ELMONT, N.Y., Oct. 26 (UPI) -- While much of the attention has gone to the strong foreign contingent in preparations for Saturday's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races, several runners who have never needed a passport stand ready to make their mark in the $4 million Classic.
Sakhee, from the powerful Godolphin Racing stable, is the "glitz" of the 1 1/4-mile finale of the Championship day off his recent victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
But the morning-line favorite is Aptitude, trained by Bobby Frankel. Aptitude, runner-up in last year's Kentucky Derby, is peaking at the right time in his 4-year-old year. And Frankel -- in the middle of a storybook year in top U.S. races -- is looking to break an 0-for-36 record in Breeders' Cup events.
Frankel, a Brooklyn native now based in California, has six horses ready for the eight Championship races. He said Friday all are ready to go with Aptitude his best shot at a Breeders' Cup win. Since 1984, the first year of the series, Frankel has had 36 Breeders' Cup starts without a win. Although never in the winner's circle, he has posted five seconds and five thirds.
"I'd like to be a romantic and tell you all the stuff about New York, but just winning a race would be good enough. I'd take a Breeders' Cup win anywhere," he said.
Then there's trainer Nick Zito and his perplexing star, Albert the Great. Albert the Great, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, has been good all year but flopped badly in his last race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
"The perfect scenario is he has got to run his race that he has been running all year," Zito said. "He has had only one bad race and that was his last one. So, the perfect scenario would be for Albert to run his normal race and then he will run well, which is first or second."
Albert the Great galloped 1 1/2 miles on the main track Friday in preparation and will exit from post 9 in the 13-horse field.
Zito said he would have liked to have an inside start "but he didn't get 13 and we can be thankful for that."
The California-bred Tiznow is coming off foot and back injuries in his bid to become the first Classic winner to repeat.
"I'm not quite as confident as last year," trainer Jay Robbins said, "but confident he will run well."
Robbins said Tiznow has calmed down since arriving at Belmont, abandoning the headstrong behavior that had frustrated the trainer in recent weeks.
Trainer Bud Delp figures Aptitude, Albert the Great, Tiznnow and his Include are the horses to beat and said Include's win over Albert the Great in the Pimlico Special "was the best race run in the United States this year."
"I see in the group of selectors in the (Daily) Racing Form -- I don't know -- they made him (Include) second in the consensus with 55 points and they have Aptitude on top," he said. "I figure that Aptitude, Albert the Great, my horse and Tiznow (as the likely leaders). I don't know anything about the foreign horses."
Trainer Joe Orseno said you can't discount Macho Uno. Dismissing the 3-year-old's performance in the Ohio Derby as a result of colic in the preceding week, he said he wouldn't have entered last year's Juvenile winner and Eclipse champ if he were not ready.
Gander, who finished ninth in last year's Classic, has been preparing for Saturday's contest with his "girlfriend" looking on from the next stall. Heather's Promise was on hand when he won the Meadowlands Cup last month and trainer John Terranova said the two have been keeping each other company for some time now, although her presence had little effect on the 2000 race.
Co-owner Michael Gastas said he thinks things are really coming together this year for the 5-year-old gelding who was supplemented in last year's race.
"He just has to walk across the street," he said, adding that the pressure is off this year.
"He's beaten good horses like Broken Vow and Include and I think we're fortunate to get a jockey like Victor Espinoza. I notice that he's feeling good. He's got that swagger, like he's a confident horse, and he appears to be keener on the track."
The Classic headlines a 10-race, all-stakes card with more than $14 million in purses and championship honors on the line.