American trainee Pavel has settled right into the routine at Japan's Chukyo Racecourse, according to Doug O'Neill's assistant trainer Leandro Mora.
“He kept his weight on, and he hasn't lost any appetite which is a sign of a horse that's a great traveler and knows what to do,” Mora said.
On Sunday, the 4-year-old son of Creative Cause will take on a field of 15 others in the Grade 1 Champions Cup over 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles), and will be ridden by regular rider Mario Gutierrez from post position three.
“The decision to come to the Champions Cup was made early before the Breeders' Cup but not 100 percent because we always have to check the horse and make sure he's healthy right off a tough race,” continued Mora. “The very next day (after the BC) we found immediately that the horse was nice, not tired and in good health condition so the owner and the connections of our stable decided to accept the invitation from this great country which we were here a couple of times before, and we're very happy to be here.
“I had a little tough impression about the sand track when we came to the Tokyo race (Japan Cup Dirt) and that it was a little bit hard on the American horses. So, I asked the people to take me here to check the soil on the track and I was surprised to find that it was completely soft and different – I'm very happy with the track – it's pure sand, unlike many tracks in the US which is clay mixed with sand, but Pavel has raced in Kentucky where it is three quarters sand and a quarter of dirt, so if he likes Kentucky we're going to have a very good race with him here.”
Exercise rider Amir Cedeno has been pleased with the way Pavel has handled the local dirt surface as well.
“When you get in the track you can tell right away if the horse likes the surface or not – even in America every track is different – when he came to the training center (Shiroi) he took to the sand track right away and then from there to here, he felt the same quality of the track and he was very happy about it, and I can tell he likes it a lot,” Cedeno said. “When we were in Churchill Downs he needed a little more warm up before we started training but here, I think because of the track and the weather, he seems to move more freely and, like when he's galloping and I try to slow him down, he asks for more and when I try to pull him up, he wants to keep going and go around again, so I really feel good about the way he moves on this track. I can tell that he's very comfortable.”
Prior to the overseas trip, Pavel finished a dull tenth in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Earlier this year, however, the colt captured the G1 Stephen Foster in June, and was second to eventual classic winner Accelerate in the G1 Pacific Classic in August. Pavel has also shown himself to be capable of international travel before, finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup this past March.
“The distance shouldn't be an issue with the way he runs on the stretch – he's run in New York where the stretch is also long, and Kentucky is as long as the stretch here,” assistant trainer Mora continued. “(Jockey) Mario (Gutierrez) is going to ride two horses here before our race, so he can get to know the track a little better and know when to make a move with Pavel. He's a strong horse and once his position moves up he has the strength to stay there and strong enough to finish the race like that, so as long as he can find a good spot in a 16-horse field and not get trapped he should race well and we've traveled all this way to win, of course, but I would be happy as long as he can race smoothly and finish third or fourth.”
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