Trainer John Sadler was in the Breeders' Cup limelight last year with Olympic Prospect, a top contender in the Sprint. The big chestnut gelding ended up finishing seventh on a muddy track he did not like, about four lengths behind Gulch.
A year later, the same horse and same trainer are back for a second try, yet they have spent most mornings this week in virtual anonymity, stabled in an almost empty barn in the far corner of the backstretch.
"I don't mind at all," Sadler said Friday. "Last year he deserved the attention. This year, let's face it, he's a longshot.
"I just hope they ignore him for the first eighth of a mile," the trainer added. "If they let him go early . . . Well, let's just say there may be a pleasant surprise."
With only two starts this year--one impressive win and one dismal loss--Olympic Prospect presents a difficult handicapping challenge. Sadler, however, said the key to his chances may be the lack of racing.
"Last year I might have pushed him a little hard," the trainer said. "He's always run best when fresh off a layoff, like right now."
Charlie Whittingham will get a police escort to and from the race track today. Highway patrolman Lester Marder has volunteered his services this week to the Sunday Silence camp, and he wants to make sure everything goes smoothly for Whittingham on the big day.
"I'm doing this on my own time," Marder said as he watched Sunday Silence in the paddock Friday.
"Anybody bothers these people or gets near the horse, I ask them politely to stop. I have to ask a second time, they go for a ride in my car."
For his unusual moonlighting, Marder will be getting a photograph of him feeding Sunday Silence a carrot.
"Hey, just being around this horse is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Marder added. "I haven't been to a Kentucky Derby yet, but spending time with a Derby winner is the next best thing."
Easy Goer was the early 1-5 favorite for the Classic, and Sunday Silence was second choice at 7-2.
Other early favorites include Caltech in the Turf at 4-1, the entry of Rhythm and Adjudicating in the Juvenile at 7-2, Steinlen in the Mile at 2-1, Bayakoa in the Distaff at 3-2, Trumpets Blare in the Juvenile Fillies at 2-1 and Mr. Nickerson in the Sprint at 7-2.
Among the obvious early overlays were On the Line, 8-1 in the Sprint; Ile de Chypre in the Turf at 22-1, and Present Value at 70-1 in the Classic.
Jockey Chris McCarron was asked if he had any advice for Kent Desormeaux, the Maryland-based rider who has dead aim on McCarron's single-season mark of 546 victories.
"The best thing I could tell him would be: 'Don't stop,' " McCarron replied. "When he hits 546--and I'm certain he will--he should run it up as high as he can."
Desormeaux got his 503rd winner of the year when he rode Nefario Cable, at odds of nearly 103-1, to victory Friday at Gulfstream Park.
Shug McGaughey, Easy Goer's trainer, was being pumped for the umpteenth time by a network television staffer looking for an interview angle.
"What hasn't been touched on that you'd like to tell people about the horse?" she asked.
"At this point I have no idea," McGaughey said. "But for goodness sakes, don't ask me 'How's he doing?' And please don't ask what kind of personality he's got."
Sabona, one of two horses in the Breeders' Cup Mile for trainer Neil Drysdale, will be running for a different owner today. A half interest in the son of Exclusive Native was sold this week to William O. Reed of Mare Haven Farm in Kentucky.
Sabona, a 21-1 shot in early Breeders' Cup betting, will run in the names of Sir Ernest Harrison and Mrs. Audrey Reed.