ARCADIA, Calif. — When trainer John Gosden saddled Raven's Pass to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic a year ago, it was considered by many a major upset.
In hindsight, according to Gosden, the result was anything but a shock.
Gosden's astute knowledge and horsemanship is rivaled by few on the backside and, on Tuesday, the three-time Breeders' Cup winner broke down just why his former charge Raven's Pass was an ideal candidate to take down defending race winner Curlin last season.
The nature of synthetic tracks like Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface tend to play most favorably toward horses with great finishing speed, Gosden contends, whereas horses who tend to "gallop strong the whole way" often find themselves caught by the horse with the high cruising speed and acceleration.
"There is no doubt the synthetics favor horses that have a turn of foot," Gosden explained. "You will find if you watch a lot of races on the synthetic, the last quarter is run by horses going faster probably than they did in the first quarter — and that was certainly the case in the Breeders' Cup here last year in the Classic.
"The finishing speed of Raven's Pass and (runner-up) Henrythenavigator was critical to them," he continued. "I think Curlin was the best dirt horse I had seen for a very long time ... but I think there was no doubt the last quarter our horses put in was very difficult for any others to answer."
Mushka puts in final move before Ladies' Classic
Mushka, winner of the Grade I Spinster Stakes at Keeneland via disqualification, breezed 3 furlongs in :383⁄5 Tuesday morning over the main track in her final official move for Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
The 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker is 2-for-2 on synthetic surfaces.
"We didn't want to do much on top of the race," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. "We just wanted her to feel the track, stretch her legs. She went well."
Lethal Heat will run only once
Although trainer Barry Abrams had previously expressed a desire to run his filly Lethal Heat in both the Ladies' Classic on Friday and the Turf Sprint on Saturday, the daughter of Unusual Heat was only entered in the $2 million Ladies' Classic.
The Turf Sprint was oversubscribed with 14 entries and Breeders' Cup rules do not allow a horse to run in two races if another horse is bumped as a result.
"If there is a horse that's excluded because Lethal Heat enters in that race, she will not be allowed to enter in both races," Tom Robbins, the chairman of the Breeders' Cup Racing Directors and Secretary's Panel, stated last week. "She'll have to declare on Tuesday at entry time which race she'll plan on running in."