The weather was dreadful: Pouring rain. Thunder and lightning. It was an understatement to say the track was sloppy.
But assistant trainer Kevin Boniface wouldn't use the elements as an alibi yesterday when he assessed Oliver's Twist's third-place performance in the Maryland Million Classic two weeks ago.
"Everybody had to run over that track," said Boniface. "Sometimes, it's a little bit of an advantage for horses who have been over it 60 times rather than 15, but basically I think he just came up a little bit short."
The Preakness runner-up was making only his second start since he was eased June 17 in the Ohio Derby. And the Million distance -- 1 3/16 miles -- proved a little too demanding after only a seven-furlong tuneup.
"We laid him off with a bad bruise and, when he came back, we would have liked a 1 1/16th-mile prep instead of seven-eighths, but didn't get it," said Boniface.
"Then, in the Classic he went very wide off the turn and had to run a mile and a quarter instead of 1 3/16ths."
Had Oliver's Twist taken the Maryland Million Classic, he probably would have been on today's Breeders' Cup card. Instead, he will be the likely favorite in the $100,000 Governor's Cup at Laurel Park.
"We would have tried Cigar [in the Breeders' Cup Classic] had he won," said Boniface. "That was the original plan. But Oliver's Twist is only 3, and there's always next year."
The major competition for Oliver's Twist today is expected to be Short Stay, the winner of the Maryland Million Turf, which because of the weather was switched to the main track.
Short Stay recorded a 96 speed rating in that race by posting a five-length victory in conditions identical to those under which Oliver's Twist ran. Short Stay's race came immediately after the Classic.
"It was the exact track we had to run on," said Boniface. "So that was pretty impressive even though the competition wasn't as good."
Originally scheduled for the turf, the 1 1/8 -mile Governor's Cup was switched to the main track. Boniface hopes last night's downpours -- and the rain forecast for this morning -- won't mean a repeat of the mucky conditions that prevailed on Maryland Million day.
"I sure hope we don't get the same track," he said. "Oliver runs all right in the slop, but I don't think anybody wants that. This is his third race back and sometimes that's the best one. We hope that's the case."
NOTES: Two Maryland Million winners finished third in allowance races at Belmont Park yesterday. Million Classic upsetter Brilliant Patriot ran in a $46,000 event and Million Distaff victor Churchbell Chimes competed in $44,000 company. . . . A reminder that post time at Laurel today will be 11:05 a.m., with Breeders' Cup simulcasts starting at 11:55. There will be a 1 1/2 -hour interruption in the Laurel live card so that the final three Breeders' Cup races can be shown.