The past two years of the Breeders’ Cup Classic have been all about Zenyatta. This year, the focus shifts to another brilliant female in Havre de Grace, as well as to the popular Uncle Mo and many others. After nearly a whole year of wondering who the top horse in the nation is, a champion will be crowned in a race full of talented horses. Who will the champion be?
1. Flat Out: This son of Flatter just may get the mile and one-quarter distance better than most of the horses in this race. Many say that Flat Out can only run at Belmont Park, but that’s not true. Trainer Scooter Dickey is confident in the way Flat Out is handling the Churchill surface.
Photo by Terri Cage
He returned late in 2010 as a four-year-old, winning an allowance option-claiming race at Fair Grounds Race Course impressively. However, he did not race again until Memorial Day 2011. He came back in the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII), closing quickly to finish second to Awesome Gem. Standing along the rail during that race, I was blown away by Flat Out’s kick.
Less than three weeks later, he raced in the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI). Though he finished sixth, he was only beaten by about three lengths. Two weeks later, he shocked many by winning the Suburban Handicap (GII) by six and one-half lengths in an impressive time of 1:46.64 for a mile and one-eighth.
In his next start, the Whitney Invitational Handicap (GI), Flat Out finished a good, closing second to Tizway, who was considered one of the top older males in the country prior to his retirement. In his following race, the Woodward Stakes (GI), Flat Out finished yet another respectable, closing second, this time to the imposing filly Havre de Grace.
With his closing finishes, Flat Out looks like he needs more ground. Though his sire, Flatter, has had most of his success with his offspring at sprinting distances or a mile, he has sired graded stakes winners at a mile and one-eighth. Flat Out’s dam, Cresta Lil, was a two-time stakes winner and was capable of winning at a mile. In addition to producing Flat Out, she foaled Our Best Man, who won a stakes race at a mile.
His pedigree may not suggest that he will enjoy the added distance of a mile and one-quarter race, but his running style definitely does. The five-year-old is coming off an impressive win in the mile and one-quarter Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (GI), in which he defeated horses such as Drosselmeyer and Stay Thirsty.
The Scooter Dickey trainee turned in his final work for the Classic on Sunday, flying through a half-mile to record a time of 46.60. It was the fastest work of fifty-eight at the distance. Many worry that the work was too quick, but Flat Out usually works quickly anway. Scooter Dickey is confident and as long as the trainer is confident in the horse, I am as well.
Many will make the argument that Havre de Grace already defeated Flat Out, but that was at a mile and one-eighth. Flat Out was rallying in that race, obviously wanting more ground. He is better than ever and I expect I huge performance from Flat Out on Saturday.
In her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup, Havre de Grace dominantly won a muddy Beldame Invitational Stakes (GI). She is scary good and is improving, which makes her very dangerous. She ought to run a big race.
3. Uncle Mo: As much as I’d like to put him on top, Uncle Mo has a lot going against him. He has not won at a distance longer than a mile and one-sixteenth in his career. In 2011, he has not won at a distance longer than one mile. However, this colt is special and has plenty of sheer talent.
Photo by Terri Cage
For several months, Uncle Mo recuperated at WinStar Farm in Kentucky. No one knew if he would ever race again, but after some much needed rest and recovery, Uncle Mo returned to the track. His first race back was the tough Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes (GI), in which he finished a narrow seconded to Caleb’s Posse in the seven furlong race.
Then we saw the Uncle Mo of old. On Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Uncle Mo dominated the Kelso Handicap (GII) at one mile, defeating Jackson Bend. The final time for the race over a muddy track was an impressive 1:33.82. The race reminded Uncle Mo what it felt like to win, which gives a horse more confidence than you would think.
Most people believe he can’t get the mile and one-quarter distance. Many think his pedigree won’t help him get the distance, but I see potential. His grandsire on his dam side is Arch, who of course sired last year’s Classic winner, Blame. Besides, Uncle Mo’s sire Indian Charlie did sire the late Fleet Indian, who won two grade ones at the distance of a mile and one-quarter. Uncle Mo has a much better chance to get the distance than most think. I hope to see Uncle Mo prove those who think he can’t get the distance wrong. In case you haven't guessed yet, he's the one I'll be cheering for.
4. So You Think: This European has won four group races this year, including three group ones. He is one of Europe’s top horses and will be very dangerous. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) winner, High Chaparral, can definitely get the distance. His last eleven races have been a mile and one-quarter or longer. Though coming off a disappointing loss in the Champion Stakes (GI), So You Think is a very classy horse and will be very dangerous here.