The Brock Talk

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baffert Looks At Lucky Breeders' Cup With Zensational Four.

Trainer Saeed bin Saroor and his powerful Goldolphin Stable owned by Shiek Mohammed al Maktoum have come to te Breeders' Cup loaded for bear with a stable of 14 horses that are entered in all but three of the Breeders' Cup races. Representing the United States, trainer Todd Pletcher has his Nov. 6-7 booked with a baker's dozen group of thoroughbreds that will decend upon Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup.

But the conditioner that may walk away with the most Eclipse statues next week might be Bob Baffert with his four Breeders' Cup entrants.

Two of the bigger favorites on the day will come from the Baffert barn with Zensational going for his fifth consecutive victory in the Sprint (gr. 1) and Lookin at Lucky trying to remain undefeated in the Juvenile (gr. 1). His Always A Princess should also be very competitive in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. 1) and I think Richard's Kid has a good chance at a price in the Classic(gr. 1).

The Californians are always tough in the Sprint, having won 8 of the last 11 runnings including the last two by the Baffert-trained Midnight Lute. It was also the Sprint that gave Baffert his first Breeders' Cup victory when Thirty Slews and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye won the $1 million race at Gulfstream Park in 1992.

Baffert seems to be using a similar preparating for the Breeders' Cup similar to the formula used for the previous three Sprint victories with Thirty Slews and Midnight Lute - thirty plus days rest between the previous race and the Sprint and a bullet work. But even without the winning pattern of training, Zensational brings in fine credentials having won three of Southern California's premier sprints this year. After winning an optional claiming race at Hollywood Park, he won the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. 1) at Hollywood, and the The Bing Crosby (gr. 1) and the Pat O'Brien (gr. 1) at Del Mar.

Most racing fans associate Bob Baffert with his silver hair and his three Kentucky Derby winners and while his hair may not get any more grey, Lookin at Lucky might be his next Derby star. Nothing has been able to stop the 2-year-old son of Smart Strike yet having won the grade 2 Best Pal and grade 1 Del Mar Futurity before coming to Santa Anita to win the grade 1 Norfolk during the current Oak Tree meeting. His Beyer Speed figures are not quite up to par for a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, but the home field advantage over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface could be enough to give him the edge.

Always a Princess only has a maiden victory and a second to probable Juvenile Fillies favorite Blind Luck in the grade 1 Oak Leaf at Santa Anita to her credit in her brief career, but will be dangerous with any kind of significant improvement or perhaps a more relaxed running style. In the Oak Leaf she sprinted to the lead, only to be caught late by Blind Luck. With wire-to-wire winners in short supply during the current Oak Tree meeting and the added distance to 1-1/16 miles in the Juvenile Fillies, a more relaxing start will be necessary for Always a Princess to have much of a chance.

Richard's Kid will certainly not be among the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Classic with the likes of possibly Zenyatta, European star Rip Van Winkle and top 3-year-old Summer Bird as likely opponents but he will definitely be on at least the bottom two rows of my trifecta and maybe even at the top by weeks end.

He won the Pacific Classic (gr. 1) defeating fellow Classic entrant Einstein at Del Mar and came back with a solid third in the Goodwood (gr. 1) at Santa Anita behind upset winner Gitano Hernando and runner-up Colonel John. Jockey Alex Solis, who won the Classic in 2003 with Pleasantly Perfect, will be aboard Richard's Kid again.

Jockey Michael Straight Update From The Paulick Report
One Day At A Time Michael

Breeders' Cup NotableNeither Mine That Bird nor Summer Bird seem to be taking to the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita according to several reports. That may not be surprising considering a statistic Brad Free had in his Daily Racing Form column in their Breeders' Cup Special Edition. According to Free, sons and daughters of Birdstone are 5 for 31 on artificial surfaces. Four of those wins are Mine That Bird's when he raced at Woodbine at a 2-year-old. So what sire should the bloodline handicappers look for according to Free? Tapit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Breeders' Cup Or Bust Fundraising Drive To Benefit Cancer Research, Disabled Jockey's Fund

The Brock Talk salutes The Paulick Report and Breeders’ Cup Charities. for planning and executing a final minute fundraising effort for disabled riders and cancer research. Perhaps Ray Paulick's aerophobia and Brad Cummings' driving has never been so well placed as this 10-day BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST FUNDRAISING ‘DRIVE’ across the United States. The ten-day trek begins on Wed., Oct. 28, at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky and concludes in Arcadia, Ca. on the even of the Breeders' Cup.

The drive will be raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockey's Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

“We have been blessed with enough success to be able to give back to our community,” said Ray Paulick, who will be joined on the ‘drive’ by business partner Cummings. “It’s important as an industry that we show charitable leadership both inside and outside our community.”

Stopping along the way to raise money and awareness for the charities with special promotions at Keeneland, Hawthorne Race Course, Remington Park, Zia Park and Turf Paradise along with a stop at a Las Vegas sportsbook, the Paulick Report will be
chronicling its journey at The Paulick Report.

Online donations will be made directly through a secured website through Breeders’ Cup Charities. Throughout the planned 2,835-mile trip, Paulick and Cummings will be accepting donations and pledges in increments as little as one cent per mile.

Additionally, the Paulick Report is seeking individuals, businesses or charitable foundations as sponsors for each of the six segments of the drive, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the two charities. To inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please send an email to:

Also supporting the drive is exclusive Thoroughbred media partner TVG, the
popular national horse racing television network and account wagering service. Gerard Cunningham, president of TVG‐Betfair USA, believes the fund‐raising drive will be well received by TVG’s TV audience viewers and community members. “TVG is thrilled to be partnering with the Paulick Report as the exclusive
media partner for ‘BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST’. We hope that our media coverage will encourage viewers to also donate generously to the Breeders’ Cup charities in support of two very worthwhile organizations, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.”

Currently, there are 63 permanently disabled jockeys that need support from the horse racing community. Often with little money to support them after their careers, the PDJF works hard on behalf of these fallen athletes to help give them as normal a life as possible after racing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zenyatta, Goldikova Among Breeders' Cup Favorites

Mike Watchmaker with Daily Racing Form has published his most recent Breeders' Cup Top 10 With Odds Thursday as we are now just more than two weeks away from the Nov. 6-7 championships.

Producing a morning line is not only an exercise in handicapping and mathmatics but human behavior as well. A proper morning line is one individuals prediction of how the public will perceive and then wager on a race and Watchmaker is among the best at this craft. A good morning line is a very useful handicapping tool for beginner and expert handicapper alike because it offers a good starting point for the novice and an invaluable money management tool for the more experienced player.

With that in mind it is no surprise that Watchmaker has Zenyatta (photo) listed as the 6-to-5 favorite should she run in the $2 million Ladies Classic (gr. 1). The undefeated mare may even slip to even money should her connections decide to keep her in her division.

If Zenyatta runs in the Classic, Watchmaker has her as the 4-to-1 second choice behind European star and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (gr. 1) winner Rip Van Winkle who is at 7-2. Zenyatta's odds must be good news to European punters who see older mares compete against males much more frequently on the other side of the Atlantic. It will certainly be good news for those Zenyatta fans who will bet her anyway and are used to getting less than even money on the great mare. Getting 4-1 on her at Santa Anita will seem like Christmas to them.

The longest shot in the Classic according to Watchmaker's current line is none other than Mine That Bird at 15-1. The last Derby winner to take the Classic and Derby in the same year was Unbridled who pulled off the double in 1990. Interestingly, he went to post in the Classic at 6-1 with his only victory between the Derby and the Breeders' Cup coming in an allowance race at Arlington that year.

Of the fourteen Breeders' Cup races, Watchmaker gave odds of less than 2-1 to only four horses. Zenyatta in the Ladies Classic; Goldikova, at 7-5 in the Mile and Conduit in the Turf and Zensational in the Sprint, both at 8-5.

Goldikova will try to join Miesque in 1987-'88, Lure in 1992-'93 and Da Hoss in 1996 and '98 as the only two-time winners of the Breeders' Cup Mile. She will again be the strong favorite despite finishing third in her last race in the Prix de la Foret (Fr-gr. 1) on Oct. 3 at Longchamp. This year she has also won the Prix Rothschild (gr. 1) for the second conseutive year, the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard-Jacques Le Marois (gr. 1), and the grade 1 Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes.

Conduit will also be looking for a Breeders' Cup repeat, having won the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. 1) last year at Santa Anita. Only High Chaparral in 2002-'03 has won two Turfs, and even he finished in a dead with Johar the second year. In his last race he was fourth in Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (gr. 1) on Oct. 4 at Longchamp but being an also ran in the "Arc" is not necessarily a bad thing in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Daylami won the 1999 Breeders' Cup Turf after finishing ninth in the Arc de Triomphe. His victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (gr. 1) and the departure of Rip Van Winkle, Mastercraftsman and Gio Ponti to the Classic will also help keep his odds low.

My sentimental favorite in the Turf, Presious Passion is the fourth choice at 8-1 behind Dar Re Mi at 5-1 and Spanish Moon at 6-1.

Zensational will not be going for a repeat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but his trainer Bob Baffert is going for a three-peat after winning the race the last two years with Midnight Lute. The flashy grey Zensational will be looking for his four consecutive grade 1 win however, having won the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. 1) and Pat O'Brien (gr. 1)at Del Mar and the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. 1) at Hollywood Park this year.

Keep in mind that as horses leave and enter these races and as information changes, so to will any good morning line. Many of these races will have full gates of 14 so Watchmakers odds are technically not a morning line, but I've used the term for discussion sake. Also note that the official morning line will be made by a racing official with the Oak Tree Racing Association after entries close for these races.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sentimental Favorites

With no regard to wagering or handicapping, there are a few horses headed for the Breeders' Cup that I'm going to be pulling for. My money will probably be elsewhere, but for one reason or another, these horses have captured my affection at some point this year.

Mine That Bird, Classic: It's not that I have any affinity toward his connections although I have warmed up to trainer Chip Woolley Jr. as a trainer. I'd like to see the guy off of those darn crutches pretty soon though. I don't think repeating Unbridled's Derby/Classic will be anything historical although it would open the discussion for Champion Three-Year-Old Male which would be kind of fun.

But what I'd like to see from the little gelding is that amazing kick we saw in the Derby and got a glimse of in the Preakness. After his performance in the grade 1 Goodwood at the Oak Tree meeting recently, however, that doesn't look likely.

Presious Passion, Turf: Finding horses that can go wire-to-wire on the turf successfully and consistently at any level is a rarity. To find a horse that can do it while racing in grade 1 company is just downright a blast.

We all remember that one-mile run in high school P.E. class and the goofy kid that just started sprinting at the beginning of the race only to tire and lucky to finish. Well that's Presious Passion. Except he keeps on going just as he did in the grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and recently in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 11.

The Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita starts on a downhill run too, so that should be a benefit to a natural speedster like Presious Passion. I'd say exclude the "goofy" label but I'm not the one who filled out his foal papers.

Dublin, Juvenile: After winning the grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga with Dublin, it looked like trainer D. Wayne Lukas may have plenty of amunition for a run at his sixth Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Dublin. But he ran a dull fifth, beating one horse in the Champagne (gr. 1) at Belmont and now he's a longshot.

Lukas has won 20% of all Breeders' Cup Juveniles run and took three consecutive from 1986-'88 with Capote, Success Express and Is It True. He also won with Timber County in 1984 and Boston Harbor two years later. It would be nice to see him take another.

Ventura, Filly and Mare Sprint; Proviso, Ladies Classic; Visit, Filly and Mare Turf: All horses trained by Bobby Frankel who is battling cancer at his home near Santa Anita. It took 40 starts in the Breeders' Cup before he got his first win with Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Sprint and he only has five total victories from 72 starts so he hasn't had a great deal of luck in the Breeders' Cup. Ventura presents his best chance this year but here's hoping the Hall of Fame trainer goes three-for-three this year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classic Arrivals And Departures

With just under a kazillion grade 1 stakes from the last two weeks in the books, the Breeders' Cup Championship Day at Santa Anita is taking shape. With every official result and decision by trainers and owners comes news of who's going or not going in what race or the ever dissappointing news that they are not going to race in the Breeders' Cup at all. It's a head spinning amount of information about 14 races to be run in two days that has even the most astute handicappers and fans on the verge of memory overload.

Unfortunately, the top two stories about the Breeders' Cup so far are about who's not going to run. Owner Jess Jackson has said from just about the first time the question was asked that Blackberry Preakness (gr. 1), Haskell (gr. 1) and Woodward (gr. 1) winner Rachel Alexandra will not be racing "on plastic," in reference to Santa Anita's Proride synthetic track.

Now comes the news that European star Sea The Stars (photo) has been retired and will not be coming to invade the colonies. After going undefeated this year and winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-gr. 1) Oct. 4, trainer John Oxx said from Ireland that "We feel it is unfair to keep him going any further given his unprecedented record of achievement in the last six months."

Rachel Alexandra has already been given Horse of the Year honors by many in North America and Sea The Stars is as likely to win the Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe as the Queen is to drink tea. But neither will be racing in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 7.

But in the karmatic world of horse racing, good news came our way when trainer John Sherriffs said the undefeated mare Zenyatta may be considered for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) instead of trying to repeat in the Ladies Classic (gr. 1). Don't expect a definitive answer in the next few days though. Sherriffs said there is no rush for a decision. Sherriffs and Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, can enter Zenyatta in both races during the Breeders' Cup Pre-entries Oct. 26 but must make a decision by Friday, November 3 when final entries are taken.

There will likely be a number of horses pre-entered in more than one Breeders' Cup race on Oct. 26, but only one with the intentions of actually running in both races. Trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams said he considering running Lethal Heat in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Friday and then again in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint the following day. Obviously, it would be the first time a horse competed in two Breeders' Cup races in the same year, but it wouldn't be the first quick turnaround for Lethal Heat.

Lethal Heat finished second to Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. 1) on Oct. 10, just one week after finishing second in the restricted California Cup Classic Handicap against California-bred males at Santa Anita. She also finished third to Zenyatta in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) on August 9 at Del Mar. Lethal Heat, like all horses, will undergo pre-race veterinarian inspections before each race and will be excluded from her non-preferential race should it have more than 14 entries. All horses entered in two races must be declare a preference.

With the departure of Sea The Stars and Gitano Hernando's victory in the Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) Saturday at Santa Anita, the door has opened for other Europeans to consider the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Orginally scheduled for the $500,000 Breeders' Cup marathon Nov. 6, the upset Goodwood victory has prompted owners Team Valor International and Gary Barber to consider the Classic for Gitano Hernando. Prior to the Goodwood, Gitano Hernando had won a conditons race over Wolverhampton's Polytrack in Great Britian after a lay-off of some four months.

Other European stars that are now considering the Classic include Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-gr. 1) winner Rip Van Winkle and Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-gr. 1) winner Mastercraftsman.

Summer Bird, the winner of the Belmont (gr. 1), Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1); and Quality Road, second to Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the winner of the Florida Derby (gr. 1) last spring, head the list of North Americans who appear destined for the Classic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Zenyatta, Mine That Bird Top Big Names In Big Weekend

Just as we're getting over the excitement of Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Summer Bird, Sea the Stars, Lookin at Lucky and everthing else grand last week, here we go with Zenyatta, Mine That Bird and a host of other stars and great races this weekend.

Like the Norfolk Stakes (gr. 1) last week at Santa Anita's Oak Tree, the Champagne Stakes (gr. 1) at Belmont has championship implications, Breeders' Cup Juvenile implications and alerts the CDC offices in Atlanta of the first signs of Kentucky Derby fever which hits pandamic levels each spring in America. Fans watching the 2-year-old fillies in the Frizette at Belmont and Alcibiades at Keeneland will be wondering if they might be gettng their first glimpse of the next Princess Rooney, Meadow Star or Rachel Alexandra. Grade 1 races are scattered throughout the world on turf, dirt, Polytrack and Pro-Ride.

Zenyatta has the most on the line this weekend when she tries to equal the unbeaten streak of the great Personal Ensign by winning her 13th straight in the $300,000 Ladies Secret Stakes at Santa Anita. She'll face her usual cast of challengers plus one in the Ladies Secret, but it is a cast that seems to be getting closer to pulling an upset. Zenyatta barely won her last race, the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. 1) at Del Mar, by a head over Anabaa's Creation and Lethal Heat.

But perhaps her biggest competition will come from Life Is Sweet, who lives just a few stalls down from Zenyatta in trainer John Sherriffs barn. Life Is Sweet returns to Santa Anita's Pro-Ride where she won the El Encino (gr. II), La Canada (gr. II) and Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) consecutively earlier this year for Shirreffs. Zenyatta defeated Life Is Sweet in both the grade 1 Milady at Hollywood Park and in the Hirsch at Del Mar. But Life Is Sweet is perhaps more comfortable on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

The "plus one" will be an old nemisis from last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic when Cocao Beach returns to Southern California from New York. Although runner-up to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup and later the winner of the grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, Cocao Beach has since been a bit shuffled back in the Godolphin Stables behind Beldame (gr. 1) winner Music Note. Last year Cocao Beach won the Beldame, but the New York race was given to Music Note - who won the race easily last Saturday - and Cocao Beach was shipped to Santa Anita for the Ladies Secret.

Like Summer Bird last Saturday in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Mine That Bird will be facing older horses for the first time in the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) at Santa Anita Saturday. It will be his first start since finishing third in the West Virginia Derby in August. He has not won since his surprising victory in the Kentucky Derby, but was a troubled second in the Preakness behind Rachel Alexandra and third in a mistimed ride by Calvin Borel in the Belmont Stakes. Mine That Bird, the king of equine adversity, also missed the Shadwell Travers (gr. 1) due to throat surgery. Summer Bird of course, won the Travers.

Borel reunites with Mine That Bird for the second time in the Goodwood where they will face Pacific Classic (gr. 1) upset winner Richard's Kid, San Diego Handicap (gr. 1) winner Informed as well as Chocolate Candy and 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and Travers Stakes (gr. 1) winner Colonel John. This will be the fifth rider change among three jockeys in seven races this year for Mine That Bird.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts, Comments and Questions About Super Saturday and Such.

(Photo: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer battled in a classic Preakness)

As they like to say down here in Texas, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Summer Bird has all the fixins of a Champion 3-Year-Old Male. He is now the first 3-year-old since Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont Stakes (gr. 1), Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1) in the same year. Although Easy Goer also had victories in the Swale, Gotham (gr. 2), Wood Memorial (gr. 1), Whitney (gr. 1) and Woodward (gr. 1) to his credit that year, Sunday Silence was named Champion 3-Year-Old Male and Horse of The Year. Sunday Silence won the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1), and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) as well as the Preakness (gr. 1), Super Derby (gr. 1), Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and San Felipe (gr. 2) for five grade 1 wins in 1989 compared to six for Easy Goer but still got the title with the Classic the deciding race.

Perhaps the most impressive winner of the weekend was Sea the Stars, who won his sixth consecutive group 1 race by taking the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the marquee horse race of France. Jockey Michael Kinane had intentially placed Sea the Stars wedged among mid-pack traffic early in the race in an effort to relax the European star. But the plan nearly backfired when the congestion failed to clear and Sea the Stars looked trapped as the field raced down the straighaway of the 1-1/2 mile Arc. But a sliver of a hole opened up with less that two furlongs (1/4-mile) to run and Kinane and Sea of Stars found it, ran through it, and left it and the rest of the field on their way to a two-length victory.

No word from trainer John Oxx on whether Sea the Stars will race in the Breeders' Cup, but he said it is definitely being considered. The Buffalo Bills will have a half-time celebration this season in honor Youmzain, who finished second in the Arc de Triomphe for the third consecutive year.

Music Note was as impressive as expected in winning the grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park Saturday. Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, she notched her second consecutive grade 1 victory after taking the Ballerina in August at Saratoga. Shortly after the Beldame, trainer Saeed bin Suroor confirmed Music Note will be going into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic where she will likely be the favorite. Unbridled Belle was a courageous runner-up in trying to win her second Beldame in three years, but third-place finisher Copper State may be the horse to watch. There was nothing in her Belame that I saw or in any of her previous races for that matter. It was in Crushing the Cup where I noticed that the last two winners the Ladies Classic to come out of the Beldame were Round Pond in 2006 and Ginger Punch in 2007. Both finished third in the Beldame.

It does not appear that the first two finishers in Saturday's Vosburgh (gr. 1) will be headed to the $2 Breeders' Cup Sprint but may instead meet again in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Nov. 28 at Laurel Park in Maryland. Winner Klassic Cowboy and runner-up Fabulous Strike have plenty of options, according to their connections, with only Klassic Kowboy considering the Cup.

Trainer Bob Baffert said his undefeated Norfolk Stakes (gr. 1) winner Lookin' at Lucky is something special. "He’s a pretty exciting horse," Baffert said after the Norfolk. "He’s got power steering. He’s not one dimensional. He has something different than my other ones, so it’s pretty exciting.” Exciting indeed, considering Baffert has won the Norfolk Stakes five times, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile twice and the Kentucky Derby three times.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Confidence From All Places At Belmont Saturday

(photo: Summer Bird and jockey Kent Desormeaux)
I would think there will be a good number of confident steps taken into the Belmont Park paddock Saturday. Certainly the competition will be coming in droves throughout the day as five grade 1 stake races dominate the card in what is known as Super Saturday in thoroughbred circles. Without any shadow of doubt, it ranks among the most important and enjoyable days of horse racing in the world. Kentucky Derby Day, Breeders' Cup Day, The Royal Ascot in Great Britian, Arc Day in France, any race day in Ireland and Super Saturday at Belmont Park.

The added money attractions start in the sixth race with the $600,000 Beldame Stakes for fillies and mares at 1-1/8 miles on a main track that is expected to be hit with rain and thundestomes tonight and tomorrow. The same weather will surely produce a yielding turf course.

But neither rain nor slop nor four other rivals look to be much of a match for Godolphin Stables' Music Note in Beldame. She who won the grade 1 Ballerina on an off track at Saratoga by 5-1/4 lengths in only her second start of the year. Not only does Music Note like an off track, but she appears to be quite comfortable on Long Island too having won the grade 1 Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks and Gazelle at Belmont Park last year.

Unbridled Belle looks for her second Beldame after winning in 2007, but her only victory this year came in the grade 3 Obiah Handicap at Delaware Park. Her entry-mate Captain's Lover will try to repeat her win in the Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park. While the Matchmaker was not quite this level of compition, it was the first start on dirt for Captain's Lover who may improve Saturday with that experience. But it might not take a victory the optimal preperation for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Both Round Punch in 2006 and Ginger Punch in 2007 won the Breeders' Cup Distaff coming out of the Beldame. Ironically though, both won the Distaff after finishing third in the Beldame.

When the sprinters parade over from the barn area for $400,000 Vosburgh the following race, confidence will not come from one, but from the group as a whole.

Fabulous Strike will be looking for his second Vosburg victory after winning in 2007 and missing only by a head while running second last year. He is also coming off of an impressive win the the grade 2 Vanderbilt Handicap Aug. 9 at Saratoga but will have no cakewalk, despite his even-money morning line odds.

Kodiak Cowboy is coming off a close second to Pyro in the Forego Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga and a third behind Fabulous Stike in the Vanderbilt. He defeated Fabulous Strike earlier this year in the seven furlong Carter Handicap (gr. 1) at Aqueduct. Trainer Todd Pletcher is confident Munnings can bounce back after consecutive thirds in the NetJetsKing's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) behind Capt. Candy Man and Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) behind Rachel Alexandra. Before that he was impressive in winning the grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont Park and will adjust favorably in his return to Elmont.

Speightstown was the last Breeders' Cup Sprint winner to make his previous start in the Vosburgh. Oddly enough though, he was also third in his Breeders' Cup prep race in New York.

Last year Dynaforce won the Flower Bowl Handicap over a yielding turf course and her connections are hoping she will repeat that performance Saturday. Pure Clan, however, will be trying to repeat her race in the grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park when Dynaforce was third.

Perhaps the most dominating individual at Belmont Saturday will be Gio Ponti (photo left) when the 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat goes after his fifth consecutive grade 1 turf win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 1-1/2 miles. He started his streak with the Frank E. Kilroe at Santa Anita in March. He then went to Belmont to win the 1¼-mile Woodfood Reserve Manhattan Handicap and the Man o’ War Stakes before winning the Arlington Million in Chicago Aug. 8.

Gio Ponti is the consensus leader in the older turf horse division in North America and will be heading to California for the Breeders' Cup after the Hirsch. However, trainer Christophe Clement has not yet said if he will run the the Breeders' Cup Classic on the main track or the Breeders' Cup Turf.

When trainer Tim Ice walks into the paddock before the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Summer Bird, he may not have any more faith than before other races with the Belmont and Travers winner, but he says he's going to enjoy the additional confidence
of the fans. For the first time in Summer Bird's seven-race career, he will be the favorite.

It is doubtful that those odds will shake the resolve of trainer Todd Pletcher who will lead over Florida Derby (gr. 1) winner Quality Road. Sidelined from the Triple Crown by quarter crack problems in his hoofs, Quality road set a 6-1/2 furlong track record in the grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in his first start back. Then finished third in the Shadwell Travers (gr. 1) behind Summer Bird. With two solid races under his belt since the extended Spring break, Quality Road figures to improve in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, especially if the footing at Belmont is more to his liking than the sloppy Saratoga track on Travers day.

The top of the East Coast older horse class will be represented in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as well with Macho Again and Asiatic Boy going at it again. They last met behind Rachel Alexandra in Woodward at Saratoga when Macho Again was just a head behind in second and Asiatic Boy was fourth. Asiatic Boy was also second behind Macho Again in the grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs this summer.

Curlin was the last Jockey Club Gold Cup winner to take the Breeders' Classic in his next start, having done so in 2007. In the three previous years, Breeders' Cup Classic winners Invasor ('06), Saint Liam ('05) and Ghostzapper ('04) all made their previous starts in New York, but none were in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Saint Liam and Ghostzapper came out of victories Woodward Stakes while Invasor won the Whitney just prior to the Breeders' Cup.

Regardless of the winners, however, this day will certainly have a major impact on the Breeders' Cup during the first weekend of November.