10/18/2005 11:00PM

In a tough decision, Sprint placed fourth


ELMONT, N.Y. - Breeders' Cup officials waited until pre-entry day on Wednesday to announce the order of races that will be run at Belmont Park on Oct. 29, and while the Turf and Classic remained as the final two races on the card, as they had been in previous years, the other six races were altered to maximize betting sequences and placate sponsors, officials said.

The Distaff, which had been run as the first race in many years, was moved to the sixth Breeders' Cup race, in large part to take advantage of the larger-than-usual field it has attracted. But the race that was most watched in terms of placement was the Sprint, which features the popular, unbeaten Lost in the Fog.

Lost in the Fog is one of the marquee horses in this year's Breeders' Cup, and is expected to be a focal point of NBC's five-hour telecast. But he also should be one of the shortest-priced favorites of the day. Three Breeders' Cup officials - Pam Blatz-Murff, Ken Kirchner, and D.G. Van Clief Jr. - met Tuesday morning and decided to make the Sprint the fourth of the eight Breeders' Cup races.

According to Van Clief, the president of Breeders' Cup Ltd., there were several factors that needed to be weighed in terms of race sequence.

"We didn't want any turf races back to back, and Emirates Airlines sponsors the Filly and Mare Turf and the Distaff, so we didn't want those races back to back," Van Clief said Wednesday at Belmont Park. "By putting the Sprint up front, we have a compelling story early in the program."

Kirchner, the senior vice president of product development with the Breeders' Cup, and the organization's most savvy bettor, said the Breeders' Cup wanted to wait until now to determine the race sequence to avoid situations like having small fields late in the card.

"We wanted the option to work around that," Kirchner said. "We worked backwards. The Classic is clearly the last race. The Turf, with the symbolic flavor of the event, should go where it does. After that, we didn't want to go back-to-back with turf races, even though you could do it, since the Filly and Mare Turf is run on the inner course.

"The Sprint was our toughest decision, and generated a great deal of discussion."

In terms of the pick six, compared to last year, "the Distaff is in and the Juvenile is out," Kirchner said.

The Juvenile was the sixth Breeders' Cup race last year. This year, it is the second. In years past, NBC has promoted the Juvenile as a potential preview of the following year's Kentucky Derby, which the network also televises, but this is the final year NBC will televise the Breeders' Cup, which moves to ESPN next year. An NBC spokeswoman, as well as Kirchner and Van Clief, all said NBC put no pressure on the Breeders' Cup as to the race sequence.

Having Lost in the Fog in the show's fourth race "is not a big concern," said Alana Russo, communications manager for NBC Sports.

"It's a big day of racing," Russo said. "There's a lot of interest in Lost in the Fog, but in terms of where he is in the broadcast, it doesn't matter."

Lord of the Game needs defection

With Starcraft being pointed to the Classic instead of the Mile, the Hawthorne-based Lord of the Game would not make the Classic field as of Wednesday. But his connections, trainer Tom Tomillo and the Two Blondes stable of owner Bill Slevin, are rolling the dice and going to New York anyway.

Tomillo said that Lord of the Game would ship from Chicago to Belmont on Thursday - and then hope for the best. Lord of the Game would get into the Classic if one horse defects before entries are taken next Wednesday.

Tomillo said that if Lord of the Game fails to make the Classic, he would leave Belmont on Wednesday and head to Keeneland for a start in the Ben Ali Handicap, also on Oct. 29. But Tomillo also feels that Lord of the Game shouldn't be in this position at all. He points out that Lord of the Game has accumulated 16 Breeders' Cup points - earned by finishes in graded stakes races throughout the year - compared to the 6 earned by Super Frolic, who was picked for the body of the field by a selection panel that helps determine the shape of the Breeders' Cup races. Super Frolic beat Lord of the Game by a head in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, but Lord of the Game - claimed for $10,000 out of his career debut last winter - won a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 earlier in the season.

Tap Day skips Classic

Tap Day, winner of the Meadowlands Cup, was not pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Classic and may be pointed for the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, trainer Mark Hennig said.

"He's been running much better with a little time between races," said Hennig, who trains Tap Day for owner-breeder Ned Evans. "We're trying to be realistic about the numbers he's run and whether he had a realistic chance to be one-two-three."

Though the purse of the Classic could exceed $4 million, it costs $80,000 to pass the entry box. That's another reason why Hennig felt it was worth skipping the race.

"It's not cheap to just enter," Hennig said. "I don't know if any of us felt the need just to participate."

Tap Day, a 4-year-old son of Pleasant Tap, has won 10 of 30 races and earned $717,187. He has run better in New Jersey than he has in New York, though he did finish second in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap here in July.

Hennig said he would consider running Tap Day in the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh and David Grening