Going into Saturday, trainer Craig Lewis didn’t have a hotel reservation in Louisville for the Breeders’ Cup in two weeks, because he wasn’t sure his presence would be required.
Now, Lewis has at least two reasons to be at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Music Merci, who ran fifth while bleeding as the heavy favorite in the Norfolk last week, worked three-quarters of a mile in 1:12 4/5 after being treated with Lasix Saturday morning, encouraging Lewis to enter him in the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
About 10 hours later, Cutlass Reality gave Lewis a second reason to be Kentucky-bound. The 6-year-old chestnut needed a strong performance in the $220,400 Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita to earn a spot in the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Classic and he responded convincingly, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Lively One before a crowd of 29,426.
Lewis was more concerned about the horses’ performances than his hotel reservation. “I could always have slept in the barn,” he said. “I’ve slept in the stalls before.”
With Cutlass Reality’s owners, Howard Crash and Jim Hankoff, paying a supplementary fee of $360,000 to make him eligible for the Classic, the least the Breeders’ Cup could do is throw in some hotel rooms.
The 1 1/8-mile Goodwood may have included 2 more starters for the Classic--both trained by Charlie Whittingham--but neither Lively One nor Ferdinand turned in scintillating performances. Lively One had the length of the stretch to overhaul Cutlass Reality and wasn’t up to it, finishing 1 lengths ahead of Stylish Winner, at 67-1 the longest price in the 8-horse field.
Ferdinand, winner of last year’s Classic at Hollywood Park but winless in 6 races since then, went off as the slight favorite--there was $211 more bet on him than Cutlass Reality--and finished fifth, 7 lengths behind the winner. Making his first start in almost 4 months, the 1987 horse of the year and 1986 Kentucky Derby winner was unable to beat Cutlass Reality for the 3rd straight race, and now the idea of him also beating such horses as Alysheba and Forty Niner, who have never been better, seems like a Classic pipedream.
Whittingham has until Monday, when pre-entries are taken, to decide on his Breeders’ Cup plans. The pre-entry fee for each horse in the Classic is $30,000.
Timed in 1:47 1/5, Cutlass Reality won for the 6th time in his last 7 starts, earned $130,400 and paid $5.20, $3.20 and $2.60. Lively One paid $3.60 and $3, and Stylish Winner paid $8.60.
Slyly Gifted broke on top, but Cutlass Reality, breaking from the outside post position, was hustled into second, right alongside him, by Gary Stevens, and that’s the way they stayed for a half-mile. Cutlass Reality moved ahead with three-eighths of a mile to go and comfortably completed the run to the wire. It was Cutlass Reality’s 13th win in 63 starts and his 1st start ever at Santa Anita.
Cutlass Reality carried 124 pounds to Lively One’s 116 and Ferdinand’s 125. Whittingham wasn’t happy about spotting Cutlass Reality weight. “My horse hasn’t won all year and we’ve got to give the other horse a pound,” he said after the race.
Cutlass Reality hadn’t been away from the races as long as Ferdinand, but Lewis was still wondering if he had had enough training time to prepare him for the Goodwood. Cutlass Reality, finishing second, 10 lengths behind Cryptoclearance, in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Aug. 27, suffered burned heels in that race and then later was idle for 16 days with a bruised foot.
“We worked on that foot day and night, and fate was kind to us,” Lewis said. “I think this is a great horse. He’s beaten the best, he’s carried weight and he’s proved that he doesn’t have to carry his race track around with him. Gary gave him a great ride. We wanted to make sure that he wasn’t shuffled back early.”
To win back all of most of his owners’ supplementary fee, Cutlass Reality would have to finish at least third in the Breeders’ Cup. The first three places are worth $1.35 million, $675,000 and $324.000. “We’re confident we’ll finish in the money,” Lewis said.
Stevens planned to ride Cutlass Reality aggressively. “On the backside, he felt like his old self,” the jockey said. “He was pulling me right along. I thought he might be getting a little tired in the stretch, but he was still pulling away. He ran a big race and it should help him for the Breeders’ Cup.”
Lively One and Ferdinand, who won last year’s Goodwood before taking the Breeders’ Cup, were fifth and sixth, respectively, after a half-mile, which is the way they frequently run. “If you don’t get close on this race track, you don’t win,” Whittingham said. “If you’re not on the pace, you’re dead.”
Bill Shoemaker, who rides both horses, chose Ferdinand, and Eddie Delahoussaye got the mount on Lively One.
“My horse (a 3-year-old) ran a good race against those older horses,” Delahoussaye said. “I wish I could have been clear on the backside, but I was stuck down there.”
If it were up to Shoemaker, he would go on with Ferdinand to the Breeders’ Cup. “I didn’t think he ran bad,” Shoemaker said. “He was coming and trying, which was good for a horse who had been away such a long time. He needed a race, and this was encouraging. This was much better than those two bad races he ran at Hollywood Park. He finished today, he spit out the bit over there.”
If both Lively One and Ferdinand run in the Classic, Shoemaker left no doubt about his preference.
“Ferdinand’s been real good to me (his fourth Derby winner),” Shoemaker said. “I’m not going to desert him now.”
Horse Racing Notes
State security guards were assigned to watch the 8 starters in the Goodwood Handicap at their barns Saturday, the first time a stakes group has received such attention during the Oak Tree meeting. “It was done at least once at Del Mar,” said a track official. “It was just routine.” . . . The Goodwood was only the 6th time in 29 starts that Ferdinand hadn’t finished in the money. . . . At least 1 of the 8 starters in today’s Koester Handicap on the grass could earn a trip to the Breeders’ Cup. Mohamed Abdu, unraced since March, has been out with a chipped ankle. The Irish-bred 4-year-old won his first four American starts and finished fourth in the San Luis Rey at Santa Anita before he was injured. Deputy Governor, winner of the
Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar, carries top weight of 121 pounds in the mile race.
Maharesred, winner of the Gottstein Futurity at Longacres but unable to run in the Norfolk because of a cough, will run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. . . Nasr el Arab, winner of the Oak Tree Invitational, is out of the Breeders’ Cup Turf because his owner has other horses in the race. . . . Santa Anita was the 17th track Cutlass Reality has raced on. . . . Honor Medal, fourth in the Goodwood, has run his last 10 races at different tracks. Before Santa Anita, there were the Fair Grounds, Keeneland, Louisiana Downs, Sportsman’s Park, Churchill Downs, Longacres, Los Alamitos, Bay Meadows and Canterbury Downs.