ELMONT, N.Y. -- Some horses in the seven Breeders' Cup races at Belmont Park today seem obviously superior, but racing variables have emerged as major influences for the richest day in racing.
Injuries, the draw for post positions and even the amount of water in the turf course are likely to affect the outcome of the races.
It's the seventh year of the Breeders' Cup, in which purses total $10 million and the competition is supposed to consist of the best horses available.
The prospects for Go For Wand and Bayakoa were enhanced yesterday, when the 4-year-old filly Gorgeous was scratched from the $1 million Breeders' Cup Distaff with a fractured knee bone. Gorgeous, who was third choice, was favoring her left foreleg after cooling yesterday morning, and radiographs revealed a chip fracture of the third carpal bone. She has been retired with a $1.7 million bankroll.
"I just spoke with Mr. [Robert] Clay [the owner] and he's very disappointed," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "Since the spring, this was planned to be her last race. I don't know who he plans to mate her with."
The two richest races seem more wide-open because of factors that emerged yesterday.
Dispersal, probably the best of 14 in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic, drew No. 12 when post positions were assigned. Considering that the field starts in the middle of the first turn at Belmont, that hurts Dispersal's chances considerably.
"It's going to cost us three or four lengths," said Bud Delp, a Marylander who attained national fame as the trainer of Spectacular Bid, unbeaten Horse of the Year in 1980.
"He's going to have to run a Spectacular Bid-type race [overcoming all sorts of obstacles] to win it, but if he does, I think he should be Horse of the Year."
Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who went extremely wide while finishing second in the Super Derby, got the outside post -- No. 14 -- for the 1 1/4 -mile Classic.
The Classic is considered so open that a USA Today poll of 22 racing reporters produced votes for seven horses. Unbridled, Rhythm, Go And Go, De Roche, Flying Continental, Home at Last and Izvestia drew votes.
Heavy rain the past two weeks virtually has assured that the turf course will be only "good" today instead of the normal "firm."
That's bad news for several in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf, which has 11 horses entered to go 1 1/2 miles.
Roger Attfield is disappointed about the soft turf for the Canadian runner With Approval. He made plans to run the colt, but isn't expecting his best because of the footing.
However, for the three French horses -- Saumarez, In The Wings and French Glory -- and the English invader Cacoethes, the soft stuff seems to their liking.
"There always seems to be a little water in the turf over there [in France]," one French groom said. "We call it 'good' turf. Over here, maybe you would call it 'firm.' "
The favorite figures to be Saumarez, who won the Ciga Prix d'l Arc de Triomphe last time out.
French trainer Maurice Zilber said: "There is the Arc winner and then everyone else."
The $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile lost its star when Hansel wrenched an ankle and was withdrawn after bring pre-entered. That leaves Best Pal, easy winner of four races in succession on the West Coast, as a top contender with Fly So Free, who won the Champagne Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths here three weeks ago.