf Classic, and European shipper With the Flow complete the field.