Updated on 09/17/2011 11:36AM

Volponi's future not dependent on repeat


LAS VEGAS - Volponi was 43-1 when he won last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and while he is winless in seven starts this year (with five seconds and two thirds), you can be sure that Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson will have him at his best for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, which may be the final race of his career.

Volponi has finished in the money 24 times in 30 lifetime starts. While many have dismissed his chances for a repeat victory in the Classic, his chances are looking better with each passing week, with the defections of Mineshaft, Candy Ride, and Empire Maker.

As a 4-year-old last year, Volponi had a decided edge over Medaglia d'Oro, a still-developing 3-year-old, at the Classic's 1 1/4 miles, and defeated him by 6 1/2 lengths. Thoroughbreds do not reach their peak until age 4 and sometimes 5, and Medaglia d'Oro is a much more formidable opponent than he was last year. Congaree is classy and has proven he can get 1 1/4 miles when things go his own way, but that is not likely to happen in the Breeders' Cup Classic. With Empire Maker retired, Ten Most Wanted, winner of the Travers Stakes and Super Derby, is the most dangerous 3-year-old at 1 1/4 miles, and a late-maturing 3-year-old in the fall should always be respected. Another formidable rival for Volponi would be Perfect Drift.

For Volponi, a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic would be monumental. But even if he does not win, Volponi has done enough to warrant a chance at stud. With the majority of racing's stars retired far too early, for economic reasons, Volponi is a throwback to the Thoroughbreds of yesteryear, whose connections didn't call it quits after one good year. Volponi is all hickory and was a stakes winner at ages 2, 3, and 4. He has finished in the money in all six of his stakes starts this year. He finished second in the Brooklyn, Suburban, Whitney, and Saratoga Breeders' Cup handicaps, and third in the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap and Meadowlands Cup. And he has the pedigree to back up his racing performance.

Adding to Volponi's appeal as a stallion is his versatility. Volponi has won stakes on dirt and turf, has been proficient on wet tracks, and has been competitive from seven furlongs to 1 1/2 miles.

He is by Cryptoclearance, a multiple stakes winner who was second in the Belmont Stakes to Bet Twice, second in the Travers Stakes to Java Gold, and third in the Preakness Stakes behind Alysheba and Bet Twice. Sons of Cryptoclearance are having a banner year.

Cryptoclearance's son Ride the Rails, a stakes winner who finished second in the 1994 Florida Derby to Holy Bull, is now a leading sire in Argentina, and his son Candy Ride was absolutely spectacular winning the Pacific Classic this year over Medaglia d'Oro. Cryptoclearance's best runner, Victory Gallop, won the Belmont Stakes after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness behind Real Quiet. A champion at 4, Victory Gallop is among this year's best freshman sires, with such stakes runners as Victory U. S. A., Notorious Rogue, and Victory Light. Cryptoclearance is also the sire of Millennium Wind, winner of the 2001 Blue Grass Stakes and a half-brother to the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Charismatic. Millennium Wind stood his first season at stud this year and his first crop of 2-year-olds will race in 2006.

While Cryptoclearance has transmitted stamina to his sons, Volponi inherited even more staying power from his dam's sire, Sir Harry Lewis (a son of two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged), who won the Irish St. Leger at 1 1/2 miles. Volponi is out of stakes-placed Fickle Friend, and his second dam is a half-sister to a Group 1 winner, Recitation.

Volponi has had a substantial career as a racehorse, and he should have the same success as a stallion.