NEW YORK (AP) – The injury is minor, the loss major: Horse of the Year contender Rock Hard Ten is out of today’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The loss was another blow to the richest race in North America, with many top horses out because of injuries or retirement. Among the missing are Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, Ghostzapper and Roses in May.

But there are plenty of stars ready to shine on Breeders’ Cup day, including unbeatens Lost in the Fog in the Sprint and First Samurai in the Juvenile, and Ashado makes her farewell appearance in the Distaff.

Injuries, though, have a way of popping up at the last minute.

“I’m very disappointed,” Rock Hard Ten trainer Richard Mandella said Friday, his 4-year-old colt injuring his right front foot after a morning gallop around Belmont Park. “But I’ve been training a long time, and once you get your senses about you, you’re thankful it happened here and not on the track when he could have broken a leg or gotten hurt badly.”

Rock Hard Ten, winner of his three races this year, was the second favorite behind Saint Liam, the Woodward winner who could win Horse of the Year honors with a victory in the $4.7 million Classic.

The 1 1/4-mile Classic will go on with a field of 13, and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. can’t wait to showcase Saint Liam.

“We’re all in, babe,” Dutrow Jr. said.

With Jerry Bailey aboard, Saint Liam is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the adjusted odds, with Pacific Classic and Jockey Gold Cup winner Borrego next at 3-1 and Australian champion Starcraft at 8-1.

The Classic may lack its usual star power, but the same can’t be said for the seven other Breeders’ Cup races.

Lost in the Fog is one of four undefeated favorites, the even-money choice in the Sprint to run his unbeaten record to 11 in a row and stake his claim as 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year.

“I want to win this race really badly,” Lost in the Fog trainer Greg Gilchrist said.

So do the trainers of the other unbeatens.

-First Samurai puts his 4-for-4 record on the line in a full field of 14 in the Juvenile, with all the other top 2-year-olds taking aim at the winner of the Hopeful and the Champagne. A win over the likes of Henny Hughes, Stevie Wonderboy and Private Vow and the colt becomes the early favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby.

“It’s time to tee it up and do it,” First Samurai trainer Frank Brothers said.

-Shakespeare, out 16 months with a severe knee injury, brings a 5-for-5 record into the Turf. The 4-year-old son of Theatrical is coming off a win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

“It’s not like he’s won 16 races in a row,” said trainer Bill Mott, who saddled Cigar to 16 straight wins in 1995-96. “There’s really no added pressure.”

-Leroidesanimaux, trained by Bobby Frankel, brings an eight-race winning streak into the Mile, where the horse bred in Brazil will face defending Mile champion Singletary. The 5-year-old Leroidesanimaux is 3-for-3 this year, with a win in the Atto Mile at Woodbine his last time out.

“The thing that makes him so special is he tries so hard,” said Frankel, who has a 3-for-63 Breeders’ Cup record, including last year’s Classic win with Ghostzapper.

“He’s so competitive. He wants to outrun you; he wants to beat you.”

Ashado closes her brilliant career when the 4-year-old filly attempts to repeat in the Distaff for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Ashado goes off as a 2-1 favorite, and a first or second-place finish would catapult her past Azeri’s total winnings of $4,079,820 to become the No. 1 North American earner among female horses.

“I’d love to see her go out on a winning note,” Pletcher said. “As good as she’s been, it would be a fitting tribute for her to go out a champion.”

Ouija Board is back from Europe to defend her title in the Filly & Mare Turf. Bothered by a stress fracture much of the year, Ouija Board has raced twice this year, finishing seventh in the Prince of Wales Stakes before winning at Newmarket on Sept. 24.

“She’s doing fantastic right now, as good or better than last year,” owner Lord Derby said.

Bailey, who leads all riders with 14 Breeders’ Cup wins, will be aboard four favorites – Saint Liam, Shakespeare, Ouija Board and First Samurai.

“I think somebody will step up,” he said. “It’s just a matter of who.”

AP-ES-10-28-05 1547EDT


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