Class Included, a 4-year-old who was named Emerald Downs horse of the meet this summer, will run in the Ladies Classic on Friday at the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. Class Included, which has 10 wins and six second-place finishes in 16 races, is listed as a 30-to-1 longshot.
Mike Feuerborn knows the long odds his horse is facing: 30-to-1 to be exact.
But he also knows Class Included, who he owns with his wife Amy, is one of the best fillies in Washington state history.
And Friday, Class Included takes a step up in class (“actually 20 steps up,” assistant trainer Kay Cooper said) when the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred faces the best female horses in the world in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. She will be the first Washington-based horse to run in the Ladies Classic.
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“We decided to give it a shot,” said Feuerborn, the breeder and owner of Class Included who first owned horses in 1986. “This has always been my dream and my hope. Everything that I do with breeding, from the mares I keep to the stallions I choose, they are all Breeders’ Cup nominated because this is something I always wanted to try for.”
Class Included has raced 16 times, and has never finished worse than second, with 10 wins. After dominating the competition at Emerald Downs this summer en route to winning horse of the meeting honors, she won two stakes at Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C., including the Grade III Ballerina.
Among her biggest fans is her trainer, Jim Penney, the 78-year-old Northwest icon who has trained a record five winners of the Longacres Mile, the Northwest’s most prestigious race.
“I like to judge horses by eras, but she’s probably the best I’ve ever trained,” said Penney, who is not known for throwing around superlatives. “She’s definitely the best of this era.”
Feuerborn began thinking about the Breeders’ Cup after Class Included waltzed to victory in the Emerald Distaff on Aug. 19. The question was whether to take her to Canada to run in a couple of stakes there, or to send her to California and try to get into the Breeders’ Cup.
But Bryson Cooper, the former jockey who is the husband of Kay Cooper, had an idea: Why not do both?
So Class Included won twice in Canada, including the Ballerina with Russell Baze, the winningest jockey in North America riding. She has spent the past couple of weeks in Southern California getting ready for the Ladies Classic.
Baze thinks enough of the horse that he flew to Southern California twice in the past two weeks to ride her in workouts. The question was which Breeders’ Cup race to run in: the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint at 7 furlongs or the $2 million Ladies Classic at 1-1/8 miles.
Feuerborn, with advice from Penney, decided on the more prestigious race. It didn’t hurt that Class Included’s past three races have each been at 1-1/8 miles and she has five victories and a second in six races at that distance.
Also, there are eight horses in the Ladies Classic and there would have been 11 in the Filly and Mare Sprint had Class Included run in that race.
“In a sprint race with 11 or 12 horses, more things can happen, and at a mile and an eighth, there is more time for judgment,” said Penney, whose only other Breeders’ Cup horse, Tortellini Roma, finished ninth in the 1987 Juvenile Fillies race.
The field in the Ladies Classic is considered one of the toughest in the history of the event, which began in 1984. Defending champion Royal Delta is the 9-5 morning-line favorite and Awesome Feather, undefeated in 10 races, is the second choice at 3-1.
My Miss Aurelia, the Eclipse Award winner last year as a 2-year-old, is unbeaten in six races and is 4-1 on the morning line, as is two-time Grade I winner Questing.
So it was no surprise to Class Included’s trainer and owner that she was listed at 30-1. But they draw confidence knowing she has won her past three races easily, and likely could have run faster.
“I think she will try really hard, because she always has and she has to be respected for that,” Penney said. “I give a lot of credit to her, and Russell (Baze) feels the filly has a little more left. He is really high on her.
“You know, running in this race is a really big deal.”
Feuerborn agrees, and he arrived at Santa Anita at the beginning of the week to be at the post position draw (Class Included drew No. 3) and soak in the prerace hype. He has always had a soft spot for Class Included, whose mother is A Classic Life, whom Feuerborn bought at a yearling sale.
Feuerborn said everything he has heard and seen indicates Class Included is primed for a great race. The question is, will that be good enough?
“My hopes are that we hit the top three,” he said. “That would be like a win for this filly against this caliber of competition. I would be as happy with a second or third as I would with a win, and that’s not discounting her chances to win.”
Breeders’ Cup, 1 p.m., NBCSN
|Breeders’ Cup challenge|
|Horses based in Washington, either at Longacres in Renton (until 1992) or Auburn’s Emerald Downs (1996 and on) who have raced in the Breeders’ Cup:|
|1984||Got You Runnin||Juvenile Fillies||9th|
|1987||Tortellini Roma||Juvenile Fillies||9th|
|2007||Smarty Deb||Juvenile Fillies||5th|
|*2010||Atta Boy Roy||Sprint||10th|
|*Raced at Emerald Downs in 2009, but not in 2010.|