10/28/2012 11:57AM

Santa Anita: Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile major challenge for John Scott

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Benoit & Associates
John Scott (right), third as the favorite in the California Cup Classic two weeks ago, will take a major class hike for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

As much as Carla Gaines knows about equine pedigrees, she might know more about white Labrador retrievers – or at least the specific bloodlines of her constant companion, a lovable dog named King Louie II.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked after watching her BC Dirt Mile longshot, John Scott, breeze early Saturday in preparation of the most demanding task of his life. “Of course I do.”

Unlike King Louie, a 2-year-old Kentucky-bred, John Scott was bred in California. The 5-year-old gelding has been remarkably consistent in his stop-and-start career, never finishing worse than fourth in nine starts. After flashing promise at 2, he did not race again for 2 1/2 years after recovering from a fractured cannon bone, then a series of minor setbacks. He has won 3 of his 6 starts since returning to the races in April and most recently was third as the favorite in the Cal Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]

“He’s an older horse now, and I think he just keeps getting better and better,” said Gaines, who trains John Scott for the Harris Farms of John Harris, a major rancher from the Fresno area. “I can give him a few excuses for that last race, but the main thing is he bounced out of it great. It’ll be just three weeks between races for him when we run Saturday, so we just wanted him to stretch his legs in this one breeze.”

John Scott has never been sent away higher than 6-1, so he surely will be the longest price of his career when Victor Espinoza climbs aboard to face the likes of Emcee, Shackleford, Jersey Town, and Fed Biz in the Dirt Mile, which is expected to have nine or 10 starters when entries are drawn Monday. One would-be contender, Nonios, dropped out of consideration Sunday morning in favor of the BC Classic.

"Why not give this a try?” said Gaines. “It’s in our back yard and he just had a race over the track. It seems like the right thing to do, to give it a whirl.”