Byword – Makes his first appearance in the Breeders’ Cup after winning a pair of Group stakes victories in France for trainer Andre Fabre. The half-brother to the stakes winning filly Proviso returned from a layoff over the summer to win the Prix Dollar by a neck on Oct. 1 at Longchamp.
“He won a mile Group 3 in June and Andre gave him a bit of time and that seems to have paid off,” Juddmonte Farms racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said. “He was impressive when he won the Prix Dollar. He beat Cirrus des Aigles, who came out to win the Champion Stakes. His form is solid and he’s a very solid, high-class horse.”
Courageous Cat – The Shoemaker Mile winner galloped before the break Thursday morning and looked ready for perhaps the toughest assignment of his career.
“It’s a steep hill,” said trainer Bill Mott. “You’ve got two champions in there – Goldikova and Gio Ponti. You can’t overlook him in there either; he’s a factor. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody if he runs his race.”
Pam and Martin Wygod’s homebred has been on the board in 11 of 14 career starts, but he nearly made his biggest score in the 2009 Mile when he almost upset Goldikova. She comes into this event an unprecedented three-time Mile winner.
“He’s doing as good as I could want him to,” Mott said. “He just needs to get a clean trip, and then anything could happen.”
Patrick Valenzuela will be aboard the 5yo Storm Cat, who has already earned more than $1.1 million.
Court Vision – The 6yo Gulch horse galloped 1 1/2m over the main track as he prepares for his third start in the Mile. He finished fourth in 2009 and fifth last year. Although he just recently joined his barn, trainer Dale Romans thinks the multiple stakes winner is sitting on a big effort.
Get Stormy – The 5yo Stormy Atlantic horse continued his preparations for the Mile with a routine 1 5/8m gallop before dawn Thursday.
“He’s got a good bounce to his step, he’s eating fabulously and I’m happy with the way he’s coming into the race,” trainer Tom Bush said.
Get Stormy, winner of 10 of 25 starts, is the first horse sent to Bush by owner-breeder Mary Sullivan, who operates as Sullimar Stable. Sullivan used Hall of Fame trainer Phil Johnson for 23 years before his death in 2004 and then started branching out and using several trainers. Bush has four Sullimar horses in his stable.
Gio Ponti – The three-time Eclipse Award winner has amassed $6,049,800 in career earnings, which is the second highest of any horse entered in the 15 Breeders’ Cup races behind Goldikova.
The winner of the Mile in three consecutive years, Goldikova has made $6,978,551 in her career and she is the 7-5 morning-line favorite this year.
Should Gio Ponti, who was second to her in the 2010 Mile and is the 4-1 second choice in the morning line, turn the tables this year, he would surpass her total. But at this stage, the connections of the Castleton Lyons homebred are thinking more about the glory than the purse.
“She’s going for something spectacular – winning this race four times (a Breeders’ Cup record),” said Stuart Fitzgibbon, the commercial manager for Castleton Lyons. “She is in super form coming in to the race, but so is our horse. Hopefully, he’ll run very well. Goldikova and Gio Ponti are two very consistent and very hardy horses.”
The 6yo son of Tale of the Cat, named for the Italian Renaissance architect and designer Gio Ponti, galloped 1 ½ m on Thursday morning under Christophe Lorieul and went to the paddock for schooling.
“He was full of himself. Everything went extremely well,” said Lorieul, the long-time assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “If the track is sloppy tomorrow we’ll probably just jog.”
Clement will arrive on Friday to fine tune the final preparations for Gio Ponti’s final Breeders’ Cup race. In 2012, he will return to Castleton Lyons to stand at the farm where he was born and raised.
Goldikova – Trainer Freddy Head and jockey Olivier Peslier met with the media in a press conference Thursday morning to talk about the 6yo record-setting mare, who will attempt to win the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile for the fourth consecutive year on Saturday. It will be the 27th and final start of her career. She has a record of 17-6-2.
Head said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure as they go for the final Breeders’ Cup.
“I feel great relief because the mare is well, she’s very sound,” he said. “I know it’s going to be her last run, but all I hope is that she finishes well and gives a good run. Win or lose. I hope everything goes right and we have a safe trip. That will be it, her career will be over.”
After drawing outside posts the past two years, Goldikova drew the rail for the Mile, a spot that Peslier said could be a fine place to be.
“Draw one is good, as long as it doesn’t rain too much. I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “We have a good pace with two pacemakers. If the race is a normal pace it may be lucky to be inside compared to last year. It’s not always easy when you are outside. The problem from the (inside post) is that maybe you are blocked in. You just see what happens.”
Goldikova has a 2-3-0 record in five starts this season, but Head said he hasn’t seen a big drop in ability.
“She’s been beaten three times this year, that’s true, but by very short margins,” he said. “I think her last race was very good in the Prix de la Foret. Although she got beat, it was a record-breaking race and the winner (Dream Ahead) on his day is a very good horse. In Deauville (Prix Jacques Marois) she was a bit unlucky, the going was soft and we didn’t have the best of race.
“Getting to (age) 6, of course, she is getting a bit lazier now, I would say, and she’s a bit heavier, too. That’s nature.
“But I think she has the same way. In the morning she does exactly what she used to do years ago. She’s got the same action and the same will to win. This morning when I saw her galloping, it was like two or three years ago, or like last year. She just wants to run, run, run.”
Jeranimo – The 5yo Congaree horse galloped 1m on Churchill’s main track Thursday shortly after 9 a.m. as he continues toward his date with a dozen rivals Saturday in the Mile.
“Perfect,” said trainer Mike Pender when asked how things are unfolding for Jeranimo. “They’re coming together just as we envisioned them. He’s doing well and things are looking all good.”
The Mile will be the second-to-last Breeders’ Cup race on the card with a post time of 6:07 p.m. In light of the late post time, the conditioner was asked if he would put Jeranimo on the track Saturday morning.
“Yes I will,” he said. “We’ll two-minute lick him around there one time. And we’ll hope things continue on as they have. No hiccups. Touch wood.”
Martin Garcia rides Jeranimo in the Mile and they break from post 7.
Mr. Commons – The colt by 2005 Mile winner Artie Schiller went through his morning exercises Thursday, overseen by trainer John Shirreffs. The 3yo runs Saturday in the Mile, which has been positioned on the 12-race program as race No. 10 with a starting time of 6:07 p.m.
Given the late start, the trainer was asked if he’d put his horse on the track to train Saturday morning.
“Yes I will,” he said. “I like to keep horses in their routine. They are always anticipating what is going to happen to them next and if you keep them steady in what they are doing they don’t get so uptight. That’s the key; you don’t want them upset.”
Mr. Commons will break from post 4 in the 13-horse Mile lineup and be handled by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. The rider teamed up with Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss to set the racing world ablaze over the past several seasons with the grand racemare Zenyatta.
Following training Thursday morning, Shirreffs was headed over to the Lexington area to join the Mosses, as well as his wife, Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, who is the Mosses’ racing advisor, for a visit with Zenyatta, who is in foal to the stallion Bernardini and scheduled to deliver her first foal in early March.
Sidney's Candy – The 4yo son of Candy Ride paid the price for setting the pace in last year’s Mile on Churchill’s turf course. He was passed by half the field in the stretch and finished sixth.
This year in a new barn with a new trainer and a new rider, the one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful will likely have a new strategy for this race.
“He’s been a very kind horse ever since we’ve had him (transferred by co-owner WinStar Farm from John Sadler in June),” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “In some of his races we’ve asked him to be on the lead. I think he’s kind enough to adapt to a different strategy if we need to. Some of that (jockey) John Velazquez is going to have to determine when the gate opens – how much speed is in the race, how much the other guys are using their horses.”
Sidney’s Candy is 1-for-5 this year after a 3yo season in which he won five stakes races on the front end, including the Santa Anita Derby over a synthetic track. He won the Fourstardave at Saratoga on turf three races back.
“I do think dispositionally he will rate if we ask him to,” said Pletcher, who sent Sidney’s Candy out for a gallop Thursday morning.
Strong Suit – Trainer Richard Hannon canceled a planned work when the turf course was closed at 9:30 because rain had begun falling.
The 3yo son of Rahy owned by Qatar Bloodstock Limited, walked and jogged on the dirt for a short period of time before returning to his barn.
Strong Suit has won three of his last four starts – all in Group stakes – in Europe. His lone loss during that stretch was a third by a head in the Prix Jean Prat, a Group 1 at Chantilly.
Turallure – The 4yo Wando colt was feeling good as he enjoyed a bath Thursday morning and trainer Charles Lopresti was very happy with what he was seeing his colt.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Lopresti. “He went to the track, galloped one and a half miles and schooled in the paddock. (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) was all smiles when he got back, so that’s all I needed to see.”