EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Trainer John Kimmel scratched Timber Reserve from the Jockey Club Gold Cup last Saturday at Belmont Park when the track came up sloppy. Kimmel didn't want to risk the 4-year-old, who has battled foot issues on the wet strip.
So Kimmel went to the fallback position: the Grade 2, $350,000 Meadowlands Cup on Friday night.
Kimmel said the scratch of Timber Reserve from the Gold Cup was "strictly a weather call."
"My horse is just not that confident on a track like that, so we made the decision to keep him in the barn," he said.
Timber Reserve also avoided running against Horse of the Year Curlin, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and lifted his career earnings past $10 million to become the richest North American-based horse of all time.
"Curlin is tough enough as it is," Kimmel said. "He's probably even better on a wet surface. There won't be any Curlins in this race. Hopefully, we'll find a bunch of horses that will be a little easier for us."
Timber Reserve, last year's Pennsylvania Derby winner, faces seven rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Meadowlands Cup, the major event of a meet that runs through Nov. 15.
Last time out, Timber Reserve was a sharp third-level allowance winner at Saratoga, his first win, and only the third start, since the Pennsylvania Derby victory.
Kent Desormeaux will ride.
Pass the Point faced Curlin in his latest effort, a strong pacesetting second at 40-1 in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. A 4-year-old trained by Eoin Harty, Pass the Point earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort, the best of any horse in the Friday field.
"It was a monster effort," Harty said. "I was delighted with the horse's performance. I'm always a little dubious to go from winning a two-other-than to getting beat less than a length by the best horse supposedly in the world. Was it track condition? Did my horse genuinely improve that much, or was it right place, right time?"
The Meadowlands Cup will help answer those questions.
John Velazquez will ride.
Trainer Nick Zito dips into his deep pool of 3-year-olds to scoop out a pair of runners who pulled off stunning upsets this season: Da' Tara, the front-running winner of the Belmont Stakes in which Big Brown was pulled up, and Anak Nakal, who rallied from 11th to win the Pennsylvania Derby by a neck.
Completing the field are P V Lightening, Actin Good, True Resurgence, and Arson Squad.
The 10-race card, which gets under way at 7 p.m., also includes a pair of supporting stakes: the $65,000 Eillo for sprinters and the $60,000 Princeton for 3-year-olds going 1 3/8 miles on the turf.
In the Eillo, Silver Stetson Man has run the superior Beyers, 96 and 97, in his last two races with little to show for it: a sixth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar and a third in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park.
Edgar Prado, who rides Arson Squad in the Meadowlands Cup, will be aboard Silver Stetson Man for trainer Bob Baffert.
In the Princeton, Ready's Echo, third to Da' Tara in the Belmont, makes his second straight turf appearance. He ran fourth in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga in his grass debut.
- additional reporting by David Grening