11/02/2010 3:47PM

Morning Line surprising favorite in Dirt Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Morning Line (above), second in the BC Dirt Mile, and Fly Down will repesent trainer Nick Zito in Saturday's Donn Handicap.

The biggest surprise at the post position draw for this year’s Breeders’ Cup races came when Morning Line was entered in the $1 million Dirt Mile as opposed to the $5 million Classic.

The second-biggest surprise came when Mike Battaglia installed him as the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the race, which drew a field of 13. The 3-year-old Morning Line, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, drew post 10.

By contrast, Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker made Morning Line the 10-1 sixth choice in the field. Watchmaker has Crown of Thorns as the 7-2 morning-line favorite in the Dirt Mile. Crown of Thorns, beaten a nose in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, is the 4-1 second choice on Battaglia’s line. Here Comes Ben, winner of four consecutive stakes, is the 9-2 second choice on Watchmaker’s line and one of three horses Battaglia has at 6-1. That includes Tizway, the five-length winner of the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont, Gayego, and Here Comes Ben.

Morning Line was pre-entered for both the Classic and the Mile, and his owner, the Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, had declared the Classic as its first preference. But on Wednesday, an audible was called and he was put in the Mile.

“I wanted to go in the Classic but they wanted to take the more conservative route,” said trainer Nick Zito, referring to Thoroughbred Legends partners Olin Gentry and Thomas Gaines.

Zito also has Cool Coal Man entered in the Dirt Mile. Cool Coal Man drew post 13.

The Dirt Mile is run around one turn and Morning Line has had all his success around two turns, including an 11-length allowance wins at Saratoga in August, followed by a neck win over First Dude in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 25.