Declaration of War – see European reportFlat Out/Ron the Greek
– Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s veterans went to the track Tuesday morning. Ron the Greek, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a Win and You’re In race on Sept. 28 at Belmont Park, jogged once around the track, while Flat Out, who was third in the Gold Cup, jogged.
In 2012, Flat Out finished third in the Classic, three-quarters of a length in front of Ron the Greek.
“They’re coming into this as well as they did last year,” Mott said. “Ron the Greek just ran a spectacular race the last time. I’ve said several times that I don’t think there was a horse in the country that was going to beat him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup the last time he ran. He ran as good as any horse could run and it was the fastest Gold Cup in 11 years. He just left them all for dead when they turned for home.
“I can’t tell you if he’s going to repeat that race. He always shows up and he always gives us a good race. Out of the last 21 races he has been 1-2-3-4 in 20 of them. He always shows up, he gives you a good effort and he’s a horse that if he feels like it leaving the gate he could run a big one.”
Mott said that Flat Out has been almost as dependable. The 7yo horse has banked over $3 million in his career.
“I think he’s sitting on a big race,” Mott said. “He didn’t run his very best race in the Gold Cup, which means maybe he’ll come back. Horses don’t always seem to run their A-plus race back-to-back-to-back. If Cigar didn’t run his A-race he was still able to win, just running maybe his B race.
“Both horses seem to be going good, but I would guess maybe just in the sequence of the way things have gone, that maybe Flat Out is the one sitting on a big race.”Fort Larned
– Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned walked the shedrow at trainer Ian Wilkes’ barn at Churchill Downs a day after turning in his final major work (5f in 1:01 4/5) for defense of his title in the Classic.
Fort Larned was scheduled to leave on an afternoon flight to California and a return trip to Santa Anita where he will be stabled in Barn 99 as he was last year.
Brian Hernandez Jr., who rode Fort Larned to victory in the 2012 Classic and has been aboard for the horse’s past nine starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position seven.Game On Dude/Paynter
– The Classic 8-5 morning line favorite Game On Dude walked the Bob Baffert shedrow Tuesday morning after his 59 5f work Monday at Santa Anita.
“He’s doing good,” Baffert said. “He needs to do something big. Here he’s won more than $5 million, but he’s never won a Eclipse championship, even though he’s that kind of horse. He needs to win this Classic to make that special statement. And I think he can do it.
"He’s a different horse this year. By not running him too much, I’ve kept him good. He couldn’t be doing any better. He drew a good post (9) and if he gets a good break and gets in that high cruising speed of his, he can do it. I’m feeling it this year.”
Baffert noted that he has cameras throughout his barn for security purposes, including a special one in Game On Dude’s stall. He said he could watch him on his cell phone anytime he wanted. In that light the trainer took the opportunity to gig one of Game On Dude’s owners, the high-spirited and high-strung Bernie Schiappa, one of Baffert’s favorite foils.
“I know the horse is OK, but I’m a little worried about Bernie,” he said. “I found him sleeping in his sleeping bag outside Game On Dude’s stall.”
Baffert’s other Classic entrant Paynter walked the shedrow Tuesday morning.Palace Malice
– Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice departed his Belmont Park base Tuesday at approximately 8:45 a.m. by van. He was in the air by 11 a.m., on a flight with 2yo stablemate Havana and two of trainer Mike Hushion’s Breeders’ Cup horses.
Two Belmont Stakes winners have won the Classic: Horse of the Year A.P. Indy in 1992 and Drosselmeyer in 2011. Palace Malice will attempt to join them Saturday from post eight with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Belmont Stakes winner is slated to face older horses for the second straight race in Saturday’s Classic, having run second to Ron the Greek in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time out.
“There are a lot of similarities between his campaign and Princess of Sylmar’s. They’ve been going at it all year in all the big dances,” said Pletcher, who is set to saddle Princess of Sylmar for a start in Friday’s Distaff. “He’s been able to win a couple of them. He was unlucky in the Travers not to win that. I thought he ran really well in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Ron the Greek was just too good that day.
“He ran really well in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Ron the Greek ran a huge race that day. (Palace Malice) showed he fits with the older horses in that race. It’s going to take one of those races (like Ron the Greek’s Jockey Club Gold Cup victory) to win the Classic.”
Pletcher said he was confident that his 3-year-old is up to the challenge of the Classic.
“From a tactical standpoint, he has the ability to stalk a fast pace and still deliver a strong finish,” he said. “You know the mile and a quarter isn’t going to be a problem. You just hope for the right set-up and he likes the track and runs a big race on Saturday.”Last Gunfighter
– John Gunther’s 4yo homebred jogged Tuesday morning, a day after shipping from New York with nine other Breeders’ Cup horses trained by Chad Brown.
The son of First Samurai, has won four of six starts this year. His only off-the-board finish of 2013 came in his last start when he was fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Brown said that since the colt is doing very well the decision was made to take a swing at the $5 million Classic.
“It wouldn’t shock me at all if this horse was able to grab a piece of it,” Brown said. “He’s training really well. I know it’s a tough race. A lot of things are going to have to go his way and a lot of things are going to have to go the wrong way for some of the leading contenders. But it’s a big day and anything can happen. We’re going to take shot.”
Last Gunfighter, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, drew the rail in the 12-horse Classic.Moreno
– Trainer Eric Guillot sent the 3yo gelded son of 2004 Classic winner Ghostzapper out for 1 1/2m jog Tuesday morning as his progress toward Saturday’s Classic continued.
Even though Moreno took 10 races to score his first victory, the trainer said he never lost faith in the horse and it paid off as he ran right back to win Dwyer Stakes and finish in the money in his most recent three races.
Guillot takes credit for renaming the horse after the owner-breeder Mike Moreno of Southern Equine Stable, saying in his normal jocular tone, “I thought when Hansen [2011 Juvenile winner] was named after his owner he should have one named after him. I could see he was going to be a good horse.”Mucho Macho Man
– The Kathy Ritvo-trained Mucho Macho Man galloped 1 1/2m before visiting the starting gate Tuesday morning at Santa Anita.
Dean Reeves, who owns the 5yo with his wife, Patti, was on hand to observe the morning activity. The Atlanta contractor spent a relaxing morning around Barn 126 but confessed that his nerves will get the better of him come Saturday, when Mucho Macho Man is slated to go to post in the Classic.
“One thing that has helped is that he’s won a Grade I race, so no matter what happens in this race, he’s still a champion,” Reeves said.
Mucho Macho Man, who finished a close second behind Fort Larned in last year’s Classic at Santa Anita, captured an elusive Grade I victory with a 4 ½-length romp in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.
“We were somewhat relieved that you can check that box and he gets up there where people can say he’s a Grade I winner,” Reeves said. “You can’t take that away from him.”
Following his half-length loss in the 2012 Classic, Mucho Macho Man had a rough start to his 2013 campaign, which was compromised by a virus that kept him from competition for several months. Following a pair of third-place finishes after returning to action in June, the son of Macho Uno ran the race of his productive career in the Awesome Again.
“Seeing him come back and win the Awesome Again showed us he was back and can move forward to the Breeders’ Cup,” Reeves said. “That was just so special. I was so happy for Mucho Macho Man and Kathy and her staff, because he was so deserving. Everybody had worked so hard and been so dedicated that it was really nice to notch the Grade I, because he’s a Grade I champion.”
Reeves said he put his trust in Ritvo and stable manager Finn Green, believing that their patience would allow Mucho Macho Man to bounce back and reclaim his form.
“If you’d meet me in my other job, you’d say I was the most impatient man in the world. I am very impatient. I’ve got to get moving and get something done. Horse racing has really taught me patience, and it’s just the opposite of the way I am,” he said. “Kathy and Finn have guided me through the patience part of racing. They’ve showed me the virtues of being patient.”
Planteur – see European reportWill Take Charge
– It was a routine jog and gallop in the D. Wayne Lukas fashion for the Travers Stakes Will Take Charge winner on Tuesday.
The 3yo son of Unbridled’s Song drew post position 10 for the race, which wasn’t terribly pleasing to Lukas, and was posted at odds of 12-1 on the morning line. Will Take Charge will be ridden by jockey Luis Saez.