10/16/2008 11:00PM

Munnings brings hot dirt form to Pro-Ride


ELMONT, N.Y. - Though there was a plethora of talented juveniles that performed on dirt this year in New York, when it comes to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile there will only be one of them competing.

Munnings, runner-up to division leader Vineyard Haven in the Grade 1 Champagne, will carry the torch for the New York juvenile contingent in the $2 million Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Provided there are no defections from the field, Munnings will be the only one of the 14 horses in the Juvenile that will have raced exclusively on dirt. This year's Breeders' Cup is being run on Santa Anita's new Pro-Ride surface.

"The obvious X-factor is the surface," trainer Todd Pletcher said in his Belmont Park office Friday morning before heading to Southern California. "I felt like he was as good as any 2-year-old on the East Coast this summer, so if that form transfers to the Pro-Ride I feel comfortable that he fits very well."

Munnings was purchased for $1.7 million at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale in February. He lived up to that price tag when he won his debut by 4 1/4 lengths, overcoming a slow start to run six furlongs in 1:09.84 at Saratoga. That performance sent him off the favorite in the Grade 1 Hopeful where he finished third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Vineyard Haven. Munnings stumbled soon after the start in that race.

"We've always liked this horse and he obviously backed up what we saw in the mornings with the way he ran his first race at Saratoga," Pletcher said. "I thought he ran well in the Hopeful, but he obviously hurt his own chances when he kind of stepped back when they kicked the latch and he kind of stumbled coming out of the gate, though he ran a good race in spite of that."

In the Champagne, Munnings tossed his head slightly at the start, but then got into a good stalking position from the outside. Still, he was no match for Vineyard Haven, who ran away from Munnings to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

"In the Champagne he threw his head a little bit at the start, but ran on well," Pletcher said. "Just on that particular day, [he] was second-best."

Pletcher shipped Munnings to Southern California two days after the Champagne. The horse has trained on the Pro-Ride surface and on Sunday was scheduled to have his one and only breeze over it.

"I'll be interested to see how he breezes on it on Sunday, but our initial impressions are that he likes it," Pletcher said.

Pletcher will work Munnings with his other Juvenile starter, Silent Valor. A son of Lion Heart, Silent Valor has won both of his starts on dirt tracks, but is 0 for 2 on synthetic surfaces. Still, Pletcher felt his horse has run well on synthetics, including his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Norfolk at Santa Anita on Sept 28.

In that race, Silent Valor broke from the outside post and raced wide throughout the race. He was second turning for home, but couldn't sustain his bid through the stretch. He was beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Street Hero.

"I thought he ran very well," Pletcher said. "He had an outside post and he had to use him a little bit getting away from the gate. I thought he dug in and ran well and acted like he needed a race - whether that was first time over the Pro-Ride or first time two turns or a combination of both of those things. If that race propels him forward a couple of lengths then he fits very well."

Edgar Prado will ride Silent Valor in the Juvenile, co-owner Kevin Scatuorchio confirmed Friday.