BY BROCK SHERIDAN
ARCADIA, CA—Trainer Chad Summers has made all of the serious final preparations with Florida-bred Clapton as the 4-year-old colt readies for the Grade 1, $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Saturday at Santa Anita Park. The mile-and-a-quarter Classic will headline nine Breeders’ Cup races worth more than $21 million on the 12-race card. Five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds worth more than $7 million will be featured during the Breeders’ Cup “Future Stars Friday” program the previous day at the Great Race Place.
The field for the Classic has been reduced to a dozen 3-year-olds and older after the defection of Grade 1 Belmont and Grade 1 Travers-winner Arcangelo, who was withdrawn Tuesday with a minor left hind foot issue.
But all systems are go for Clapton according to Summers, interviewed at his Santa Anita barn, on Tuesday morning.
“At this point in time you just start thinking how the race is going to go,” Summers said. “You start playing it over and over again in your head.
After working four furlongs in :48.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday, Summers has been putting Clapton through easy mile-and-a-half gallops.
“Clapton is super fit,” Summers said. “He galloped a mile-and-a-half this morning and he really didn’t want to pull up. He loves the cool air and is feeling good. He would have gone two miles if we let him, so we are very happy. He’s done everything perfectly.”
Clapton drew post seven but will break from post six with the departure of Arcangelo, who had drawn post one.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better draw,” Summers said. “We’re kind of right in the middle. With Saudi Crown in post six and Derma Sotogake (Jpn) in post five then you have White Abarrio in the three and then Arabian Knight on the outside—those are your main kind of speed horses.”
“Obviously Saudi Crown and Arabian Knight are the fastest of them and Arabian Knight is going to have to get over. So everybody is going to have to get out of his way. So we’re just going to sit back and let him get over.”
In winning his last race, the Grade 2 Lukas Classic going nine furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sept. 30, Clapton rallied from seventh, more than 10 lengths off the pace after the first half-mile, a running style that Summers said will benefit the son of Arindel’s Florida-based stallion Brethren.
“It looks we’re going to save some ground,” Summers continued. “The last two times we ran him in the Jockey Club and the Lukas Classic, he kinda got wide trips.”
“You know I’m not a math major, but if he can save a little bit of ground, at least going into the first turn, it will give [him] a little bit of something left for the end. To win this race, you’re going to need everything to go your way.”
Santa Anita will be the sixth track in the last six races for Clapton, who has raced at Gulfstream Park, Pimlico, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Churchill Downs in his last five races. Summers said Clapton has handled the vagabond schedule with aplomb and may extend his cross-country credentials to world traveler next year to run at Meydan Race Course in the home country of owner Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, who races in the name of RRR Racing.
“He’s done everything perfectly. You know we have another trip planned next year overseas to try to take on the Dubai World Cup so it’s kind of trial by fire,” Summers said. “This is his first trip on a plane. He’s vanned everywhere else. But he shipped on the plane like a pro.”
“He is just so classy. Mentally, he has just the right kind of makeup that you need to be a nice horse. He’s one to turn on and turn off. And that’s important when you are going to take on these kind of horses. I couldn’t be happier mentally how he’s handled everything.”
The kind of horses Clapton is set to face in the Breeders’ Cup Classic include 3-1 morning line favorite Arabian Knight, a winner of three of four career starts including the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 2; Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) a winner of seven of his last eight including the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in March; Grade 1 Whitney-winner White Abarrio; and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup-winner Bright Future.
Clapton has been labeled as a 20-1 outsider for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
Out of Alexandra Rylee, by Florida-bred Afleet Alex, Clapton was bred in Florida by Arindel, who campaigned him through his first 22 races before selling him privately to Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi.
Clapton sports a career record of six wins, four seconds and six thirds with earnings of $823,450.
Return to the Nov. 1 issue of Wire to Wire