`Rock' will stay with Mile

Classic entry weighed, but Hawk Wing's work keeps 3-year-old on turf

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 24, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Europe's superstar miler, Rock of Gibraltar, will remain at his familiar distance and on his familiar surface Saturday in the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park.

Aiden O'Brien, his Irish trainer, entered the 3-year-old colt in the Mile on turf before post positions were drawn yesterday for the eight races. O'Brien had toyed with running Rock of Gibraltar, a winner of seven straight Group I stakes, in the Classic at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

Mike Dillon, racing manager for Alex Ferguson, one of Rock of Gibraltar's owners, said O'Brien would have entered the colt in the Classic if his primary Classic entrant, Hawk Wing, had trained poorly.

"He always felt the Mile was the right race for Rock of Gibraltar," Dillon said. "He felt it wasn't really the time to be changing distance and surface."

Rock of Gibraltar will be retired after the race. He will stand at stud at Coolmore in Ireland.

Mike Battaglia, Arlington Park oddsmaker, tabbed Rock of Gibraltar the even-money favorite in the Mile. He drew post 10, a possible disadvantage entering the first turn for a horse who has never raced on a track with left turns. European courses bend to the right.

In the Classic, Battaglia anointed War Emblem the 3-1 favorite, although he said Medaglia d'Oro (7-2), Came Home (4-1) or the Irish colt Hawk Wing (5-1) could be favored at post time.

The post-position draw flattered all of the other favorites, but it greatly hindered the chance of Toccet in the Juvenile.

The Laurel-based colt drew post 14, the far outside, which virtually assures a wide trip into the first turn of the 1 1/8 -mile race. John Scanlan, his trainer, had been optimistic about his chances before the draw.

"I was on cloud nine until I got slapped in the face with post 14," Scanlan said. "It's tough enough to get here. Now, everything has to go perfect, maybe a little bit better than perfect."

Can Toccet, third choice at 6-1 in the morning line, win from there?

"Yes," Scanlan said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

Undefeated Sky Mesa is the 3-1 favorite in the Juvenile, and the undefeated Storm Flag Flying is even money in the Juvenile Fillies. Azeri is 6-5 in the Distaff and Orientate is 5-2 in the Sprint.

Laurel-based Xtra Heat drew post six in the Sprint. Battaglia made her the co-second choice at 5-1 with Swept Overboard.

"That's fine," John Salzman, trainer and part owner of Xtra Heat said of the draw. "I had my mind made up that whatever we got would have to do."

European star High Chaparral, winner of the Irish and Epsom derbys, is 8-5 in the Turf. The California-based Golden Apples is 5-2 in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Voodoo Dancer out

The Filly and Mare Turf lost one of its contestants before the draw when Belmont-based Voodoo Dancer came down with a cough and runny nose.

Kazzia, a top contender in that race, galloped 1 1/4 miles at Belmont after missing three days of training with a foot abscess.

Honor for Rodman

Dave Rodman, voice of the Maryland Jockey Club since 1991, will call one race tomorrow at Arlington as a member of the Breeders' Cup "announcers all-star team."

"We know Dave is one of the top announcers in the country. His accuracy and quick wit are unmatched," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the MJC. "We are glad to see other people recognize his talent."

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