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Valixir looks to brighten dimmed star
ELMONT, N.Y. - The English trainer Jeremy Noseda put it succinctly Tuesday morning: "The best European milers this year aren't in the Breeders' Cup."
This is true. Dubawi was retired. Divine Proportions got hurt. Starcraft is expected to be entered in the Classic instead of the Mile. Rakti was a disappointment this fall. And Noseda's own Proclamation changed hands and went to Dubai rather than the Breeders' Cup.
What we have ended up with are horses more in the class of Majors Cast, whom Noseda decided belatedly to send to Belmont for the Mile, and Whipper, a close 10th in the 2004 Mile at Lone Star. But there is one possible exception: His name is Valixir.
Were the Breeders' Cup held in midsummer, Valixir would have been among the favorites. A 4-year-old Irish-bred owned by the Aga Khan and based in France with trainer Andre Fabre, Valixir was good enough to finish third, beaten a half-length, in the 2004 French Derby, but Fabre fashioned him into a miler this year.
"He has a mixed pedigree," Fabre said. "He could go farther, and we tried him at that, but with age he got stronger and was more suitable to a shorter distance. That was attractive commercially, and so we concentrated on doing that."
Valixir finished third in his first start of the season, but then won the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp and came back with an even stronger performance on June 14 in England, winning the Group 1 Queen Anne, comfortably defeating Rakti and Starcraft.
The problem is his form since then. Valixir won a Group 3 prep race in late July, but was third behind Dubawi and Whipper in the Jacques le Marois, and a one-paced fifth in the Sept. 4 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, his most recent start.
But Fabre expects more from Valixir on Saturday. "In his last race he was a bit tired," Fabre said. "He's a horse who has more energy than power, so he runs well fresh."
Valixir shipped well, and Fabre wins regularly on stages as bright as the Breeders' Cup. Maybe one of the very best European milers is here after all.
Scrappy T out of Classic and in Discovery
Having briefly flirted with the idea of running in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the connections of Preakness runner-up Scrappy T have targeted a better spot for their 3-year-old gelding this weekend.
Scrappy T is one of 11 3-year-olds being pointed to Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Discovery Handicap at Belmont Park, one of two stakes on the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships undercard. The Discovery, usually run at 1 1/8 miles around two turns at Aqueduct, will be run at 1 1/16 miles around one turn at Belmont.
Scrappy T had success in New York during the first half of the year, winning the Count Fleet and Withers stakes at Aqueduct. He became infamous when he slammed into Afleet Alex at the top of the stretch in the Preakness, nearly unseating Afleet Alex's jockey Jeremy Rose. Rose and Afleet Alex righted themselves and galloped clear to a 4 3/4-length victory and then went on to win the Belmont Stakes.
Meanwhile, Scrappy T suffered a muscle injury in his back that forced him to miss the entire summer. He returned to the races this month in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, finishing second behind Don't Get Mad.
"I thought he ran a real good race first time back; he got into a little bit of trouble,'' trainer Robert Bailes said. "I'm most pleased that he came out of it so well. He's heading in the right direction right now.''
Bailes and owner Marshall Dowell considered pre-entering Scrappy T in the BC Classic, but, Bailes said, they didn't think "one race would have given us enough bottom under him."
A large, competitive field is expected for the Discovery, including Santa Anita Derby winner Buzzards Bay, Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda's Hero, Pegasus winner Magna Graduate, as well as Chips Are Down, Park Avenue Ball, Quadrant, Scipion, Spanish Mission, and Watchmon.
Californians head Sport Page
Ancient Title winner Captain Squire is one of three California-based sprinters listed by the racing office as likely to run in Saturday's $250,000 Sport Page Handicap at seven furlongs.
Captain Squire, 2 for 2 this year after missing 14 months due to injury, is the 121-pound highweight. Gotaghostofachance, a troubled fourth in that race, is also expected to run and will carry 118 pounds. Hasty Kris is the other California-based runner expected to run.
Others listed for the race are Joey P., Silver Wagon, and Value Plus. Wild Tale is possible.
Southern Success heads Nashua
Trainer Tim Ritchey won't have Afleet Alex in Saturday's Breeders' Cup, but he has Southern Success, who heads the prospective field for Friday's 100,000 Nashua Stakes.
Southern Success, a son of Dixieland Band, is 2 for 2 and comes off a front-running 4 1/4-length win in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park.
Others pointing to the Nashua, run at 1 1/16 miles, are Bear Character, Bluegrass Cat, Changing Weather, Express News, Great Point, Political Force, Too Much Bling, and possibly What's Your Edge.
Also on Friday is the Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the turf. If it stays on the grass, the prospective field is Atlando, Ay Caramba, Battle Chant, Certifiably Crazy, Ecclesiastic, Latino Magic, Storm Soaring, We All Love Aleyna, and possibly Willard Straight.
Pay-per-view signal offered internationally
Racing fans outside the U.S. this year will for the first time be offered the Breeders' Cup's simulcast feed - the signal sent to racetracks and offtrack betting locations across the country - through a pay-per-view broadcast on the Internet, the Breeders' Cup said on Tuesday.
The streaming-video signal will cost $8.99. The signal will not be offered to U.S. residents because of the BC's contract with NBC-TV.
Breeders' Cup has been pushing to expand its popularity in international markets, in the hopes of driving handle to $200 million by 2010. Last year, handle was $121 million.
According to Ken Kirchner, the Breeders' Cup's senior vice president of product development, sites in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, South Africa, Switzerland, Monaco, and Canada will be able to offer commingled betting on the Breeders' Cup this year. Last year, all those sites also offered commingled betting, with the exception of Canada. Separate-pool handle in Canada last year was $4.9 million.
Separate-pool wagering will be available this year in New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Uruguay, Kirchner said.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Matt Hegarty