After an encouraging three-furlong gallop this morning under jockey Angel Cordero Jr. that indicated his ailing right forefoot is sound, Slew o' Gold is almost certain to run in Saturday's $3 million Breeders' Cup classic at Hollywood Park.
"He's 100 percent," proclaimed Dr. Jim Hill, who owns Slew o' Gold along with Mickey Taylor. "We would have to have a major reversal not to run now."
Trainer John Hertler said, "He wasn't the best he ever was, but we're pleased given the circumstances. It seems safe enough to run him. Unless there's a radical change, we'll start."
The 4-year-old colt will have a final three-furlong workout Saturday morning with exercise rider Mike Kennedy.
Running with a fiberglass patch designed to protect his abscessed right forefoot, Slew o' Gold covered three-eighths of a mile in 36 2/5 seconds and ran the final furlong in a solid 11 1/5. Cordero liked the move.
"With this horse, you can tell more than with others if he is not right," he said. "When something is bothering him, he holds back. Today, he was running free."
After working out Slew o' Gold one day last month, Cordero speculated that the horse wasn't completely sound. An investigation led to the discovery of two quarter cracks in the colt's right forefoot. Ever since, Slew o' Gold's handlers have sought Cordero's observations.
"Angel knows the horse so well and has been instrumental in keeping him sound," Taylor said. "His greatness as a jockey extends far beyond his ability to win races. Needless to say, we value his opinion."
Jud Butler and Robert Fritz, both New York-based veterinarians who have been attending to Slew o' Gold's foot ailments, applied the patch at about 4 o'clock this morning, two hours before the workout.
The patch extends laterally along the hoof and wraps between the sole and Slew o' Gold's special shoes, which he began wearing two months ago to elevate the foot and help keep it free from further infection.
"He was a little more comfortable this morning than he was last Sunday when the other patch was reset," Fritz said. "No problem that he has is in any way life threatening."
Taylor said, "He was very happy today. Last Sunday, he was grouchy and tough to work on. It's like he knew we were trying to help him."
Butler has shared his expertise, patching the infected foot of Canadian Factor, who will face Slew o' Gold for the fourth time Saturday after losing by a combined 25 lengths in the first three meetings.
"I can't say enough about the job he did," said Mel Gross, Canadian Factor's trainer. "Like Slew o' Gold, we didn't see the infection until this week, so we were really under the gun.
"Now we're back on schedule. The only problem is that we couldn't beat (Slew o' Gold) when we were healthy and he wasn't."
Veteran trainer Woody Stephens said he never worried about saddling horses with foot problems that required patching.
"We did it with Smarten, and he won six straight $100,000 races," Stephens said. "If anything, a patch will help a horse because it gives him a cushion that he didn't have before.
"Nowadays, the material they use is lighter and a little more flexible. These kinds of injuries are really pretty minor."
"If I thought he was hurting, I wouldn't ride him," Cordero said. "The only change today was that he was a little more quiet than usual. But that is his style. He is used to having a lot of people near him; he doesn't get excited."