10/23/2007 11:00PM

Stellar field set for Classic

Email
Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Calvin Borel guides Street Sense back toward the Monmouth clubhouse Tuesday before turning to begin his final workout for the Classic.
OCEANPORT, N.J. - The draw for post positions for Saturday's 24th Breeders' Cup was delayed Tuesday morning by a half-hour to process paperwork, then took a while to commence owing to some windy speeches. For the first time, 11 races were drawn, and the process took 49 minutes from start to finish. But the long wait was worth it in the end, for when the field was finalized for the biggest and last race, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, it yielded one of the best lineups in the history of this event, one that most likely will decide Horse of the Year.

Lawyer Ron, the top older horse in the country, drew the rail in the field of nine and was installed as the slight morning-line favorite by both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, and Brad Thomas of Monmouth Park. To Lawyer Ron's outside in the 1 1/4-mile race are the cream of this year's outstanding crop of 3-year-olds - Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Tiago - along with the European invader George Washington. Toss in longshots Awesome Gem and Diamond Stripes, and this Classic comes close to the celebrated Classic fields of 1998 and 2004.

"This is the greatest race we've been in," said Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger, who was not slighting the Kentucky Derby, merely admiring the quality of this field. "And we want to win."

This is the first Breeders' Cup that will be run at Monmouth Park, and it is the first that will be spread over two days. Three new Breeders' Cup races - the Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile - will be run Friday, and then eight more - the Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, Turf, and Classic - will be run Saturday. Final entries were taken, and post positions drawn, for all 11 races on Tuesday morning.

In all, 123 horses were entered. Forefathers was entered in both the Dirt Mile on Friday and the Sprint on Saturday. He was allowed to do so because neither race was oversubscribed, and he was not keeping out a horse who wanted to run.

"You can do it if the races don't overfill," said Bill Mott, who trains Forefathers for owner Ahmed Zayat. "Mr. Zayat will decide where he runs, with input from me."

Although the Dirt Mile and Sprint did not have full fields, three races did, and several others came close, which made the draw in some races paramount. In the Juvenile Fillies, top contenders Cry and Catch Me and A to the Croft drew the two outside posts in a full field of 14 going 1 1/16 miles. In the Juvenile, the unbeaten Wicked Style got the outside post in a field of 13 going 1 1/16 miles.

Smokey Stover and Midnight Lute, two of the top candidates in the six-furlong Sprint, might not get comfortable trips with their inside draws. Excellent Art, the morning-line favorite in the Mile, landed post 13 in a field of 14 for his first race around two turns and on a left-handed course. And in the Distaff, Unbridled Belle and Hystericalady got the two outside posts in a field of 12 going 1 1/8 miles.

Both Thomas and Brad Free of Daily Racing Form agreed on all three favorites for Friday's Breeders' Cup races. Thomas has Dream Rush at 2-1 in the Filly and Mare Sprint, with Free pegging her at 5-2. Both have Prussian the 3-1 choice in the Juvenile Turf, and Discreet Cat at 2-1 in the Dirt Mile.

Thomas and Watchmaker agreed on favorites in seven of the eight Breeders' Cup races Saturday. In the Juvenile Fillies, Indian Blessing is 3-1 on Thomas's line, 5-2 with Watchmaker. Both have War Pass the 5-2 choice in the Juvenile, and Nashoba's Key at 3-1 in the Filly and Mare Turf.

In the Sprint, Thomas has Midnight Lute at 2-1, while Watchmaker made him a more emphatic 8-5. Excellent Art is 3-1 on Thomas's line in the Mile, 2-1 with Watchmaker. In the wide-open Distaff, Thomas made Indian Vale the 3-1 favorite, while Watchmaker has Unbridled Belle the 4-1 choice. European standout Dylan Thomas is 7-5 on Thomas's line in the Turf, a prohibitive 4-5 on Watchmaker's line.

Lawyer Ron is the 5-2 favorite on Thomas's line for the Classic, while Watchmaker made him 3-1.

Lawyer Ron, who won the Woodward and Whitney this summer at Saratoga, has a history of pulling hard early in his races, so his drawing inside of probable pacesetter Hard Spun was the most significant aspect of the draw for the Classic.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Lawyer Ron as well as Any Given Saturday, said he "would have chosen outside" if he had the choice for Lawyer Ron.

"But I'd have chosen outside for the Woodward" - in which Lawyer Ron drew post 1 - "and that worked out okay," Pletcher said. "And I'd have chosen inside in the Whitney" - in which Lawyer Ron raced from post 10 - "and that worked out okay. So maybe I don't know what's best."

Street Sense had his final workout for the Classic on Tuesday morning at Monmouth with jockey Calvin Borel. According to Daily Racing Form, he covered five furlongs in 1:00.78 on the fast main track, then galloped out strongly.

"His works blow my mind," Nafzger said. "I do not have any excuses. That's as good a situation as you can get."

* The Weather Channel predicted showers on Wednesday, followed by cooling temperatures from Tuesday's high of 75 degrees. Friday's high is forecast at 67 degrees. Saturday's high is predicted to be 70 degrees, though there is a 30 percent chance of rain.