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The boys—and a few stellar females—strut their stuff on Breeders’ Cup Day Two

November 3, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Story by Karen Svea Johnson; "Notes and quotes" by Breeders' Cup and TRJ staff

Take your pile of winnings from Day One wagers (or visit an ATM if you happened to have an “off” day …) and get ready for some serious handicapping—and maybe some serious payoffs—on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races.

The first BC race of the day is the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, where 11 will enter the gate for the 1¾-mile contest. Calvin Borel, who seems to have a special understanding of how to ride the Churchill Downs oval, has the mount on 3-to-1 morning-line favorite A.U. Miner, whose closing style should fit the tactics of rider Bo-“rail”. The filly Meeznah joins two other European invaders in the race, Brigantin and Harrison’s Cave, in making their U.S. debuts.

The $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is an all-male 1-mile contest that drew 15 entries. The morning-line favorite, at 4-to-1 in this competitive field, is Majestic City, who is making his turf debut after eight starts on artificial racing surfaces. He is the only horse in the field who has not had a race on turf. On Thursday, the scratch of Gung Ho opened a spot for the race’s also-eligible candidate, Tequila Factor.

The $1,500,000 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 6 furlongs features defending Sprint champion Big Drama, who has been assigned opening odds of 5-to-2. His 2010 pilot, Eibar Coa, is recovering from a severe injury suffered during a Gulfstream race in February. This year, Ramon Dominguez takes the mount. Although the Grade I Vosburgh was supposed to be his first ride on Big Drama, the horse ran a fever the morning of the race and was scratched. The BC Sprint will be the first time Dominguez rides the champ in a race.

Another sprint follows: the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs, with a 14-gate field that includes two fillies and a mare. Regally Ready is the morning-line favorite at 3-to-1. Although the distaffers in this race all start at long odds, one might revel in her longshot status. Broken Dreams is the 5-year-old granddaughter of One Dreamer, who shocked at odds of 47-to-1 in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile features nine runners, with Trappe Shot installed as the 3-to-1 morning-line favorite despite never having run a flat-mile. The race’s two second-favorites at 7-to-2 are one indication of the competitiveness of the field.

A filly and a mare join seven males in the $3,000,000 Emerates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1½ miles—and the 4-year-old filly Sarafina takes morning-line-favorite honors at 5-to-2. In just 10 lifetime starts, all in France, she has earned over $2,000,000, and has two wins in five starts at the distance. This race marks her U.S. debut.

Two-year-olds take the stage next in the $2,000,000 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1-1/16 miles. The undefeated Union Rags was installed as the 2-to-1 morning-line favorite after three lifetime starts at three different tracks&none of which was Churchill Downs. In fact, 8-to-1 Dullahan is the only starter who has any experience at the host oval, and managed only a third-place finish in two previous starts at the track.

Another $2,000,000 race follows, and it features a distaff favorite, at odds of 5-to-2. Wonder-mare Goldikova won the last three runnings of the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile and is back to again defend her crown. Her nemesis Gio Ponti, who was less than two lengths behind her at the wire last year, is in again to keep her honest in the field of 13.

The BC races close with the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1¼ miles. Uncle Mo, the 3-year-old who missed this year’s Kentucky Derby because of a liver ailment, has been installed as the 5-to-2 morning-line favorite by track handicapper Mike Battaglia. Others handicappers might contest that decision, and some doubt the 118 Beyer number “the Uncle” earned in his most recent race, on a muddy Belmont track. Fans who find inspiration in the “Zenyatta Power” demonstrated in the past three BC runnings might look to the 3-to-1 second-favorite, Havre de Grace. Under the guidance of un-retired trainer Larry Jones, who sports a great record at Churchill Downs, the 4-year-old filly shows only one Beyer under 100 in her 2011 races—and that number is a 97. But remember the many surprises this race has yielded in the past, and be sure to handicap all 12 competitors. (The field was reduced by one runner earlier this week when Prayer for Relief was declared from the race.)

Notes and quotes for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races

Race #3: Breeders' Cup Marathon

Birdrun (#1): “Everybody loves him,” said trainer Bill Mott. “He’s just a neat horse. He does whatever you want him to do, anything from a mile to a mile and a half. I don’t think he’ll have a problem with the distance.”

Meeznah (#3): “I am very happy with Meeznah at the moment, but it will be interesting to see how she handles a bit of dirt being kicked in her face,” said trainer David Lanigan. “If this race was on the turf, it would be the easiest race she will have been in all season.”

Giant Oak (#5): “He settled in here fine,” trainer Chris Block said. “He’s been here plenty of times before. He’s doing real well. He got here Monday and he’s galloped well Tuesday and Wednesday morning [and] he galloped really strong this morning. He’s coming into the race just the way I want him to.

Eldaafer (#10): The winner of last year’s Marathon is back at Churchill Downs for the first time since he won last year’s Marathon at odds of 10-to-1. “He’s good and he’s happy,” said trainer Diane Alvarado. “Whenever he ships, he gets pumped up. He feels great and he’s going into the race perfect. He’s sharp. He likes to ship. He gets bored of seeing the same stuff every day.”

Race #4: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

Fantastic Song (#2): “The colt definitely needs firm ground,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He didn’t run his ‘A’ race in the Pilgrim. He still almost won, but it’s not his ‘A’ race. His ‘A’ race is the first time out in Saratoga when he came from dead last and won. I’m looking for the same type of trip here. I’m looking for a quicker pace and firm ground for him on Saturday. He’s got a nice cozy post on the inside (2), I want to find my way to the fence pretty soon and let them battle up front.”

Coalport (#6): Six weeks ago, the 2yo son of Kitten’s Joy was an unraced maiden. Now he’s a 15-to-1 morning-line shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. “He’s a young, inexperienced horse who ran a big race last time out in the stake (2nd in the Bourbon),” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “I thought he was a winner for a second there. With that accident happening (frontrunner Here Comes Frazier attempting to jump the rail) everybody got a little discombobulated, including my jockey and my horse. I think everybody not knowing what was happening got a little leery. My horse checked a little, and that horse (winner Animal Spirits) got the momentum and ran by me.”

Majestic City (#8): I like where I am with him right now,” said trainer Peter Miller, “very much so.”

Daddy Nose Best (#9): “When you’re in a field like this and two turns on the turf, you’re going to have to work out the trip,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “Having Julien (jockey Leparoux) in that spot gives us a lot of confidence. If anyone can work out the trip, he can.”

Lucky Chappy (#12): “It is very different,” said trainer Graham Motion of U.S. racing compared to racing in Italy. “I was just talking to David (Nava), the exercise rider saying what a different horse he is from a month and a half ago. It’s not just coming from a different country. I think 2-year-olds change a lot, and this horse has changed a lot in two months. “I’ve seen a dramatic change in him.”

Finale (#13): Unbeaten on grass, the son of Scat Daddy has already earned more than the purchase price of $175,000 risked by owners Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor. “He’s really taken to it,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who started the colt on the dirt and failed to break his maiden in two tries. Once on the grass at Belmont, he won off by more than five lengths and since has taken a pair of minor stakes. “He’s as sharp as he can be.”

State of Play (#14): “He outworked all of my 2-year-olds. So I felt pretty good about him,” said trainer Graham Motion of the colt who has won both of his starts. “He’s very professional, always has been.”

Tequila Factor (#15) drew into the race from the also-eligible list with the scratch of Gung Ho. “If you get in the Breeders’ Cup with a post position, you have a chance,” said trainer Wayne Catalano. “Anything can happen. He’ll have a little speed. He’ll be up there, so if the other ones find trouble in the back somehow and he kicks away, who knows what can happen?”

Gung Ho was scratched on Thursday.

Race #5: Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint

Euroears (#1): “He’s extremely quick and I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of company up front,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “If they don’t go to fast hopefully he’ll hold on. He has to break well. That’s the key.”

Aikenite (#3): “He’s been a wonderful horse to have in the barn, a very generous horse,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the battle-tested 4yo colt who has made 22 career starts. “He’s had some big wins for us; he’s very reliable. We’re hoping for an extremely hot pace and hope that he gives his general closing kick.

“I think we got a little bit lucky in this year’s Sprint that it’s not quite as big a field as you sometimes see,” Pletcher added. “For his style that could be important; it’s easier to go around eight of them than 12 or 13 other ones. It’s a one-turn mile here, and without the (Dirt) Mile, I think the Sprint would have been a full field.”

Hamazing Destiny (#4): “He’s sharp and he loves the racetrack,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won 18 Breeders’ Cup races. “He is better than last year. He trains stronger and he is much more focused.”

Jackson Bend (#5): “He’s second choice for a million and a half dollars, and if he can pull that off and win that, he deserves to be (Sprint) champion,” said Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. “Looking back three months ago, before he went to the gate in the James Marvin (Stakes), if you said to me, ‘before this race, I guarantee you’ll be second choice and have a chance for the Eclipse Award in the Sprint,’ I’d have said, ‘Where do I sign?’”

Force Freeze (#6): “Things have just totally turned around since I got this horse, and it’s nice,” said 43-year-old trainer Peter Walder. “It’s been a long time coming.” On a Thursday morning gallop, Force Freeze took exercise rider Marcos Orneos on quite a ride. “That’s the first thing the kid said when he got back, ‘He’s ready to run,’” Walder said. “When he turned around to gallop, he went like a beast. That was good, I was glad to see him gallop like a monster. It’s the first time he’s galloped since he worked last Saturday. He’s such a docile horse. It’s good to see him have that energy.”

Amazombie (#7): “I like his chances in the race,” said trainer Bill Spawr. “He’s really good right now and it just might set up for a late closer and that’s him. Mike [jockey Mike Smith] said he even lost ground in the Ancient Title because he was going so fast. Mike said if he had been behind horses he would have run over them.”

Race #6: Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

Holiday for Kitten (#2): Even though trainer Wesley Ward and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey considered running Holiday for Kitten in the Filly & Mare Sprint, they are confident they made the right choice by going in the Turf Sprint. “She’s a fantastic sprinter and being by Kitten’s Joy, we know she loves the grass,” said Ward. “She’s a 3-year-old, but getting older and catching up with these horses fast.”

Broken Dreams (#3): Since Broken Dreams is by Broken Vow and out of Our Dreamer, it’s easy to see how the Glen Hill Farm homebred got her name. “None of the mare’s babies can run,” said trainer Tom Proctor. “When she came along I said ‘Well, here we go with another one; might as well call her Broken Dreams.’ She’s been a real nice surprise.”

California Flag (#6): “He’s tough right now and he wants to run,” said California-based conditioner Brian Koriner Wednesday morning of California Flag. The California-bred gelding will be making his fourth straight start in the Turf Sprint, a race he won in 2009 at Santa Anita as a 5yo, one of the 10 career victories that has helped him to amass more than $1.2 million in earnings. “Age isn’t a factor,” said Koriner. “He’s as good as he’s ever been. And I know he’ll do better than he did here last year (8th of 14). He’s not the kind to do what he did here last time – breaking slowly and never really getting into the race. He was hitting himself – mostly in the left front – in his races and it was hurting him. It hurt every time he ran and it took some of his confidence away. But we’ve got it right now and he’s doing well. He’s got his confidence back and he’s just as good as ever. They run for big money in these events and that’s why we’re here. I think he’ll do well.”

Hoofit (#7): “I have to be a little bit surprised by him, to be honest,” said trainer Graham Motion. “But when he came to me his works were quite impressive and I was pretty excited about running him the first time.”

Regally Ready (#8): After intermittent rain on Thursday, trainer Steve Asmussen was not concerned about the condition of the turf course. “When he won here (at Churchill) last fall, it was very soft turf, and a couple of his victories at Santa Anita were on very firm going,” Asmussen explained.

Chamberlain Bridge (#14): The defending champ continues to impress trainer Bret Calhoun. “He’s never trained better and I say that, but we’ve never really had to train him like this,” said Calhoun. “Up until this year, we’ve been able to keep him racing on a regular schedule, but after his first couple of starts this year, we decided we needed to space his races more. It’s never been physical. I think it’s all been between the ears. I do like where he’s at right now.”

Race #7: Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

The Factor (#1): “He looked great out there, he galloped around just fine,” said trainer Bob Baffert after The Factor’s Thursday gallop. “He can be tough to gallop, but he didn’t get rank on George (Alvarez, exercise rider) or anything.

“I would have preferred an outside post with him, but the way he’s training right now, he’s doing really well,” Baffert added. “You’ve got some nice speed horses in there and it depends on who goes with him early. The pace is going to be so important. It’s something that’s out of my control, out of my hands, but Martin (Garcia, jockey) knows what he needs to do. At least he won’t be going 21 flat.”

Shackleford (#2): “We hadn’t done much with him since the Indiana Derby and wanted to give him a good work,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I’ve never had a horse run bad after working in 58 (:581 on October 29). You just can’t make a horse work like that.”

Wilburn (#5): “I think the trip is extremely important with him,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s a great big horse, bit, tall and leggy. His confidence is exactly where you’d want it to be coming into a race like this, so we feel good about it.”

Irrefutable (#6): “We put him in and we know he’s a longshot, but he ran well here last spring, and he ran his best race Beyer-wise here as well,” trainer Bob Baffert remarked. “In the Ancient Title (his most recent race), we just let him break and come from off the pace and it worked out; he ran a big race,” Baffert said. “He’ll be coming at the end.”

Trappe Shot (#9): Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is pleased with Trappe Shot’s draw of the outside #9 post position for the Dirt Mile. John Velazquez has the mount. “The Factor, Shackleford and Tapizar are 1, 2, and 3, so they’re going to have to go, so we might get back further stalking them,” said McLaughlin. “We might be 10 lengths back if they go a half in :44. You never know. It’s a great post position because we don’t have to be involved in all of that. We’re out in the clear.”

Race #8: Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf

St Nicholas Abbey (#1): “He has done well since the Arc,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien, “and we feel he has been progressing all the time, and because we lost him when he was three, we have been very conscious to take things steady with him.”

Dean's Kitten (#3): “We would have tried it (1½m) a lot sooner, but the opportunity really never presented itself,” trainer Mike Maker said. “I wish we had more mile and a half turf chances in America. I think he’s at his best with more distance.”

Stately Victor (#4): Trainer Mike Maker is encouraged by his recent performances. “In the Durham Cup (on October 2), he broke well for once, but was forced to steady a bit,” Maker said. “He ran a decent race that day, and seems to have found a level of consistency lately. Mike (Smith) has gotten to know him. We think he’ll put in a good stretch run.”

Teaks North (#5): “He’s the coolest horse you could ever have,” said trainer Justin Sallusto. “It doesn’t matter if you put him on roller skates or a plane, nothing bothers him. Last year, when he ran on turf for the first time, he showed me a different dimension. He was a different horse. He displayed greater acceleration, an extra gear. And the rest is history.”

Await the Dawn (#6): “We always dreamed of Await the Dawn being a Classic horse but because he got so sick after York (in August) and we nearly lost him, he has done great to be here,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien. “We felt that it would be the easier option to start him back on the grass and we will be happy if he runs a nice race.”

Sea Moon (#7): “I’m really happy with the way he went out there. He absolutely loves the ground,” said James Savage, traveling head lad for trainer Michael Stoute.

Brilliant Speed (#8): “I think I’m pretty sure he prefers to be on the grass; he’s more comfortable on the grass,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “On a certain (dirt) surface, he might handle it like the one at Churchill, but it looks like his best races have been on turf, other than the Blue Grass on synthetic.

“He’s maturing all the time,” Albertrani continued. “He’s sharp as a tack right now. I can see him going out and running a big race. I know this is the first time against older horses and it will be a bit of a challenge for us, but I like the way he’s training up to this race. He’s never looked better.:

Midday (#9): “She didn’t quite get to run her race last year,” Juddmonte’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said. “But she has bounced back. She’s had a very productive season again this year. She’s shown us that she still wants to do it. We couldn’t be happier the way she is. She travels well, her attitude is excellent. She’s just a charming and lovely filly to be around.

“Last year, the race had sort of a lack of pace. We know she stays the mile and a half,” he continued. “She’s won two Grade 1’s over that (distance) in Europe, so that’s not going to be a problem. She travels well in these races and has got a turn of foot. This is a race well worth winning.”

Race #9: Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Take Charge Indy (#1): “He’s doing super,” said trainer Patrick Byrne. “I love how he’s getting over the track. It would actually be OK with me if this rain continues. He has a really good off-track number and I think he would handle it well.”

Dullahan (#2): “Like my other two Breeders’ Cup horses (Shackleford and Court Vision), I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing,” said trainer Dale Romans. “Union Rags is obviously the one to beat and the horse that seems to be training really well is Take Charge Indy, but we’re very happy with our horse.”

Drill (#4): “He still has a little bit to prove,” said Bob Baffert of the 2YO son of Lawyer Ron. “In his last race, he got tired turning for home. I took the blinkers off of him and was hoping that would help because he likes a target to run at, but I think he was too far back last time. We’ll let him get into the race here. He’s still young.”

Hansen (#5): “This horse showed us a lot in the mornings before he ever ran in a race,” trainer Mike Maker said. “We had high aspirations for the horse, and the Turfway races just fell into our timeline. We broke his maiden and then came back in two weeks for the Kentucky Cup in order to accelerate his progress. He’s already won around two turns (Kentucky Cup Juvenile), but the competition is going to be greater (on Saturday),” Maker said. “He’s trained well on dirt the whole time, so we’re not really concerned about the surface change.”

Prospective (#6): “He had to work his way into the race and he did,” said trainer Mark Casse. “I put him with a workmate and the other horse couldn’t keep up, and Prospective isn’t much of a work horse. I am very pleased with how he’s been training on the (dirt) track here. He just gets better and better. He’s training really good and he earned his spot. There may be some horses who are better than he is in this race, but there are none who are training any better.”

Creative Cause (#7): “He seemed to like the track,” said trainer Mike Harrington at the end of the colt’s 1m gallop on Wednesday. “He got over it really well. Everything is lovely right now. He seems happy and feeling good.”

Alpha (#9): “We’re coming into the race great,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.”We were the only 2YO in the last race in the Champagne making our second start, so this is our third start. Hopefully we improve each start.” McLaughlin expects Alpha to move up going two turns in the Juvenile. “It should be (a benefit), but it won’t be a negative for Union Rags,” McLaughlin said with a smile.

Union Rags (#10): “It is unusual that I’m back at the Breeders’ Cup with two juveniles, but I’ll take it,” said trainer Michael Matz (his other starter is Somali Lemonade, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf). “This year, the 2-year-olds were just ready to run and we’re fortunate that they’ve done so well. They’ve done it all themselves. Sometimes you just get precocious 2-year-olds. Union Rags is very mature for his age. He just has pure raw talent with common sense. At this same point, (his 2006 Kentucky Derby winner) Barbaro had only made one start.”

Daddy Long Legs (#11): “He may have been more suited for the Turf but if we are going to come back in the spring this is probably a better opportunity. He has an American profile similar to that of Johannesburg,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Fort Loudon (#12): “Other than Kentucky-breds, Florida-bred horses are right up there when it comes to winning classic races,” said trainer Stanley Gold. “And while the best of those horses don’t always go to Calder, we’ve got some good ones down there that maybe slip through the cracks because they don’t have a glamorous pedigree. But they’re Florida-breds, and they can run. And just being up here again (for the Breeders’ Cup) is good for the Florida Stallion Stakes and the whole Florida breeding program.”

Optimizer (#13): “He’ll be in blinkers for the first time and he’ll be on dirt for the first time,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “I don’t think this horse has any distance limitations. He usually drops way out in his races, but I think he’ll relish the long stretch here.”

Race #10: TVG Breeders' Cup Mile

Goldikova (#1): “I feel great relief because the mare is well, she’s very sound,” said trainer Freddy Head. “I know it’s going to be her last run, but all I hope is that she finishes well and gives a good run. Win or lose. I hope everything goes right and we have a safe trip. That will be it, her career will be over.

“Draw one is good, as long as it doesn’t rain too much. I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “We have a good pace with two pacemakers. If the race is a normal pace it may be lucky to be inside compared to last year. It’s not always easy when you are outside. The problem from the (inside post) is that maybe you are blocked in. You just see what happens.

“In the morning she does exactly what she used to do years ago,” Head continued. “She’s got the same action and the same will to win. This morning when I saw her galloping, it was like two or three years ago, or like last year. She just wants to run, run, run.”

Courageous Cat (#3) went to the turf course on Monday for a final breeze with exercise Rudolph Brisset. The 4f move was clocked in a leisurely :514 around the dogs. “My rider was happy,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He said he gave him a little rein at the eighth pole and he was willing to go on, so he was happy.”

Get Stormy (#6): “He’s got a good bounce to his step, he’s eating fabulously and I’m happy with the way he’s coming into the race,” trainer Tom Bush said.

Jeranimo (#7): “Perfect,” said trainer Mike Pender when asked how things are unfolding for Jeranimo. “They’re coming together just as we envisioned them. He’s doing well and things are looking all good.”

Byword (#8): “He won a mile Group 3 in June and Andre gave him a bit of time and that seems to have paid off,” Juddmonte Farms racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said. “He was impressive when he won the Prix Dollar. He beat Cirrus des Aigles, who came out to win the Champion Stakes. His form is solid and he’s a very solid, high-class horse.”

Sidney’s Candy (#10): “He’s been a very kind horse ever since we’ve had him (transferred by co-owner WinStar Farm from John Sadler in June),” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “In some of his races we’ve asked him to be on the lead. I think he’s kind enough to adapt to a different strategy if we need to. Some of that (jockey) John Velazquez is going to have to determine when the gate opens – how much speed is in the race, how much the other guys are using their horses.”

Turallure (#13): “We couldn’t be happier,” said trainer Charles Lopresti. “He went to the track, galloped one and a half miles and schooled in the paddock. (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) was all smiles when he got back, so that’s all I needed to see.”

Race #11: Breeders' Cup Classic

Ice Box (#6): “I think all of the rust is off him,” said trainer Nick Zito. “I can stand here and make excuses. But we have three races now and this is what we’ve been thinking about. He had his finest hour here last year. He’s a live longshot,” said Zito, noting that Ice Box was 20-to-1 when he won the Florida Derby.

Rattlesnake Bridge (#7): “We hope Calvin Borel can settle him back toward the rear of the race and make a run and pass a whole bunch of them,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “It’s a fast pace, it looks like on paper, a quality fast pace. Hopefully, he can pass a whole lot of them. Whether we can pass all of them, I don’t know.”

Game On Dude (#8): “It’s a tough race, all of them are tough,” said trainer Bob Baffert of the Classic. “These are the best horses in the world and everything has to go perfect leading up to the race. Most importantly, the horse has to fit and give it his all. I know this one does and will.”

Stay Thirsty (#9): “I think he’s in as good a form right now as he’s ever been,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s training like he did prior to the Jim Dandy and the Travers, so we’re really excited about the way he’s coming into this race.”

Headache (#11): “There are reasons for optimism,” said trainer Michael Maker. “He’s won three races over this track (7-3-1-1), and the last time he was here, we won by more than seven lengths. He’s also proven at a mile and a quarter (3-1-2-0).”

Uncle Mo (#12): “I think he’s doing outstanding,” said trainer Todd Pletcher of the morning-line favorite. “He got over the ground really well today (Wednesday). He was very enthusiastic and he seems like a happy horse.”

To Honor and Serve (#13): “He won the Pennsylvania Derby and looked very professional doing it,” said trainer Bill Mott. “He looked like a talented horse. He looked like he’s back and coming into his own. I think he’s at the top of his game, which he’ll have to be if he’s going to compete on Saturday.”