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Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Contact: Notes Team (847) 385-7472/7473
WAR EMBLEM & ROCK OF GIBRALTAR LEAD INTERNATIONAL CAST IN BREEDERS' CUP WORLD THOROUGHBRED CHAMPIONSHIPS SATURDAY
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem and champion miler Rock of Gibraltar (IRE) lead the imposing list of 92 horses from North America and Europe set to clash in Saturday's 19th Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park in Chicago.
War Emblem faces the toughest test of his career as a lukewarm favorite in a wide-open field of 12 3-year-olds and up set to go to the post for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the climax of the eight races for all divisions racing for total purses of $13,980,000.
Horse of the Year and Eclipse Awards for all divisions will be on the line during that outstanding afternoon of sport that will be broadcast live during a five-hour telecast on NBC Sports from 1:00-6:00 p.m. ET.
Flying in to ride the world's best horses are the world's leading jockeys, including Jerry Bailey, Michael Kinane, Pat Day, Kieren Fallon, Gary Stevens, Pat Valenzuela, Edgar Prado, Mike Smith, John R. Velazquez and others.
War Emblem, trained by Bob Baffert and to be ridden by Victor Espinoza from post position 3, makes his first start since his disappointing sixth-place finish as the favorite behind Came Home in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 25.
War Emblem, Came Home and Travers Stakes hero Medaglia d'Oro are the most accomplished of the 3-year-olds challenging such older handicap stars as Evening Attire, winner of The Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban Handicap victor E Dubai and Macho Uno.
Came Home was 10-to-1 in the Pacific Classic despite his remarkably consistent record of eight victories from just 10 career starts for trainer Paco Gonzalez. Unfortunately, the homebred son of Gone West had his two worst days when seventh in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall and sixth in the Kentucky Derby this spring.
Medaglia d'Oro leads a major assault on the day's races by trainer Bobby Frankel, who will have starters in four events. A son of El Prado, Medaglia d'Oro was beaten only a half-length by longshot Sarava in the Belmont Stakes and makes his first start since capturing the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24. Frankel also will send out 4-year-old Santa Anita Handicap winner Milwaukee Brew in the Classic.
In the race prior to the Classic, English and Irish Derby winner High Chaparral (IRE) is the 8-to-5 morning line favorite in a field of eight 3-year-olds and up drawn for the $2,420,000 million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles.
The son of Sadler's Wells is trained by Aidan O'Brien, who has brought a powerful Coolmore team of eight runners from Ireland that also includes Rock of Gibraltar, odds-on favorite in the $1 million NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile earlier on the card.
High Chaparral (IRE) finished third last out as the favorite in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Oct. 6, his first start sine the Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 30.
His most formidable rival will likely be 4-year-old Golan (IRE), winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in late July, his first start this year. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Golan (IRE) lost a tough decision in the Juddmonte International at York in August in his only other start of the season.
The best hopes for an American-trained runner in the Turf appear to be 7-year-old With Anticipation, winner of three straight Grade I events this summer, and 4-year-old Denon, winner of the Turf Classic at Belmont Park for Frankel.
Leading off the World Thoroughbred Championships races will be the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Azeri is the 6-to-5 morning-line favorite to win for the 10th time in 11 career starts for trainer Laura de Seroux.
A 4-year-old homebred daughter of Jade Hunter, Azeri has swept her last six starts, suffering her lone defeat when second behind East Coast invader Summer Colony in the La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita in early February.
Summer Colony will meet Azeri again in the Distaff as the two 4-year-old fillies may find their most formidable opposition from Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes winner Farda Amiga and Beldame Stakes heroine Imperial Gesture in the field of eight.
Rock of Gibraltar (IRE) is being acclaimed Europe's best milers in decades and was made the even-money favorite in the full field of 14 3-year-olds and up entered in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Rock of Gibraltar has been making headlines all season as the son of Danehill has rolled to impressive victories in the English and Irish 2000 Guineas against rival 3-year-olds and has been equally dominant defeating older horses in the Sussex Stakes in England and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, the division's definite test for milers in France.
Rock of Gibraltar (IRE) has won 10 of 12 career starts and, the last seven consecutively in Group I races to break a record set by the legendary Mill Reef in the early 1970s. Post position 10 shouldn't compromise his chances Saturday, although the very best needs a reasonably good trip in this race historically.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien also sends out Coolmore stablemate Landseer (GB), winner of the French 2000 Guineas in the spring and defeated many of America's best hopes in the Mile last out when invading Kentucky to win the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
The Frankel-trained 5-year-old Beat Hollow was the odds-on favorite in the Shadwell but had to settle for third, although beaten less than a length by Landseer (GB) after taking command in mid-stretch.
In addition to Beat Hollow, the best chance for an American-trained runner in the Mile appears to be 6-year-old Good Journey, who has run only 13 times, but has hit his best stride winning all three of his starts this year for trainer Wally Dollase. The son of Nureyev won the Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in July and the Atto Mile at Woodbine last out on Sept. 8.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas leads virtually every statistical category in Breeders' Cup history and sends out 4-year-old Orientate as the 5-to-2 morning line favorite in a field of 13 3-year-olds and up entered in the $1,140,000 NAPA Breeders' Cup Sprint at six furlongs.
The son of Mt. Livermore has reeled off four straight stakes victories, including rather easy scores in the A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap and Forego Handicap at Saratoga, his last start coming on Sept. 1.
One of several highly accomplished rivals Orientate will face is 4-year-old filly Xtra Heat, runner-up to Squirtle Squirt in the Sprint last year and later voted Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly. Trained by co-owner John E. Salzman Jr., the $5,000 2-year-old sales purchase has won 24 of 31 career starts and earned more than $2.2 million.
Another tough foe if he has a good day will be 8-year-old gelding Kona Gold, Eclipse champion sprinter of 2000 after capturing the Sprint at Churchill Downs in track record time. Trained by Bruce Headley, the venerable son of Java Gold will be making a record fifth start in the Breeders' Cup.
Orientate will break from post 10 while Xtra Heat comes out of gate 6 as the 5-to-1 co-second choice. Kona Gold is a 6-to-1 chance from post 9 and co-second choice Swept Overboard, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap and close-up fourth in the Sprint last year drew post 12.
Frankel sends out 4-year-old filly Banks Hill (GB) as the 3-to-1 second choice in the $1,280,000 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at 1 ¼ miles on turf, a race she won at Belmont Park last year and was voted an Eclipse champion.
The 4-year-old daughter of Danehill was developed and trained by French champion trainer Andre Fabre through her last start when third as the even-money favorite in the Yellow Ribbon Invitational at Santa Anita on Oct. 5.
Prior to that race she had won the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and finished a very good second to Rock of Gibraltar (IRE) in the Moulin. Banks Hill (GB) was originally shipped to the U.S. this year for the Flower Bowl Handicap at Belmont a week before the Yellow Ribbon, but soft course conditions caused Fabre to send her on to California for firmer ground.
Winning the Yellow Ribbon was 4-year-old filly Golden Apples (IRE), who had captured the Beverly D Stakes over the Arlington course in September for trainer Ben Cecil. The daughter of Pivotal was installed as the 5-to-2 favorite for the Filly & Mare Turf, which drew a field of 12.
Drawing the far outside post was Kazzia (GER), who won the Flower Bowl for trainer Saeed bin Suroor in her American debut. The victory was her fifth in just six career starts, including the English 1000 Guineas and Oaks.
A very wide-open, full field of 14 2-year-olds will go in the $1,070,000 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile at 1 1/8 miles, a distance a sixteenth longer than usual because of the configuration of the Arlington main track.
Trainer John Ward saddles undefeated Sky Mesa as the moderate morning line choice at 3-to-1, breaking from post 9. A $750,000 yearling purchase, the son of Pulpit won the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland impressively.
Baffert and O'Brien each send out three colts in the race with little to choose between their respective chances. Baffert's Vindication, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park to remain undefeated in three starts, is the 4-to-1 second choice.
Champagne Stakes winner Toccet drew the far outside post 14 for trainer John Scanlan and was made co-third choice at 6-to-1 with Patrick Biancone-trained Whywhywhy, winner of The Futurity at Belmont Park, who will break from the rail.
Another heavy favorite on the program line will be Storm Flag Flying at even-money as the undefeated daughter of Storm Cat breaks from post 4 in a field of 11 entered for the $1 million Long John Silver's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/8 miles.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Storm Flag Flying won the Matron and Frizette at Belmont in her last two starts. She is out of 1995 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag and her second dam is the immortal, undefeated Personal Ensign, winner of the memorable 1988 renewal of the Distaff over Winning Colors at Churchill Downs.
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