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Belmont Breeders' Cup Preview Weekend


Mineshaft winning the Pimlico Special in May.

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Updated: 9/24/03

Belmont will hold the first half of their major Breeders' Cup Preps this weekend with four Grade 1 races on the card Saturday. The 85th running of the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup for three-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter will be held as the 10th race on an 11 race card with a post time of 5:45pm Eastern. The other three races are the $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational at 1 1/2 miles for open company, the $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at 1 1/4 miles on the turf for the fillies, and the $500,000 Vosburgh at 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Preps for the other four Breeders' Cup divisions will be held in a week on October 4th.

Multiple Grade 1 winning Mineshaft, who is expected to go off a strong favorite in Saturday's 85th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, breezed five furlongs over Belmont's main track Monday morning in 1:01 2/5. It was the four-year-old's second workout since beating four overmatched foes in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 6th. "He's doing great," trainer Neil Howard said. "He's ready." Mineshaft, undefeated in a pair of starts at the Gold Cup distance of a mile and a quarter, may face only three other horses - Moon Ballad, Empire Maker and Evening Attire - in this year's Gold Cup. All three of his rivals, however, are Grade or Group 1 winners. Howard has trained his share of Grade 1 winners including 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall, Runup the Colors, Secret Status and Tomisue's Delight, but says Mineshaft is in a league of his own. "I would never say anything to slight Summer Squall, but Mineshaft is a special horse," he said.


Empire Maker is now out of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Juddmonte Farms' Empire Maker, winner of the Belmont Stakes, galloped over the training track Tuesday morning but has now been declared from Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup after suffering an injury to his left-front hoof. "His foot busted open," Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said. "He'll be alright. It's the weakest part of the foot and if they get a bruise, that's where it comes out. I don't think it will be major." The foot injury is the latest setback to affect the Unbridled colt. He was battling a cough on and off for about a month, which kept him from running in the August 23rd Travers at Saratoga. If he runs in the Breeders' Cup Classic as part of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship at Santa Anita on October 25th, it would be his first race in 84 days. "One thing about him is that he can miss time and get ready," Frankel said. "He's practiced at it a lot. We still have a month or so. If everything's alright, I might just send him to California and let him train with Medaglia d'Oro." Frankel took the setback in stride. "I expected something to happen," he said. "Everybody looks far ahead and you can't look far ahead. Everything is a day-by-day thing with these horses. There will be less pressure on me Saturday. Let me win the other two and I'll be happy."


Moon Ballad winner of the Dubai World Cup will return to the dirt for the first time since that victory.
Godolphin Racing's Moon Ballad, winner of the Dubai World Cup in March who is bound for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, galloped over the main track Wednesday. "He looks well," said Tom Albertrani, who is overseeing Moon Ballad for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "Depending on what the weather is, we might give him a light work on Thursday just to stretch his legs. He worked in Newmarket before he got on the plane. He doesn't need much."

Moon Ballad, winless in three starts since his five-length victory over Harlan's Holiday in the Dubai World Cup, should be the one to catch in the opening stages of the Gold Cup. He's going to have to run a monstrous race to hold off Mineshaft, Empire Maker and Evening Attire, but facing a small field might make his job as the pacesetter a bit easier. "Not having a lot of speed in there could benefit him," Albertrani said. "He'll be tough if he can repeat his World Cup effort." With the defection of Empire Maker, Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey has picked up the mount on Moon Ballad. The weight-for-age Jockey Club Gold Cup is New York's last major prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, the feature of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita on October 25th.


Sulamani winner of the Arlington Million after the disqualification of Storming Home.
Godolphin Racing's Sulamani, the likely favorite in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational at a mile and a half, breezed six furlongs over Belmont's "good" inner turf course Wednesday morning in 1:16. The "dogs," cones that protect the inner portion of the course, were up. "He's doing extremely well," said Tom Albertrani, assistant trainer to Saeed bin Suroor. "He wasn't asked for much." Winner of the Arlington Million via disqualification in his last start, Sulamani is 5 for 8 at the Turf Classic's 12-furlong distance. Overall, this four-year-old son of Hernando has earned more than $3 million. "Distance is going to make the difference," Albertrani said. "He'll run well at a mile and a quarter, but a mile and a half suits him better." The Turf Classic lost one major player on Wednesday when Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale withdrew Storming Home from consideration. Yet, Sulamani will face a good field that includes Group/Grade 1 winners Sabiango and Lunar Sovereign. "You gotta take them all serious. Everybody is going over there to win it," Albertrani said. "We know what our horse is capable of. Hopefully, he has a good trip." Jerry Bailey, who has never won the Turf Classic, has the mount on Sulamani.

The Turf Classic-bound Lunar Sovereign, a visually impressive winner of Belmont's Grade 1 Man 'o War a few weeks ago, breezed a half mile over the main track in :49 3/5 Monday morning. Regular rider Richard Migliore was up for the work. Lunar Sovereign, who possesses an awesome turn of foot, beat a decent field in the Man o'War that included Grade 1 winners Denon and Balto Star. With the presence of Sulamani, Storming Home and Sabiango, the Turf Classic comes up a much stronger race. "The thought is he's doing great and he's four-for-four at Belmont," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "This is as tough as it gets. If he runs well here, that gives us a reason to look at the (October 25th) Breeders' Cup Turf."

Sabiango, a Group 1 winner in Germany and perhaps the biggest threat to take down Sulamani in the Turf Classic, breezed a half-mile over the "yielding" inner turf in :50 Wednesday morning. "I'm happy, but he didn't do anything special," said Sabiango's trainer, Andreas Wohler. Wohler doesn't start many horses in the U.S., but handicappers should take him seriously when he ships across the Atlantic. Two years ago, he saddled Sabiango's half brother, Silvano, to a victory in the Arlington Million. Silvano also finished second to With Anticipation in Belmont's Grade 1 Man O'War. "It's hard to compare (Silvano and Sabiango)," Wohler said. "Sabiango is a stayer; he wants a mile and a half. Silvano didn't want to go beyond a mile and a quarter. That's how With Anticipation got us in the Man 'o War." Jockey David Flores is scheduled to ride Sabiango for the first time in the Turf Classic.


Head Haze winner of the Beverly D. at Arlington.
Heat Haze, also owned by Juddmonte and trained by Bobby Frankel, is nearly perfect since coming to this country. She has won four of five U.S. starts, with her only blemish a neck defeat to Voodoo Dancer in the Diana at Saratoga. The four-year-old filly will start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational Saturday. The Flower Bowl will be race 8 (4:41 p.m. Eastern). "I'd like a good firm turf," Frankel said as heavy morning rains pounded his barn. "Something she could grab a hold of, which I think we'll get."

Walzerkoenigin, a stakes winner in France, Germany and Italy is one of six females expected to run in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational. She got her first feel for the Belmont turf Wednesday morning when breezing five furlongs over the inner course in 1:05 under jockey Edgar Prado who will ride her Saturday. "We're very happy," said Paul Harley, the racing manager to Gestut Schlenderhan. "She did everything that was required with her She'll probably have some light exercise tomorrow, but she might not leave the barn."

Walzerkoenigin, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Kingmambo, enters the Flower Bowl off a fourth-place finish to Heat Haze in the Beverly D. on August 16th. "Hopefully, the pace will be a bit quicker this time," Harley said. "They went forty-nine and three and that compromised this filly's chances. It was her first start in the U.S. and we're hoping she can improve a little with the experience under her belt." Harley said that even if Walzerkoenigin were to win the Flower Bowl, the four-year-old would not run in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. "We're going to (Woodbine's) E.P. Taylor," Harley said. "We're trying to avoid facing all the top fillies at once." Others pointing for the Flower Bowl are Dimitrova, Dress to Thrill, Heat Haze, Riskaverse and Snow Dance.


Ghostzapper in the King's Bishop post parade at Saratoga.
Bobby Frankel also has another Grade 1 runner at Belmont Saturday in Stronach Stable's Ghostzapper. A fast-closing third in the King's Bishop at Saratoga, Ghostzapper will be making his first start against older stakes horses when he goes in the six-furlong Vosburgh. "It looked like he was more than 11 lengths out of it, didn't it?" Frankel asked rhetorically. "Then he made up 5 1/2 lengths in the stretch, but they crawled the last part. They came home in :13 2/5." The Vosburgh could be Ghostzapper's Breeders' Cup as Frankel is likely to have other runners for the Sprint, most notably Aldebaran, and is not sure how Ghostzapper would handle Santa Anita. "I don't think I'd run Ghostzapper, not on that track," Frankel said. Another three-year-old of Frankel's, Edmund Gann's Midas Eyes, may be considered for the Breeders' Cup. He came down with a foot problem that has kept him out of action since finishing second to Posse by a nose in the Riva Ridge on Belmont Stakes Day. His other two races this year were stakes wins in the Swale and Derby Trial. "He breezed really well yesterday (a half-mile in :47)," Frankel said. "He just has to keep training like he is. We have enough time."

The field for Saturday's G1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (Race 10, 5:45 p.m., Free Past Performances)

PP  HORSE              TRAINER             JOCKEY                WGT
1   Quest              Nick Zito           Edgar Prado           126
2   Moon Ballad        Saeed bin Suroor    Jerry Bailey          126
3   Mineshaft          Neil Howard         Robby Albarado        126
4   Evening Attire     Pat Kelly           Mark Guidry           126
5   State Shinto       Kiaran McLaughlin   Richard Migliore      126
Moon Ballad will race with Lasix for the first time.

The field for Saturday's G1, $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational (Race 9, 5:13 p.m.)

PP  HORSE              TRAINER             JOCKEY                WGT
1   Polish Summer      Andre Fabre         John Velazquez        126
2   Slew Valley        Gary Sciacca        Javier Castellano     126
3a  Balto Star         Todd Pletcher       Edgar Prado           126
4   Lunar Sovereign    Kiaran McLaughlin   Richard Migliore      126
5   Sabiango           Andreas Wohler      David Flores          126
6a  Deeliteful Irving  Michael Dickinson   Joe Bravo             126
7   Sulamani           Saeed bin Suroor    Jerry Bailey          126
Sabiango will race on Lasix for the first time.

The field for Saturday's G1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (Race 8, 4:41 p.m.)

PP  HORSE               TRAINER             JOCKEY            WGT
1a  Sixty Seconds       Christophe Clement  Corey Nakatani       118
2   Riskaverse          Pat Kelly           John Velazquez       120
3   Walzerkoenigin      Peter Schiergen     Edgar Prado          120
4a  Dress To Thrill     Christophe Clement  Corey Nakatani       120
5   Primetimevalentine  Danny Peitz         Jose Santos          118
6   Dimitrova           Dermot Weld         Jerry Bailey         113
7   Snow Dance          John Ward Jr.       Richard Migliore     120
8   Heat Haze           Bobby Frankel       Jose Valdivia Jr.    123

The field for Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Vosburgh (Race 7, 4:09 p.m.)

PP  HORSE               TRAINER             JOCKEY               WGT
1   Gygistar            Mark Hennig         John Velazquez       126
2   Proud Citizen       D. Wayne Lukas      Gary Stevens         126
3   Ghostzapper         Bobby Frankel       Javier Castellano    123
4   Voodoo              Jimmy Jerkens       Jorge Chavez         126
5   Peeping Tom         Pat Reynolds        Shaun Bridgmohan     126
6   Posse               Steve Asmussen      Jerry Bailey         123
7   Ajedrez             Wayne Catalano      Eusebio Razo Jr.     126
8   Highway Prospector  Mark Shuman         Jose Santos          126
9   Papua               Mike Hushion        Edgar Prado          126
10  My Cousin Matt      Scott Lake          Travis Dunkelberger  126
11  Aggadan             Richard Dutrow Jr.  Corey Nakatani       126

From NYRA press releases

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