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As is customary on Breeders' Cup week, members of the media and some of the connections competing on Saturday gather for lunch and a question-and-answer session on Tuesday afternoon. This year, the Tuesday media lunch was held in the Trophy Room at the historic Gallagher's Steakhouse in Manhattan.
First up at the podium was jockey John Velazquez, who is the only rider booked for rides in all eight Breeders' Cup Championship races. He said of being at his home track, "Being home is a great advantage for me. Belmont Park has been my home for 15 years." He talked about some of the horses he will ride on Saturday.
In the Classic, he will be aboard Flower Alley who failed to win his prep, the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Velazquez confidently said, "You can throw out Flower Alley's last race. He'll give you a better result on Saturday." Asked about Flower Alley being rank, "I'm going to keep him nice and quiet until we leave the gate."
One of his longshot mounts is Lion Tamer in the Sprint, who faces the undefeated Lost in the Fog. Velazquez said, "Lion Tamer comes from way, way off the pace. I hope I can beat Lost in the Fog with him. I'll need all the help I can get. We'll need some pace pressure (on the favorite) from other horses."
Asked about the post position draw for the Mile, where he will be aboard the heavy favorite, he said, "Leroidesanimaux has a lot of speed. I would not like to be in the 14 hole. Close to the rail or middle of the track would be great."
Second up were the connections of defending Mile champion Singletary. Billy Koch, managing partner of ownership group Little Red Feather Racing, said, "We had a blast last year. We want to show others that this sort of thing does happen to people. Winning the race helped our business. We're always looking for new owners!" Asked about his chances to repeat, he said, "Singletary had an excellent prep in the Oak Tree Mile. He ran the last 1/4 mile in 22.50, that's what I wanted. He's got an excellent late kick. I hope 'Leroy' is beatable, we need a lot of things to go our way. "
Trainer Don Chatlos said, "It's great to have a Breeders' Cup win on my record. Being from Chicago, New York racing was always the goal, so I really wanted to be here this year. We look at this as fun, we just want to give him a chance to get into the starting gate. We don't need any attention. Keep talking about 'Leroy'!"
Paul Makin, majority owner of Starcraft, was last up. On paying the $800,000 supplement to run in the Classic, he said, "It's a lot of money, but I'm an old guy. It's not a dress rehearsal. If you've got a really good horse, you should try to excel. He's won all the races he can win in Europe. He's won five Group 1's from 7 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles. He should be given his chance to transit from turf to dirt. Of course, he's never been on dirt, and I'm only getting about even money on my money. I've made a lot of money betting on horses, but this is the worst bet I've ever made. I've had a terrific battle with common sense and finally stupidity won. I bought him as a yearling, for $80,000 'Kiwi' (about $50,000 U.S.) and I was lucky enough to get a good one."
Asked why he decided to run in the Classic rather than Mile, Makin said, "Luca [trainer Cumani] said we should go for the turf race since he's already done it. But he's already won two Grade 1's on the turf this year. I'd love to go against Leroidesanimaux, but that doesn't achieve anything for us. Winning at 1 1/4 miles on dirt would be an achievement. If he wins, I assume I'll have to retire him. Responsibility has to take over at some point."
On having to tell his wife Lyndall that he was spending $800,000 to run Starcraft in the Classic, he said, "We don't have such conversations. I make the decisions and she wears the diamond rings."
Makin was asked what his odds should be on Saturday. He answered, "If he handles the dirt, he'll win. If he handles the dirt, he's a 5-2 shot. I don't think we'll have a strategy. We have a very good jockey [Patrick Valenzuela]. He rides forward. I expect he'll be just off the pace, 3 or 4 lengths off the lead at the turn."
Explaining how Patrick Valenzuela was chosen to ride Starcraft, he said, "We looked up his life history on the Internet and said 'This is the guy for us!' [laughing]. Actually Luca and I worked together on it. First we tried to get John Velazquez, but he was booked. Then we tried to get Jerry Bailey, but he was booked. We tried for Valenzuela third, and we're very happy that we got a top guy."
Makin hired a personal masseuse for Starcraft, a woman who also works with the Australian equestrian team. "She's a lovely looking girl. I didn't think Starcraft would like a tart. He's like a boxer, he has to be looked after."
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