Declaration of War – see European report
Flat Out/Ron the Greek – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott announced Thursday morning that Ron the Greek has a quarter in crack his right front foot that will prevent him from competing in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Ron the Greek was fourth in the 2012 Classic and turned in a smashing performance on Sept. 28 to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
“Unfortunately, we're going to have to scratch him,” Mott said. “He had an abscess that broke open in his foot. It's not a major problem, but it's all a matter of timing and he won't be able to run on Saturday.”
The abscess was discovered Wednesday afternoon during the feed time.
“When he came out to walk is the first we recognized any problem,” Mott said. “That horse has been doing fine. He's never had foot issues before in his life. He had a strong gallop yesterday and he must have just bumped the heel of his foot wrong and he got an abscess in the bulb of his heel. Believe it or not, we soaked him and it opened up and relieved some of the pressure late yesterday afternoon but he was still sore on it this morning and I just made the determination that we couldn't have him good enough to run on Saturday.”
Mott said he was sorry the problem developed a couple of days before the important season-ending race. He said that as far as he knows Ron the Greek will remain in training in 2014.
“I feel really bad for all the other connections. I'm going to make it through it,” he said. “Ron has been good to me. He doesn't owe me or anybody that is connected to him anything, but as well as he was doing and the race that he was departing from, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, everybody was enthusiastic about running him and taking his chance.
“He's just such a fun horse to be around because he always gives you a good effort. When you take him over there ordinarily he's going to pick up a big check. Those kind of horses you have to love them because they show up every time for you.
Mott said that the 7yo with $2.7 million in career earnings could resume his regular schedule by mid-November.
“I would estimate that in a couple of weeks' time he could be on the race track and probably be back in full training,” Mott said. “Right now, there's no shortcut. When the foot is traumatized like that and you've got the swelling, even though the abscess is broken open you still have inflammation in that foot and it's tender. It's like touching a boil. The tenderness will probably resolve itself in three or four days and in probably 12 or 13 days we'll attempt to put a patch on it and he'd been fine to train.”
Flat Out galloped at Santa Anita Thursday morning.
Fort Larned – Janis Whitham's defending Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned galloped 1 1/4m early Thursday morning with exercise rider Katie Merritt up.
Trainer Ian Wilkes liked what he saw from Fort Larned on his first day at the track after walking the previous morning.
“No problems, here,” Wilkes said. “All is well.”
All has not been well in the 2013 campaign that has featured its share highs and lows.
“It's been a roller coaster ride for sure,” Wilkes said of the 5yo who has two wins from five starts.
In his season debut, Fort Larned stumbled at the break and unseated rider Brian Hernandez Jr. in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Fort Larned follows that up with a fifth-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap, won the Stephen Foster, ran fifth in the Whitney, missed the Woodward because of a hind-end issue and won the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs in his most recent start.
“Hey, at least he won the Foster this year and he did not do that last year,” Wilkes said, who always thought Fort Larned would make another run in the Classic.
“You can never stop believing. If you do you are in trouble. In this business, you have to stay optimistic.”
Wilkes was asked if Fort Larned were to repeat in the Classic Saturday, which victory would be the most satisfying.
“You can never replace the first time,” Wilkes said. “But this year, if it is fortunate enough to happen, it would be very gratifying and a testament to the horse.”
Game On Dude/Paynter – Trainer Bob Baffert's Classic duo of Game On Dude and Paynter came trackside just after 8 a.m. Thursday following a renovation break. Joining them from the Baffert barn were two other Breeders' Cup horses, Dirt Mile runner Fed Biz and Sprint starter Secret Circle.
Game On Dude, the morning-line favorite for the $5 million Classic, had Dana Barnes up for his gallop well out into the middle of the track. The dark bay or brown gelding, now a 6yo, obviously likes to train and his Hall of Fame conditioner believes he's coming up to perhaps his best effort yet.
Paynter also went through his gallop in the center of the track. Baffert has said throughout the week that Paynter would be “right there” at the end of the Classic and he continues to tout the 4yo colt as his “stealth” runner for Saturday.
On hand to watch Paynter train was his owner, Ahmed Zayat, along with his son Justin. They were working with an NBC camera crew recording the morning's events.
Both Paynter – a millionaire – and Game On Dude – a five-times millionaire – are by the sire Awesome Again, who won the Classic in 1998.
The 3yo son of Curlin will be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez, trainer Todd Pletcher's longtime first-call jockey, due to Mike Smith's decision to ride morning-line favorite Game On Dude in the Classic.
“I'm not disappointed at all. I might have been disappointed if we didn't have our go-to rider to ride him. We're very pleased to have Johnny aboard,” Pletcher said. “Jockeys have decisions to make. Any time you can ride the favorite in a big race, I think you've got to look at doing that.”
Last Gunfighter – John Gunther's homebred Last Gunfighter galloped Thursday morning for trainer Chad Brown.
The 4yo colt has won four of his six starts this season, but is making the step up to tougher competition in the Classic.
“He's doing well,” Brown said. “He, more than likely, is trying to play for a minor award here, but the purse is so big I don't have a problem with that. There's not too many $5 million races on the racing calendar.
“The horse looks terrific. His weight is great. His coat couldn't be better. He's had some nice gallops over the track here. His last two breezes were outstanding. Javier Castellano has a good record on the horse. He's got a lot of things going for him where I could see him earning a check in this race. It's deep water, though. He's going to have to come with his best.”
Moreno – Trained by Eric Guillot, Moreno jogged 1m and galloped 1m as training toward Saturday's Classic begins to wind down for the 3yo son of Ghostzapper.
Guillot said of Moreno's opportunity Saturday, “He'll have to run the race of his young life, but that's what we expect.”
Mucho Macho Man – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Mucho Macho Man galloped 1 1/2m Thursday morning, readying for a start in the Classic.
“I think he's prepared very well,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “Things couldn't have gone better since the Awesome Again, getting ready for this race.”
Ritvo has impressed Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's stable manager Finn Green with the strong rapport she has developed with the 5yo son of Macho Uno.
“He said we need to go to a psychiatrist. He said we need counseling,” Ritvo said with a chuckle. “I think ‘Macho' and I are in tune. We've been together a long time. He is a really a smart horse, and he's kind.”
Mucho Macho Man and his trainer recorded the first Grade I victory of their respective careers in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.
“We wanted it for him,” Ritvo said. “He deserved it. He did all the work.”
“And I wanted it for Kathy,” Green said
Ritvo redirected the attention to the horse and her staff.
“It's a team effort. It's never just me,” said Ritvo, praising the dedication of Mucho Macho Man's groom, Valietal Tapia, hotwalker, Karina Lopez, exercise rider Nick Petro and assistant trainer Marcelino Valencia.
Mucho Macho Man finished second in last year's Classic at Santa Anita, beaten by just a half- length by Fort Larned.
“I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't disappointed at all. I was proud of him,” Ritvo said. “He ran a good race. He gave us what he could give us.”
Planteur – see European report
Will Take Charge – Willis D. Horton's Will Take Charge galloped 1 1/2m on Santa Anita's main track as his training toward the Classic continued routinely under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
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