Byword – The 5yo horse arrives at the Breeders’ Cup off a pair of Group stakes victories in France. The half-brother to the top stakes filly Proviso returned from a layoff over the summer to win the Prix Dollar by a neck on Oct. 1 at Longchamp.
Byword went out to the main track at 8:45 Wednesday morning for some light exercise.
Courageous Cat – Trainer Bill Mott sometimes seems to have a difficult time talking about the one that got away in the 2009 Mile at Santa Anita.
His Courageous Cat, then a 3yo, had nearly a two-length lead over defending champion Goldikova entering the stretch before the European superstar ran him down to post the second of her three consecutive Mile victories by a half-length.
“It looked pretty good,” said Mott, who will now try to stop Goldikova from winning this race for the fourth time. “I think we gave her a good challenge when we were a 3-year-old. We hope that we can repeat that performance, and maybe if we’ve improved on it a little bit, who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
The 5yo Storm Cat horse is coming into this race off three solid performances, including a neck defeat in the Woodbine Mile to Turallure.
“We have a lot of respect for (Goldikova),” Mott said. “She’s a very good mare, and it’s wonderful to see her over here. I’m sure all American fans and everybody else are looking forward to seeing her run again. I guess it’s our job to try to spoil her fourth Breeders’ Cup win if we can, but it’s going to be a very tough challenge.”
Courageous Cat galloped Wednesday and went to the paddock. He was scheduled to be schooled in the paddock in the afternoon.
Court Vision – Spendthrift Farm’s Mile hopeful galloped 1m Wednesday over the main track. Although, he has only had the 6yo Gulch horse in his barn a short while, trainer Dale Romans likes what he sees in his training and what he’s hearing from regular rider Robby Albarado, who has been aboard for 11 of his last 13 races.
“He looks great,” said Romans. “I like the way he’s training and Robby tells me he’s never felt him any better.”
Get Stormy – Trainer Tom Bush worked the 5yo 5f on Oct. 26 at Keeneland and is galloping him every morning in preparation for a second try in the Mile.
“That should be enough for him,” Bush said. “Hopefully, I’m right there.”
The son of Stormy Atlantic owned by Sullimar Stable, pressed the pace early in last year’s running of the Mile, but faded in the stretch to finish last of 11 runners. Two months later, following another dull performance in his 2011debut at Gulfstream, Get Stormy underwent a surgical procedure – a myectomy – designed to clear up a breathing problem.
“We had this issue with his throat last year that we had a lot of concern about,” Bush said. “We thought we had it under control and we didn’t. In terms of that aspect of what we were dealing with last year, we’re in much better shape. All of his form since we straightened the problem out has all been good. He’s put together nothing but good races since February, so we’re real happy with him.”
Gio Ponti – Mile contender Gio Ponti arrived on a flight from New York on Tuesday evening and the Castleton Lyons homebred was out on the racetrack early Wednesday morning for an easy jog once around under Christophe Lorieul, the long time assistant to trainer Christophe Clement.
“Everything went just fine. He’s a very fresh and happy horse,” said Lorieul. “He will gallop a mile and a quarter tomorrow.”
The three-time Eclipse Award-winning horse will be making his fourth start in the Breeders’ Cup, dating back to his first effort in the 2007 Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park, but is still looking for his first trophy.
In 2009 at Santa Anita, he was beaten a length by Zenyatta in the Classic and Goldikova bested him by 1 ¾ lengths in last year’s Mile here.
He has to face Goldikova again in this year’s Mile and it will be his last chance. But it may not be his last dance.
“We’ll see what happens after this race,” said Castleton Lyons Commercial Manager Stuart Fitzgibbon, alluding to the speculation that the 6yo Gio Ponti may go to the Hong Kong Gold Cup or make another start before year’s end.
“But he is definitely coming home to stand at Castleton in 2012. It will be nice to have him home. He was born and raised on the farm, went away to Christophe for five years, and soon he’s coming home,” said Fitzgibbon.
Gio Ponti has more than 1,500 Facebook friends and counting, and they connect with him from all over the world. In 23 starts on the grass, Gio Ponti finished in the money 21 times, with 11 firsts and nine seconds. Seven of those wins are Grade 1s and he has earned more than $6 million in his career.
“In this day and age, you don’t see that anymore,” said Fitzgibbon. “That is quite an accomplishment.”
Goldikova – With trainer Freddy Head watching, and dozens of cameras snapping images and capturing video of her, the three-time TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile winner went to the main track for some light exercise at 8:45 a.m.
The 6yo mare – aiming for a fourth straight victory in the Mile – was part of a group of seven European runners that went to the track together and spent about 15 minutes in the sunshine. Like she was on Tuesday morning, Goldikova was frisky at times and appeared to want to do more than walk and jog.
Head, who has handled Goldikova throughout her remarkable 26-race career, arrived from Europe Tuesday evening and was at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning. Goldikova has two wins and three seconds in five starts this season and Head said that the Breeders’ Cup Mile has been the target for the entire year.
“The goal is to be there at 100 per cent on Saturday,” Head said. And the veteran horseman said he has been training Goldikova for a top performance in the Mile.
“Oh, yes. Absolutely,” he said. “From Deauville, from the Le Jacques Marois (on Aug. 15), where she was second to Immortal Verse by a length), which was one of our goals, too, we aimed for the Breeders’ Cup. There was no doubt that this was the race we want to win.”
Head used “absolutely” again to answer a question about whether he was pleased with the way she is coming into the race.
“She’s very well,” he said. “I don’t think I could have her better.”
Goldikova is approaching the final start of her career with a record of 17-6-2 and earnings of $6,978,551. The only time she failed to finish in the top three was in the Prix d’Ispahan on May 17, 2009, when she was seventh. Beginning with her victory in the 2009 Mile at Santa Anita, she is 8-4 in 12 starts.
“I’ve known some good horses, too, maybe as good as her,” Head said, “but one that could do so much over the years. No, I’ve never seen one.”
Jeranimo – The Oak Tree Mile winner followed a pattern similar to the one he had undergone Tuesday when he jogged 1m, then galloped 1m on the main track Wednesday for trainer Mike Pender. The 5yo horse went about his business with his usual enthusiasm.
“He loves to train,” said Pender. “That’s the thing about a good horse; that’s how they separate themselves. Working with lesser horses, you’ve usually got to push them to make them do what they need to do. But not this guy. He’s on it.”
Pender indicated that he had afternoon paddock schooling reservations for Jeranimo for the first race both Wednesday and Friday, but “I’ll probably only use one of them. He can get a bit animated in the paddock, so one will be enough.”
The California-based trainer also expressed a wistful thought about the Breeders’ Cup being at Santa Anita next year. “We’ll hope we can be there again with him next year,” he said. “With this horse, the way he is, he might still be running at 8.”
Mr. Commons – The son of Artie Schiller, the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, galloped about 1 1/4m strongly in the middle of the main track Wednesday morning just after 7:30. He’ll try to replicate what his sire did six years ago when he starts Saturday under veteran Mike Smith.
His trainer, John Shirreffs, watched the exercise from the second floor of the Breeders’ Cup’s Hospitality Pavilion on the backstretch, then was asked what he might tell Smith – who partnered with Shirreffs and Zenyatta for their marvelous run through the racing world the previous three years – before giving him a leg up for the Mile.
“No instructions for Mike,” Shirreffs said. “I don’t want to take the reins out of a Hall of Fame rider’s hands. Then if something happens – the horse breaks bad, or something – it’s on you. They (jockeys) are athletes and you want them to act instinctively.
“I train at Hollywood Park and if I’ve got a horse running for the first time at Santa Anita, I’ll let him (Smith) know that this is his first time there; that he might need to take a good hold because he’ll be looking around a lot. Or if a horse has some funny habits, I’ll let him know. But otherwise, you don’t need to tell a guy like Mike anything.
“He’s doing well,” Shirreffs said of Mr. Commons. “You know, when we first got him he was very timid. He didn’t want to be in tight. But he’s really grown. He’s much stronger and more confident now. He’s had some tough breaks in his races; hasn’t had things go right for him. Maybe he can get everything to go right Saturday.”
Sidney's Candy – After a failed return to the dirt the son of Candy Ride put in a much better performance in his last start in the Shadwell Mile.
“The Keeneland turf course isn’t always real kind to speed, but I thought he was very game,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of his charge’s close third-place finish. “Gio Ponti and Get Stormy got to him late, and those are two high-quality horses.”
Sidney’s Candy was the pacesetter in this race last year when he was trained by John Sadler, but he ran out of gas in the stretch and finished sixth behind Goldikova. Pletcher believes he’s more fit and experienced this time as a 4yo.
“I think he’s in great form at the moment,” he said. “I loved both of his breezes over this turf course. It seems like he’s really coming up to it well. It goes without saying that this is a remarkably difficult race. We expect him to run his absolute best.”
Sidney’s Candy galloped 1 1/4m over the main track Wednesday.
Strong Suit – Trainer Richard Hannon sent his 3yo colt out to the turf course at 9:30 a.m. to get some experience with the oval configuration of the course at Churchill Downs. The son of Rahy has three wins and a third by a head in a Group 1 race in his last four starts in Europe.
“He’s in good form. We’re very happy with him,” Hannon said. “He’s going to be on the grass every day to try and get him turning. That shouldn’t really be a problem. He’s a pretty nimble horse and a good mover, but he’ll get plenty of practice.”
Hannon, who saddled the veteran Paco Boy in the Mile last year, expects his new standout to figure things out pretty quickly.
“He’s a pretty speedy horse and you need to have speed to get ‘round here,” Hannon said. “He’s got plenty of that, he’s a young horse and he should be able to adapt.”
Turallure – The Woodbine Mile winner took his first spin over Churchill Downs’ main track Wednesday, one day after arriving from Lexington. Trainer Charles Lopresti believes if he can duplicate his effort at Woodbine that he has a good shot against the likes of three-time defending champ Goldikova and Gio Ponti.
“He’s happy right now, which is how we like it,” said Lopresti. “There appears to be a lot of speed in the race and he’ll be one of the closers. I think he can be effective from one mile up to a mile and an eighth. A lot is going to depend on the pace scenario. We’ll just leave it up to (jockey) Julien (Leparoux).
“We know he likes Churchill. It was only a Listed stakes, but I think his race in the Opening Verse (June 17) was one of his most impressive this year. He was 15 lengths out of it and came home flying.”
Zoffany – Zoffany was part of the final contingent of eight colts from the stable of Aidan O’Brien that arrived at Churchill Downs Tuesday at 8:22 p.m. and is housed in the second quarantine barn. He will head to the track for the first time on Friday morning.