Caleb's Posse – The McNeil Stables and Cheyenne Stables’ 3yo colt may have appeared to be on the Triple Crown trail earlier in the year, but according to trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, he never really was.
“Even through the races at Oaklawn (culminating with the Arkansas Derby), we thought it was a longshot that he was a mile and a quarter (Kentucky Derby distance) horse,” Von Hemel explained. “It wasn’t that hard to cut him back eventually.”
The Smarty Jones winner was second in the Rebel, but would finish a distant 12th in the Arkansas Derby.
“He got roughed up in the Arkansas Derby, and didn’t do that much at all, so we just backed off a little bit,” Von Hemel explained. “We figured we’d regroup, and try some of these smaller Derbies, which he performed well in.
“When we decided we were going to take a few horses to Saratoga, we looked at what was available there, and it made sense to sprint him. That turned out better than we could have imagined obviously.”
The son of Posse won both the Amsterdam and King’s Bishop with Dirt Mile jockey Rajiv Maragh astride, and the colt has captured Graded stakes at 6 ½ f, 7f and 1 1/16 m.
Shackleford – The 2011 Preakness winner continues to build trainer Dale Romans’ confidence each morning he goes out to gallop in preparation for his Dirt Mile start.
“He’s never trained any better,” said Romans. “He reminds me of where he was going into the (Kentucky Derby). He’s a fresh and happy horse.”
Tapizar/Wilburn – In a perfect world, trainer Steve Asmussen would not run two of his top horses against one another on Breeders’ Cup Day, but circumstances leading into Saturday’s Dirt Mile dictated that he did.
Tapizar leaves from post 3, while Wilburn drew gate 5 of nine.
“You’re trying to do the right thing by both horses,” Asmussen explained. “Tapizar is a very talented horse who has a win coming off an ideal first race back off the knee chip. That’s how you end up here (Dirt Mile) with him.
“We think Wilburn could be a Classic-type. Coming off of races at distances no further than a mile and a sixteenth, he wasn’t up to the Classic this time around. You’re not giving him a fair shot. Backing him up to the one-turn mile provides a good opportunity without eliminating him from his future. That’s the thinking that goes into it.”
Garrett Gomez, who rode Tapizar to his Sham Stakes win earlier in the year, gets the Saturday nod, while Indiana Derby, winning jockey Julien Leparoux gets the return call on Wilburn.
The Factor – The Bob Baffert trainee arrived from California on a Tex Sutton charter along with other stablemates bound for Breeders’ Cup competition Tuesday afternoon, after blazing a bullet 6f in 1:10 1/5 at Santa Anita Monday morning.
“He went well,” Baffert reported of the 3yo son of War Front. “He did it the right way. Last time he ran, considering the way he took off and we sent him away from the gate, we like a mile for him much better.”
The Factor drew the rail in the Dirt Mile under jockey Martin Garcia and was assigned odds of 7-2 on the morning line. He will take to the track Wednesday morning, as will Baffert’s other Breeders’ Cup contenders.
Trappe Shot – Trappe Shot was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on a flight from New York Tuesday. Trappe Shot, who is still seeking his first career Grade 1 victory, has never started at 1m. He drew the outside post in the field of nine with jockey John Velazquez.
“I really think the mile’s a great distance for him,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “The post is a big plus and he should get a good pace to stalk. I don’t think (Velazquez) will have to ask him as much to stay closer to the pace. He’s really training great, better than he has going into his other races.”
Trappe Shot most recently finished fourth as the heavy favorite in Belmont’s 6f Vosburgh Oct. 1.
“I’m gonna say the track was funny and the first two went (to the lead) and there was no position change after that,” McLaughlin said. “It just wasn’t to his liking. He was wide, he dropped over on the turn and ran all right, but he just didn’t like the setup. It just didn’t work out.”