Updated on 09/17/2011 6:38PM

Romans not worrying about what's underfoot for Kitten's Joy


When Breeders' Cup fans sit down in a few weeks to analyze the $2 million Turf, the prep races they will scrutinize closest are the three to be run this coming weekend.

Three huge preps for the 1 1/2-mile Turf are set for this weekend: the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Saturday, and the Arc de Triomphe and Clement Hirsch on Sunday.

The Joe Hirsch, named for the retired Daily Racing Form columnist, is full of interesting possibilities, with the standout 3-year-old Kitten's Joy squaring off against Magistretti, Kicken Kris, and others at Belmont Park.

The Arc at Longchamp in Paris is, of course, the most prestigious of the three, having long been one of Europe's most fabled events. But far more often than not, the Arc winner takes a pass on running back in the Turf, although horses who run competitively without winning the Arc often become prime contenders in the Turf.

The Clement Hirsch appears to be the weakest of the weekend preps. Star of the Bay, a highly consistent gray gelding, is the probable favorite in the Santa Anita fixture.

The Joe Hirsch is expected to be run over a turf course left soggy by heavy midweek rain. The chances of the BC Turf being run four weeks later over similarly soft ground at Lone Star Park seem remote, but the trainers of the Joe Hirsch contenders say that major disparity in course conditions is largely irrelevant.

"All I know is my horse has won over six different courses," said Dale Romans, trainer of Kitten's Joy. "So surface doesn't mean a lot to him. As long as it's green underneath him, he's probably going to be okay."

Kicken Kris, winner of the Arlington Million by disqualification, will be trying to earn his way to Texas with another good run in the Joe Hirsch.

"I think he'd have to have a good race to go to the Breeders' Cup," said trainer Michael Matz. "He came out of the Million with a small cut on his ankle and a little banged up, but on the whole he has done very well. He worked very well Monday here at Fair Hill, and we're going up to New York Saturday with high hopes."

Magistretti conceivably would become the favorite for the Turf if he wins the Joe Hirsch in the same stylish manner he won the Sept. 11 Man o' War. "I'm happy with him and how he has maintained his form," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "It may be a bit quick to say he is one of the best horses now, but he has gotten good at a perfect time for me."

Meanwhile, the Arc, as usual, has come up exceptionally deep, with six of the current top 10 contenders in the Daily Racing Form weekly BC ratings countdown expected to start: North Light, Grey Swallow, Valixir, Warrsan, Prospect Park, and Mubtaker. Of those, the most highly regarded probably is North Light, winner of the Espom Derby.

Godolphin has eliminated Sulamani from Turf contention and has indicated that 3-year-old Rule of Law also is unlikely to ship.

Turf Contenders
3-year-olds & up, 1 1/2 miles (turf). Purse: $2 million.

1North LightSir M. Stoute5-1
Epsom Derby winner is the favorite for Sunday's Arc at around 9-2
2Grey SwallowD. Weld6-1
Upset North Light in the Irish Derby, and is second choice for the Arc
3ValixirA. Fabre8-1
Earned his way into the Arc off a narrow decision in the Prix Niel
4WarrsanC. Brittain8-1
Two-time Group 1 winner this year is well supported in the Arc betting
5Prospect ParkC. Laffon-Parias12-1
Ran Valixir to a nose in the Prix Niel; will seek revenge in the Arc
6PowerscourtA. O'Brien8-1
His first-place finish in Arlington Million was flattered by Magistretti
7MagistrettiP. Biancone6-1
Could not have been more visually impressive winning the Man o' War
8MubtakerM. Tregoning15-1
Narrowly missed in last year's Arc, and is fresh for this year's running
9Kitten's JoyD. Romans12-1
Makes first attempt against older and at the distance in the Joe Hirsch
10Kicken KrisM. Matz12-1
Did well against some nice Euros when placed first in the Million

- The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.