Breeders' Cup notes: Unheralded Moreno might have answer for trainer's critics

awincze@herald-leader.comOctober 30, 2013 

ARCADIA, Calif. — Go ahead and pile on. Roll your eyes at his frat-boy style hoodies and shorts. Discount the Cajun-toned smack that often falls from trainer Eric Guillot's mouth.

The Louisiana native maintains he doesn't care one way or another about those who judge him based on surface surveillance.

"I'm the most secure person on Earth," he said. "It's only bragging if you can't back it up."

And if you really want the 51-year-old horseman to brag, ask him about his Breeders' Cup Classic contender Moreno.

With two wins from 14 career starts, Moreno is the least accomplished of the 12 entrants in Saturday's $5 million Classic. However, the 3-year-old Ghostzapper gelding does fit the key profile of a horse heading in the right direction with on-the-board efforts in each of his last five outings.

Unfocused and troubled by soundness issues, Moreno — named for owner Mike Moreno — took 10 tries to break his maiden, winning by 61/4 lengths going a mile at Belmont Park on June 8. Once he got that winning thing down, hints of brilliance followed in the form of a 7-length victory in the Grade II Dwyer Stakes, a third-place finish in the Grade II Jim Dandy and runner-up efforts in the Grade I Travers and Grade II Pennsylvania Derby.

"He had more problems than a fifth-grade algebra class," Guillot said of his charge's early outings. "He was a thinker. He'd get himself worked up and if he wasn't 100 percent sound, some of them run through it but he was just too smart.

"When he turned 3 and started getting sounder, all his issues went away. His races started getting better and his confidence level is through the roof right now."

It could be argued that Guillot's abundant self-belief rubbed off on his Classic hopeful. His willingness to share every bit of his truth has earned Guillot his share of "haters," a group that gained more members when he accused jockey Luis Saez of using an illegal electronic device on Travers winner Will Take Charge.

An investigation by the New York State Gaming Commission exonerated Saez and trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Guillot apologized to Lukas on Monday, but he isn't the least bit sorry for acting on his beliefs.

"The people who don't know me, don't know me. The people who know me know who I am," he said. "That's why I don't worry about what the public thinks of me. I work every bit as hard as the guys who have 150 horses, but I do it in a different format."

Wise Dan bucks skeptics

Trainer Charlie LoPresti was asked whether reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan had lost a step in the wake of his loss in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 5.

Right on cue, the defending Breeders' Cup Mile winner answered himself, bucking and playing while being walked after arriving at Santa Anita Park on Tuesday evening.

"Do you think he's lost a step?" LoPresti said, gesturing to the champion gelding pulling exercise rider Damien Rock on the end of the shank.

LoPresti said Wise Dan's schedule for the week would mirror last year's initial trip to Santa Anita with his going to the Turf on Thursday and jogging on the dirt Friday.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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