As if losing Easy Goer, Sunday Silence, Criminal Type and Summer Squall wasn't bad enough, Saturday's $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic has lost another favorite _ Dispersal. Well, sort of.
Dispersal, the winner of five straight races, most recently the Woodward Handicap, was saddled with the No. 12 position during the post position draw Wednesday morning at Belmont Park.
Big deal? At Belmont it is. For the first time ever, the mile-and-an-eighth Classic is being run on a mile-and-a-half track. That means the 14-horse start will come right in the heart of the clubhouse turn, which could be a significant disadvantage for a speed horse such as Dispersal.
"Dispersal really got rooked," said Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Unbridled, which won the Kentucky Derby last May. "The problem for him is that he is so used to dictating the pace of the race. Now he won't be able to force anything. If I were Bud Delp (Dispersal's trainer), I'd be throwing up."
The feeling was almost unanimous.
"This was the worst thing that could have happened to Dispersal," said Shug McGauhey, whose horse, Rhythm, won the Travers last August and finished third to Dispersal in the Woodward. "That horse has speed. But he's going to have to use every bit of it to get the lead."
If either Unbridled or Rhythm wins the Classic, he probably will receive Horse of the Year honors.
Unbridled's path won't be easy, given that he drew the No. 14 position. But Nafzger said his horse is more accustomed to coming from behind.
"If I was going to be in the No. 14 position, I'd much rather have Unbridled than Dispersal," Nafzger said. "All this means is that our rider, Pat Day, better know where he's at. He's going to have to decide on a quick strategy the moment they open the gate."
McGauhey sees Dispersal's misfortune as an opportunity.
"I don't think Rhythm has ever been better than he is right now,"said McGauhey, whose horse will have the No. 7 slot. "He seems to be coming up to the Classic just right."
Other favorites in the Classic, which will be the last of seven races beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, are Izvestia, the Canadian Triple Crown winner, who has the rail position, and Flying Continental at No. 6.
That race could be upstaged by the $1-million Distaff, which features Go For Wand, the 3-year-old filly that has won 10 of her 12 starts. Easily the most popular horse at Belmont, where she recently won the Beldame, Go For Wand will have the No. 2 slot. The other favorite in what many consider a two-horse race is Bayakoa, the defending 1989 Distaff champion, in the No. 5 slot.
BREEDERS' CUP AT A GLANCE
What: The Breeders' Cup consists of seven Grade I races with purses and awards totaling $10-million.
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.
TV: NBC-Ch. 8, 1:30-6 p.m.
Post positions: The lineup for each race, 2C