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Catalano Likes His Breeders' Cup Chances

Churchill Downs Communications | 10/23/2008 #

Seven-time Arlington Park training champion Wayne Catalano knows a thing or two about winning the Breeders' Cup - scoring in his first attempt when Dreaming of Anna won the 2006 Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.

He has two horses entered for this year's Championship - Lewis Michael (Dirt Mile), a full-brother to 'Anna' and former $30,000 maiden-claimer Sugar Mom (Juvenile Filly turf) and the veteran conditioner likes what he sees.

Lewis Michael is no stranger to the Breeders' Cup, having participated in the last two editions without success.

We had a plan, and so far it’s played out,” Catalano said of his script for getting Lewis Michael to the Breeders’ Cup in good order. “We schooled him in the gate this morning, and in the paddock the last three days. We’ll go again (to the paddock) before the third race (Thursday). We wanted to get him in there with other horses. He used to be a little rough in the paddock, but he’s gotten better with age. We’re not going to leave any stone unturned."

Catalano is “concerned” with Well Armed (the likely Dirt Mile favorite), but says he wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

“I’m happy with the rail post,” Catalano said. “It puts us in a position to save ground. We’ll run our race, and hopefully win it.”

As far as the filly goes, from $30,000 tag runner to Breeders' Cup starter is a big move up by any standards but the 'Catman' is unphased.

“We think we have a legitimate shot, or we wouldn’t be here,” Catalano said.

Sugar Mom drew post position number eight amongst the field of 12, and although all three of her wins came from off the pace, Catalano hopes that she’ll be more forwardly placed on Friday.

“It (turf) is an unknown surface for her, but the way she worked over it a couple weeks ago has me thinking that she’ll be able to show a little more speed,” Catalano explained.

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When trainer Bret Calhoun first received the news that his Mr. Nightlinger had drawn post 14 for Saturday’s Turf Sprint, he didn’t know how to react.

“But after talking to some people, we’re actually pretty happy about it,” Calhoun said. “With the way the (downhill) course is set up, we go short right first, which should allow us a chance to avoid a traffic jam and get to a forward position. When we turn back left, hopefully we’re the one they have to come and get.”

None of Mr. Nightlinger’s turf sprint victories has come over a distance further than 5 ½ f, but Calhoun is not concerned at all with Saturday’s 6 ½ f trip.

“We really think he can go a mile, but with the success he’s had sprinting, and the Breeders’ Cup in the plans, there was no reason to play around,” Calhoun explained. “Next year will be a fresh start, so you never know. At the right time, we might try a mile.”

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Much is said of turf horses often taking to synthetic surfaces when given the chance.

One year ago, Go Between was a grass runner, taking the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. Now the Bill Mott charge is in North America's richest race - the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, which for the first time will be run over a synthetic surface - Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

The most experienced runner in the Classic (26 career starts) had a leisurely gallop of 1 3/8m Thursday morning in preparation for his seventh start on an artificial surface (3-3-0).

“We haven’t put him back on the dirt and the turf to see how it would compare to his recent races,” said trainer Bill Mott, whose mot recent Classic starter was Vision and Verse (seventh in 2000). “You’ve got to lock and load ’em and go around there and hope you have a good trip.”

Mott, who won this race with Cigar in 1995, considers this to be a solid field.

“We’ve got to beat everybody, not only Curlin,” he said. “He’s a very good horse, there’s no question about that. They’re lining up a number of good horses. It’s certainly not a one-horse race.”

Mott said he believes Go Between has found his niche on the new surfaces after spending most of his career on turf.

“I think between conformation and pedigree and the way they move, I think those are all indicators that they’ll like the synthetics,’’ said Mott, a five-time Breeders’ Cup winner.

“I think for a real good turf horse there might be a tendancy to like it or be able to adapt to it, but I think it’s an individual thing. It’s trial and error. It’s just one more thing on the list you’ve got to check off when you go through the process of trying to find out what these horses want to do best.”

Garrett Gomez will be aboard the son of Point Given, who drew the rail in the field of 12.