NEW YORK -- Is there nothing In Excess, who won last Sunday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park, can't do? Is he the ultimate race horse?
"He is so versatile," said Jack Munari, who owns the Irish-bred son of Siberian Express. "He has blazing speed. He can sprint. He can go on the grass. He runs well on dirt. He can go anywhere you want. I will never in my lifetime have a horse like this again. I'm very, very lucky."
Munari got his hands on the steed from Ireland because In Excess was impossible to handle as a 2-year-old and was banished from the Emerald Isle.
Munari and his trainer, Bruce Jackson, made their mark in quarterhorse racing, including winning the Rainbow Futurity. When Jackson switched because he was tired of working nights, he brought Munari over with him.
In Excess, now 4 and cooperative, was a fine turf horse, winning half of his dozen career starts. But this year he was switched to the dirt and brought to New York from California. He has won the Metropolitan, Suburban, Whitney and Woodward, all Grade I races, in succession and is far and away the leading candidate to be Horse of the Year.
"He runs full out every time," Munari said. "Bruce had him as good as he can be and it paid off. The Eastern tracks are a little bit better for his feet than the harder California surfaces.
"It means a lot to us for people to say that he is a good horse. It was very important to me that we win this race. We want people to know that he is competitive with any horse, including those in California. We could have run him a lot more and won maybe $500,000 to $600,000 more in purse money. Who knows how much more we could have won? But there is more to life than money. We wanted him to be Horse of the Year.
The Breeders' Cup, to be held Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, will be the next step for In Excess, but Munari's connections say that they are actually mulling the $1 million Sprint, contested at 6 furlongs, or the $1 million Mile, held on turf, as well as the $3 million Classic, which is run at a mile and one-quarter. This is a matter of debate despite the fact that In Excess set a Belmont track record with a dazzling clocking of 1 minute, 58 1/5 seconds in the 1 1/4 -mile Suburban.
"We still don't feel he's a mile-and-one-quarter horse," Munari said to surprised turf scribes. "He could win the Sprint or he could win the Mile. We're pointing to the Classic but we won't run him in the Classic unless he is perfect. We have three options and it all depends on which way we want to go with him. If he's not 100 percent, we won't run in the Classic."
Meanwhile, another key player in the Woodward had a set of different opinions. D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Farma Way, was a winner with the look of a loser. Lukas had saddled Farma Way to a second-place finish, good enough to capture the $750,000 bonus that went to the top horse in the American Championship Racing Series, but not good enough to keep him in serious contention for Horse of the Year.