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Nov 04, 2011

Breeders' Cup Classic has the speed

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Going into Monday's post position draw for the Breeders' Cup I already had Havre de Grace penciled in as the 5-2 favorite for the $5 million Classic. So I was surprised that Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia did a misdirection on the morning-line for the 1 1/4-mile race.

The official morning-line for the Classic has three-year-old colt Uncle Mo at 5-2 and four-year-old filly Havre de Grace second at 3-1. Remember, Uncle Mo has just two wins this year while the filly has five with a victory over older males.

"I wasn't surprised he was made the (5-2) favorite," the colt's trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I anticipated him to be in that range somewhere at 3-1 or so."

Both horses are speed runners as is Uncle Mo's stablemate Stay Thirsty.

"He's proven at the mile and a quarter, and I think he's a horse that might have a lot to say at the end of it," Pletcher noted about Stay Thirsty.

All three horses drew outside posts in the 13-horse Classic field. Uncle Mo will be ridden by John Velazquez from post 12 and Javier Castellano has the mount on Stay Thirsty, 12-1 in the program, from the nine hole.

"I'm OK with it," Pletcher said about the favorite's post. "He gets away from the gate pretty well. I think he's doing as well as he could possibly be doing. We're really pleased with the way he ran in the Kelso and the way he's trained since. He's settled here well and we're optimistic. It's a tall order. We've come a long way since the beginning of May (sidelined by liver ailment) and we're hoping we can get all the way there.

"Stay Thirsty's doing great. He came out of his (Sunday) work super. He was really sharp this morning and had a great energy level."

Havre de Grace, ranked first in the National Thoroughbred Poll, will break from post 10 with Ramon Dominguez again in the saddle.

"I think we're in the perfect spot. A lot will depend on how fast they go up front, but we're happy with it," the filly's owner Rick Porter said.

The 5-1 third pick is European runner So You Think. The five-year-old drew post five with Ryan Moore getting the riding assignment from trainer Aidan O'Brien.

A winner of more than $7.5 million with 12 wins in 19 career starts, So You Think has never raced on a dirt track and I don't expect the New Zealand-bred is going win on Saturday.

Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert, is 10-1 with Chantal Sutherland set to ride from post eight.

"Game on Dude is a speed horse, so it doesn't really matter where he is," Baffert said.

Baffert's other Classic runner Prayer for Relief has been withdrawn from the race after spiking a fever.

Breaking from the far outside will be Pennsylvania Derby winner To Honor and Serve. The three-year-old colt is 12-1 with Jose Lezcano riding. Trained by Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve is another speed horse who will either set the pace or press it.

Mott's other horse is 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer who is 15-1 in the program and will be ridden by Mike Smith who won the Classic two years ago with Zenyatta. Drosselmeyer was second to Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and is a solid play on Saturday.

"My post positions are fine. With that long run down to the turn, I think it is ideal for To Honor and Serve. I think the 3 is also good for Drosselmeyer," Mott said.

Flat Out has drawn post two with Alex Solis riding. Trained by Scooter Dickey, the five-year-old is 6-1 in the morning-line off the Gold Cup win.

"We're in the gate, that's all I care about. If I could have chosen I would have probably gone a little further outside," Dickey said about the post, "but we're just glad to be in there. It'll be up to (jockey) Alex (Solis). He's just going to have to get him a place and see how the pace develops. It's good. We're in the gate. We get to run."

Flat Out's running style appears to be ideal for the 1 1/4-miles. With two wins over the dirt at Belmont Park and two seconds at Saratoga this summer the veteran looks to be my selection for the 28th Breeders' Cup Classic.

Flat Out is owned by Preston Stables with only 12 lifetime starts. His bankroll stands at $1,109,713 with five wins and three runner-up finishes. Following just one start in 2010, an allowance victory in December at Fair Grounds, the horse has really come into his own this year.

Dickey's charge should lay just a few lengths off the lead during the Classic. He'll swing wide, if needed, around the final turn and drive to the wire giving Solis his second Classic win.

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