10/28/2009 12:00AM

Mastercraftsman likely for Dirt Mile


Just last week before the field for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile began to finalize, the race appeared to be one of the most wide-open Breeders' Cup races, seemingly lacking a clear favorite.

Not any longer. When pre-entries were announced Wednesday, it became clear that the Dirt Mile, which will be contested over Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface, would have a prohibitive public choice in Mastercraftsman - provided his connections stick to their pre-entered preference to run him in the Dirt Mile, rather than the Classic.

Mastercraftsman, last year's champion 2-year-old colt in Europe and a four-time Group 1 winner, comes off a five-length score in the Group 3 Diamond Stakes on Dundalk's Polytrack in Ireland on Oct. 2. That race followed a third to Sea the Stars in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes for Mastercraftsman, who is trained by Aidan O'Brien.

The $1 million Dirt Mile drew 21 entrants, but with a short run to the first turn, field size is limited to 12 horses, plus two also-eligibles.

Twelve horses were entered with the Dirt Mile as either their sole or first of two preferences, with Whitney winner Bullsbay among the latter group.

His trainer, Graham Motion, said Wednesday he was leaning toward starting Bullsbay in the Dirt Mile, rather than the Classic, his second preference, but plans to await a scheduled workout at Santa Anita on Monday before making a decision.

Most of those with the Dirt Mile as first or lone preference are expected to get in, with the possible exceptions being Cherokee Artist and Join in the Dance.