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Friday, October 25, 2002
Contact: Notes Team (847) 385-7472/7473
Breeders' Cup Layoff Trend Growing In 21st Century
Last year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park was an emotional roller coaster ride for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. The three-time Eclipse Award winner snapped an 0-for-38 Breeders' Cup losing streak when Squirtle Squirt outfinished Xtra Heat to win the Sprint, but his five other horses -- including favorites Flute (seventh in the Distaff), You (fourth in the Juvenile Fillies) and Aptitude (eighth in the Classic) -- failed to threaten.
"Last year, I didn't feel that great at the end of the day," Frankel remembered. "I know I won one, but I got beat in three good races. But as a trainer, you learn from experience and I think I learned from that day. I learned that you don't want your horses to run too good that close to the Breeders' Cup."
The training trend of running a "fresh" horse in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships has reached an all-time high this year as 17 horses with a break of at least 45 days, including nine which haven't started in more than 60 days, were entered to start in Saturday's Championship events at Arlington Park. Both figures are Breeders' Cup records, which leads to the question: Are training trends changing?
"I think so," Frankel said.
From 1984 to 2001, 151 horses entered the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships with a break between races of at least 45 days. Eighteen won (11.9%), including 10 with rests of more than 60 days, and another 28 finished among top three positions (27.2%).
Year Layoffs 45-60 Days Layoffs 60+ Days Breeders' Cup Layoff Winners (Race, Days Between Starts)
The comeback king is undoubtedly Precisionist, who returned from a 132-day break to capture the 1985 Sprint and an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter. It was the Swaps and Strub stakes-winner's first race since a runner-up effort in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup in June. A stellar training job by Ross Fenstermaker, a turn-back in distance and great ride by Chris McCarron led to a strong victory in 1:08 2/5.
Other noteworthy winners: Very Subtle (1987 Sprint, 82 days between races); Desert Stormer (1995 Sprint, 76); Last Tycoon (1986 Mile, 72); Escena (1997 Distaff, 71); Lit De Justice (1996 Sprint, 70); Royal Heroine (1984 Mile, 62); Miesque (1988 Mile, 62); Spinning World (1997 Mile, 62); and Tempera (2001 Juvenile Fillies, 62).
Eight of the 10 winners which were rested for more than 60 days won either the Sprint or Mile.
This year, a handful of horsemen hope their horses will be added to the list.
"I think that when you run a horse that's fresh, they'll run real hard," Frankel said. "But it takes a lot out of them if you try to come back in three weeks."
Frankel's Medaglia d'Oro, the 7-2 second morning line favorite in the Classic, hasn't started since winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 24. It will be 63 days between starts.
"I thought if I ran [Medaglia d'Oro] in The Jockey Club Gold Cup -- even though it's four weeks from the Classic and worth a million dollars -- the only thing I could have done was hurt him. My objective has always been to win the Breeders' Cup Classic with him. I thought this was the best way to do it.
"Anything can happen in a race. He could run too good. With the layoff, he's coming into the race as good as I think I can get him."
Horses Entered in 2002 Breeders' Cup with 45+ Days Between Starts
Days Since Last Start Horse Race Trainer
In contrast, Frankel also has Milwaukee Brew entered in the Classic, a horse which will be making his fifth start since mid-June.
"If a horse is on a steady pattern and running every three to four weeks, I think they can handle it," Frankel said. "But with horses that haven't been running on a steady pattern, they come back and run a huge race, and then they come back in three weeks and it shows that it was really hard on them."
Most Days Between Starts in Breeders' Cup History (1984-2002)
Days Year Horse Race Trainer Finish
"I'm really lucky and fortunate this year," Frankel said. "I can't make any excuses for any of my horses. As of (Thursday) morning, they all look 100 percent. I think I've trained them properly. After that, there's nothing more I can do."
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