Liam’s Map to Dirt Mile drastically changes Classic pace scenario

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 7th, 2015

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) lost its expected pacesetter when trainer Todd Pletcher revealed Wednesday that Woodward Stakes (G1) winner Liam’s Map will be pointed to the Dirt Mile (G1) instead of the 1 ¼-mile showcase event.

A neck second in the Whitney (G1) two back, Liam’s Map was still in the running for champion older male with a Classic win. The Dirt Mile represents a better opportunity for a second Grade 1 victory of the season but seemingly removes the colt from Eclipse Award consideration, with Met Mile (G1) and Whitney scorer Honor Code, who is Classic-bound, now guaranteed a head-to-head advantage over Liam’s Map.

Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Tonalist, who finished third in the Whitney two back, remains in the Eclipse Award race if he can post a Classic upset.

“He’s proven that he’s a brilliant miler and the two-turn aspect here, I think suits him very well,” Pletcher told The Blood-Horse of the decision. “We want to take our best shot at winning a Breeders’ Cup (race).”

The Dirt Mile will be a little longer than a mile due to the configuration of the dirt oval at Keeneland and Pletcher pointed out how the added ground should benefit the 4-year-old gray son of Unbridled’s Song.

But Liam’s Map also figured to be lone speed in the Classic and now faces the likelihood of early pressure at the shorter distance.

Appealing Tale, who outdueled Bayern on the front end of the San Diego (G2) three starts back, equaled a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating when leading all the way in the Kelso Mile (G2) at Belmont Park last Saturday and captured the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar in wire-to-wire fashion two starts ago. The Peter Miller-trained gelding will bring plenty of early zip to the Dirt Mile field.

Liam’s Map’s absence leaves no confirmed front-runners in the Classic line-up.

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah possesses speed but after getting burned on the front end of the Travers (G1), trainer Bob Baffert would probably like to see a target at Keeneland. Pacific Classic (G1) heroine Beholder used to be an early runner but is now employing stalking tactics to her advantage.

The remaining Classic probables are Frosted, Keen Ice and Smooth Roller. Possibles include Effinex, Gleneagles, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity and Red Vine.

Liam’s Map winning the Woodward courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography