Breeders' Cup Previews
BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY PREVIEWS
BREEDERS' CUP DISTAFF (G1), 9TH-SA, $2,000,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/8M, 7:35PM, 10-31
With the defection of Beholder, Friday's Breeders' Cup Distaff has turned into a wide-open affair. Some may argue that even with that dual Eclipse-winning filly in the mix, the 1 1/8-mile race was still up for grabs, but Beholder's love for Santa Anita Park would have been tough to overcome and it would have been difficult to pick against that talented miss.
Now with 11 fillies and mares left, the Distaff has shaped up to be one of the more contentious races of this year's Breeders' Cup. Any number in the field have a shot, but the track experience angle is still quite viable and has resulted in three price horses being tabbed below.
1ST -- First up is TIZ MIDNIGHT. The four-year-old bay is 10-1 on the morning-line after making her stakes debut last out on September 27 in the Grade 1 Zenyatta. Setting the pace from her inside post that day, the Bob Baffert trainee was just caught in the lane by Beholder while finishing only three parts of a length back in second.
It was a stellar effort from a filly who had never faced black-type rivals before, but Tiz Midnight had already proven her love for Santa Anita. The Midnight Lute miss brought a three-race win streak into the Zenyatta that started with an 11-length romp going the same 1 1/16-mile distance at Santa Anita on June 27. She also finished second and third in her prior two races at Santa Anita.
Tiz Midnight may not seem a likely winner when compared to others in the Distaff field, but her front-running style, winning experience over the track and inside post could result in a tour de force reminiscent of Beholder in 2013. The connections -- Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza -- only enhance her chances.
2ND -- Another reason to like Tiz Midnight is that in the Zenyatta she finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of another Santa Anita lover in IOTAPA.
That Afleet Alex four-year-old had finished worse than second just one time this season prior to her Zenyatta effort. That came when she cut back to seven furlongs for Churchill Downs' Grade 1 Humana Distaff in early May. Prior to that, Iotapa had finished second in both the Grade 1 Santa Margarita and Grade 2 Santa Monica while sandwiching a win in the Grade 2 Santa Maria between those two.
All three of those starts occurred at Santa Anita, and Iotapa put her Humana Distaff experience behind her when returning to that track for a 10 1/4-length romp on June 14 in the Grade 1 Vanity. The John Sadler pupil also took the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar in August and performed quite well in the Zenyatta considering she got off to a slow start.
Joe Talamo has been aboard for all but one of Iotapa's California starts this year, and the duo could put together a perfect stalk-and-pounce trip on Friday at 6-1 on the morning-line.
3RD -- BELLE GALLANTEY has posted 27 of her last 28 races in New York, with the lone exception coming at Delaware Park. However, prior to that the After Market mare began her career on the West Coast, first at Hastings Park in Canada before traveling south to Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar.
During those early starts, the chestnut put up a 4-2-1-1 mark at Santa Anita. For much of her career she's competed against claiming, starter allowance, optional claiming and allowance competition, and has passed through many barns after making her racing debut at Hastings in 2011 before finally ending up in Rudy Rodriguez's shedrow.
Belle Gallantey seems to have found new life with the trainer, who attributed the five-year-old's recent success to running her in longer races and getting her to relax. She made her stakes bow as a juvenile at Hastings, but has faced nothing but Grade 1 rivals in her past four races, starting with a fifth-placing in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in June.
Belle Gallantey was one-paced in that 1 1/16-mile contest while experience traffic problems, but wired the 10-furlong Delaware Handicap next out by 2 3/4 lengths. She was distanced in the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign on August 22, but the muddy, sealed nature of the Saratoga main track that day compromised her chances, according to Rodriguez.
The Kentucky-bred mare seemed to prove her trainer right when returning last out with an 8 1/4-length wire job in the Beldame Invitational back at Belmont, but was only made 6-1 on the morning-line against this group. Based on her prior Santa Anita experience, love of fast tracks and continued improvement, Belle Gallantey could jump up with another big win under regular rider Jose Ortiz.
OTHERS -- While all of the above picks are logical, many are focused on UNTAPABLE and CLOSE HATCHES for the Distaff, and well they should be.
The former has captured five of six starts this year, romping in four of those including the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, both Grade 1s. Untapable was no match for the boys in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, resulting in a well-beaten fifth, but got back to her winning ways in the Grade 1 Cotillion last out on September 20. The Tapit sophomore will be facing her elders for the first time in the Distaff, though, and was well-beaten in eighth while competing in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over this track. Though Untapable is not one to normally leave out of the exotics, taking a chance against at 5-2 seems worthwhile.
Close Hatches is looking to go one better than her second in last year's Distaff, and the First Defence filly has done well for herself this season (5-4-0-0) with wins in the Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps and Personal Ensign, all Grade 1s. However, the dark bay miss faltered on the lead in the Grade 1 Spinster last out at Keeneland, winding up fourth on that occasion, and her BRIS Speed numbers have dropped in her past two as well. Bill Mott trainees are not to be overlooked on big race days but, like Untapable, it seems reasonable to play against Close Hatches at 3-1 on the morning-line.
A quick mention of two others (this really is a competitive field) who could jump up in the exotics on Friday. DON'T TELL SOPHIA has run up a 5-4-0-1 mark this year that includes the Spinster last out while VALIANT EMILIA might continue the winning tradition of South American distaffers in this race. The latter mare is exiting a nice Peruvian Group 3 victory going 1 1/4 miles on June 22.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (G1), 8TH-SA, $1,000,000, 2YO, F, 1MT, 6:50PM, 10-31
by Jacob Kelly
The Juvenile Fillies Turf was established in 2008 and has one of the shorter lifespans of the current Breeders' Cup races. History does not bode well for the post-time favorite in this race, as the public betting choice has never been victorious. In the past two years viewers have seen an international-bred win, while U.S.-based horses captured the first four. This year features a field of 14 with two also-eligibles and includes five European shippers.
1ST -- QUALIFY enters in here off a three-length score going seven furlongs in a swift 1:22 3/5 in the Group 3 Weld Park, where she tried coming from off the pace for the first time in her career. The Fastnet Rock miss has to overcome the outside post, but the Irish-bred shouldn't have any problems with the two-turn mile and will be closing again. The Aidan O'Brien-trained filly could make it three in a row for the international-breds and give her trainer his first Juvenile Fillies Turf victory.
2ND -- OSAILA, also an Irish-bred, is another international shipper that could take this wide-open race. The bay has three wins from six starts in her career and is exiting a victory in the seven-furlong Tattersalls Millions Two-Year-Old Fillies' Trophy on October 4. The daughter of Danehill Dancer wants more ground and will likely be up near the pace, as she drew a good spot breaking from post position 2.
3RD -- The 7-2 morning-line favorite, SUNSET GLOW, broke her maiden on the grass at Belmont Park in June before shipping overseas to finish runner-up in the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. The juvenile miss is exiting back-to-back wins against graded company over the Del Mar Polytrack in August. The farthest she has traveled is seven furlongs, but the added furlong on Friday should not pose a problem as she is out of a Dynaformer mare. The gray daughter of Exchange Rate has been training well over the Keeneland turf for trainer Wesley Ward, and Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard for her last four starts, retains the mount.
OTHERS -- The Chad Brown-trained LADY ELI is undefeated from two starts and tough to leave out of the top three. The Divine Park miss exits a win in the slow-paced Grade 3 Miss Grillo, where she earned a 112 BRIS Late Pace rating, but her BRIS Speed rating only came back as an 81. There will be more speed in here and she might be a touch slow compared to her competition.
SIVOLIERE ships in from France with a career line of 5-3-0-1 and is making her first start for her new connections. The Sea the Stars bay is getting Lasix added by trainer Brown and will have Gary Stevens, who can't be discounted, in the irons.
BREEDERS' CUP DIRT MILE (G1), 7TH-SA, $1,000,000, 3YO/UP, 1M, 6:05PM, 10-31
GOLDENCENTS managed to wire last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile from the far outside 11 post position, and drawing the inside rail on Monday merely enhances his chances of doing the same exact thing on Friday for a second straight win in the eight-furlong contest. Fast tracks on big race days are a familiar occurrence, another thing that will prove beneficial to the Into Mischief four-year-old and another reason to pick him on top.
1ST -- Goldencents will have fewer starts under his girth entering Friday's Dirt Mile than he did in 2013. Normally trained by Doug O'Neill but running in the name of Leandro Mora while his conditioner serves a suspension, the bay colt has competed in just four races this year as compared with 10 last season.
Goldencents has been unplaced just four times from 17 career starts, with all but three of them coming in 2013 while on the Triple Crown trail. His only other non-top three finish came when shipping to Aqueduct for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap just 29 days following his Dirt Mile win last year.
The Kentucky-bred was seventh in the Cigar Mile and given plenty of time to recover, not making his four-year-old bow until June 7 at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. He ran second in the Met Mile while sticking close to the leader throughout, and filled the same spot in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby going six furlongs on July 27 after returning to California.
Goldencents earned his first win of 2014 when wiring the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien by 4 1/4 lengths at seven-eighths on August 24, and enters the Dirt Mile off a nose second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship while reverting to six panels.
Using sprints may not be the most traditional way of winning a one-mile race, but it proved successful 12 months ago when Goldencents finished second in the Bing Crosby, Pat O'Brien and Sprint Championship to prepare for the Dirt Mile. His BRIS Speed ratings have stayed about the same for those events, and jockey Rafael Bejarano stays in the saddle, as well.
Even at 6-5 morning-line favorite on Friday, it's hard to go against Goldencents.
2ND -- Goldencents may be the top pick, but the second and third choices could each go off at good odds, based on their morning-line.
VICAR'S IN TROUBLE, who was installed at 12-1 for the Dirt Mile, is following in Goldencents' hoofsteps in that he'll enter the Dirt Mile after competing on the Triple Crown trail over the spring.
The Mike Maker pupil captured the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby to earn his shot at Kentucky Derby glory, but suffered his only off-the-board run to date when last of 19 in the 1 1/4-mile classic.
Vicar's in Trouble was given about two months to recover from his Derby preparations and returned in late June to run third in the Grade 3 Iowa Derby. He followed that with another third in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby on August 2, but broke through with a 7 1/4-length romp in the Grade 2 Super Derby a month later.
The dark bay son of Into Mischief used the Grade 2 Indiana Derby as his final prep for the Dirt Mile, finishing a good second in that 8 1/2-furlong contest while competing at his seventh different track. Santa Anita Park will make it eight tracks in 11 career starts, and the sophomore will have John Velazquez in the irons for the first time as Rosie Napravnik has chosen to pilot Tapiture instead.
3RD -- CARVE has never competed at less than a mile in his career, and at that particular distance just twice, but the gelding could be in the right spot to pounce at 15-1 on the morning-line if the front-running Goldencents and Vicar's in Trouble burn themselves out.
Conditioned by Brad Cox, Carve's two one-mile efforts came this year when winning an optional claimer by 3 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs and finishing second in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap back under the Twin Spires on September 6. The four-year-old son of First Samurai earned his first stakes credit on June 28, taking the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, and he quickly added the West Virginia Governor's Stakes to his resume next out.
Carve was fifth last out in the Homecoming Classic at Churchill under Jesus Castanon but gets Mike Smith, aboard for his one-mile optional claiming score, in the saddle for this engagement.
OTHERS -- A number of runners in the 10-horse actually have a chance in the Dirt Mile, including Chilean import BRONZO. The Fusaichi Pegasus five-year-old was tabbed at 12-1 on the morning-line but, based on his past two races, could surprise in his U.S. debut.
Bronzo captured his last pair by a combined 12 lengths while going nine furlongs and 1 3/8 miles. However, the Jorge Inda-trained bay is no stranger to competing successfully at a mile and has been burning up the Santa Anita dirt since shipping stateside. In his last three moves, Bronzo recorded a half-mile in :47 1/5 twice and clocked five furlongs in :59 4/5 on Monday. He'll be getting Lasix for the first time in the Dirt Mile and brings regular rider Louis Torres along for the ride.
TAPITURE and FED BIZ are both listed at single-digit odds for the Dirt Mile morning-line and have the ability to live up to that status Friday.
Like Vicar's in Trouble, Tapiture suffered his only off-the-board runs while on the Triple Crown trail but has since captured the Grade 3 Matt Winn and Grade 2 West Virginia Derby while finishing second in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. The Tapit colt has proven capable of winning from off the pace as well as on the lead, leaving trainer Steven Asmussen and Napravnik with options.
Fed Biz is 3-0-0 from six starts at a mile and 3-1-1 from eight races on Santa Anita's dirt. The Bob Baffert trainee ran Breeders' Cup Classic probable favorite Shared Belief to a neck in the Grade 1 Awesome Again last out and has excellent credentials entering Friday's race.
Our biggest concern for the Giant's Causeway five-year-old is that he ran second, 4 1/4 lengths behind Goldencents, in the Pat O'Brien after defeating that rival in the 2013 edition of that race. Fed Biz, who was eighth in the 2012 Dirt Mile, would go on to be sixth in the Dirt Mile off his Pat O'Brien triumph a year ago. Based on those prior lackluster efforts, his 7-2 morning-line odds might be a bit low.
One last mention goes to 2013 Dirt Mile runner-up Golden Ticket, who could surprise but doesn't seem to be going as well this year as he was leading up to this same race 12 months back.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE TURF (G1), 6TH-SA, $1,000,000, 2YO, C/G, 1MT, 5:25PM, 10-31
by Jacob Kelly
The 2014 Juvenile Turf marks the eighth running of the race for two-year-olds going one mile on the grass. U.S.-based horses do not have a good track record in the seven previous races. The inaugural year of the race in 2007 and 2010 were the only times that an international shipper did not capture the Juvenile Turf. While the favorite has only won once, they have managed to hit the board on five different occasions.
1ST -- The European shippers will continue the dominance of the Juvenile Turf this year with WAR ENVOY. The bay colt is the most experienced in here with seven starts over five different turf courses. He finished fifth in his most recent start on October 5 in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, but closed well and was only beaten by 1 3/4 lengths. The fact he's getting Lasix added is just another reason to like this son of War Front while he stretches out to the one-mile distance for the first time. The Kentucky-bred is trained by the always dangerous Aidan O'Brien, who captured this race back in 2011 and 2012.
2ND -- STARTUP NATION won the first two races of his young career, but is coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Pilgrim as the 2-5 favorite on September 28 at Belmont Park. He lost some momentum when running into a wall of horses in the stretch last time out before finding room late along the rail. Look for trainer Chad Brown to have this dark bay colt ready to fire and pull the upset with decent odds.
3RD -- IMPERIA just missed by a neck in his debut in August. He came back the following month to break his maiden in the Pilgrim and received a 107 BRIS Late Pace rating. The Medaglia d'Oro juvenile should be coming on strong again in the end and will try to run down the leaders in the stretch on Friday. Imperia has been training well for Kiaran McLaughlin and the distance will not be an issue as he cuts back to a mile here after going 8 1/2 furlongs in his previous two starts.
OTHERS -- It is tough to overlook 3-1 morning-line favorite HOOTENANNY, who broke his maiden over Keeneland's Polytrack back in April in his first career start. Trainer Wesley Ward shipped him overseas, where the Quality Road colt showed promise on the turf by winning the five-furlong Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot in June. He has not raced since finishing runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Morny on August 24 and, while he's bred for speed, the mile distance may be too much for him.
COMMEMORATIVE is certainly one of the European shippers that can't be thrown out. The chestnut enters here with two wins over the grass at this distance and is out of Charlie Hills' barn, who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf last year.
INTERNATIONALS IN THE BREEDERS' CUP
OCTOBER 31, 2014
The international representation at Breeders' Cup XXXI is as deep as it is numerous. While the European contingent is always formidable in the turf events, the raiding party has some chances on the main track as well.
To analyze their prospects, we'll consider not only the strength of their form from home, but also which ones are likeliest to adapt to Santa Anita. The profiles of the Saturday runners will be posted Friday as Volume II.
BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY
WAR ENVOY has taken his time on the learning curve for Aidan O'Brien, but the War Front colt is finally getting his act together, and could be just the type to improve markedly at Santa Anita. O'Brien described him as "babyish" after his effortless debut win at Naas April 28, and he certainly ran like it in subsequent stakes. Ranging up before stalling to third in the June 2 Rochestown over the same course and distance, he was in the midst of an eye-catching rally in the June 17 Coventry at Royal Ascot, only to veer across to his left and cost himself dearly in ninth. War Envoy was a non-threatening third in first-time blinkers in the June 28 Railway at the Curragh, but showed more without the headgear when a much sharper third in the August 31 Round Tower at the same venue. The combination of a stretch-out to seven furlongs, and the rider change to Ryan Moore, saw him turn in his two strongest efforts yet. He did his best work late for a close second to Estidhkaar in the September 13 Champagne at Doncaster, with subsequent Dewhurst hero Belardo back in fourth. War Envoy also closed deceptively well in the October 5 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, racing in the slipstream of his subsequently-demoted stablemate Gleneagles and finishing a close fifth. This great-grandson of 1988 Kentucky Derby heroine Winning Colors is well drawn in post 7.
WET SAIL, seventh in the same Newmarket maiden that marked Aktabantay's debut, won third time out in the manner of a potentially good gelding. By Henrythenavigator (sire of 2012 BC Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver), Wet Sail traveled conspicuously well in a six-furlong dash at Salisbury August 29. So easily was he going that he hit the front too soon, and Frederik Tylicki tried to wait before setting him down in earnest. He kicked right away, evincing the quick-striding action that should translate well to Santa Anita. The Qatar Racing brain trust took notice and swooped in to purchase him. Remaining with trainer Charlie Fellowes, Wet Sail took a class hike for the October 4 Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy and finished third to the exciting Limato, who mocked his pursuers by coasting unextended. But the runner-up, Mattmu, is a decent performer who came back to win the October 11 Rockingham at York. Wet Sail handled himself well in a 23-horse field at Redcar, so this field will seem small in comparison. The 15-1 shot will save ground throughout from his rail post.
AKTABANTAY has been a work in progress for up-and-coming trainer Hugo Palmer, who earmarked the 370,000gns Tattersalls October yearling for this race some time ago. The Oasis Dream colt should have broken his maiden on debut at Newmarket May 4, but he broke slowly, and raced greenly, before rolling a fraction too late. He was in the process of passing his rival when the wire came too soon for him. Next time at Nottingham May 20, Palmer observed that he was going through an awkward growing stage, and was still green. Aktabantay was easily best in his third try at Newcastle June 26, and graduated to the stakes ranks. Keeping on for second to the resounding Estidhkaar in the July 12 Superlative, he added cheekpieces for the August 30 Solario at Sandown. It was probably jockey Ryan Moore, rather than the equipment, that galvanized the wayward colt. Aktabantay looked surely beaten until he met the rising ground, and driven on by a willful Moore, he just headed Future Empire on the line. Although Aktabantay reportedly hated the good-to-soft ground in the Superlative and the Solario, he does have the rounded type of action that usually signifies the ability to cope with it. Palmer tried blinkers last time in the October 5 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, but rider William Buick got shuffled back, had to alter course and come around, and Aktabantay settled for a likely better-than-appears sixth. Something of an underachiever so far, he is eligible to benefit from the step up to a mile. But Santa Anita's two-turn mile means that he has to get himself organized a lot sooner, and new pilot Olivier Peslier could be the one to help. [Thursday update: Aktabantay's been scratched with a foot injury.]
HOOTENANNY is based with Wesley Ward in the United States, but it's his performances abroad that make him a top contender. He scored a coup for his freshman sire Quality Road in the June 17 Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot. Up front throughout, he opened up by a good-looking 3 1/2 lengths and zipped five furlongs in :59 -- just off the :58 4/5 recorded by the world-class Sole Power when repeating in the King's Stand earlier on the card. Hootenanny stepped up to six furlongs in the August 24 Prix Morny at Deauville, where he was worn down by the very soft going as much as by The Wow Signal, previously winner of Royal Ascot's Coventry. He was beaten only a half-length, with the smart filly Ervedya (later runner-up in the Prix Marcel Boussac) in third. Although Hootenanny could not emulate stablemate No Nay Never's success in the 2013 Morny, Ward interestingly believes that he can go a mile, while classifying No Nay Never as a pure sprinter. Ward's judgment is reassuring, since Hootenanny's dam is all about speed, as a Hennessy half-sister to Prioress winner Cat Moves. Possibly more problematic is the presence of pace rival Luck of the Kitten.
COMMEMORATIVE has a Juddmonte pedigree to swoon over, but the inexperienced, long-striding colt might find Santa Anita too sharp for his taste. By Zamindar, he is out of Revered, a full sister to Visit (past-the-post fourth in both the 2008 and 2009 Filly & Mare Turf), from the immediate family of Dansili, Banks Hill, Intercontinental, etc. Nevertheless, the Charlie Hills juvenile gives off the vibe of a colt whose strong suit will be relentless stamina. He was no match for another Juddmonte runner, Time Test, in a seven-furlong maiden at Sandown August 29 and lumbered up for fourth. Commemorative already needed a mile, and obliged at that trip at Doncaster September 11, in a performance more indicative of staying power than finesse. He reinforced that impression in the October 11 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket. The big colt galloped to the early lead, responded to challenges, and kept on pounding away. Despite drifting well out toward the middle of the course, he stayed a length clear, with Aktabantay's Solario rival Future Empire further away in third. With that kind of profile, it's no wonder that the Juddmonte brain trust planned to add him to the October 25 Racing Post Trophy. But they were put off by the prospect of rain-softened ground, and opted to try for the lucrative purse here. Unless Commemorative is a lot more agile than he's appeared on the straightaway, he could be at a disadvantage around a two-turn mile.
FAITHFUL CREEK needs a defection as the first on the also-eligible list [and will now get in following the ill-timed setback for Aktabantay]. The Brian Meehan pupil would need to lift his game to factor, but the addition of blinkers and Kieren Fallon may help. His most conspicuous formline is a distant third to Ballydoyle's highly-touted John F Kennedy in the September 13 Juvenile Turf at Leopardstown. But his prior efforts may put that in a less flattering context. Sent off at double-digit odds in each of his six starts, the Bushranger colt was only seventh in the July 30 Vintage at Glorious Goodwood, a race whose form has not really worked out. The same could be said of his second in the August 24 Criterium du FEE over a soggy mile at Deauville, with lingering questions about its merit. Should he not draw into this field, Faithful Creek has a back-up plan in Saturday's Juvenile Turf Sprint.
BRONZO shapes up as an able flag-bearer for his native Chile, whose expatriates Cocoa Beach (runner-up in the 2008 Distaff), Host (two-time Mile participant), and Infinidad (fourth in the 1987 Distaff) all performed creditably for other connections in the Breeders' Cup. Although the Jorges Andres Inda charge has been competing over longer trips of late, he was highly effective in the sprinter/miler range earlier in his career, and seven of his 11 wins have come between six furlongs and a mile. The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby star Fusaichi Pegasus has won three of his past four, his only recent loss an eminently forgettable fourth in the March 15 Gran Premio Asociacion Latinoamericana. That prestigious contest is a moveable feast around the continent, and this year it was at Peru's Monterrico, which favors the locally-based runners. Bronzo performed adequately as best of the shippers, but the form should not be read literally. He rebounded with an 8 3/4-length conquest in the May 3 Gran Premio Hipodromo Chile over 1 3/8 miles, and had no difficulty shortening up to 1 1/8 miles for his "Win & You're In" race, the June 27 Copa de Oro at Club Hipico de Santiago. Tracking the leader through honest splits, he rallied on the inside down the stretch and was already well on top at the mile mark in 1:34 3/5. The final furlong was a formality as he finished in 1:46 4/5. Bronzo has a history of running well fresh, and his Chilean form has a toehold in the U.S. already. Turco Bravo, a distant second in the aforementioned Gran Premio Hipodromo Chile, was a close third to onetime Dirt Mile candidate Valid in the October 11 Eight Miles West in his U.S. premiere at Gulfstream Park West (the rebranded Calder). On a more tangential note, Bronzo's broodmare sire, Chilean champion Memo, successfully transitioned to a California-based career in the early 1990s.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
OSAILA has competed in perhaps the two most productive races in this division all year, finishing fifth to Cursory Glance in both the June 20 Albany at Royal Ascot and the September 14 Moyglare Stud at the Curragh. The Albany's roster also included the likes of Sunset Glow (the Albany runner-up and Juvenile Fillies Turf rival), Malabar, and Alcibiades winner Peace and War, while Moyglare alumnae Lucida, Found, and Qualify all emphasized the strength in depth by capturing their next start in Group stakes. Although Osaila hasn't succeeded among the heavyweights, she has flashed quality. The Richard Hannon filly was second to a front-running winner on soft ground at Nottingham in her June 4 unveiling, and ran respectably as a maiden in the Albany. The odds-on favorite next out versus colts in a Doncaster novice July 17, she delivered a telling turn of foot to score by three emphatic lengths. Osaila was a little less straightforward nine days later in the Princess Margaret back at Ascot, wandering to her right while asserting. Up in trip to seven furlongs for the Moyglare, she stalked and stayed on, but couldn't quite match her leading rivals' finishing speed. Although the best on paper going in to the lucrative Tattersalls Millions Two-Year-Old Fillies' Trophy October 4, she had to work harder than expected to see off a challenge. That confirmed the impression from the Moyglare that the daughter of Danehill Dancer already wants more ground. The two-turn mile at Santa Anita, however, might not present the stiffer test she needs at this point. She will perform up to a high level, but could find another filly a trifle quicker. The 220,000gns Tattersalls October yearling is bred to go farther, as a full sister to Group 3 scorer Obama Rule, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Dance Design in 2010. Osaila's dam is a three-quarter sister to 1994 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victor Carnegie, and her second dam is 1980 Arc heroine Detroit.
QUALIFY comes off a career high in the September 28 Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh, and the Aidan O'Brien filly is entitled to keep progressing. An April 22 foal, she is also bred to excel with maturity. Her dam, the Galileo mare Perihelion, needed 12 1/2 furlongs to break her maiden and went on to finish second in the 2008 Park Hill over an extended 1 3/4 miles. Perihelion hails from the stout family of Workforce, Brian Boru, and Sea Moon, so the mating with champion Australian sire Fastnet Rock gave the resulting foal, Qualify, a needed dash of speed. Finishing well for fourth in a hot maiden at the Curragh June 27, she tried the July 24 Silver Flash as a maiden and nearly sprang a front-running upset. She was collared late by the smart duo of Jack Naylor (the eventual third in the Marcel Boussac) and Agnes Stewart (subsequent winner of the May Hill and second in the Fillies' Mile). Qualify easily broke her maiden over Dundalk's Polytrack August 17, but the forward tactics didn't pan out as well in the August 24 Debutante, where she tired to fifth, or the September 14 Moyglare Stud, where she faded to sixth in a loaded renewal. Handled patiently instead in the Weld Park, Qualify ratified the new closing tactics by drawing off to a three-length verdict in a fast time. All of her races so far have come at seven furlongs, but the two-turn mile on fast ground should be right in her wheelhouse. We would have put her on top if she hadn't been sandbagged by post 14, but at least she can benefit from the craftiness of Ryan Moore.
SIVOLIERE had something to recommend her even before she picked up Hall of Fame comebacker Gary Stevens. The blueblood daughter of Sea the Stars and Grade 3-placed stakes winner Sefroua, whose second dam is Coronation Stakes winner Sophisticat and whose third dam is Hall of Famer Serena's Song, clearly needs better ground to be competitive. Initially trained by Jean-Claude Rouget in France, she hit top gear in the final furlong to take her April 22 debut convincingly at Maisons-Laffitte. She won at the same venue in front-running style with ears pricked May 17, but disappointed on very soft ground in Longchamp's Prix Roland de Chambure July 13. Back on good ground for the Criterium du Bequet at the provincial La Teste de Buch, Sivoliere was a different proposition, storming up the inside with an action made for a fast surface. She was again hampered by very soft going in the August 23 Prix du Calvados at Deauville, but still gamely tried to close in third. Both of those losses also came at seven furlongs, but given her pedigree, there's no reason to think they were anything but ground-influenced. Now owned by Martin Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, Sivoliere has earned a vote of confidence from her new team to try this race in her U.S. debut.
PRIZE EXHIBIT has connections in common with Classic hopeful Toast of New York, but she's more than a traveling companion. Withdrawn from this week's Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale, the Jamie Osborne filly has been sold privately and will remain stateside with Jim Cassidy. She brings a lot of experience with eight starts under her belt, her last three in stakes. Her hot freshman sire Showcasing peaked at two, and her family is responsible for precocious types, so this figures to be her apogee. Short of room when fourth on debut, and a gallant second next time after running off loose prior to the race, she romped by nine lengths when adding headgear over Lingfield's Polytrack third time out. Prize Exhibit found 132 pounds too much in a Newmarket nursery (handicap for two-year-olds) August 2, but finished a solid fourth of 17, and rebounded with another nine-length rout on the Nottingham turf August 12. Her unplaced efforts in the September 4 Dick Poole Fillies' Stakes (rallying after being carried and altering course) and September 20 Firth of Clyde (racing on the unfavorable part of a course that clearly had a stands' side bias) are both better than they appear at a superficial glance. In her first try at seven furlongs in the October 4 Oh So Sharp at Newmarket, Prize Exhibit relished the added ground by staying on strongly late for third, missing by only a neck. Another furlong should help, but she's got to pick up a bit more quickly. Post 13 doesn't advance her cause.
WAR ALERT is second on the also-eligible list, and the Qatar Racing colorbearer doesn't have a persuasive resume. Her wins have come in a Windsor maiden and a Bath nursery, and she was fifth in her only stakes try in the Firth of Clyde, hanging left into the less advantageous part of the course. The daughter of War Front has some upside as a nicely-bred 270,000gns Tattersalls breeze-up purchase this spring, but she hasn't taken up any of her earlier big-race entries. As with Juvenile Turf also-eligible Faithful Creek, War Alert has an alternative entry in Saturday's Juvenile Turf Sprint.
L'AMOUR DE MA VIE surprisingly listed her first preference here, rather than the Filly & Mare Turf, and stuck with the decision at the final entry stage. Bred by the late Prince Saud bin Khaled's Palides Investments N V -- the breeder of two-time Distaff champ and three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta -- she was sold as part of his dispersal for just $30,000 as an unraced two-year-old at Keeneland November. Although by renowned turf sire Dansili, she is the first foal from the dirt sprinter Cuaba, a Smoke Glacken mare who was second in both the 2007 Gallant Bloom and Winning Colors. L'Amour de Ma Vie got a late start to her racing career as a four-year-old, but she has climbed the class ladder in a hurry. The Pia Brandt trainee ended 2013 with two taking performances on Deauville's Fibresand. Making a big move circling the field on the extreme outside in the Prix Lyphard, she ended up near the stands' side rail and still lost by only 1 1/2 lengths to the well-regarded colt Smoking Sun (best known to American fans for flopping in this summer's Arlington Million). L'Amour de Ma Vie had a much better trip next time in the Prix Miss Satamixa, drawn on the inside and rallying powerfully for her first stakes score. The big gray then made waves on turf in the Dubai Carnival, finishing a bang-up second to champion comebacker Certify in the January 30 Cape Verdi before capturing the February 20 Balanchine, turning the tables on Certify. The Balanchine runner-up was Flotilla (the 2012 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf and 2013 French 1000 Guineas star), who flattered the form when a subsequent third to South African supremo Variety Club in the Godolphin Mile. L'Amour de Ma Vie disappointed in the March 8 Jebel Hatta and was not seen again until Royal Ascot, where she was an outstanding second to course record-breaker Integral in the one-mile Duke of Cambridge. Her ensuing two starts -- a last of four in a tactical farce in the August 3 Prix Rothschild on soft ground at Deauville and a messy-trip ninth, again on rain-softened going, versus males in the September 28 Premio Vittorio di Capua at Milan -- should not be held against her. She's a speculative chance in the Distaff, but this year's edition is starting to look a little more open at the moment.
VALIANT EMILIA earned her spot here in light of the Breeders' Cup's desire for geographical diversity in the "Win & You're In" events. Thus a Peruvian mare has secured an automatic berth to a 1 1/8-mile championship at Santa Anita by winning a 1 1/4-mile Group 3 affair, the Cesar del Rio Suito, at Monterrico. The only prior Breeders' Cup contestant to represent Peru, Almudena, was unplaced in the 2012 Marathon, and it strains the imagination to see Valiant Emilia performing much better. To be fair, she was a progressive type at home earlier this year, and she apparently put aside her tendency to race on her left lead in her Breeders' Cup Challenge race on June 22, keeping to her correct right lead for virtually the whole stretch. Valiant Emilia's victory also looks solid in terms of Peruvian form, since the second and third, Shakita and Azarenka, had filled those same spots in the prestigious Gran Premio Asociacion Latinoamericana. That's more than just a continent apart from the caliber of competition in the Distaff, however, and this short-actioned, one-paced grinder looks in over her head.
Breeders' Cup News & Notes
Stevens: Bayern won't be on the lead
"He won't be on the lead -- Moreno will," Stevens said. "He doesn't have to have the lead. If I was on him I'd ride him just like I rode Beholder (in winning the Distaff) last year."
Stevens had Beholder in third, 1 1/2 lengths off the pace, before advancing nearing the three-quarter marker and pulling away to a 4 1/2-length win.
"He seems really happy. Of course, he loves Santa Anita. He has always trained well here. I hope we all have a safe trip.
"He needed his last race," the trainer added in reference to a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby on September 20, his first start in three months. "He didn't have the best trip. I think you will see a different horse Saturday."
Sherman repeated his relief in drawing an outside post, 13 in a field of 14, after a series of inside draws.
Although the Christophe Clement-trained Tonalist may have defeated older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup when competing outside of his age group for the first time, he isn't one of those sophomores who have caught up to their elders at this time of the year in terms of maturity.
"He's still learning. I would say there is much more to come," said Christophe Lorieul, the assistant to Clement, of the son of Tapit. "He's still a big baby. I just hope he never realizes how big he is. He's right above 17 hands so he's a big horse. He's got a real personality and is really a lot of fun to be around."
Yet another of the Classic's sophomores, Magalen O. Bryant's V. E. Day, stood in the starting gate and galloped 1 1/4 miles Thursday morning at Santa Anita.
The New York-based winner of the Travers Stakes is scheduled to be ridden for the first time by Southern California-based Joe Talamo, whom trainer Jimmy Jerkens thinks will suit his colt's late-running style.
"His name just popped into my head. I just thought he'd fit him for some reason," Jerkens said. "Not that I follow California racing that close either. He just struck me as a guy who wouldn't worry about it too much if he was far out of it. I think he blends into his way of going. I also like a jock with a good left hand. He has that. I think it's a big thing in the stretch."
The prospect of a sharp early pace in which others are doing the work is fine with Mott.
"That would be good. I don't see a problem with that," Mott said. "You'd almost like to see the field string out a little bit. Sometimes everybody gets a little better shot when that happens."
Prayer for Relief's trainer Dale Romans knows a thing or two about pulling a major upset in the Breeders' Cup. In 2011, his Court Vision upset three-time Mile winner Goldikova at a shocking 64-1. He sees some similarities between his longshot Classic hopeful Prayer for Relief and Mile winner Court Vision.
"I feel the same way about Prayer for Relief as I did about Court Vision," Romans said. "He's also an older horse on a major uptick. When these horses build their resumes that get them into this type of race, it causes a lot of wear and tear. Some of them may be tailing off a little and we're headed in the right direction."
Aktabantay out of Juvenile Turf
Jamie Osborne was trackside Thursday morning to see his Breeders' Cup Classic contender Toast of New York do a routine canter on the main track. Osborne who arrived in California Wednesday night, was happy with what he saw and reported the horse to be in good shape.
"I guess we won't know until Saturday how he is going to handle the track, but he seems comfortable on it. He is a big horse and weighs 550 kilos which is 30 kilos more than he was when he won the U.A.E. Derby in March.
"That has been a gradual progression and a sign of his growing maturity. Fitness-wise he is where I want him and that is my job. Jamie (Spencer) will do the steering and I will leave the race tactics up to him. I guess there will be plenty of pace in the race and 'Toast' will sit handy off the pace, but if the race turns out differently Jamie can adapt."
Pia Brandt could not be happier with her Distaff contender L'Amour De Ma Vie who jogged half a circuit with a pony before doing a steady canter around a circuit of the track.
"She seems to really like the dirt out here and she actually prefers it to the sand back at home. She is obviously very relaxed as she seems to sleep a lot in her barn. She is behaving very well out on the track even when being passed by hundreds of colts," Brandt said.
With trainer Richard Hannon in attendance, the 5-2 morning-line Mile favorite Toronado again looked well as he went through the gates with his big race jockey Richard Hughes aboard before putting in a regulation canter on the main track.
"Everything is good with the horse, and I'm very happy with him," he said. "I thought he was maybe a little quiet yesterday, but he was on his game today."
Newmarket trainer David Simcock saddles England's other runner in the race, Trade Storm, who comes to Santa Anita off an international success in the Woodbine Mile in Toronto in September. Simcock was at Santa Anita for the first time on Thursday morning to see Trade Storm and his Turf Sprint hope Caspar Netscher warm up on the main track before breezing on the turf under Jamie Spencer.
"Both horses had a blow this morning and I couldn't be happier with them," Simcock said. "They are in great form. Ian (Russell) has done a great job with them out here. All we need now is a bit of luck, they are both live contenders."
With regard to Trade Storm, Simcock added, "The track may be a bit tight for him, we'll have to see, but they should go a good pace which will really suit him."
Irish trainer Dermot Weld was at Santa Anita for the first time this week to supervise Mile contender Mustajeeb's turf work Thursday morning. His horse put in a pleasing piece of work in the company of a horse from local trainer Paddy Gallagher's barn. His big race jockey Pat Smullen was again aboard Mustajeeb for the work.
"I was very happy with him this morning," Weld said. "He went well on the track and changed his leads, which is important. I think he's ready to run a big race."
Smullen concurred with his trainer, "He's in very good shape, and felt good out there."
Alain de Royer-Dupre's Aga Khan-owned runner Veda continued her Mile preparations by going out on the track in the company of fellow French challengers Anodin (Mile) and Flintshire (Turf). The three-year-old daughter of Dansili put in the strongest canter of the three, without being asked to do too much.
Jonathan Pease, trainer of this year's Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas) winner Karakontie, was at Santa Anita on Thursday morning to see his charge visit the turf course for the first time this week.
Flaxman Holdings' racing manager Alan Cooper said after Karakontie's solid gallop on the turf track, "The horse is very well, he's back to his racing weight after his trip over here and is thriving here at the track. His trainer couldn't be more happy with him."
David Brown's Wind Fire, who will make her dirt debut in the Sprint, put in her strongest piece of exercise since arriving in California. With former jockey Kevin Darley in the saddle, she went out on to the main track shortly after 7 a.m. and galloped from the half-mile pole down the homestretch.
"I couldn't be more pleased with her," Brown said. "She is in tremendous form, really tremendous. I asked her to do a little bit more today and she did it really nicely. She loves the dirt out there and has taken to it really well."
The only European challenger in this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile is the Aidan O'Brien-trained The Great War, who Thursday morning saw the Santa Anita racetrack for the first time. The War Front colt followed exactly the same pattern as his stable companions Chicquita (Turf), War Envoy (Juvenile Turf) and Qualify (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and did a gentle canter out on the dirt.
"Saturday's race will be his first run on the dirt and we will just have to see how he handles it," O'Brien said.
Hardest Core in Million-esque form
Working Hardest Core over the testing terrain of Graham's Unionville, Pennsylvania, farm, Petty has helped orchestrate his return to a fitness level begetting a three-for-three 2014 season. Overall, the Kentucky-bred whose dam is a half-sister to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Gilded Time has won five of his last six races and six of 11 in his career.
"I'm really happy with him. I'm glad to have the team here too," Graham said of Petty and assistant/groom Brianne Slater. "I've known and worked with them for over 20 years and it's a team effort. That (comfort) takes a little bit of the pressure off."
While Hardest Core's work occurred later in the morning Thursday in order to work on the grass, his continued preparation will be earlier in the morning on Friday -- approximately 6 a.m. (PDT) -- to adjust to limited Breeders' Cup Friday training hours.
"He's in fantastic condition right now. I am really excited about the way he's been training up to this race. He's just been a little bit unlucky getting beat less than a length in those last three starts. He just needs a little more racing luck, but he certainly looks the part going in to the race."
Twilight Eclipse, a five-year-old son of Purim who has six wins in 20 starts, has been one of the most consistent grass runners in North America over the past three seasons and will get the firm turf he relishes. The world-record holder of 2.22.63 for the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Turf has certainly earned his keep.
Sold for the bargain basement price of $1,000 as a yearling, Finley bought him privately after his second start. The gallant gelding has gone on to earn just shy of $1 million.
"He's turned out to be a really good horse," said Finley, who has 65 horses in the syndicate, 30 of which are with Albertrani. "He's in the right program and Tom fits him to a T. Knock on wood, he's also been very sound. We've been extremely happy with him. I just hope he has a very good day on Saturday and none of the other horses in there have a great day."
"She's good when she wants to be good," Mott said. "She's temperamental about the surface that she runs over and maybe the type of trip she gets. She's not an easy filly. She's very talented and she's a multiple Grade 1 winner, but the ground has to be right for her and the trip has to work out well for her."
While stablemate Close Hatches, one of the favorites in the Distaff is consistent, Emollient is a challenge.
"She's fussier about the starting gate," Mott said. "She's an Empire Maker, which gives her that. Sometimes they're more peculiar about certain things."
BC Distaff hopefuls stretch their legs before big event
Breeders' Cup Distaff contender Belle Gallantey continues to work under the supervision of trainer Rudy Rodriguez from Santa Anita's Barn 68. Since arriving Sunday from their New York base, the two have been inseparable as the daughter of After Market has executed her final preparations.
On Thursday morning, the highly strung mare schooled in the paddock and galloped 1 1/2 miles at 6:30 a.m. (PDT) on the main track.
"So far so good," Rodriguez said. "She's doing very well and I just try to keep her calm and feeling good."
Claimed last December in her 36th start, the tall Kentucky-bred mare has shown marked improvement under Rodriguez -- her sixth trainer. After three consecutive victories in allowance races to begin the year, she contested four consecutive Grade 1 races on the East Coast -- winning the Beldame and Delaware Handicap.
"We have just had to keep an eye on the little issues she's had," Rodriguez said. "We just try to keep her happy. I think making them happy is really important with all of my horses -- that's what we always try to do and it usually works well for us."
Accordingly, a victory in the Distaff could have championship implications. Division leader Close Hatches -- who has three Grade 1 wins this year -- is also in the race.
"It would be good to win the filly and mare championship -- that's why we're here. It's a big race and she's in good form," Rodriguez stated. "Winning it would be something that's very special for her, the owners and me. The race is tough. We just have to hope she shows up."
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott leads the way in the Distaff records and will try for his sixth victory with Close Hatches on Friday.
Mott, 61, is 5-2-1 from 12 Distaff starts and has accumulated the most purse earnings, $5.76 million. He picked up his first win in the race with Ajina in 1997 and followed with a victory with Escena in 1998. A dozen years later, he started another run with Unrivaled Belle winning in 2010 and Royal Delta taking the 2011 and 2012 races.
Close Hatches was second to Beholder last year and emerged as a contender for the older female division title with three Grade 1 wins this year. However, she faltered as the 1-5 favorite in her last start, the Spinster at Keeneland. Mott hasn't been able to find a reason for that unexpected result, but says the Juddmonte Farms colorbearer is approaching the Distaff in good order.
"She seems like she acts good," he said. "We're in hopes that she just didn't like the race track over there. It's not the kind of thing you like to say about a champion filly; you think that they run over anything. She has run over a lot of different racetracks in the past. She's run well everywhere. Why she didn't run at Keeneland, I don't know. She never spent any time training over that surface. She galloped there a few mornings, but we never breezed her there."
Close Hatches had a routine gallop Thursday morning.
Spinster winner Don't Tell Sophia had a light Thursday morning with a combined jog and gallop and trip through the paddock under exercise rider Kerrin Meyer.
Trainer Phil Sims, who co-owns the six-year-old mare with Jerry Namy, knows what he would like to see when the gates spring open in Friday's Distaff.
"I'd love to see four or five of them hustle out to the lead. That will be fine as long as the seven (Don't Tell Sophia) is not one of them," Sims explained. "She will find her own position at the back of the field."
Don't Tell Sophia has closed from last place to win her two most recent races with Joe Rocco Jr. aboard both times. Rocco has the mount again Saturday.
"I think she can run that kind of race again," Sims said referring to the Spinster in which Don't Tell Sophia defeated Distaff foes Ria Antonia and Close Hatches. "She did the same thing in the Chilukki at Churchill Downs last fall in the mile race out of the chute, coming from way out of it."
Friday's race may not be the last hurrah for Don't Tell Sophia, who is scheduled to return to her homebase at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, early Saturday morning.
"I may bring her back for the Oaklawn series like we did this spring or maybe the Doubledogdare at Keeneland," Sims said. "It just depends on how she is and we will see how it goes."
Ria Antonia galloped 1 1/2 miles under Corey Black and visited the starting gate Thursday morning.
"She went to the gate with the blinkers on that she will race in tomorrow," trainer Tom Amoss said. "You want to practice like you play."
Ria Antonia will break from post position 9 Friday under Paco Lopez, a spot that represents the farthest out in the gate the three-year-old filly has started from in what will be her sixth outing for Amoss.
"I like it that we are toward the outside," Amoss remarked. "It gives you a chance to ride the race as it unfolds and that is something you may not be able to do from the inside."
Ria Antonia ran her best race of 2014 with a runner-up finish in the Spinster at Keeneland, where she remained before shipping to Southern California.
"I was very pleased with her race in the Spinster," Amoss said. "She took the heat of the pace and was still there at the end. She just got beat that day by a better horse (Don't Tell Sophia)."
Campbell family living the BC dream thanks to Private Prospect
Chicago-based trainer Mike Campbell said Thursday that having Private Prospect in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park was a "dream come true for the whole family." His wife, Janice, is a big part of the Campbell operation and son Jesse will be aboard the two-year-old son of Discreet Cat.
Campbell shipped the dual stakes winner, who was second in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity in his last start, to Santa Anita early to get the horse acclimated to his surroundings since the trainer said that he can be problematic in the paddock at times.
"I schooled him here a couple of times so the officials here can get used to him and vice versa," Campbell explained. "Plus, there's nothing like working over the track here.
"Aaron Gryder worked him here the other day (six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 on October 22) and I asked him for his honest opinion and he had only good things to say. I breezed him down the lane earlier in the week and he stood in the gate this morning. Everything is a go."
Fellow juveniles Daredevil, Carpe Diem, Angela Renee and Feathered all galloped 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita Thursday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher. Carpe Diem and Feathered also visited the starting gate.
Daredevil, the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Juvenile, is undefeated in two career starts, including a victory in the Grade 1 Champagne, with both successes coming on wet tracks at Belmont Park. Trainer Todd Pletcher expressed no reservations about the More Than Ready colt's ability to transfer his brilliance to a fast track.
"He trains really well on it. I thought his breeze on Saturday (going a half-mile over Belmont's fast dirt training track in :47 2/5) was as good as horses get," Pletcher said. "He's always trained very impressively. I never breezed him on a sloppy track, and he certainly handles it well. I think he's a good horse on any surface."
Carpe Diem is also two-for-two, with both starts coming over fast tracks. The son of Giant's Causeway broke his maiden with a 2 1/2-length front-running score at Saratoga in a five-furlong dash. While stretching out around two turns for the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, Carpe Diem showed a new dimension while stalking and pressing the pace before drawing off to a 6 1/4-length win.
"We were in a good stalking position, which is what we were trying to do," Pletcher noted. "It worked out well. I think he can be tractable and sit off a horse or two if he needs to."
Angela Renee is scheduled to seek her second straight victory at Santa Anita in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, having captured the Grade 1 Chandelier in her first two-turn start on September 27. The daughter of Bernardini, who finished first and second in her first two starts, has worn blinkers for her last two starts, including a distant third over a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga.
"John Velazquez, who rode her in her first two starts, said that he felt she was a little bit shy, a little bit intimidated, so we put the blinkers on. In the Spinaway, Johnny said it didn't matter if she had blinkers on or not, that she hated the slop," Pletcher explained. "So, being a timid, laid-back sort, we kept the blinkers on, and it worked out very good."
In addition to having a race over the Santa Anita track, she has been training over the track since the 1 1/16-mile race on September 27.
"She handled the track well. She's been out here for five weeks since then, so we'll see if that's an advantage or not," Pletcher said.
Feathered, who finished third in the Grade 1 Frizette over a sloppy Belmont track, is set to make her first start around two turns in the Juvenile Fillies.
"Being by Indian Charlie and out of a Dynaformer mare, I think she has enough stamina in terms of pedigree," Pletcher stated. "She's always been one we thought would stretch out."
While the juveniles will be making their first appearance in a Breeders' Cup event, trainer Kathy Ritvo is back for a third straight year.
Twelve months ago, Ritvo made Thoroughbred racing history at Santa Anita as the first female trainer to saddle a Classic winner when sending out Mucho Macho Man for a victory in the 1 1/4-mile contest. Mucho Macho Man, who also finished second in the 2012 Classic at Santa Anita, is retired to stallion duty, but Ritvo will take part in this year's Breeders' Cup with Sprint contender Fast Anna.
"If feels great to be back with another good horse," Ritvo said. "I 100 percent believe he belongs here."
Fast Anna is a sophomore son of Medaglia d'Oro out of champion Dreaming of Anna, the winner of the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Frank Calabrese's homebred joined Ritvo's barn at Gulfstream Park in January and debuted with a front-running triumph on April 12. The dark bay returned nearly three months later to win an entry-level allowance by 13 lengths at Gulfstream before trying Grade 1 company in the King's Bishop at Saratoga.
Fast Anna set the pace before finishing second by a neck on that occasion and ran second again in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing last out on September 20.
"He's still learning. He has so much talent, we decided to go in this direction," Ritvo said. "He's gotten more relaxed in the paddock, more relaxed in his training. When we bring him behind the gate to school him now, he practically runs in. He wants to do everything right."
Fast Anna got noticed at Santa Anita on October 26 when he breezed five furlongs in :57, the fastest of 55 recorded at the distance.
"He had a fast work the other day, but he did it well within himself, and who better to work him than Gary Stevens?" remarked Ritvo, whose speedster is slated to be ridden by John Velazquez.
Ritvo, who underwent a heart transplant in November 2008, was the toast of the racing world last year following her history-making achievement in the Classic, but the mother of two is still deflecting the attention to Mucho Macho Man.
"I've watched the race a bunch of times. It was a huge accomplishment for him," Ritvo said. "He was the Mucho Macho Man."
As the Breeders' Cup winning breeder of 2012 Turf hero Little Mike, Carlo Vaccarezza knows what it takes to get a horse to the World Championships, but this time he's here as trainer of Filly & Mare Sprint contender Little Alexis, who is owned by the conditioner's wife, Priscilla, who is also the owner of Little Mike.
Little Alexis will be making just her fifth start and her first against older distaffers when she heads to post Saturday in the seven-furlong race.
"She's a very lightly raced filly," Vaccarezza said of the Mr. Greeley sophomore Friday morning. "When she broke her maiden (on February 9 at Gulfstream Park), she beat a good field including My Miss Sophia. Then we put her in a stakes race (the July 5 Cash Run) and she won again.
"Then she ran with the big fillies in the (Grade 1) Test (at Saratoga on August 2). She had trouble at the gate and on the backstretch, but when (jockey Jose Lezcano) started to really ride her at the top of the lane, she came running and I watched the video maybe 20 times and right after the wire she was two or three (lengths) in front.
"She ran impressive so we took her to the (Grade 1) Cotillion (last out on September 20 at Parx Racing). It was her first time two turns and the racetrack was extremely fast but she ran a good race. I think she deserves to be here and we'll see."
Asked to contrast the experience from 2012 to this year, Vaccarezza said it was somewhat different.
"It's a different feeling," he mused. "It would be unbelievable to come here and win first time as a breeder with Little Mike and then to come here the first time as a trainer and win with Little Alexis. It would be a huge achievement."
Vaccarezza added that his surroundings at Gulfstream have contributed to his early success as a trainer.
"I'm lucky enough to be in a barn with (Hall of Fame trainer) Allen Jerkens. It's like going to Harvard without paying tuition."
Joel Rosario rides the 15-1 outsider Little Alexis, who will start from post 2.
One of those lining up against 15-1 outsider Little Alexis, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario, in the Filly & Mare Sprint is the Gary Mandella-trained Living the Life.
Sergio Zepeda, chief assistant to Mandella, goes back a long way with the family. The 51-year-old veteran previously worked for Mandella's father, Hall of Fame trainer Richard, before joining Gary after he went on his own.
"I've been with Gary since he was a little kid," Zepeda said of his boss, who now towers over him at 6 feet, 4 inches. "I used to spank his butt and how he signs my check."
Zepeda has seen several stars develop in both barns and is optimistic that Living the Life is about to join that list.
"She's a really nice quiet filly around the barn," he said. "She acts like a pony. But on the track, she's all business."
The Footstepsinthesand four-year-old English import galloped 1 1/2 miles Thursday under exercise rider Alfonso Avalos as she seeks her third straight U.S. victory since joining the Mandella barn.
The Wesley Ward-trained Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint duo of Undrafted and No Nay Never left their Santa Anita Barn 34 and jogged up the Santa Anita hillside turf course and then galloped down to become accustomed to the dirt course they will have to cross during their race on Saturday.
No Nay Never -- the morning-line favorite and confirmed front runner -- broke off in front of closer Undrafted and slightly hopped while first hitting the dirt course. Still, the son of Scat Daddy lost no momentum and proceeded with his job. Undrafted crossed the dirt without issue and finished up well.
No Nay Never has been raced lightly throughout his career and will only be making his sixth start, but owns a French Group 1 victory in a turf sprint as a juvenile.
"I think he's going to break super sharp this time and the pace will be his," Ward said. "I think the downhill might actually help him. When he makes that right turn, they make a tiny uphill run and that should relax him as he heads back down the hill. I think everything will be fine.
"If they do go too fast up front, I think the race will fall into Undrafted's hands -- so I feel good about my chances with both horses."
Leparoux talks about his BC 2014 mounts
Fresh off of collecting his 2,000th career win on Wednesday at Churchill Downs, jockey Julien Leparoux will depart for California upon the conclusion of Thursday's local racing action to compete in his ninth Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on Friday and Saturday.
"It's the world championships," said Leparoux, who has five Breeders' Cup mounts over the two days. "Everyone in the world comes and it's a fun event. I remember watching it as a kid and it's something that is just really fun and cool to be a part of now."
Leparoux has won five Breeders' Cup races in his career: Nownownow (2007 Juvenile Turf), champion Forever Together (2008 Filly & Mare Turf), Furthest Land (2009 Dirt Mile), champion Informed Decision (2009 Filly & Mare Sprint) and champion She Be Wild (2009 Juvenile Fillies).
His three-peat at Santa Anita in 2009 won him the Bill Shoemaker Award as the top jockey at that year's Breeders' Cup.
"Obviously, 2009 was my best year," Leparoux said. "That was a year where we went into it with a lot of good shots and everything sort of came together. We won three so that was definitely my best memory."
Leparoux's first Breeders' Cup mount of 2014 will be in the first race of the Breeders' Cup, Friday's Juvenile Turf aboard Danny Boy for trainer Dale Romans. Leparoux sat on the Harlan's Holiday colt in a race for the first time in the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland on October 5 where he finished second, beaten a half-length.
"He ran very well at Keeneland," Leparoux said. "That was the first time on him for me and he closed well. He was still a little green and tried to lay on horses a little bit but the great thing is that now I know him a little bit better. The tough part is the post; we drew the far outside so that's something that can be very difficult to overcome but I expect him to run well anyway."
In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, also on Friday, Leparoux will ride Lady Zuzu for Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. This will be Leparoux's first mount on the two-year-old lass who is a daughter of Dynaformer.
"She was impressive (when breaking her maiden by 6 1/4 lengths) at Keeneland (on October 9) and D. Wayne Lukas just keeps telling me how good she is and how great she's been doing so I'm excited about her," Leparoux said.
On Saturday, Leparoux will get the call in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Southern Honey, whom he has ridden in seven of her eight starts. The most impressive outing for the Colonel John sophomore came in the Grade 3 Winning Colors on May 26 at Churchill Downs, where she faced and defeated older mares for the first time. Southern Honey followed that with a ninth-place effort in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on August 2, and most recently finished third and second in her last two starts, both Grade 2 events.
"There were no real excuses for her in the Test," Leparoux noted. "She was making some noise early in the race, and I think that's part of the reason why she didn't run any good that day. But she was so big in the earlier part of this year; she beat older mares here at Churchill and she's bounced back from that Test race with two solid efforts. If she can come back and duplicate what she was doing earlier in the year I think she can be a great filly. But I guess it ultimately depends on how she's doing on Saturday."
In Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Leparoux will ride Grade 3 scorer Ageless, who was listed as an also-eligible contender when the initial entries were released. She made the field of 14 after Free as a Bird was scratched from the race.
"We're excited that she got in," Leparoux said. "This is a filly that has run great all year. I think the worst she's finished this year is third. So really she's been doing all we've asked of her and she's been doing great. (Trainer Arnaud Delacour) tells me she hasn't missed a beat and I think she's going to like this race going six-and-a-half furlongs."
Ageless will have to break from the far outside in post position 14, which Leparoux does not mind.
"I think the outside is probably more preferable than the inside in her race because you are going right in the first part of the race (down Santa Anita's hillside turf course) so it's more like being on the inside when you draw the outside," he explained.
Finally, Leparoux will be on Sayaad for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Mile. Leparoux's only ride on Sayaad came in his last start when he finished third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile on October 4 at Keeneland. He will break from post position 11 in the Mile with morning line odds of 30-1.
"All year, even before the Shadwell Mile, he's been running decent races," Leparoux remarked. "The only one I think he won this year was going seven-eighths, but he's been running good races against very good horses.
"I don't think 30-1 is that big of a deal, I mean this is one of the toughest races in the whole Breeders' Cup so we'll see. I've only ridden him once but from that start and what I've seen it seems like he gives everything every race so we'll see."
Churchill Downs staggers weekend races to coincide with BC simulcast
Churchill Downs will have special post times for its 10-race programs on Friday and Saturday so the races coincide, but don't overlap, with a simulcast of the Breeders' Cup World Championships from Santa Anita.
Friday's card will begin at 2 p.m. (EDT) while Saturday's action will commence at 2:15 p.m. Admission gates at Churchill Downs will open at 12:30 p.m. both days.
A simulcast of the 10-race Breeders' Cup Friday card from Santa Anita will begin at 2:25 p.m. with the four events going off as the 6TH-9TH races (5:25-7:35 p.m.). Saturday's 12-race program at Santa Anita will start at 1:15 p.m., with the nine Breeders' Cup events going off as the 4TH-12TH races starting at 3:05 p.m. and culminating with the Breeders' Cup Classic at 8:35 p.m.
The final race at Churchill Downs on Friday (7:10 p.m.) and Saturday (8:15 p.m.) will conclude prior to the Distaff and Classic, respectively.
All Breeders' Cup races will be shown interspersed between live races on Churchill Downs' Big Board, the world's largest 4K ultra-high definition video screen that is 171-feet wide, 90-feet tall and towers 80-feet above the ground to top out at 170 feet high.
Additionally, $2 Budweiser/Bud Lights and $3 Stella Artois drink specials will be offered throughout most of the most facility on both days. A Breeders' Cup signature drink served in a souvenir Breeders' Cup glass also will be sold.
Churchill Downs will present stakes races each day. Fillies and mares will be showcased Friday in the 10th running of the $58,000 Dream Supreme at six furlongs. Saturday's card is topped by the 29th edition of the Grade 2, $200,000 Chilukki for fillies and mares going a mile and the seventh running of the $58,000 Bet On Sunshine for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
Customers who attend Churchill Downs on Friday will be able to advance wager on the entire Saturday program from Santa Anita. There is no advance wagering on-track Thursday for the Friday program.
Friday's special Breeders' Cup wagers include a $750,000 Ultra Pick 6 (Races 4-9), $1.5 million Pick 4 (Races 6-9) and a multi-day Double linking the Distaff and Saturday's Classic. On Saturday, there will be a $2.5 million Ultra Pick 6 (Races 7-12), $1.5 million Pick 4 (Races 4-7) and $3 million Pick 4 (Races 9-12). Also, there will be 10-cent Superfectas; 50-cent Trifectas, Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Pick 5s; and a $1 Super Hi-5 on the Distaff and Classic.
Reserved seating for Churchill Downs' "Breeders' Cup Viewing Party" may be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/tickets, in person at the Gate 1 box office or by calling 502-636-4400. General admission is $3 ($1 for senior citizens age 60 and up). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
NBC, NBCSN extend Breeders' Cup TV coverage through 2025
The Breeders' Cup and the NBC Sports Group Thursday announced an unprecedented 10-year media rights partnership extension that will keep the Breeders' Cup on NBC and NBCSN through 2025. The agreement was announced by Craig Fravel, president and CEO, Breeders' Cup Ltd., and Jon Miller, president of programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN.
As part of the agreement, NBC and NBCSN will combine to present at least eight hours of live coverage of the Breeders' Cup, including live primetime coverage of the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on NBC in 2016 from Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles, and in 2017 from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club outside San Diego.
The agreement is an extension of a current four-year agreement that began in 2012. That year marked the first time that the Classic was televised live in primetime. NBC broadcasted the first-ever Breeders' Cup in 1984. The new 10-year extension is the Breeders' Cup's longest and most extensive media rights agreement.
This past year, NBC Sports Group expanded its Breeders' Cup coverage; televising 11 programs of Breeders' Cup qualifying races from the nation's top tracks under the banner of "Breeders' Cup Challenge: Win and You're In."
"We're proud to extend our partnership with the Breeders' Cup as we continue to showcase the most prestigious events in horse racing," Miller said. "We look forward each year to concluding the horse racing season with two days of terrific racing at the Breeders' Cup."
The Breeders' Cup, Thoroughbred racing's most prestigious global racing event, consists of 13 races held over two days, worth $26 million in purses and awards. The culminating event of the Breeders' Cup, the Breeders' Cup Classic, is contested at 1 1/4 miles on the main track, for three-year-olds and older, and is often the determining race for the coveted Horse of the Year title. Over the years, 11 Breeders' Cup Classic winners have been voted Horse of the Year.
"We are extremely excited to extend for the next decade our outstanding relationship with NBC and the NBC Sports Group in televising the Breeders' Cup World Championships as a cornerstone of its long-term expanded commitment to Thoroughbred racing," Fravel said. "The Breeders' Cup has enjoyed an expanded and revitalized presence on NBC with new fans viewing the Breeders' Cup Classic hour and NBC's ability to cross-promote the Championships on its wide variety of platforms."
NBC Sports Group's coverage of the 31st Breeders' Cup begins Friday from Santa Anita Park with the live telecast on NBCSN from 5-8 p.m. (all times EDT), and coverage continues on Saturday from 3:30-8 p.m. on NBCSN; and from 8-9 p.m. in primetime on NBC.
NBC Sports Group's coverage of the Breeders' Cup will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group's live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets via "TV Everywhere," the media industry's effort to make quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.
For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app for mobile devices and tablets is available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on select Android handset and tablet devices within Google Play.
LoPresti: Enchanting Lisa 'reminds me more of Successful Dan than she does Wise Dan'
Fresh off an allowance win in her debut dirt start at Keeneland, Mort Fink's Enchanting Lisa will give the dirt another try in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Chilukki at Churchill Downs.
The half-sister to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan and multiple Grade 2 hero Successful Dan will be facing stiffer competition Saturday, but trainer Charlie LoPresti is optimistic about the move to dirt after the War Chant four-year-old made her first seven starts on either synthetic or grass surfaces.
"When we went to Saratoga with her, she trained really well on the dirt," LoPresti said. "Jose Lezcano wanted me to run her on the dirt after he breezed her but we ended up going to the grass race because we thought it might be a little easier. So she finished second in that turf race to a nice filly of Jonathan Sheppard's (Chat).
"After that Lezcano said, 'Next time you run this filly, run her seven-eighths or a mile on the dirt and they won't be able to catch her.' So we gave it a try at Keeneland and it ended up working because we won. Rosie Napravnik rode her at Keeneland and after the race she said, 'I guess your jock was right because I wouldn't ever run her on anything but dirt again.'
"Saturday is a little bit of an ambitious spot," LoPresti added. "I wish it was maybe a Grade 3. She's 10-1, which is probably about right on her, but if she hits the board it's going to really increase her value."
LoPresti compared her to Successful Dan more than Wise Dan because of her newly discovered dirt ability.
"She reminds me more of Successful Dan than she does Wise Dan," he noted. "It's mainly been because of the way she's been training on the dirt and the way she's looked on the dirt. But we're excited for Saturday and we'll see what happens."
Enchanting Lisa will break from post position 9 in the 10-horse field for the Chilukki, a one-mile dirt contest for distaffers, under jockey Robby Albarado.
Also at Churchill this weekend, trainer Steve Asmussen will start a pair of stakes runners beginning with Speedinthruthecity on Friday in the $58,000 Dream Supreme and culminating with Lemon Drop Dream in Saturday's $58,000 Bet on Sunshine.
Both sprinters are coming out of graded stakes performances at Keeneland. Speedinthruthecity finished fourth in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America on October 4 while Lemon Drop Dream filled the same spot in the Grade 3 Phoenix one day earlier.
Asmussen assistant Galen Prewitt said Thursday morning that Speedinthruthecity might not have been at her best in the Thoroughbred Club of America, and that he was looking for a big performance from her in the Dream Supreme.
"I know she finished fourth only beaten four lengths but I still think she may have been a little off that day," Prewitt said. "She came out of the race in good shape though and has been doing well since. I expect her to run better here at her home track on Friday. She's taking a drop in class and I think this race will set up nicely for her."
The four-year-old daughter of City Zip will break from the far outside in post position 9 with Ricardo Santana Jr. getting the call. She has been made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Friday's six-furlong contest.
Prewitt also said that he was happy to draw the inside in post 1 with Lemon Drop Dream, who will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
"We were happy to get the one-hole with (7-2 co-second choice) Lemon Drop Dream," Prewitt said. "He usually runs well when he can get to the lead early and on the rail so I think the race should set up perfectly for him on Saturday."
Vert de Grece romps in Criterium International
In a wipe-out of the domestic team, Saint-Cloud's Group 1 Criterium International was dominated by the British raider Vert de Grece, who slammed his compatriot Johnny Barnes with the German raider Sherlock bringing up the overseas trifecta.
Keen early in fourth under Umberto Rispoli, the 4-1 second choice stayed wide of the stand's side hedge as the 6-5 favorite Alea Iacta led the field over there in a repeat of the tactic employed when she was successful in the Prix Thomas Bryon. Whereas on that occasion, Kirsten Rausing's filly dominated the race alone up the straight, she had all rivals baying for blood here and it was clear passing the quarter pole that she would be unable to shake them off.
As stamina came into play, Vert de Grece was the strongest. After striking the front approaching the furlong pole, Roger Varian's new recruit drew away for an emphatic four-length success from Johnny Barnes, with Sherlock three-quarters of a length behind in third and Alea Iacta fading to be fifth.
Formerly campaigned by John Joseph Murphy, the gray followed a debut second to the subsequent listed winner Convergence over seven furlongs at Leopardstown June 6 with a win over the same track and trip August 7 before running second to Gleneagles in the Curragh's Futurity again over that distance last time August 24. Marking his debut for the Varian stable with a commanding performance in these prevalent testing conditions, he added further ballast to the reputation of his Curragh conqueror, who was so controversially taken down by the stewards after the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
"I talked to Mr. Varian last night and he said he didn't know him very well as he hadn't had him long, but that he was doing good and would love the ground," his rider said. "I was very impressed with him and he has a nice future ahead of him."
Varian added, "He hasn't been with us long, but he is a straightforward colt and we had been pleased with him in the build-up to the race. The step up to a mile has really suited and he has handled the soft surface well."
Vert de Grece's third dam is the Irish One Thousand Guineas winner Trusted Partner, the dam of Matriarch winner Dress to Thrill.
Also at Saint-Cloud Thursday, the well-bred Fate notched her first stakes victory in a three-way photo in the Group 3 Prix de Flore.
During her truncated career so far, the Alain de Royer-Dupre mare had looked to be building steadily towards the pattern-race win her pedigree demanded as a half-sister to the luminary Pride. Second in the Prix Corrida over this track and 10 1/2-furlong trip in spring 2013, the homebred was next seen winning a conditions event over 10 furlongs at Longchamp April 30, but went missing again following a last-of-12 effort in the latest renewal of the Corrida May 23.
A latest third behind Sparkling Beam in the Prix Dahlia over 10 furlongs here last time October 9, the bay was held up in rear with only one behind early and delivered a surge up the center of the track to join the rail-running Sparkling Beam on the front end with just over a furlong remaining. Her chief danger proved to be the late charger Bocaiuva, but she found the line in the nick of time to prevail in the blanket finish.
"She doesn't run very often, but each time she runs well," jockey Stephane Pasquier commented. "She is a very good filly in her own right and there was a good pace here, so I was not worried to be that far back. When I asked her, she responded well and was very courageous to the line."
Fate is also a half-sister to the dam of One Thousand Guineas winner Speciosa.
German raider Flamingo Star captured the Group 3 Prix Perth.
As the winner of the 2012 Herzog Von Ratibor-Rennen at Krefeld, Flamingo Star held genuine classic pretensions for last term, but following a second in the Bavarian Classic at Munich beat only one rival when 18th in the Deutsches Derby at Hamburg last summer.
Ironically, it was Prix de Flore heroine Fate who was in front when he was fifth on his return in that Longchamp conditions event April 30 before eventually getting back in the winner's spot in a handicap over 8 1/2 furlongs at Dusseldorf August 3. Fourth behind Godolphin's subsequent multiple group scorer Fractional in another Longchamp conditions race over this trip at the start of September, he made all to register an authoritative success in the Grosser Preis der Landeshauptstadt Dusseldorf last time October 5.
Re-applying that tactic here, Flamingo Star stayed toward the center of the track up the straight and warded off the threat of Visoriyna inside the final 300 meters before finding extra to assert close home.
Blockbuster Flemington card features quartet of Group 1s
It has been 20 years since trainer Gai Waterhouse saddled the winner of the Group 1 Victoria Derby, but if punters are correct, Australia's popular Hall of Fame trainer could be in line to collect the lion's share of that A$1.5 million prize Saturday with Hampton Court.
The A$500,000 Inglis Easter yearling has hit his best stride as late, taking the Dulcify Quality over a mile at Randwick October 4 before jumping up to Group 1 class to romp in the Spring Champion at about 1 1/4 miles a week later, besting the talented filly First Seal. Hampton Court will be negotiating a left-handed course for the first time in his first voyage under jockey Kerrin McEvoy, but Waterhouse noted after Wednesday's barrier draw that she is "quietly confident."
"He has come along in leaps and bounds," she told Racing and Sports. "The further he goes the better and the 2,500 meters won't worry him. I don't like to get too cocky because you can fall flat on your face in this game but I am quietly confident."
Breaking just outside the favorite and likely to be racing prominently is Moonovermanhattan, who hinted his worth at this distance with a victory in The Vase over 2,040 meters at Moonee Valley five days ago. The gray had previously been an unlucky second in the Bill Stutt over a mile September 26 before losing a shoe when seventh in the Caulfield Guineas October 11. Moonovermanhattan boasts the same trainer/jockey combination (Mick Price and Craig Newitt) as champion sprinter Lankan Rupee.
Meanwhile, Bondeiger will negotiate a trip from the rail draw. The Danny O'Brien charge came from a long way back to make up ground to be seventh in the Vase, which snapped a two race win streak in a Geelong maiden September 26 and a Caulfield benchmark race October 15.
Despite having never won a race, Preferment is the top choice to upend Hampton Court. On the board in four of six outings, Preferment finished fast after traveling wide to be a strong second in the Geelong Classic over 2,200 meters October 22, suggesting he should relish this further stretch out in distance. He is drawn ideally in barrier 6 and is from the stable of Chris Waller, who should never be ignored in a big event. Preferment is piloted by ace big race rider Damien Oliver.
The Group 1, A$1 million Mackinnon Stakes was dealt a blow Thursday when defending winner Side Glance was withdrawn due to a fetlock injury, but Saturday's weight-for-age showpiece -- which grants the winner an automatic berth into the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday -- nonetheless boasts a strong lineup of reliable gallopers.
Rogan Josh was the last horse to complete that big-race double in 1999, and other high-profile winners of this event include So You Think and Lonhro. Jointly favored at $5.50 to join that list are last season's dual classic winner Criterion and Australian Oaks winner Rising Romance.
Criterion wrapped up his sophomore campaign earlier this year with a sweep of the Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby, and while he has not won in five outings this season, he has proven he has retained his class. The chestnut was a flashy runner-up to Fawkner in the Caulfield Stakes October 11, and checked in seventh, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths, in the Cox Plate six days ago.
Rising Romance proved herself a rising force in Australia when she won last season's Oaks in her second domestic start after relocating from New Zealand, and she has proven up to the challenge of dealing with her elders this season, having finished a narrow second in the Caulfield Cup October 18.
Those classic winners are followed closely in the betting by Chris Waller's French import He's Your Man, who has really come into his own this season as a five-year-old and recently recorded a big-race double, taking the Kingston Town September 13 before wheeling back to a mile to add the Epsom Handicap October 4. He's Your Man once again gets the services of Joao Moreira, who partnered him in the Epsom.
The reliable seven-year-old gelding Happy Trails is nearly always to be found at the finish line of these big events, and thus cannot be discounted for a spot on the board. The chestnut recorded a career highlight when winning the Turnbull over this track and trip a little more than a year ago prior to finishing second in the Cox Plate. Happy Trails was most recently sixth, beaten less than a length, trying that weight-for-age championship again six days ago.
The Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes for three-year-olds has developed a reputation as a stallion-making race, and the partnership of Stallion Racing, Jadeskye, Teeley Assets, Werrett Bloodstock and Coolmore certainly have a sire prospect to boast of in "TDN Rising Star" Rubick.
The easiest of debut winners January 25, Rubick added the Blue Diamond prelude two weeks later, after which Coolmore got in on the action, buying a share in the colt. Rubick suffered his first, and thus far only, defeat at the hands of Earthquake in the Blue Diamond a further two weeks later, and was shelved for the season thereafter. His sophomore debut was delayed by a virus, but Rubick certainly made it worth the wait for his connections when he zipped home in the about five-furlong Schillaci October 11.
If there is a chink in Rubick's armor it is that he was beaten in his lone try over this 1,200-meter distance, but trainer Gerald Ryan seemed pleased with Rubick's first taste of the Flemington straight last Friday.
"He changed stride as he hit the course proper but unlike most horses he didn't deviate," Ryan told Racenet.com.au. "He ran his last 600 meters in :34.67 seconds, and his last 400 in :23.02, which was faster than any of the official jumpouts."
Rubick retains the services of his Schillaci partner Kerrin McEvoy, who has ridden Earthquake in her last five outings and was forced to choose between the two after the filly won the Thoroughbred Club on the Schillaci card. Earthquake gets the services of James McDonald. Rubick was not handed any favors when drawing the rail, but McEvoy doesn't appear flustered.
"His draw isn't ideal but they start a few meters off the fence," McEvoy told Racenet.com.au. "He's got a lot of natural speed and it'll take a fast one to cross him, but if one wants to go mad it won't bother me because I don't think he has to lead. I'd say we'll be able to move further away from the fence if that's what we want to do."
On his decision to stick with Rubick, McEvoy -- who won this race aboard Sepoy in 2011 -- added, "I hadn't ridden him in a race until last start and he gave me the feel of a very good horse."
Both Rubick and Earthquake will have to be at their best to upend $3.20 favorite Rich Enuff. After breaking his maiden at the listed level August 23, the chestnut added victories in the Danehill over this track and trip September 13 and the Caulfield Guineas Prelude two weeks later before finishing second in the main event, the Caulfield Guineas, October 11. Arrowfield and Pinecliff Racing's Scissor Kick looks like value at $14 off a pair of runner-up efforts after torrid trips in the Golden Rose September 13 and Stan Fox two weeks later.
The Group 1 Myer Classic is the primary target for fillies and mares during the Melbourne Spring carnival, and this metric mile event has produced the likes of Horse of the Year Typhoon Tracy and four-time Group 1 winner Divine Madonna.
May's Dream provided her sire New Approach with a first Australian Group 1 winner when taking last season's Australasian Oaks at Morphettville, and another high-level victory on this world-class stage would certainly bolster her reputation. The four-year-old was just seventh on seasonal debut in the Sportingbet Sprint September 20, and after finishing third in the Blazer here October 4, was fourth in the Tristarc over that same 1,400-meter distance October 18. May's Dream will appreciate Saturday's added distance, and will have to see off her Tristarc conqueror Sweet Idea once again. That consistent four-year-old still searches for her first win at the highest level, but has come close twice this season, with a second in the Memsie August 30 and a fourth, beaten just over two lengths, in the Sir Rupert Clarke September 28 preceding her Tristarc score.
The form of the Tristarc is also represented by second Girl Guide and third Catkins. The latter has been threatening to break through in Group 1 company since finishing second here last year, and she has proven remarkably consistent since, finishing off the board just twice in nine starts and collecting four further group wins. Diamond Drille provided the owners of Pierro with another Group 1 win in the Queen of the Turf at the Championships last season, and she was seventh second-up in the Tristarc, beaten 2 3/4 lengths.
Breeders' Cup News & Notes
Magician, Free as a Bird latest Breeders' Cup scratches
The Breeders' Cup Turf was slated to be Magician's final career start and the plan was to retire him to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
The other defection reported Wednesday morning was for the five-year-old mare Free as a Bird as handlers attempted load her onto a Tex Sutton charter Wednesday morning in Kentucky.
"She didn't like the sound of the engines and had to be backed off the plane. She is scratched," trainer Ian Wilkes said. "As long as she is OK, we're fine."
Ageless, second to Free as a Bird in the Franklin County at Keeneland last time, has drawn into the Turf Sprint from the also-eligible list.
Shared Belief arrives for Classic, scheduled for gate work and gallop
"He is extremely long and has great balance. He is very unique in that he can adapt during a race. That ability is really a huge plus."
With Smith in the saddle, Shared Belief has captured the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby, Grade 1 Pacific Classic and Grade 1 Awesome Again in succession. The Candy Ride gelding has been made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile Classic and will break from post position 6.
"We got here at 5:30 last night, just in time to catch the rush hour traffic," said Katie Allen, who traveled with the sophomore filly from her home base at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Trained by Tom Amoss, the Rockport Harbor miss is scheduled to gallop Thursday morning at the same time and visit the paddock.
"I took him out just before the break so we could avoid all the horses," Petty added. "That way we could be going out when most of them were coming back. If he sees horses in front of him galloping, he will try to pass them all. He only passed two that he saw and is definitely feeling good."
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint hopeful Better Lucky arrived with stablemate Twilight Eclipse and was reported to have handled the excursion without turning a hair. On Wednesday morning, the multiple Grade 1-winning Ghostzapper mare was sent to the track for a jog once around under Hernandez.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies entrant By the Moon had an easy jog with exercise rider Tom Singh aboard Wednesday morning on her first day at Santa Anita.
In other Breeders' Cup news:
Protocols will be in place again this year requiring third-party administration of furosemide as well as enhanced security -- limiting access to the horse on race day. Post-race testing of Breeders' Cup runners will be conducted at the University of California-Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory -- an RMTC-accredited facility.
Designed to further engage attendees, the Social Media Wall will consistently display tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts as the races unfold each day. The event's massive Jumbotron will also be showcasing an array of these posts in 15 second spots every hour. All fans must do is incorporate one of the two official hashtags -- #BreedersCup and #BC14 -- when uploading their pictures, posts and tweets. By doing this they will have the opportunity to see their personal posts displayed on the Social Media Wall, Jumbotron and select monitors throughout the World Championships.
American Pharoah scratched from BC Juvenile
"If you look at him he appears just fine. The timing is just terrible. I've had to scratch horses before a big race, but this is possibly the worst.
"He feels really good. He walks OK, but when he jogs you can see there is something there. Something like this gives you a sickening feeling. It's a disappointment for the barn and the Zayat family, and anyone around the horse."
Another scratch announced Tuesday was Handsome Mike from Friday's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Trainer Leandro Mora was forced to declare the five-year-old because of a leg injury.
"He came back from the track after galloping with a little swelling in his left front leg," Mora. "We scanned him, and it came back clean, but the swelling was still there. Four veterinarians recommended that I scratch for the health of the horse.
"It was bad timing," said Mora of the injury that he did not consider career-threatening. "He will get 20 days off."
Handsome Mike won the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby and has earned $1,005,413 with three victories in 30 starts. He is winless in seven outings this year.
BREEDERS' CUP ENTRIES 2014
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
FILLY & MARE TURF
Zenyatta's weanling filly euthanized following paddock accident
Zenyatta's weanling War Front filly was euthanized Tuesday night after suffering a paddock accident at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, where she was born on Easter Sunday.
It was announced earlier this month on Zenyatta's official Facebook page that the filly, nicknamed Z Princess, had successfully been weaned from her dam.
The following statement was posted on Zenyatta's official website:
Zenyatta, the 2010 Horse of the Year who became the first distaffer to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2009, attracted a large following during her career. She earned more than $7 million and suffered only one loss in her time on track, with that coming as a head second while trying to defend her Classic title in 2010.
The dark bay mare has two other foals, an unraced two-year-old colt by Bernardini named Cozmic One and a yearling Tapit colt named Ziconic.
Molly Morgan seeks third stakes win of the year in Chilukki
"She came out of her last race fine," said Baldemar Bahena, assistant to trainer Dale Romans. "She's a nice mare and she's been training well here at Churchill since."
The Ghostzapper mare also owns a second in the La Troienne, which occurred a month prior to her four-length tally in the Fleur de Lis.
Honey Hues, who the Mint Julep Handicap and Ellis Park Turf on the grass over the summer, is looking to bounce back from two sub-par efforts recently.
"This mare has a hard time with heat," trainer Bernie Flint said. "In the summer time she just doesn't run as well; that's the bottom line. It's supposed to be very cold this weekend, so she should be in good shape."
Honey Hues has won six of 13 starts on dirt, including an allowance at the Churchill spring meet by a commanding seven lengths.
Invading from California is Grade 3 veteran My Happy Face, who is seeking an elusive first win since transferring to Peter Miller's barn in Southern California. She has run third in each of her last four starts, including the Las Madrinas at Los Alamitos and the L.A. Woman at Santa Anita.
My Happy Face was twice Grade 1-placed in 2013, finishing second in the Coaching Club American Oaks and a close third in the Test.
Spring in the Air, the Canadian champion juvenile filly of 2012, will make only her second ever start on dirt in the Chilukki. Winner of the Hendrie, a Grade 3 event at Woodbine, in May, she exits a third to Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint candidate Leigh Court in the Seaway at Woodbine.
Another Grade 3 winner on Polytrack, My Option, has placed just once in three outings since taking the June 28 Chicago Handicap at Arlington. She finished fourth in her only prior attempt at Churchill in last year's Falls City.
Others of note in the Chilukki are Street Girl, the Humana Distaff runner-up, and Enchanting Lisa, an allowance-winning half-sister to dual Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
Earlier in the Churchill card, a solid group of older sprinters will travel six furlongs in the $58,000 Bet On Sunshine. Star Harbour, No Distinction, Sharp Sensation, Apprehender, Ghost Is Clear, and Card are among the leading contenders in a wide-open race, which has also attracted 2012 New Orleans Handicap winner Nates Mineshaft, who returned from a layoff of more than nine months on September 13 to beat allowance foes at Remington Park by three lengths.
The one to catch might be Bay of Plenty, a Godolphin-owned colt who has won three in a row in wire-to-wire fashion, including two allowances over a mile at Belmont.
"We're running him back in three weeks, but he's doing so well. We're excited about it," said Artie Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "In his last three, he's been forward, but he's not really speedy. He's been breaking better, and just happens to be on the lead; he doesn't have to be there. He's pretty tractable."
Noble Moon, who took the Jerome on the inner dirt in January, exits fourth-place finishes in the King's Bishop and Pennsylvania Derby. Protonico, who took the Smarty Jones at Parx on Labor Day, also exits the Pennsylvania Derby, where he finished a distant seventh.
Also in the mix are stakes winners Just Call Kenny, third in the Indiana Derby last time, and Our Caravan, who notably upset Ring Weekend in the Calder Derby by 9 3/4 lengths back in April.
The Discovery field is rounded out by Away Game, an allowance scorer in the mud at Saratoga prior to sub-par effort in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.
Moonlit Beauty could steal another edition of the Grade 3, C$150,000 Maple Leaf for fillies and mares at Woodbine. The now eight-year-old registered a 25-1 upset in the 1 1/4-mile test last year, and again appears to be the lone speed on paper.
Miss Mischief, who has won three straight since joining the Dale Capuano barn, is the probable favorite off a victory in the H.B.P.A at Presque Isle Downs. Last-out stakes winners Llanarmon and Strut the Course, 2013 Maple Lead third Sky High Lady, and the turf performers Julie's Love, Modernstone, and Industrial Policy are other potential contenders.
A field of six two-year-olds will go 1 1/16 miles in the C$125,000 Display. Bourbon Cowboy, runner-up in the Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle, will likely garner most of the wagering support, although debut winner Sea to Sea and stakes-placed maidens Glenville Gardens and Hollywood Critic have a license to improve.
Churchill Downs unveils plans for new Winner's Circle Suites
The Winner's Circle Suites will feature comfortable undercover seating with in-venue wagering options and full-service hospitality, including a premium open bar and gourmet food. Also, guests will have access to an indoor, semi-private hospitality area and restrooms exclusive to the venue. All areas of the project will be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.
In prior years, owners of Derby and Oaks horses received a complimentary six-person box in Section 318, food and beverage hospitality in a separate area overlooking the paddock, and the opportunity to purchase two additional boxes in 318. Should owners require additional seating in 2015 beyond the 18 complimentary tickets provided, they may still purchase an additional box of six seats in Section 318.
"There are many wonderful seating options at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks but these new Winner's Circle Suites are where anyone who has ever owned or dreamed of owning a racehorse wants to be," Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. "We're thrilled to make this investment and truly thank our Derby and Oaks owners by creating an exclusive area that will provide more complimentary tickets, food and beverage and other extraordinary amenities than ever before."
The Courtyard, a family-friendly green space that will create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyday racing, will be a spacious lawn area in front of the new Winner's Circle Suites. For Derby Week, more than 600 temporary premium seats will be configured in traditional rows and aisles with padded chairs, and those guests will have access to an exclusive hospitality space with an all-inclusive menu and restrooms. Seating in the existing Sections 218-219 will have access to the hospitality space, as well.
The versatile Courtyard also will be utilized to enrich the experience of big-event days throughout the rest of the year, including Downs After Dark night racing and Family Adventure Days.
Select guests that are affected by the Winner's Circle Suites and Courtyard Project are in the process of being contacted personally by track officials, and every effort will be made to relocate those guests to a comparable area. Additionally, those guests can opt to upgrade their seating packages with new inventory, including more availability in Section 318, or premium areas that include food and beverage hospitality.
The new Courtyard seats for Derby Week will be offered to existing customers first. Any remaining inventory will be sold to the general public through an online sale in mid-November. The deadline to register for the online sale at KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets has been extended to November 7.
Churchill Downs also has retained PC Sports, a division of Texas-based Raba Kistner Inc., to assist in the project's management. The firm, which helped manage the expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and construction of the KFC Yum! Center, will serve as a consultant and third-party advisor to ensure the project finishes on or ahead of schedule and on budget.
A general contractor for the project has not yet been selected.
Silver Charm pensioned, to live at Old Friends
His other major victories include the Dubai World Cup, Strub, Clark Handicap, Goodwood Handicap, Del Mar Futurity, Kentucky Cup Classic, San Fernando, San Pasqual Handicap, and San Vicente. Silver Charm also finished a close second in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Marathon, Twilight Derby highlight BC Friday undercard
Invading from the east is Cary Street, upset winner of the Greenwood Cup at Parx in September over the noted South American import Ever Rider.
Ring Weekend heads a solid field of 12 three-year-olds in the Grade 2, $200,000 Twilight Derby over 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The Graham Motion trainee is a three-time graded stakes winner this season, including the Saranac and Hill Prince on turf in his last two starts.
Divine Oath is hoping to bag his third stakes win of the year after taking the Kent at Delaware Park and American Derby at Arlington, but the local contingent looks strong, too. Enterprising looks to rebound off a disappointing sixth in the Del Mar Derby, which came on the heels of back-to-back stakes scores in the La Jolla and Oceanside. Del Mar Derby runner-up Sawyer's Hill and Del Mar Derby third Talco also return.
Baffert also has the four-year-old Declassify, who gutted out a photo-finish victory in the Triple Bend on June 28. However, the Orientate colt trailed throughout in the Bing Crosby next out.
The Damascus field also includes multiple Grade 3 winner Broadway Empire, and a trio of horses that were pre-entered in various Breeders' Cup races but didn't make it into the main body of the fields: Bahamian Squall, Unbridled's Note, and Indexical.
The other undercard stakes on Breeders' Cup Friday is the $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies for California-bred or -sired horses going seven furlongs. The early favorite is My Fiona, who won and placed in a pair of stakes during the Del Mar meet.
Richies Party Girl on familiar ground in Senator Ken Maddy
Other stakes veterans at the course and distance competing in the Maddy include Judy in Disguise, Llandudno, Gender Agenda, Biorhythm, Stars Above Me, and Velvet Mesquite.
European invaders are prominent in this year's edition of the $100,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint, which kicks off Saturday's 12-race program. Faithful Creek, Group 3-placed by Coolmore's highly-regarded John F Kennedy at Leropardstown last time, is also joined by Guilty, a winner at Newmarket and Chester, and two-time winner War Alert, who runs for successful Qatar Racing stable.
Wesley Ward has entered one gelding and two fillies hoping to replicate Richies Party Girl's success last year. The gelding is Crown the Kitten, who romped by nearly six lengths in the El Joven at Retama Park last time. The fillies are Cool Comfort, an impressive maiden winner at Kentucky Downs who faded to fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine at Keeneland next out, and Saratoga graduate Lamontagne.
Among the locally-based contenders are Stormy Liberal, a course-and-distance maiden winner; Metaboss, third to Stormy Liberal in her debut; and Ocho Ocho Ocho, who tries turf after winning on debut going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt.
The $200,000 Golden State Juvenile, a race that included a colt by the name of California Chrome last year, is scheduled between the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Senator Ken Maddy. Wake Up Nick, a four-time stakes winner already this year, and Acceptance, a 13 1/4-length debut winner, figure to take most of the wagering support in the seven-furlong dash.
Tickets for the 44th annual Eclipse Awards will go on sale Monday at 9 a.m. (EDT). The Eclipse Awards are set for January 17 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Eclipse Awards tickets are available for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. A block of rooms have been reserved at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, located on the ocean and only a short distance from Gulfstream Park. For ticket purchases and room reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at email@example.com or call 859-422-2657. The "black-tie optional" Eclipse Awards highlight a full weekend of events, several of which will be tied to charitable causes. A Friday night, January 16, party in the Gulfstream Park paddock benefiting Gulfstream Thoroughbred Aftercare will have a "Havana Nights" theme. Saturday, January 17, is Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream with five major stakes races for Florida-breds cumulatively worth more than $1 million. Sunday, January 18, features a "First Chance/Last Chance" qualifier for the National Handicapping Championship...
A field of nine has been entered to sprint six furlongs on Friday in the $58,000 Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs. Dual stakes winner Speedinthruthecity (City Zip) is looking for her third stakes win of the year, and her career, when she lines up in the far outside post under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the dark bay lass opened her four-year-old season with romping scores at Oaklawn Park, including the Carousel, and added Churchill's Roxelana to her resume on June 21. Since then, Speedinthruthecity has been fourth in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) and third by a neck in the Smart and Fancy at Saratoga and fourth last out in Keeneland's Thoroughbred Club of America (G2). Among those she'll face Friday are Grade 3-placed multiple stakes heroine Vuitton (Smart Strike) and Grade 2-placed multiple stakes vixen Sweet Cassiopeia (Five Star Day)...
Unbeaten and among the creme of her crop, Prix Thomas Bryon (Fr-G3) heroine Alea Iacta (Invincible Spirit) takes on the colts again in Thursday's one-mile Criterium International (Fr-G1) at Saint-Cloud. So impressive in that course-and-distance contest October 9, the Andre Fabre trainee was six-lengths best easing down in the closing stages after steering a lone path up the stand's rail. As usual, Richard Hannon Jr.'s presence is strongly felt in a major juvenile staging post and in Burnt Sugar (Lope de Vega) he has a leading player. After readily disposing of the subsequent Somerville Tattersall S. (Eng-G3) winner Maftool (Hard Spun) in Kempton's Sirenia S. (Eng-G3) over six furlongs, he stayed on into fourth, beaten around a length, over an extra panel in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-G1) at Longchamp. Also from overseas is Vert de Grece (Verglas), who was flattered by his three-quarter length proximity to the subsequent Lagardere demotee Gleneagles (Galileo) in The Curragh's Futurity S. (Ire-G2) over seven furlongs. He has since joined Roger Varian from Joe Murphy and his new trainer said, "Vert de Grece goes to France in good form. He has been training nicely and a repeat of his second to Gleneagles would see him in with a good chance." Cherek (Paco Boy) was green when third as the favorite for the Prix des Chenes (Fr-G3) over this trip at Longchamp, but is bred to improve with age and experience...
Superlative S. (Eng-G2) and Champagne S. (Eng-G2) winner Estidhkaar (Dark Angel) emerged from his fourth-place effort in the October 17 Dewhurst S. (Eng-G1) with a hairline fracture of a hock, according to trainer Richard Hannon Jr.. "We felt something had to be wrong in the Dewhurst, because Paul Hanagan had rung me after he had worked the Sunday before and said how well the horse had gone," Hannon noted. "However, he did not move well going to post at Newmarket and then didn't travel well in the race, which is not like him, so we suspected that all was not right, especially as he hadn't been keen on leaving the stalls. Estidhkaar will have between four to six weeks of box rest before going on the walker, but it is nothing major and he will be back next season."...
Slade Power (Dutch Art)'s participation in the VRC Sprint (Aus-G1) at Flemington November 8 is in doubt after trainer Eddie Lynam discovered that his dual Group 1 winner would not be able to be loaded last in the gates. The five-year-old, who won this year's Diamond Jubilee S. (Eng-G1) and July Cup (Eng-G1), is notorious for his bad gate behavior, and Lynam revealed that Slade Power acted up in the gates at Flemington prior to a barrier trial Tuesday. "He had a barrier trial (Tuesday) and, unfortunately, things didn't go good for him," Lynam explained. "He got very upset in the barrier. He's got a couple of nicks and a couple of cuts, but hopefully he's going to be okay." Lynam said he had spoken to Melbourne officials before making the trip, and was under the impression Slade Power would be able to be loaded last, despite the custom in that country that horses be loaded in order of barrier. Lynam noted that the last time Slade Power wasn't loaded last was for last year's Nunthorpe S. (Eng-G1), when he acted up and finished 15th of 17. "From our point of view, if he wasn't to go in late on the big race day, I'd have to think of it as a health-and-safety issue, as he could hurt (jockey) Wayne (Lordan), and we don't want that happening," the conditioner told At The Races. "He could also hurt himself, and we don't want that happening, either. He could also hurt the horses each side of him. I just don't think we're going to be able to teach him some new tricks in the week that's leading up to what is his career-final race." Lynam said that if Slade Power does not run in Australia, he could reroute to the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) in December, or be retired. He is set to stand at Darley's Kildangan Stud in Ireland next year for 20,000. "Let's see what happens tomorrow first before we make any decisions," Lynam added. "Hopefully common sense will prevail."...
World champion sprinter Black Caviar (Bel Esprit), who produced her first foal -- an Exceed and Excel filly -- down under this Southern Hemisphere breeding season, has been confirmed in foal to Sebring. Sebring, whose first crop are four-year-olds, was also a celebrated sprinter. He won the Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) and Sires' Produce S. (Aus-G1) and missed the Australian two-year-old Triple Crown by a head when second in the Champagne S. (Aus-G1). Sebring's progeny, however, have excelled at all distances. In addition to the smart miler Dissident, the winner of three Group 1s, Sebring is responsible for Australian Derby (Aus-G1) winner Criterion, as well as last season's smart two-year-old filly Bring Me the Maid. Sebring stands for A$60,500 at Widden Stud.
Fair Grounds will play host to the Fair Grounds Championship handicapping tournament on December 20 that will offer two paid berths into the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. The 16th annual NHC is scheduled for January 23-25, 2015 at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. Contest entries will cost $200 per entry, with a maximum of three entries per person. A $50 NHC Tour registration fee will be required of any player wishing to be eligible to win one of the two available NHC berths; players already registered for the NHC Tour will be exempt from the additional $50 fee. A complimentary lunch and race day program will be included in the entry fee. The contest will consist of 15 races and a $60 mythical bankroll. Players will be required to wager $2 to win and $2 to place on one horse in each of the 15 races which will include a mix of mandatory and optional races. The final ten races on the Fair Grounds card on December 20 will be considered mandatory races, and players will be able to select any five races of their choice from the last five live races at Gulfstream Park and the last five races at Aqueduct as their optional plays. Players may mix races from Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct as they see fit to reach their maximum five optional plays. A cap will be placed on all payoffs. The win cap is 20-1 ($42), and the place cap is 10-1 ($22). Players do not have to place all 15 wagers to be eligible to win, but should a player elect not to make a wager on any of the races, the $4 for that race will still be deducted from their account. All wagers are fictional and only contest account credit is accrued from winning wagers; no money is paid on contest wagers. The top two finishers will receive a paid berth into the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, along with a four night hotel stay at Treasure Island Casino and a $400 travel voucher. Third place will receive $750 cash, and both the fourth and fifth-place finishers will receive $400. Additional cash prizes may be available based on the total number of contest entries. Pre-registration for the Fair Grounds Championship begins November 20. Walk-up registrations will be taken until one hour before the post time of the first contest race on December 20. Players can pre-register by calling Katherine at 504-948-1230 or Lindsay at 504-948-1171 beginning at 11 a.m. (CST) on November 20. All players will need to provide a valid government issued ID on the day of the contest to complete registration...
The Fair Grounds OTB Challenge is scheduled for November 8 and offers two players the opportunity to gain free entry into the Fair Grounds Championship ($250 value). The entry fee for the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge is $10 with a maximum of three entries per player. Players are eligible to compete at any of the 11 Fair Grounds off-track betting facilities and at the Fair Grounds OTB. The contest format will mirror that of the Fair Grounds Championship, but with ten races and a $40 mythical bankroll. Players will be required to wager $2 to win $2 to place on one horse in each of the 10 races which will include a mix of mandatory and optional races. The final six races from Churchill Downs will be considered mandatory races, and players may select any four races of their choice from the last four live races at Gulfstream Park West and the last four races at Aqueduct. Players may mix races from Gulfstream Park West and Aqueduct as they see fit to reach their maximum four optional plays. The payoff caps and rules regarding fictional wagers applied in the Fair Grounds Championship will also apply in the OTB Challenge. The first-place finisher will receive a paid berth into the Fair Grounds Championship along with 60 percent of entry fees collected, and the second-place finisher will receive a paid berth into the Fair Grounds Championship along with 20 percent of entry fees collected. Third place receives 10 percent of entry fees collected, and both the fourth and fifth-place finishers will each receive 5 percent of entry fees collected. Pre-registration for the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge begins Sunday at 11:00 a.m. (CST) at any Fair Grounds OTB and at the Fair Grounds Race Course OTB and continues until one hour before post time of the first contest race on November 8. Complete rules and additional information for the Fair Grounds Championship and the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge can be found at fgno.com.
For Thursday or Next Raceday
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 29, 2014
Distaff deserving of its high reputation
One of the original seven Breeders' Cup races, the Distaff has been known as the sister race to the Classic. In fact, the race was renamed the Ladies' Classic in 2008 to reflect it.
That proved a disservice to both the race and the division, and the race reverted back to its original name in 2013.
But why is the Distaff so important?
Since 2000, four Distaff winners have gone on to be named champion older female. Three others managed to beat their elders and earned the Eclipse Award (Thoroughbred racing's equivalent of the Oscars) for champion three-year-old filly.
So half of the last 14 winners were credited with being the best of their crop.
However, the Classic has proven little better in determining the year-end champions with eight of the past 14 winners being awarded either a championship, Horse of the Year or both.
Despite this, it actually only takes a few names to prove the worthiness of the Distaff -- Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Dance Smartly, Azeri, Royal Delta and, yes, Zenyatta.
Those are but a few of the winners who achieved glory long before their Distaff triumphs and the Breeders' Cup proved to be the icing on the cake.
That is why the Distaff is so important.
The Breeders' Cup was created to pit the best Thoroughbreds against one another; there were enough prestigious races from coast to coast in the United States to keep the best separated each year before the first running in 1984.
And what about the international community?
Worldwide, countries have established their own championship-style events. They're not necessarily billed that way because for centuries -- yes centuries -- those were the races everyone knew produced the best and brightest.
Races like the Epsom Derby, Ascot Gold Cup, St Leger, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Melbourne Cup are just a few that shine the brightest among the top races across the globe. In recent years, the Dubai World Cup and Hong Kong Cup have been added to the list.
The Distaff, like the other Breeders' Cup events, presents an opportunity for fillies and mares across the world to assemble in one place and strut their stuff against the best in their division.
Now it doesn't always work out that way. The worldwide racing jurisdictions have different schedules, different seasons of competition, so getting all the greats together in one place at the same time is a daunting task.
But the Distaff is there for just that reason. North American horses pretty much dominated the entry box for the race, but when a foreign import decides to make an appearance people take notice.
A good example of that is Argentinean-bred Bayakoa, a back-to-back winner of the Distaff (1989-90). She was followed two years later by fellow Argentinean-bred Paseana, who just fell short of joining her countrymate as a dual scorer when missing by a nose in 1993. Third that year was yet another Argentinean, Re Toss.
South American runners are not the only ones who eventually wound up competing against the best in the Distaff. Finishing fifth behind Paseana in 1992 was multiple Group 1 heroine Marling, who spent her career based in Great Britain. And this year's Distaff includes L'Amour de Ma Vie, a stakes winner in France and Dubai who will be making her U.S. debut at Santa Anita.
The reason the Distaff doesn't attract more foreign entrants is because it's run on the main track. Most overseas racing takes place on turf courses, but periodically owners and trainers take a stab at Distaff glory.
Even when those efforts don't produce a win for the connections, it still results in a victory for the Breeders' Cup and, especially, the Distaff. It proves that the race is living up to its purpose of bringing the best runners across the globe together.
The Breeders' Cup has changed over the years, with races being created and removed, but the Distaff has been a fixture and will remain so as long as the event takes place. Champions come and champions go, but the great races remain the same.
OCTOBER 28, 2014
The Breeders' Cup through the eyes of a child
by Vance Hanson
The Breeders' Cup was inaugurated 30 years ago this month, but for those of us with slightly less gray on our temples, the first memories of racing's showcase day would come a little later.
Fast forward two years to 1986, and the grade-school version of me was just starting to get his toes wet following the sport and, ahem, betting. My father, an immediate race tracker when Canterbury Downs opened the previous year, would kindly oblige my whims with token $2 wagers on selections that sometimes involved nothing more than liking a horse's name. We all start somewhere.
Memories are fuzzy, but it seems that through the course of that season I subconsciously absorbed bits and pieces of information on some of the nation's top horses while browsing through my father's old programs and occasionally watching racing broadcasts with him. I don't know how else to explain the fact that, after trick-or-treating on Halloween night, I glanced at the next day's Breeders' Cup fields and swiftly recognized a horse in each race for my father to back on my behalf.
Santa Anita was a first-time host for that third Breeders' Cup, and back then the first race was the Juvenile. I don't recall why I liked Gulch other than he was the second choice in the morning line and had the familiar, potent combo of trainer LeRoy Jolley and jockey Angel Cordero Jr. in his corner. In hindsight, it wasn't a bad pick. Gulch had won his first five races, four of which were graded stakes, before finishing second to Juvenile favorite Capote in the Norfolk.
Gulch couldn't catch Capote in the Breeders' Cup, either, over a track biased toward early speed. Gulch wound up fifth in a field that also included Alysheba, Bet Twice, Polish Navy and Demons Begone. In other words, the winners of the 1987 Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell Invitational, Super Derby, Met Mile, Wood Memorial, Woodward and Arkansas Derby were in that field. They don't make Breeders' Cup Juveniles like they used to.
Gulch, who would eventually earn Breeders' Cup glory in the 1988 Sprint, is virtually the lone remaining survivor of that fabulous crop. He's been a neighbor of mine for a while, living a mile or so down the road from me at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. Who would have believed, 28 years later, my first ever Breeders' Cup pick and I would be so close?
My Juvenile Fillies selection, Zero Minus, was more of a sentimental choice having broken her maiden and winning a small stakes at Canterbury that summer for future Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger. She also had Canterbury's leading jockey that year, Hall of Famer Sandy Hawley, on her back. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had later achieved something more notable by winning the Alcibiades at Keeneland, but she fared no better than a distant seventh behind Brave Raj in the Juvenile Fillies.
Canterbury-related sentimentality would have been better served in the next race, the Sprint. Smile, the 1985 Sprint runner-up, was owned by Minneapolis resident Frances Genter and had won the $150,000 Canterbury Cup in July. But how could I go against odds-on speedball Groovy, who I remembered from his pace-setting tactics in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and could surely outrun anything at a much shorter six-furlong trip?
In the event Groovy was flat leaving the gate, and over that track that was a death sentence. D. Wayne Lukas' filly Pine Tree Lane broke on top, with the rail-hugging Smile in close pursuit. The latter ultimately put her away in deep stretch at odds of 11-1, while Groovy languished in fourth. As great a sprinter as he was, Groovy for some reason always had difficulty out-breaking fillies in the Breeders' Cup.
My pari-mutuel fortunes turned around in the next three races. Palace Music, who I knew had run well in the Mile the previous year, was my pick to make amends in the first turf race of the day. I didn't win much, but at least I cashed, when the future sire of Cigar ran a terrific second at odds of 7-2.
Shuffled back early from post 1, Palace Music was last of 14 with a half-mile to go. Forced to make a ridiculously wide rally under Gary Stevens, the chestnut closed like a freight train but fell a frustrating head short of longshot French sprinter Last Tycoon. If memory serves, Palace Music's trainer Charlie Whittingham put it succinctly to NBC after the race: "They don't make it a mile and a jump."
The Distaff was a no-brainer. Even I was quite familiar with the brilliance of Lady's Secret, and there was nothing to do but accept the short price and enjoy the procession from the eventual Horse of the Year, both of which I did.
The Turf was undoubtedly the highlight of my day. I knew nothing about European sensation and odds-on favorite Dancing Brave, but had watched the two leading American contenders on television earlier in the year. The mare Estrapade had won for fun in the Arlington Million, while the up-and-coming three-year-old Manila had caught my eye winning the United Nations Handicap and Ballantine's Scotch Classic against older horses.
Seeking value for perhaps the first time in my horse-playing life, I went with the longer-priced Manila, who had to overcome traffic in deep stretch to overtake Theatrical in the final strides with a whip-less Jose Santos hand-urging him to victory.
Turkoman, a long-striding son of Alydar, was the slight favorite over Precisionist in the Classic, and having watched Turkoman get the better of that rival in the 1 1/4-mile Marlboro Cup, was my pick to do so again. Unfortunately, Turkoman's style of running was not conducive to winning over the track as it was playing. Ridden by Pat Day for the first time, he could not overcome a 16-length deficit and finished second to Skywalker, who had enjoyed a perfect trip tracking a fast pace from third and taking what would be an insurmountable lead around the far turn.
As can be gleaned from these recollections, my first Breeders' Cup was quite a memorable one for me. But there's an asterisk. Dejected by Gulch's no-show, and naturally having the attention span of someone my age, I had turned off the TV after the Juvenile and went about my day. It was only after my father returned home from watching the Breeders' Cup simulcast at Canterbury that I found out the rest of the results -- and about my positive ROI.
Again, memories are hazy, but I like to think what happened on November 1, 1986 ignited what was already a simmering passion. At the very least, the events of that day convinced me that this was a hobby worth pursuing more seriously. Simply put, it was fun.
As was customary, my father had videotaped the entire four-hour NBC broadcast of that Breeders' Cup. I watched and re-watched that tape countless times that winter, acquainting myself with the sport's leading horses, owners, trainers and jockeys. I familiarized myself with the names of the top racetracks and graded stakes, and probably a little bit about pedigree and breeding. For a rookie, it was an incredibly useful tool, among many, in aiding my racing education.
For three decades, the Breeders' Cup has changed the lives of many of those fortunate enough to have participated in it. It also changed, long ago, the life of at least one young spectator.
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 28, 2014
Breeders' Cup celebrates its 31st edition
by James Scully
The Breeders' Cup serves as the preeminent showcase for Thoroughbred racing in the fall. Inaugurated in 1984, the championship event brought cohesion to the industry that is still evident today.
Prior to Breeders' Cup, year-end events were spread out at different tracks across the country, often leaving little incentive for top horses from each region to meet. Ad-hoc championship events existed -- fans could hope to see leading older horses from California travel to Belmont Park for the Jockey Club Gold Cup -- but match-ups didn't always materialize on track.
That enabled divisional Eclipse Awards, as well as Horse of the Year, to be decided at the ballot box, but the landscape changed with the advent of the Breeders' Cup.
The championship event proved a natural draw for American-based interests -- everybody wants to win a Breeders' Cup race -- and international participation raised its presence to another level.
Connections of foreign stalwarts such as Miesque, Goldikova, Ouija Board, Giant's Causeway, Sakhee, Dancing Brave, Galileo, Daylami, St Nicholas Abbey, The Fugue and others suddenly had the motivation for a North American sojourn in late fall. And the international appeal remains with 38 horses from other continents pre-entered to this year's event at Santa Anita.
Founded by John Gaines, who died in 2005 at age 76, the Breeders' Cup achieved one of its goals as a showcase event when the first running was held at Hollywood Park in 1984.
"It did indeed bring together, at one racetrack on a single autumn day in Southern California, more good racehorses and first-rate jockeys that had ever competed at any one place on any day in history," esteemed turf writer Bill Nack said at the time.
A prominent owner and breeder, John Gaines was a man of great vision and marketing genius. He developed Gainesway Farm into one of the world's leading stud farms; founded the National Thoroughbred Association, which later became the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA); and was instrumental in the creation of the Kentucky Horse Park and Maxwell H. Gluck Center for Equine Research at the University of Kentucky.
It's remarkable that his idea for the Breeders' Cup ever came to fruition.
Thoroughbred racing lacks a governing body with no commissioner. There are so many competing interests and rivalries between racing jurisdictions. The industry struggles with uniformity issues like a national medication policy and security protocols.
Gaines envisioned the Breeders' Cup bringing a sense of unity to the industry by promoting the sport in a positive light and attracting new fans. It would be Thoroughbred racing's version of the Super Bowl.
His son, Thomas Gaines, a fourth-generation horseman who co-founded Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, remembers how it all started.
"My dad came up with the idea for the Breeders' Cup but had to decide how to present it," Thomas Gaines explained. "He was confronted with two choices. Build a consensus before he announced it, and he soon realized that would be impossible, that would kill it before it could ever become a reality. So what he decided to do, he told nobody and invited reporters to attend a news conference."
In the spring of 1982, John Gaines revealed his Breeders' Cup plans at the annual Kentucky Derby Festival "They're Off" awards luncheon at Churchill Downs.
"He stepped up to a podium and announced the vision for the Breeders' Cup," Thomas Gaines said. "It was a strategic decision because he decided to get TV and the media behind his grand idea and then he would bring in everybody else in the industry, including those who may not want to do it for whatever reason.
"And that's what he did. Nobody had heard of it before, people were scrambling around after his announcement, and momentum started to build. Television got behind it, said they would broadcast this great day of racing in the fall, and then all the politics came together."
The first edition at Hollywood Park featured seven races with $10 million in total purses. And the centerpiece event, the $3 million Classic, delivered a rousing conclusion that quickly became a staple of the Breeders' Cup's legacy, with Wild Again narrowly out-finishing accomplished rivals Gate Dancer and Slew O' Gold after a prolonged stretch duel.
"If you dig through a highlight reel of the greatest races over the last 30 years, so many will be Breeders' Cup races," Thomas Gaines said. "It's become an incredible showcase of the very best horses."
The Breeders' Cup has grown to a two-day event, featuring 13 races worth a combined $24.5 million in 2014.
It didn't cure all of Thoroughbred racing's problems, but the Breeders' Cup continues to make an enormous impact that benefits the sport -- total handle in 2013 was a record $135,958,816.
Breeders' Cup handle numbers should be robust again this year as wagering opportunities abound for horseplayers, with full and highly-contentious fields of top-class horses. And the Breeders' Cup will determine numerous championship honors.
John Gaines was asked what he thought was the Breeders' Cup's greatest accomplishment several years after its inception.
"The fact that it exists," he said without missing a beat.
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 27, 2014
BC Trainer Report
by James Scully
Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has been the target for top stables around the world. And many of the biggest trainers in Thoroughbred racing will be represented by multiple starters in this year's races at Santa Anita.
The two-day, 13-race event drew a record 201 pre-entries and handicappers will spend plenty of hours breaking down all the horses. But this is an opportunity to focus upon the conditioners, providing statistics and a look at their horses in the Breeders' Cup.
Among trainers in this year's Breeders' Cup, with a minimum of three wins, David Hofmans leads the way with a 20 percent win rate (three-for-15). He will be represented by only Home Run Kitten, who enters the Turf Sprint off a victory in the Eddie D. Stakes down the hillside course at Santa Anita.
Michael Stoute ranks second by win percentage, 17.6 percent. We'll take a closer look at the English-based trainer below.
Here is a breakdown of some major trainers in this year's Breeders' Cup:
Todd Pletcher (103-7-11-13 Breeders' Cup record)
The leading conditioner in the United States, Pletcher has earned the Eclipse Award for champion trainer an unprecedented six times and is poised to easily capture a fifth straight earnings crown. As of October 20, the Pletcher stable has bankrolled $19,737,598 in 2014, more than $8 million ahead of Chad Brown in second, and is scoring at an overall 24 percent clip (208-for-854).
Pletcher's Breeders' Cup record (6.7 percent win) does not come close to matching his typical heady win rate at high-profile meets like Saratoga, Gulfstream, Belmont and Keeneland,. He ranks second in overall starts (103) but only seventh by wins, going 17-1-1-2 the last two years at Santa Anita.
His number of Breeders' Cup horses is down significantly; Pletcher pre-entered a record 18 in 2006, but he started eight horses in 2013 and is represented by only five entries this year.
Breeders' Cup horses:
Angela Renee (Juvenile Fillies) She is the Juvenile Fillies morning line favorite following her comfortable 1 1/2-length Chandelier victory at Santa Anita on September 27. Bernardini filly has won two-of-four starts, placing in a pair of graded stakes.
Carpe Diem (Juvenile) Two for two in his career, son of Giant's Causeway earned a 100 BRIS Speed rating when rallying from just off the pace in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, scoring by a widening 6 1/4-length margin while making a spectacular two-turn debut at the Juvenile's 1 1/16-mile distance.
Daredevil (Juvenile) -- Provides a formidable one-two punch, impressively winning both career starts on wet tracks. Speedster registered a Juvenile field-best 104 Speed rating taking the Champagne at Belmont Park.
Feathered (Juvenile Fillies) -- Posted a smart 9 3/4-length maiden win at Saratoga two starts back and exits a rallying third in the Frizette at Belmont. Out of a Dynaformer mare, she could appreciate the stretch out to two turns.
Isabella Sings (Juvenile Fillies Turf) A debut winner on Belmont's turf, she established herself as a top contender with a neck second in the Natalma at Woodbine. Daughter of Eskendereya is bred to relish two turns and will show speed.
Outlook: Pletcher is focused upon juvenile events this year and two-year-olds have accounted for four of his seven Breeders' Cup victories, including three wins in 2010 (Juvenile, Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf). His only victory at Santa Anita the past two years came via Shanghai Bobby in the 2012 Juvenile and Havana finished second in the same race last year. His youngsters could make a serious impact.
Bob Baffert (83-10-11-3)
Baffert ranks second by wins among Breeders' Cup trainers, trailing D. Wayne Lukas 19-10, and the Hall of Famer appears well-represented this year with a couple of likely favorites, American Pharoah and Secret Circle, as well as Horse of the Year contender Bayern.
His 12 percent win clip compares favorably and four of his Breeders' Cup victories have come at Santa Anita, including New Year's Day (Juvenile) and Secret Circle (Sprint) last year as Baffert rebounded from a disappointing zero-for-10 stint in 2012. Baffert pre-entered eight horses for the 2014 Breeders' Cup but Midnight Lucky has been scratched from the Filly & Mare Sprint.
American Pharoah (Juvenile) Broke his maiden in sensational fashion second time out in the Del Mar Futurity, registering a 103 BRIS Speed rating for the 4 3/4-length decision, and exits a 3 1/4-length romp in the local prep, the September 27 FrontRunner at Santa Anita. Son of Pioneerof the Nile looms a serious wire-to-wire threat.
Bayern (Classic) Speed is his game, posting smashing front-running wins in the Haskell Invitational (106 Speed rating), Pennsylvania Derby (109) and Woody Stephens (108) in his last four starts, and his last-place Travers finish came over a deep track at Saratoga. Speed-friendly track at Santa Anita could aid his chances of getting the 1 1/4-mile distance.
Fed Biz (Dirt Mile) Hasn't been a factor in this event the past two years (eighth in 2012 and sixth in 2013) but will enter in strong form this year, recording a convincing win in the San Diego before runner-up finishes in the Pat O'Brien and Awesome Again. Nearly defeated Shared Belief in the latter, falling a neck short in a valiant performance.
Indianapolis (Sprint) Lightly-raced colt was on Kentucky Derby trail after opening career with a pair of sharp wins over the winter, including a 4 1/4-length tally in six-furlong San Pedro, and came back from eight-month layoff with a nice triumph in a recent Santa Anita allowance. Must overcome a lack of seasoning but can be considered a wildcard due to his immense potential.
One Lucky Dane (Juvenile) High-priced son of Lookin at Lucky exits a 9 1/2-length maiden win going two turns at Santa Anita in his third start. Promising sort will be an outsider against a deep field of rivals.
Secret Circle (Sprint) Following the same pattern as last year when he came back from a lengthy layoff with an October prep race before the main event. Proved best as the 5-2 Sprint favorite in 2013, rallying from just off the pace to a neck decision, and prepped for his title defense with a good third in the October 4 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, his first race since early February. Very formidable.
Tiz Midnight (Distaff) She'll need a career-best to challenge, but four-year-old exits a respectable second to Beholder in her stakes debut, the September 27 Zenyatta, and could prove to be the speed of the speed. Filly will attempt to outperform expectations with further improvement.
Outlook: With major contenders in four events, Baffert probably expects to add to his Breeders' Cup trophy case. He's got a home-field advantage at Santa Anita.
Bill Mott (77-9-10-5)
With nine wins, Mott is tied with fellow Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for third all-time. Five were recorded in the Distaff and he'll send out this year's likely favorite, Close Hatches.
Mott scores at an 11.6 percent rate in the Breeders' Cup, three coming in California, the last via 2012 Distaff winner Royal Delta. Two of his eight pre-entries this year will need assistance from the also-eligibles list.
Bio Pro (Turf Sprint) An allowance winner most recently at Belmont Park, Bio Pro is stuck five spots down on the also-eligibles list and will be a huge longshot if he makes the starting gate.
Cigar Street (Classic) Registered one of the top BRIS Speed ratings in 2013, a 115 for his victory in the Skip Away early in the year, but wasn't seen again under silks for nearly 17 months. He shows two starts in preparation, including a game win in the September 27 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs, but needs to move forward significantly from that effort to challenge.
Close Hatches (Distaff) Established her dominance in the division by opening the year with four straight stakes wins, including June's Ogden Phipps at Belmont over top rivals Beholder and Princess of Sylmar, but surprisingly came up flat in the October 5 Spinster at Keeneland, finishing a well-beaten fourth at 1-5 odds. That looks like an aberration and four-year-old filly appears capable of rebounding given her fine second in last year's Distaff at Santa Anita.
Emollient (Filly & Mare Turf) She likes Santa Anita's turf, finishing only a length back in fourth in last year's Filly & Mare Turf and winning the Rodeo Drive over the course on September 27, but will need to raise her game against a deep group of challengers, including several quality invaders from Europe.
Puca (Juvenile Fillies) Exits a 16-length maiden win over a short field at Belmont Park in her third career start and will face a stiff class check in her stakes bow.
Quality Rocks (Juvenile Fillies Turf) After opening her career with a pair of wins on synthetic tracks, she was transferred to Mott and turned in a solid second in her turf debut, the October 8 Jessamine at Keeneland. Daughter of Rock Hard Ten figures to be up close from the start and rates as a possible sleeper.
Seek Again (Mile) Proved to be a game winner of the Fourstardave at Saratoga two starts back but experienced a troubled trip last time, checking in sixth in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. With Wise Dan's absence, he's among the best U.S hopes but is in tough versus a talented group of European-based rivals.
Tourist (Mile) Likely can make the field from the also-eligibles list (needs two defections) and would add to the pace, but it's probably best to look for more down the road from the promising three-year-old colt.
Outlook: The Distaff is a forte and Mott has been in this position before previous winners Ajina (1997), Escena (1998), Unrivaled Belle (2010) and Royal Delta (first Distaff in 2011) all lost their final prep race. Close Hatches is the big gun and it's difficult to get excited about his remaining Breeders' Cup stock.
Chad Brown (23-2-3-3)
Brown led all trainers with 11 entries and easily captured the trainer's title during the Belmont fall meet. He has enhanced his reputation as a turf conditioner through the Breeders' Cup, with all eight of his top three finishes coming in grass races, and will bring a strong contingent of turf horses into this year's event.
Bakken (Sprint) Speedster possesses a nice set of BRIS Speed ratings but has raced sparingly, with two starts this year and no stakes wins to his credit. He didn't fire when shipping to Santa Anita last year and it's tough to make a strong case for his chances.
Big Blue Kitten (Turf) Rallied to finish a respectable second to Hillstar in the recent Canadian International but his only win since August 2013 has come in a restricted stakes. No factor in this race last year and he'll face an extreme class test once again.
Bobby's Kitten (Turf Sprint) Poised to make first career start at less than a mile and brings quality speed to the race. Exits a fine third in the September 14 Woodbine Mile, his best performance since the spring, and finished a close third as the favorite in last year's Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Dayatthespa (Filly & Mare Turf) Cross-entered to both the Mile and Filly & Mare Turf, her best chance comes in the latter. The 1 1/4-mile distance represents a challenge, but five-year-old mare is arguably in career-best form, registering a 103 BRIS Speed rating for her commanding Grade 1 victory in the October 4 First Lady at Keeneland. Will be up close from the start.
Lady Eli (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Two for two in her career, daughter of Divine Park will contend for favoritism. She overcame a troubled trip to win her debut by a nose and captured the September 28 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park with ease, registering a 112 BRIS Late Pace rating while scoring by three lengths. Very formidable.
Offering Plan (Juvenile Turf) Rallied to an easy debut maiden win over New York-bred rivals before a respectable third in the September 28 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, earning commendable BRIS Speed and Late Pace numbers after a wide trip. His ability to finish makes him an interesting candidate for a top three finish at an expected price.
Partisan Politics (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Broke her maiden second time out in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga but checked in a non-threatening fourth in the Miss Grillo last time. More Than Ready filly possesses a decent late kick but doesn't rate as one of Brown's main contenders in this event.
Sivoliere (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Regally-bred daughter of Sea the Stars will be piloted by Gary Stevens in her first U.S. start. She's run better on ground with less give to it, which could benefit her over expected firm conditions at Santa Anita, and displayed good class overseas. Sivoliere may not be the most imposing European shipper on paper but remains eligible to run well from off the pace.
Startup Nation (Juvenile Turf) New York-bred colt opened career with a pair of convincing wins, defeating state-bred maiden foes prior to a 4 1/2-length romp in the With Anticipation at Saratoga, but fell short as the 1-2 favorite in the September 28 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, finishing fourth. Will look to rebound and deserves serious consideration.
Stephanie's Kitten (Filly & Mare Turf) Big chance to give Brown his second win in this event in three years (Zagora captured 2012 edition). Stephanie's Kitten opened the year with a couple of unplaced efforts before posting consecutive runner-up finishes, but she was dropping too far back during early stages before rallying belatedly. Displayed noticeable improvement last time, the September 27 Flower Bowl at Belmont, racing up close from the start before crushing rivals, and the multiple Grade 1 heroine is hitting her best stride at the right time of year.
Tammy the Torpedo (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Easily broke her maiden first time out at Saratoga, looking like a filly with a bright future when rolling from off the pace to a 3 1/4-length decision, but came up short in third as the favorite in the Miss Grillo. Daughter of More Than Ready can't be completely dismissed from win consideration in a highly-contentious field.
Zivo (Classic) Loves Belmont, earning 103 and 104 Speed ratings in his last two outings at "Big Sandy," both at 1 1/4 miles, and turned in a huge effort rallying for second in the September 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup after being steadied repeatedly during the race. New York-bred has really come on at age five but carrying his form forward to Santa Anita, with his deep closing style, is a difficult proposition.
Outlook: Brown could be labeled a "turf maestro" following this year's Breeders' Cup he has a legitimate chance to win several grass races.
Steve Asmussen (32-4-4-2)
Asmussen brings a respectable 12.5 percent win clip into the Breeders' Cup and has fared well at Santa Anita. He didn't have the stock last year with only three starters, but upset the 2012 Dirt Mile with 15-1 Tapizar and recorded three seconds (all 9-2 or higher) at that year's edition in Arcadia, California.
Lucky Player (Juvenile) Exits a career-best effort in the September 6 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, posting a narrow upset at 11-1, but the runner-up (Bold Conquest) and third-placer (Hashtag Bourbon) did not run well in subsequent starts versus graded rivals and Lucky Player steps up to face a deep group in this year's Juvenile.
Mico Margarita (Sprint) Figures to be overlooked following stakes wins at Remington Park and Mountaineer, but four-year-old colt merits respect given his current form he's posted BRIS Speed ratings of 103 (last time) and 101 (twice) in his last three outings. Class concerns remain but don't be shocked to see him jump forward with a strong effort.
Tapiture (Dirt Mile) Cuts back in distance off a pair of commendable efforts, registering century-topping Speed ratings for a victory in West Virginia Derby and a runner-up effort in Pennsylvania Derby, and he's displayed a fine finishing kick in three outings since the Kentucky Derby. Don't know if he'll be able to run down the speed at Santa Anita, but three-year-old belongs in the mix of serious win contenders.
Unbridled's Note (Turf Sprint) Finished second in 2012 and fourth last year in this event but is unplaced in all three outings this year and ranked sixth on the also-eligibles list, one spot ahead of stablemate Regally Ready. Appears unlikely to factor if he does make the field.
Untapable (Distaff) Connections hope to see her make amends for a dreadful experience in last year's Juvenile Fillies in which she was eased after experiencing extreme trouble. Three-year-old filly is five-for-six this season, the only setback coming against males in the Haskell, and arrived early at Santa Anita, training locally the entire month of October with a recent five-furlong bullet work (:58). Classy filly is the likely second choice to Close Hatches.
Outlook: Asmussen has proven that he can get his horses ready for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita and his 2014 contingent appears to be in good form (excluding the also-eligibles). He may not come away with any wins, but his horses appear capable of challenging in at least a couple of spots.
Aidan O'Brien (88-8-12-7)
Irish-based O'Brien is a huge supporter of the Breeders' Cup, targeting multiple races each year, and he's done his best work in the Turf, earning a fourth win in the 1 1/2-mile event when Magician posted a 12-1 upset last year. He'll send the colt back for a title defense and also has the filly Chicquita pre-entered.
Chicquita (Turf) Her success on "good ground" overseas could bode well for her chances. After displaying top-class form at age three last season, she sold for a record price at an Irish auction ($8.073 million) in November. Her Coolmore connections brought her back in mid-September and despite dropping all three outings, she's performed respectably twice against good company, the only subpar showing coming from an extreme post position in the Arc. Don't underestimate O'Brien's ability to get the most out of his horses despite a demanding schedule as Chicquita makes her third start in a four-week window.
Magician (Turf) Magician was off since June and had never raced at 1 1/2 miles prior to last year's Turf, but he won't be an unknown quantity this year. The four-year-old colt captured a Group 3 stakes at the Curragh before recording runner-up finishes to The Fugue and Noble Mission in Group 1 events during the spring/summer, and he's been freshened up since a second in the Arlington Million, a tactic that worked so well last November at Santa Anita. He's one of several capable international raiders in this event.
Qualify (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Exits a Group 3 triumph at the Curragh and is bred to appreciate the stretch out to a two-turn mile. She wasn't a serious factor in two previous stakes attempts versus better company, but Qualify remains eligible to keep improving off a confidence-building win and shouldn't be easily dismissed from win consideration.
The Great War (Juvenile) He's raced exclusively on turf but is bred to flourish on a dirt surface with similar bloodlines to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing (both are by War Front and are out of full sisters). The $1 million yearling purchase hasn't performed up to lofty expectations so far but does show three wins from seven starts, including a convincing listed stakes tally last out on September 28. Faces a difficult challenge in a deep Juvenile field.
War Envoy (Juvenile Turf) Looks like a serious player in this spot. A bit disappointing early in his career, the son of War Front brings improving form into the Breeders' Cup. He posted a third in an Irish Group 3 event and a second in an English Group 2 race before rallying to be a close fifth in a Group 1 test on the Arc undercard at Longchamp. Could continue to show more at Santa Anita.
Outlook: O'Brien is very adept shipping his horses to America and European-based horses tend to show up with their best over the Santa Anita turf course, producing four wins in 2013.
Sir Michael Stoute (34-6-2-3)
A 10-time champion English trainer, Stoute handles most of the Queen's best horses and is one of the most respected horsemen in the world. The four-time Turf winner has recorded four of his six Breeders' Cup victories at Santa Anita.
Dank (Filly & Mare Turf) Showed an affinity for the course winning last year's Filly & Mare Turf but has been dogged by a foot problem and won't bring the same form into this event, recording a pair of non-threatening efforts in her lone appearances this year. She had won three of her previous four starts before last year's Breeders' Cup and is probably facing a deeper field this year, but Dank is still a talented mare who is unbeaten from two Grade 1 attempts in America.
Telescope (Turf) After a solid sophomore season, Telescope has improved significantly at age four. He displayed high class in his last two outings, a third in the Juddmonte International and a second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and his easy seven-length tally in the Group 2 Hardwicke three starts back was flattered by runner-up Hillstar's recent victory in the Canadian International at Woodbine. When Stoute announced in September that he was skipping the Arc and pointing the four-year-old son of Galileo to the Turf, it was easy to take notice. Telescope prefers good-to-firm ground and will take some beating.
Outlook: Stoute does a great job targeting big races and his horses will show up with their best at Santa Anita he's won a Breeders' Cup race over the course in four of the last five editions (2003, 2008, 2009 and 2013).
Trainers with multiple Breeders' Cup wins like Richard Mandella (seven), Neil Drysdale (six) and John Gosden (four) are conspicuous by their absence in this year's Breeders' Cup.
Andre Fabre (44-4-5-7) and Freddy Head (6-3-0-1) have both proven dangerous in past editions and will be represented by a lone starter, with Fabre sending out Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Turf and Head responsible for Anodin in the Mile.
Flintshire's improving form must be respected and he's in good company following his second-place finish to Treve last time -- eight also-rans from the Arc have shipped over to win the Turf. Anodin doesn't rate as a top contender, but he shows some respectable performances this season and is a full brother to three-time Mile winner Goldikova.
D. Wayne Lukas and Shug McGaughey are both represented by a pair of entries, but none rate as serious win prospects.
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*all times Eastern
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your rιsumι to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.