Don't count Barclay Tagg out of the Breeders' Cup just yet.
The way Showing Up won Saturday's Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park has Tagg re-evaluating his plan to skip the Breeders' Cup Mile to point for the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 26. Tagg is also on the fence about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Nobiz Like Shobiz, who ran second to Scat Daddy despite a troubled trip in Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne.
Tagg was out of town Monday, but his assistant, Robin Smullen, said Tagg would spend this week evaluating both horses before deciding whether to pre-enter them next Monday for their respective Breeders' Cup races.
Smullen said Tagg was extremely impressed with the way Showing Up ran away from Outperformance in winning the Jamaica by 3 1/2 lengths. Showing Up ran his final eighth in 11.35 seconds en route to covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.81. Showing Up earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 107, equaling the best of his career.
That performance, coupled with trainer Aidan O'Brien's decision to run top Mile candidate George Washington in the Breeders' Cup Classic, has Tagg intrigued.
"I don't think it's out of the question," said Smullen, adding that owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson might spend the money to pre-enter "just to see what happens. God knows he's earned it.
"Every time you lead him over there he does something great," Smullen said. "I still think [Tagg] still wants to go to California. That's what he considers the right thing to do for the horse. He was very impressed with his kick. I think [Showing Up] impressed him more than he usually does."
Smullen said Tagg is also undecided about Nobiz Like Shobiz, who ran a winning race while finishing second, three-quarters of a length behind Scat Daddy, in the Champagne. Nobiz Like Shobiz was hampered at the break when Pegasus Wind and My Golden Opinion came over on him, forcing him to pinch back. Nobiz Like Shobiz eventually took the lead outside the eighth pole, but could not hold off the more experienced Scat Daddy, who won for the third time in four starts.
"We were pleased with his effort; we had a rough trip," Smullen said. "The horse will have learned a lot from it. He ran a winning race; he just got unlucky. I'd rather that happen now than the first Saturday in May."
Smullen said Tagg is torn between the Breeders' Cup Juvenile or waiting for the Remsen at Aqueduct on Nov. 25.
"He'd rather stay here and run in the Remsen," Smullen said. "He thinks that's best for the horse. But he's not ruling it out yet. We'll see how he is when he trains this next week."
Meanwhile, Smullen said Funny Cide was scheduled to have his final breeze Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic.
Master Command won't go to Classic
Todd Pletcher said Meadowlands Cup winner Master Command would not be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic, but rather the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24.
Still, Pletcher may have picked up another starter for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in Quiet Royal, who finished third in Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
A 3-year-old filly owned by the Wertheimer Farm of brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Quiet Royal was turned over to Pletcher following Saturday's race, which was her North American debut.
"She was going to stay with us after that race, anyway, and they felt she ran well enough to consider the Filly and Mare Turf," Pletcher said.
Pletcher said Quiet Royal would remain in Kentucky.
Pletcher also said he is now considering Friendly Island for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Friendly Island showed a new dimension by coming from off the pace when he finished third in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap at Saratoga on Sept. 2. A turf experiment failed when Friendly Island finished last in the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap last month.
"He's run some races that are fast enough for him to be competitive if everything sets up right," Pletcher said. "His race in the Forego was good. If they fly early, which they should, you never know."
Pletcher said he plans to pre-enter 14 horses to the Breeders' Cup, with four possible. The definites for the Distaff are Fleet Indian, Pool Land, and Spun Sugar. The definites for the Juvenile are Circular Quay, King of the Roxy, and Scat Daddy. The definites for the Juvenile Fillies are Cotton Blossom, Featherbed, and Octave. The definites for the turf are English Channel and Icy Atlantic. And the definites for the Filly and Mare Turf are Honey Ryder, Quiet Royal, and Wait a While.
In addition to Friendly Island, Pletcher's possible runners include Awesome Ashley for the Juvenile Fillies, and Flower Alley and Lawyer Ron for the Classic.