LOUISVILLE — Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hopes Saturday is the day he stops looking at Trappe Shot and wondering what might have been.
Ever since Trappe Shot sold for a sale-topping $850,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds-in-training auction, McLaughlin has believed the chestnut colt is capable of beating Grade I company.
Though such a triumph has eluded the 4-year-old son of Tapit in his 11 starts, McLaughlin feels the circumstances may finally be right in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.
Trappe Shot's four prior tries in Grade I races have produced two runner-up finishes, including a nose defeat to Sean Avery in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Aug. 7.
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With The Factor, Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford, and Tapizar all expected to battle for the early lead, Trappe Shot should get an ideal set-up for a late run.
"He's a serious horse and should be the favorite in my opinion," McLaughlin said of Trappe Shot. "The Factor, Shackleford, and Tapizar are 1,2,3 so they're going to have to go and we might get back further stalking them.
"He's a Grade I horse, but he hasn't won one of those yet."
The Dirt Mile has emerged as one of the more intriguing races on the Breeders' Cup lineup and could potentially have some impact on 3-year-old divisional honors.
If Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty and his champion stablemate Uncle Mo both fail to fire against elders in the Breeders' Cup Classic, The Factor — who has three graded stakes wins and one Grade I victory this season — could put himself in the discussion with a win.
"I think a lot will have to do with the way those other horses look in there," said Bob Baffert, trainer of The Factor. "There hasn't really been a dominating 3-year-old. I think (The Factor) and Uncle Mo, when you think of pure raw talent, are better than the other ones, and you don't know what Uncle Mo is going to do going 11/4 miles. That's the big question there."
History on the line for Sutherland in Classic
Female horses have stolen racing headlines for the past few seasons. Jockey Chantal Sutherland will try for a human interest story with a similar theme.
Sutherland has the mount on the Baffert-trained Game On Dude in the Classic, and a victory would make her the first female rider to win the race that is now worth $5 million.
Game On Dude and Sutherland have already blazed a trail. In their first pairing, the 35-year-old Sutherland guided the 4-year-old gelding to a nose win in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, making her first female jockey to take the race. She also was aboard him for his triumph in the Grade I Goodwood on Oct. 1.
"She's capable of a great ride and she knows the horse well," Baffert said. "This is her lifelong dream, that's why she stayed in California, because she knew if she stayed in Woodbine (in Toronto), she wouldn't get this kind of horse. She really fits the horse."
Uncle Mo back on track
One day after his absence from the track kicked the rumor mill into gear, trainer Todd Pletcher had Uncle Mo back on the Churchill Downs strip Wednesday morning, galloping 13⁄8 miles under Hector Ramos.
"This is his regular routine," owner Mike Repole said. "Usually he works and he kind of gets two days off. Todd has different systems for each horse. That's what makes him so successful."