ARCADIA, Calif. - Had circumstances - and the race surface - been different, trainer Graham Motion would have had no reservations about running Whitney Handicap winner Bullsbay in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. But with Bullsbay losing a week of training time in early October because of a foot injury and with the Breeders' Cup being run over Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface, Motion opted to play it conservative and run in the $1 million Dirt Mile.
"If this race were on the dirt, we would not be having this discussion," Motion said. "We'd be running in the Classic, no doubt in my mind. Because of the synthetic angle, for me, I've got to err on the side of caution."
In Saratoga, on dirt, Bullsbay ran the two best races of his career, winning the Grade 1 Whitney by 1 1/2 lengths and finishing third behind superstar filly Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward. By winning the Whitney, Bullsbay earned an automatic berth into the Classic via the Win and You're In program.
Motion considered running Bullsbay in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont or the Goodwood at Santa Anita as a prep for the Classic. But one morning coming off the training track at Fair Hill, Bullsbay stepped on a metal-like object that almost went all the way into the frog, or the bottom part, of his right front foot. Bullsbay didn't come out of his stall for a week. Motion carries the piece around with him in his briefcase.
While not happy with the circumstances, Motion said he doesn't necessarily view it as a bad thing that Bullsbay is coming to the Breeders' Cup fresh.
"Probably the best thing that could have happened for him to run here was not to have a race in between, to have a freshening after two of the biggest races of his life," Motion said. "In some ways, I have mixed feelings that it might not have been a blessing in disguise. No doubt, it was not ideal. He missed a week, missed a breeze, maybe two breezes. If I was going to give him a freshening, I probably wouldn't have breezed him, anyway."
On Monday at Santa Anita, Bullsbay breezed five furlongs in 1:01.58 in company with Smart Bid, a 3-year-old who is running in Saturday's Damascus Stakes. Bullsbay, with Jeremy Rose up, started about three-quarters of a length behind Smart Bid and finished a neck shy of him at the wire, though he did shade 24 seconds for the final quarter.
"I was happy enough with it," Motion said. "He's not a flashy workhorse, never has been."
Bullsbay has run three races at Santa Anita, but they were in the winter of 2008, before the surface was converted to an all Pro-Ride surface.
The field for the Dirt Mile firmed up on Monday, the day before entries were to be drawn. Godolphin Racing announced that Girolamo and Regal Ransom would run in the Classic instead of the Dirt Mile. Richard Mandella, the trainer of Crown of Thorns, said he is leaning toward running his horse in the Sprint.
Those defections, combined with the fact Cowboy Cal (Mile) and Quality Road (Classic) are running elsewhere and the mare Sweet Hearth is not running at all, should allow Monzante, Neko Bay and El Galo Malo to get into the field. El Gato Malo has first preference in the Turf Sprint, and if he gets in that race, Cherokee Artist, trained by Motion, could get into the Mile field.