$1 Million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Three-Year-Olds and Up
1 Mile & 70 Yards
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Corinthian – The Metropolitan Mile victor galloped 1 1/2m under Kelvin Pahal Thursday morning in preparation for a start in the inaugural running of the Dirt Mile.
“We let him breeze the last quarter of a mile down the backside,” said trainer James Jerkens, “not too much, just a quarter in about 25 or so.”
Jerkens, who saddled Artie Schiller for a victory in the Mile at Belmont Park in 2005, said that the No. 1 post should well work in the favor of Discreet Cat, the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Dirt Mile.
“He’s breaking from the inside, that’s a big advantage if he comes out running,” Jerkens said. “It doesn’t look like he’s got much experience being around a crowd of horses. But as long as he breaks, that’s the best post position they could have hoped for.”
Jerkens is hoping that jockey Kent Desormeaux can work out a ground-saving trip from Corinthian’s No. 8 post.
“(Corinthian) doesn’t seem to mind running on the inside at all. It should help him to save some ground at some part of the race, hopefully early,” Jerkens said.
Discreet Cat – Godolphin’s Discreet Cat, the 2-1 morning line favorite in Friday’s inaugural Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, galloped over Monmouth Park’s main track Thursday morning. On Wednesday, Discreet Cat schooled in the Monmouth Park paddock between races.
“He had an easy gallop over the track this morning and he’ll do the same thing tomorrow,” said Rick Mettee, the New York assistant of trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Mettee says the prospect of a wet track the Dirt Mile doesn’t bother him or bin Suroor.
“This colt has got a big win in the mud in Belmont’s Jerome and he’s got the right pedigree for an off track,” Mettee said. “I don’t think the wet will hurt him. Saeed and I are more concerned with the two turns and the amount of speed in the race. I’m more worried about the pace scenario than a muddy track.”
Jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode Discreet Cat to a powerful victory in last November’s Cigar Mile, has the mount.
Forefathers – The ultimate decision on whether to run in the $2 million Sprint on Saturday or the $1 million Dirt Mile on Friday was still not made, but the shrinking size of the Sprint field probably added more allure to the race trainer Bill Mott has seemed to be favoring all along.
“I haven’t heard anything different,” Mott said after taking the 3yo colt to the paddock and onto the track for a leisurely gallop. “We’re leaning toward the Sprint, but as far as I know we’re still in the (Dirt) Mile, too.”
Mott and owner Ahmed Zayat would have until 45 minutes before post time Friday (approximately 5:35 p.m.) to scratch from the race.
“That leaves six speed horses,” Mott said when apprised of the defection of Attila’s Storm. “I counted seven front-runners and I might have included him in that group.”
Forefathers, who was listed at odds of 20-1 for both races, is making only his third start since March. He was second in the Bergen County at Meadowlands in his first start for Mott, then ran second in the Jerome at Belmont on Oct. 7.
“I believe he had some minor chip surgery, if chip surgery can be minor,” Mott said of the near six-month layoff.
Gottcha Gold – Monmouth Park resident Gottcha Gold jogged at his home base on Thursday morning. Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr., who splits his time between Calder Race Course in Miami, Fla. and Monmouth during its season, is flying to New Jersey Thursday and is expected at the barn Friday morning.
Plesa said of Gottcha Gold, “He’ll certainly be close to the lead, but it’s all in Chuckie’s hands (jockey Chuck Lopez). I’m not concerned if it’s an off track. He won a stake there over a sloppy track (Choice Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 27, 2006), so it’s not a negative.”
High Finance – The Rick Violette-trained 4yo went to the track at Monmouth Park for the first time Thursday morning. He was schooled in the starting gate before galloping 2m the wrong way around the track in preparation for the Dirt Mile.
Violette is still at a loss as to High Finance’s eighth-place finish as favorite in the Forego at Saratoga.
“Beats me. I still don’t have a reason why, because if I did, I could have worked on something. But we never really discovered a reason why he didn’t show up that day,” said Violette, whose colt had previously won the Tom Fool Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Belmont Park. “But he’s training great. I expect if he can run his ‘A’ race, he can handle all comers.”
John Velazquez has the mount on the son of Talk is Money
Lewis Michael – In his final preparations for Friday’s Dirt Mile, the 4yo son of Rahy had a busy Thursday morning at Monmouth.
“He jogged a mile and schooled in the gate and in the paddock,” said trainer Wayne Catalano. “He handled it all like a pro.”
Last year Catalano captured his first Breeders’ Cup win with Dreaming of Anna, Lewis Michael’s full sister, in the Juvenile Fillies.
“This is why everyone that is involved in horse racing gets up before dawn seven days a week,” Catalano said of the Breeders’ Cup experience. “Last year’s win was a great birthday present for Frank (owner Calabrese).”
Lewis Michael finished a troubled 11th in last year’s Sprint, and it’s taken him more time to “get it” than his baby sister.
“They say that girls learn faster than boys, and in this case, it’s certainly true,” Catalano said.
Park Avenue Ball – While other horses in the Breeders’ Cup have had to ship in from all over North America and Europe, locally based Park Avenue Ball has enjoyed all of the comforts of home. He’ll also have the services of Monmouth’s all-time leading rider, but Joe Bravo’s familiarity with every inch of this track may not prove to be a significant edge on race day.
“Joe will ride him, but I don’t know if that will be much of a factor,” said trainer Jim Ryerson. “Bravo’s a good rider, but he’ll be riding against all good riders. “
Bravo has been in the irons twice before, when Park Avenue Ball finished second behind Breeders’ Cup Sprint entrant Smokey Stover at Monmouth on Sept. 1 in the Icecapades Stakes and once in 2004 when the horse was fifth in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont.
“Joe has ridden him in races and also ridden against him in races,” Ryerson said. “So we’ll see.”
Just like Purim, who is competing in the Mile on the turf, Park Avenue Ball underwent throat surgery to correct a breathing problem in June. Although the procedure is much easier and far more successful than it once was, there are still no guarantees.
“I’ve had a few who never came back from it,” said Ryerson. “I want him to do well and come back. This could be his last year racing. The decision will be made after the Breeders’ Cup.”
Wanderin Boy – Veteran trainer Nick Zito has strong feelings about Arthur Hancock’s 6yo horse, who may be making the final start of his career on Friday.
Wanderin Boy has won eight of 19 starts and $899,687 in four seasons on the track.
“He’s been a champion in my eyes,” Zito said. “When you say ‘warrior,’ that’s the right word. He’s six years old, he’s had many interruptions in his life. Mr. Hancock has done a great job sending him to his farm, fixing him up and sending him back to us. It’s been unbelievable.
“It would fitting for him to win that race. It would be great.”
Javier Castellano will ride Wanderin Boy, who is 8-1 on the morning line.
Xchanger – Xchanger walked the shedrow at Monmouth on Thursday, and is “ready to roll” in Friday’s Dirt Mile.
“Both of my (Breeders’ Cup) horses have made my job real easy,” trainer Mark Shuman said of Xchanger and Sprint contender Talent Search. “There have been no issues. No stress. I’m just hoping to get them into the gate as good as they’ve been.”
Shuman is no stranger to winning races at Monmouth Park. He’s enjoyed several sensational years at the New Jersey oval during the “(owner) Michael Gill days,” taking down a local title in 2003.