Birdrun – To hear trainer Bill Mott talk about his Marathon runner, it almost seems like the 5yo son of Birdstone may get the most support of any of his barn’s five Breeders’ Cup entrants.
“Everybody loves him,” Mott said. “He’s just a neat horse. He does whatever you want him to do, anything from a mile to a mile and a half. I don’t think he’ll have a problem with the distance (1 3/4m).”
Listed at odds of 7-2 on the morning line, it’s apparent oddsmaker Mike Battaglia expects Birdrun to get some backing from the public. His last start came in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a sixth-place finish behind Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Flat Out.
Mott galloped Birdrun Thursday morning and schooled him in the paddock in the afternoon.
Eldaafer – The defending winner of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon galloped a little more than 1m Thursday morning and schooled in the paddock under trainer Diane Alvarado.
“He was bucking and kicking when he pulled up,” Alvarado said. “He’s fresh and sharp. I just let him gallop out about three-eighths of a mile; he’s fit and happy.”
According to Alvarado, Eldaafer will “do a little something” Friday morning, most likely a wrong-way jog. The 6yo son of A.P. Indy should go to the track around 9:15.
“I just have to keep him happy until Saturday,” Alvarado said.
Giant Oak – The 5yo Illinois-bred Giant’s Causeway horse takes a second stab at the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. After a fourth-place finish in last year’s edition of the 1 3/4m race, he did rebound to earn a win via disqualification in the Clark Handicap over this course.
“He settled in here fine,” trainer Chris Block said. “He’s been here plenty of times before. He’s doing real well. He got here Monday and he’s galloped well Tuesday and Wednesday morning. He galloped really strong this morning. He’s coming into the race just the way I want him to.
“We didn’t learn a whole lot last year. He had a real wide trip and never got a chance to run his race. I’m hoping this year to get a better trip.”
The Chicago-based trainer, who is increasingly becoming a mainstay on the national scene, is glad to have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the second straight year.
“Last year was my first experience (running in the Breeders’ Cup) and I was really proud to run in a race like that on a day like that,” Block said. “I’m proud to represent the Illinois program by having an Illinois-bred race in a race like this. I had a lot of fun doing it last year and so far am having a lot of fun again this year.”
Harrison's Cave – The 3yo son of Galileo will make his first appearance on the Churchill Downs track Friday morning for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Meeznah – Having been out on the main track on Midday earlier in the morning, jockey Tom Queally was aboard Meeznah, who cantered on the dirt for Newmarket handler David Lanigan.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it,” Lanigan replied after being asked of his filly’s chance in Saturday’s Marathon. “I could prove to be very clever or very stupid” he said.