The lengthy list of horses who have dropped out of Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park grew by one very important name Sunday when trainer Ron Ellis said Twice The Vice won't run in the $1-million Distaff.
Twice The Vice, who would have been the favorite, suffered a slight fracture of the cannon bone on the lower left foreleg while training at Santa Anita. Ellis said the 6-year-old mare, the winner of the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood in July, will be retired and bred next year in Kentucky to Gone West.
With Twice The Vice out, the favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Distaff will be either Hidden Lake, who has won four in a row in New York, or the entry of Sharp Cat and Jewel Princess, who won the Distaff last year at Woodbine.
Twice The Vice is the third Breeders' Cup favorite to fall by the wayside in the last eight days. A week ago, Gentlemen, who would have been favored in the $4-million Classic, was shelved because of a virus. Formal Gold became the Classic favorite for five days, but he was injured while training at Hollywood Park last week.
Other Breeders' Cup contenders sidelined in recent weeks include Marlin, Rainbow Dancer, Influent, Desert King, Benchmark, Will's Way, Silver Maiden, Old Topper and Lakota Brave.
"Some of this is due to coincidence," said trainer Wayne Lukas, who has won a record 13 Breeders' Cup races and will start eight horses Saturday. "But another part of it is wear and tear. We ship horses around a lot, and that takes its toll. Also, if you'll notice, many of the horses that have gone out are older horses. They're showing the signs of having fought a lot of long, hard campaigns."
Ellis and his principal clients, Marty and Pam Wygod, hoped to run Twice The Vice and Exotic Wood last year at Woodbine, but they were injured during the summer meet at Del Mar. This year, besides the injury to Twice The Vice, the Wygods are on the outside looking in with Exotic Wood in the Sprint. Exotic Wood didn't qualify for the Sprint, either, because of points for high finishes throughout the year or by fiat of the Breeders' Cup's selection committee, and one of the 14 pre-entrants must scratch by entry time Wednesday in order for her to draw into the race.
With so many top horses missing, every rumor about a possible injured horse draws an ear, but Skip Away, the favorite for the Classic, appears to be in good shape after he worked five furlongs in 1:01 Sunday on a sloppy track at Belmont Park. His flight from New York is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"I'm very pleased with the way he worked," trainer Sonny Hine said, "but if it was any faster I would have been upset."
Eight horses are listed as probable for the Classic, but with the two early favorites out, Taiki Blizzard's camp is thinking about running in the 1 1/4-mile dirt race instead of the Mile on grass.
"The Classic would be an easier race for him," said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Taiki Farm. "There are [14 horses] in the Mile, and the turns are tighter. He likes the Hollywood Park main track."