LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Breeders' Cup VIII got some surprise alterations to its master plan yesterday.
A record 91 prospective starters were assigned post positions for Saturday's seven-race, $10 million program at Churchill Downs in the wake of these developments:
* Bruce Jackson, trainer of leading Horse of the Year candidate In Excess, entered his star colt in the Mile, not the Classic.
* Farma Way, the leading point earner in the American Championship Series, was withdrawn from the Classic because of injury.
* The owner of Cameroon, an alternate for the Turf, appealed to the Kentucky State Racing Commission in an attempt to get his horse into the race after Cameroon failed to draw in. Owner C. Gibson Downing's appeal was denied, but he said he might take the issue to court.
The decision to bypass the $3 million Classic, the world's richest race, was "a tough one," said Jackson. "I know I'm going to be criticized for it."
In the Mile, one of five $1 million races on the card, In Excess will face a field strikingly different from that in the Classic. In a field of 14, he will face six talented Europeans in a grass event often dominated by foreign horses.
Since In Excess had developed into a star on the main track, it had been widely assumed that he would run in the 1 1/4 -mile Classic. But all along, Jackson was noncommittal on which race he would choose, and he based his decision yesterday on a combination of factors.
"I've never really thought of my horse as a mile-and-a-quarter horse," he said. "He's worked very well twice on the turf here. He really seems to like it.
"We're going to do what's in the best interest of the horse."
Jackson said skipping the Classic should not adversely affect In Excess' chances of being voted champion.
"If anything, I think I've jumped into a hotter spot," he said. The Mile "looks like the toughest race on the card."
Should In Excess and Tight Spot, a winner of all five 1991 starts, run poorly in the Mile, there could be chaos among voters for the 1991 Horse of the Year award. Potential for tumult in the voting became even greater when Farma Way, another top contender, withdrew. His defection came when trainer D. Wayne Lukas felt the colt was not 100 percent.
"He worked fine Monday and cooled out fine, but we noticed a little heat in his right front ankle the next day," said Lukas. "He's got a little filling inside. Nothing shows on the X-rays."
Lukas said he called owner George Bunn at 9:45, 15 minutes before the closing of entries. The scratch saved the owner $360,000, the cost to supplement a non-Breeders' Cup nominee to the Classic.
"He said it was my call," said Lukas. "Coupling this with $360,000 to run and the fact we want to run him next year, it was probably better not to go."
Meanwhile, in a confusing series of events, a stewards hearing into the Cameroon controversy was scheduled for last evening -- with an announcement due early today so as to allow early wagering on the national Pick-7 to proceed as scheduled -- but Downing said he might go so far as to challenge any ruling by obtaining a court injunction to get Cameroon into the race.
Ted Bassett, Breeders' Cup president, said that Downing, part-owner of Cameroon, complained to the state commission that Cameroon was being illegally denied a spot in the $2 million Turf.
In a field of 14, the top eight Breeders' Cup point-earners throughout the year are automatic starters, with the next six selected by a Breeders' Cup committee. When a horse drops out, horses draw in off an alternates list. Cup officials ruled that insufficient scratches denied Cameroon, the sixth preferred alternate, a starting berth, while Gibson said Cameroon had become the No. 8 point earner after several rivals were declared.
Cameroon, who undoubtedly would have been an extreme long shot, had most recently won an allowance race at Keeneland.
Discussions among Downing and Cup officials held up the post-position draw by at least 45 minutes.
The slight morning-line favorite in the Turf is Sky Classic, a Canadian colt who has won his past six starts.
NOTES: Supplementary entries cost 12 percent of the gross purse. There were 3 this year, each for $120,000: Bertrando (Juvenile), Agincourt (Juvenile) and Star of Cozzene (Mile). . . . Farma Way's defection still cost Bunn a $120,000 pre-entry fee. . . . Other Horse of the Year possibles: Festin, Housebuster, Dance Smartly, Black Tie Affair. . . . Unbridled will wear saddlecloth No. 7, the same number he wore when winning the 1990 Kentucky Derby here. . . . Because Churchill Downs has limited its fields to 12 betting interests, there are mutuel fields in 4 races. Laurel/Pimlico, with the potential to offer 14 interests, will instead follow Churchill's lead and will have an identical setup. . . . Laurel/Pimlico offers Triple wagering on the Sprint and Classic.
From sea to sea
European horses to win a Breeders' Cup event:
Year Horse Race
1984 Lashkari Turf
1985 Pebbles Turf
1986 Last Tycoon Mile
1987 Miesque Mile
1988 Miesque Mile
1990 Royal Academy Mile
1990 In the Wings Turf