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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Breeders Cup Classic: Will It Be a Battle of the Specialist Horseshoes?

racehorse horseshoes

Will it be 3/4 shoes by a head? Nailed on glue-ons by three lengths? Or tabbed glue-on shoes in an exciting photo finish?

As the Breeders Cup Classic draws near, it's interesting that publicity surrounding the three top contenders this year includes their hoof problems or use of specialty horseshoes. This comes on the heels of Mucho Macho Man winning the Classic last year in synthetic Polyflex glue-ons, so it should be no surprise that this year's Classic contenders would choose special shoes, too.

Shared Belief is the pre-race favorite. The undefeated California-based colt missed the Triple Crown this year because of his feet. According to press reports, the problem was a foot abscess that evolved into front and hind quarter cracks. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said in an interview this week that the colt will be wearing three-quarter shoes on both cracked feet, which are patched.

What does he mean by a three-quarter shoe, though? It could be a regular raceplate (shoe) with a shortened inside branch or it could be a z-bar, although he probably would have called a z-bar by name. And there are several ways to construct a z-bar, so it's hard to say what exactly is on Shared Belief's cracked feet, or who made the plate at its base.

California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes wearing a Thoro-Bred Racing Plate with a thick bonding between the shoe and foot. It's designed for gluing on, but horseshoer Judd Fisher chose to drill holes in the shoes and nail them on. Thoro'Bred's Ed Kinney sent an email saying the shoes were on Chrome for the Classic. The horse has no known soundness issues or cracks, they were just the horseshoer's choice for the horse's conformation and condition and they worked!

Tonalist was the spoiler who won the Belmont Stakes when we all thought California Chrome would win the Triple Crown. He also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in September. His wins were accompanied by publicity from the Ethos E-Tab shoe company that the colt wore their shoes, which appear to be Kerckhaert raceplates with tabs welded on, which are then glued. The glue pattern is unique in that it is limited to the tabs and does not lock in the heels.

Tonalist Travers preparation
Tonalist shows off his Ethos E-Tab shoes before the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August; he finished third. (Ethos E-Tab photo)

Tonalist was shod for his New York races by our old friend Bruce McCuan. Ethos confirmed today that Tonalist will wear the tabbed shoes again today and that Bruce shod him for the race.

Other Breeders Cup Classic runners have hoof recovery stories to tell, as well. Bayern had a quarter crack earlier this year; it kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he came back to defeat California Chrome in the Pennsylvania Derby this fall.

Shoes of the fast and famous: theses are actual Polyflex shoes off 2013 Classic winner Mucho Macho Man and Preakness winner Shackleford. They were on display at the 2013 AAEP Convention.

Prayer for Relief will run in the Classic in Polyflex glue-ons, following in Mucho Macho Man's fashion path. He's trained by Dale Romans, who had great luck with Shackleford in those shoes, as well.

Quarter cracks have always played a role in the Breeders Cup, going all the way back to 1987, when Ferdinand ran right by Alysheba in spite of his quarter crack, patched by Buzz Fermin, to win the Classic.

To Learn More:

Header adapted from a terrific photo by Linda Balon, Breeders Cup flag by Cindy Cornett Seigle.

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