Breeders' Cup Previews
BREEDERS' CUP SATURDAY PREVIEWS
BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC (G1), 12TH-SA, $5,000,000, 3YO/UP, 1 1/4M, 8:35PM, 11-1
by James Scully
A full field of 14 will contest the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic and the main question confronting horse players is what to do with Shared Belief, who figures to be an overwhelming favorite following Grade 1 victories over older horses in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again. He must be considered a serious win contender -- the possibility exists that he'll be able to overpower these rivals and extend his perfect record to eight -- but I won't take a short price as he makes his first start at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.
1ST -- BAYERN has turned in spectacular performances on dirt this year, recording runaway victories in the Woody Stephens, Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby since June, and he'll attempt to carry his razor-sharp form forward in the Classic. The three-year-old established a new track mark and earned a whopping 109 BRIS Speed rating while making his final Classic prep last time (Pennsylvania Derby) and Bayern doesn't appear to have skipped a beat since that start on September 20, posting four swift works at Santa Anita in the 42-day interim.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt faltered when trying 10 furlongs in the Travers, but that came over a deep track at Saratoga that plays differently at Santa Anita. He's out of a mare by Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch and none of the last four Classic winners at Santa Anita -- Mucho Macho Man, Fort Larned, Zenyatta and Raven's Pass -- had won at 1 1/4 miles before.
Bayern is a serious threat to lead all the way but drew well in post 7, allowing jockey Martin Garcia the option to sit close if necessary before seizing control, similar to the speedy Beholder in last year's Distaff. The track at Santa Anita should play to his strengths and Bayern rates top billing.
2ND -- SHARED BELIEF was never challenged winning his first six starts, five of those daylight wins on synthetic tracks, but the September 27 Awesome Again at Santa Anita proved to be a different story. Granted, he got the job done following a rough trip in which he was forced widest of all every step of the way, but jockey Mike Smith called upon everything the gelding had to offer as Shared Belief was on his belly the entire length of the stretch en route to a neck decision.
Whether the grueling performance takes some starch out of Shared Belief remains to be seen, but the prospect of an extremely short price, against the deepest field he's faced in his short racing career, offers little appeal. Shared Belief remains a logical option for multi-race wagers, but I'll try to beat him for the win.
3RD -- ZIVO doesn't rate as a serious win contender, but the five-year-old exits an encouraging runner-up effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in which he was steadied repeatedly due to a loose horse. Trained by Chad Brown, the New York-bred strung together six straight wins, including a smart three-length tally in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban, prior to a fourth in the Woodward two back and the in-form closer has earned triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings in his last three starts. He can rally for a small share.
OTHERS -- TONALIST is eligible to outperform expectations, but I'm expecting more from him as a four-year-old. The late-blooming colt has recorded all three of his stakes wins at Belmont Park, where he relished the sweeping turns on the massive oval, and didn't fire his best efforts at Saratoga, registering lower BRIS Speed ratings in a pair of setbacks. The multiple Grade 1 victor could leave himself too much to do from off the pace.
CALIFORNIA CHROME, TOAST OF NEW YORK and CIGAR STREET also merit consideration for a minor award.
BREEDERS' CUP MILE (G1), 11TH-SA, $2,000,000, 3YO/UP, 1MT, 7:40PM, 11-1
In the absence of two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, the Mile is on the threshold of a new era. Or rather, a hearkening back to a former one, when the Europeans tended to hold the upper hand. As much of a warrior as Wise Dan has been, the Hall of Fame shoe-in wasn't beating much outside of his Breeders' Cup ventures, and the internationals look poised to overwhelm what's left of the home defense.
1ST -- TORONADO will be taken on by intrepid handicappers who demand value, but we can't bring ourselves to take a stand against this son of two-time Turf hero High Chaparral. Unlike some past Mile runners from the Richard Hannon yard, this exquisite miler has the athleticism to transfer his considerable game to the tighter contours of Santa Anita. Two of Toronado's best performances have come over the turning, and notoriously undulating, course at Goodwood. Swooping late in swashbuckling style to land the 2013 Sussex Stakes, he was a fine second to superstar Kingman as the defending champion there on July 30. Toronado bookended that effort with a smooth victory in his reappearance in the June 17 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and a near-miss in the September 14 Prix du Moulin to gutsy sophomore Charm Spirit. The only two bad losses of his career were due to breathing problems that were surgically corrected last year, and he has otherwise been the soul of dependability.
Reportedly making a good impression during morning training hours at Santa Anita, Toronado has a high cruising speed that should help him to settle comfortably within striking range of a likely torrid pace. Barring a traffic snarl (which jockey Richard Hughes has suffered here before) he can deliver a lethal closing kick in his likely career finale, and end the Hannon shut-out at the Breeders' Cup.
2ND -- MUSTAJEEB is the type of progressive three-year-old who can spring the upset, giving renowned Irish trainer Dermot Weld an overdue first Breeders' Cup trophy and capping a remarkably successful year for Sheikh Hamdan. The well-bred son of Nayef has produced two top efforts going a one-turn, left-handed mile at Leopardstown. Uncorking a terrific rally to dust older foes in the May 11 Amethyst in his sophomore bow, Mustajeeb was most recently a close second to the in-form Bow Creek in the September 13 Clipper Boomerang Mile. That latest venture was his return from a three-month break, a mere prep ahead of his big autumn targets. In between his Leopardstown sorties, he was third to Kingman in the May 24 Irish Two Thousand Guineas on desperately soft going at the Curragh, and posted a good-looking score in the June 18 Jersey at Royal Ascot. These are deeper waters, but the exciting colt looks ripe for the challenge.
3RD -- ANODIN is better known for his family ties (full brother to three-time Mile legend Goldikova) and for his placings (behind the likes of Toronado, Cirrus des Aigles and Kingman) than for anything he's won himself. Like Goldikova, Anodin is a Wertheimer & Frere homebred trained by Freddie Head, and he's bay. But the similarities pretty much end there. A Group 3 winner during his sophomore campaign in 2013, Anodin has yet to show the brilliance of his sister, let alone scale her heights. He is, however, honest, genuine, and capable, and in the hurly-burly of a competitive field, those qualities can be rewarded. Head also strongly believes that Santa Anita will bring out the best in Anodin.
OTHERS -- VEDA would have been the top selection had she gone in the Filly & Mare Turf, so we had a moral crisis over trying to put the 12-1 shot in the top three here. At the risk of sounding like an arrogant whipper-snapper, however, we really wish that the Aga Khan's brain trust had given the green light for the longer race. Her runner-up efforts in the May 11 French One Thousand Guineas and the October 4 Prix Daniel Wildenstein (to Head's Hong Kong-bound older male Solow) put her squarely in the mix for the Mile. Yet the daughter of Dansili and the Trempolino mare Vadapolina (a two-time Group 3 winner in the vicinity of 1 1/4 miles) also appeared to be crying out for a step up in trip. Veda's been on our radar screen since her career debut. Even as we wring our hands over what might have been, we hope that she can jump up as a live longshot in the Mile.
Fellow Europeans KARAKONTIE and TRADE STORM have to play a much tougher hand. Karakontie's hopes were dealt a blow in post 14, while deep closer Trade Storm won't have nearly as much stretch to work with as he did when landing the September 14 Woodbine Mile (over KAIGUN).
If any American can serve as the super-sub for Wise Dan, it's TOM'S TRIBUTE, who is in career-best form at present. The Jim Cassidy charge equaled Wise Dan's record of 1:31.78 when rolling from well off the pace in the April 6 Thunder Road at this course and distance, and he exits back-to-back scores in the July 20 Eddie Read (beating SUMMER FRONT) and August 24 Del Mar Mile (with front runner extraordinaire OBVIOUSLY fourth).
SEEK AGAIN represents a more obvious tie-in to Wise Dan's form, but his poor post (12) and his recent propensity to find trouble leave us less than confident. The Bill Mott pupil was a badly-hampered sixth to Wise Dan in the October 4 Shadwell Turf Mile. With a clean passage, he would have finished a lot closer. After all, he was beaten only a head by Wise Dan in their prior meeting in the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. And Seek Again had previously beaten the placegetters in the Shadwell, GRAND ARCH and SAYAAD, in his course record-setting win in the August 9 Fourstardave at Saratoga. Stablemate TOURIST has a great deal of upside in principle, but post 13 -- and the problem of being a confirmed pace factor in a race with Obviously -- could be too much for the talented three-year-old.
Obviously hasn't managed to wire the Mile in two prior tries, and even though he's trying a new tack to enter off a break, we suspect he's just not up to winning this. The also-eligible MR. COMMONS was fifth in his two previous attempts in 2011-12, and it's difficult to envision him improving on those results at this stage in his career.
BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT (G1), 10TH-SA, $1,500,000, 3YO/UP, 6F, 7:01PM, 11-1
by Vance Hanson
One of the most difficult races to decipher on Breeders' Cup Saturday, the $1.5 million Sprint could go any number of ways. This is best reflected on the morning line, with 2013 winner Secret Circle only a mild 9-2 early choice in a field of 14, with two also-eligibles hoping to draw in.
1ST -- Only a winner of a California-bred allowance when the year began, BIG MACHER developed into one of Southern California's leading sprinters this season. He fared particularly well during Santa Anita's winter-spring meet, landing the California Cup Sprint and Potrero Grande, and only narrowly losing the San Carlos to the classy Sahara Sky.
Following a three-month break, Big Macher returned to the winner's circle following the Bing Crosby at Del Mar, but threw in one of the worst clunkers of his career over the same track in the Pat O'Brien a month later.
Trainer Richard Baltas purposely skipped the main local prep, the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, in order to have the four-year-old gelding in peak condition for the Breeders' Cup, and judging by several of his recent works (six furlongs in 1:11 2/5 and five furlongs in :58 3/5), the son of Beau Genius is looking solid indeed.
Never worse than second in five starts over the Santa Anita strip, Big Macher breaks from post 10 and figures to sit behind a blistering pace before making a contending bid. At 12-1 in the morning line, he's the value play.
2ND -- A lightly-raced three-year-old, FAST ANNA faces a severe class test stepping up to face older horses for the first time. However, the son of Medaglia d'Oro is capable of putting up some severely wicked fractions.
A blowout winner of his first two starts at Gulfstream earlier in the year, the Kathy Ritvo charge nearly stole the seven-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga after setting a moderate pace of :22 4/5 and :46.
More was required of him in the early stages of the Gallant Bob at Parx in September, where he dueled through early splits of :21 1/5 and :43 1/5 over a lightning-fast strip that was yielding track records. He didn't win, but his second-place finish was good enough to have won a lot of major stakes this year.
Fast Anna did not get a favorable draw -- post 12 -- but a sharp break puts him in an ideal position outside the other speed. He enters with a profile similar to that of Trinniberg, the three-year-old who upset the 2012 Sprint after losses in the King's Bishop and Gallant Bob.
3RD -- Hong Kong-based RICH TAPESTRY pulled off the 7-1 upset of the Santa Anita Sprint Championship on October 4, nipping Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile favorite Goldencents by a nose in his U.S. debut. He faces a deeper cast this time, but based on that race he is most deserving of respect.
Unraced for more than five months prior to the Sprint Championship, Rich Tapestry was previously a Group 3 winner on turf in Hong Kong and a Group 2 scorer over the former Tapeta surface at Meydan in Dubai. He was also a close second in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night. However, he had run on dirt previously in a pair of handicaps at Sha Tin in 2012, winning both times.
Rich Tapestry figures to get a trip similar to the one he had last time, stalking a swift pace and hoping the speed backs up a bit. Barring unforeseen traffic problems, he should have every chance.
OTHERS -- SECRET CIRCLE was in need of a race when a tiring third in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, his first start since February, but doesn't appear to be coming into this race as strongly as he did last year. This edition looks tougher.
PRIVATE ZONE enters off a repeat victory in the Vosburgh at Belmont Park, but hasn't won in four previous tries on this track and was well-beaten in this event last year. Chicago-based WORK ALL WEEK is actually undefeated in nine starts on dirt and was a solid winner of the Phoenix at Keeneland in his final prep.
PALACE, the East's leading sprinter for much of the summer, will attempt to rebound off a third in the Vosburgh, but New York-based sprinters have often had difficulty replicating their home form at Santa Anita.
BREEDERS' CUP TURF (G1), 9TH-SA, $3,000,000, 3YO/UP, 1 1/2MT, 6:22PM, 11-1
The Breeders' Cup Turf might have lost its defending champion in Magician, but it's still packed with star power. Given the quality of the Europeans' depth chart compared to ours, the 1 1/2-mile prize looks destined to travel across the Atlantic yet again. The most pressing handicapping task is to identify the likeliest European to do the honors, and one name rises over the horizon.
1ST -- TELESCOPE simply annihilated them in the June 21 Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, amply justifying the hype that has long enveloped him. If he can even come close to duplicating that effort in similar conditions, no one in this field could live with him. The Sir Michael Stoute colt was a onetime antepost favorite for the 2013 Epsom Derby, only to have his sophomore campaign bedeviled by injury. He did manage to make the Great Voltigeur last summer, and his fluent victory hinted that he was at his best going 1 1/2 miles on quick ground. Telescope didn't get those conditions again until his third start off the layoff in the Hardwicke, where he romped by seven lengths from stablemate Hillstar (the eventual winner of the Canadian International). The son of Galileo hasn't gotten those conditions in his two ensuing starts, but still turned in honorable efforts in defeat. On ground with a little more give than he likes in the July 26 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth back at Ascot, he was best of the rest behind Oaks heroine Taghrooda (later third in the Arc). In the August 20 Juddmonte International at York, Telescope loved the firmish going, but couldn't quite cope with the shorter 1 5/16-mile trip, and deferred to all-star sophomores Australia and The Grey Gatsby.
Connections resisted the lure of the Arc, and Stoute methodically mapped his way to Santa Anita, where Telescope will have his optimal working environment. Brilliant jockey Ryan Moore will have also worked out a game plan from his rail post. With his useful tactical speed, Telescope figures to be stalking early before delivering the coup de grace. He could give the Stoute/Moore tandem a huge double following stablemate Dank in the Filly & Mare Turf.
2ND -- FLINTSHIRE, most recently runner-up to history-making Treve in the Arc, has a hefty stat in his favor. Arc losers have come back later in the fall to win this race no fewer than nine times (including Miss Alleged, who ran in the 1991 Washington D.C. International in between). From the ever-dangerous Andre Fabre yard, Flintshire has yet to finish out of the top two on his preferred good ground. His resume includes a victory in last year's Grand Prix de Paris as well as a second to the venerable Cirrus des Aigles in the June 7 Coronation Cup at Epsom. The Juddmonte homebred promises to perform right up to his best here, and would be an eminently logical winner. We can't escape the feeling, though, that he might lack the panache of a Telescope in full flight.
3RD -- CHICQUITA perhaps should have come here straight off her 15th in the Arc (from post 18), but the $8 million Goffs purchase is too talented to ignore. To be sure, the daughter of Montjeu has mad quirks to go along with her ability, and we wouldn't be surprised to see either the best or worst of her here. She has a penchant for veering toward the grandstand, and as an equal-opportunity wanderer, she has done this at both right- and left-handed tracks, for former trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre as well as current trainer Aidan O'Brien. Second to the mighty Treve in last year's French Oaks, she nearly threw away the Irish Oaks with this behavior, but held on to break her maiden. Chicquita arguably did throw away her latest venture, the October 18 British Champions Fillies' and Mares' at Ascot, and wound up third after her costly drift. Laboring on the heavy going that day could have left its mark, and this does loom as an afterthought. But she only recently returned from a 14-month layoff in September, finishing a sharp second to the now-retired Tarfasha, so could be comparatively fresher than most this time of year. And new rider Frankie Dettori could be just the forceful pilot she needs to set, and keep her, straight.
OTHERS -- MAIN SEQUENCE is the most accomplished of the American-based runners, but HARDEST CORE is a more attractive 10-1 for under-the-radar connections. The Eddie Graham charge readily disposed of a subpar Magician in the August 16 Arlington Million, begging the question of how he would have fared among the usual suspects in the division's other major races this summer and fall. Hardest Core was an emphatic winner of Delaware's Cape Henlopen in his only prior attempt at this distance, and the up-and-comer could have still more scope to progress.
Main Sequence was thoroughly exposed during his former career in England. Even allowing for the magnificent training job here by Graham Motion, and his possibly benefiting from Lasix, his Grade 1 hat trick since his repatriation could be read as an indictment of the U.S. turf scene. His class relief on these shores has now ended, along with his successful partnership with Rajiv Maragh (due to injury). Main Sequence picks up the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, and he will be closing late. But he could also be an underlay based on overvaluing of his U.S. record.
Likely pacesetter IMAGINING and TWILIGHT ECLIPSE haven't figured out a way to beat Main Sequence yet. BROWN PANTHER is a top-class English stayer, but could find life difficult among 12-furlong specialists on a firm, turning course. HANGOVER KID and the trio from the September 28 John Henry Turf Championship -- FINNEGANS WAKE, BIG JOHN B and STARSPANGLED HEAT -- all look overmatched.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE (G1), 8TH-SA, $2,000,000, 2YO, C/G, 1 1/16M, 5:43PM, 11-1
by James Scully
Fifteen of the last 18 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners were named champion two-year-old male and the 1 1/16-mile race often determines the winter-book Kentucky Derby favorite. Morning-line choice American Pharoah was withdrawn Tuesday due to a foot bruise, but an exciting field of 12 remains.
1ST -- CARPE DIEM impressed when recording making his two-turn debut in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, posting a widening 6 1/4-length decision, and the son of Giant's Causeway displayed a new dimension rating just off the early pace. The Todd Pletcher trainee captured his first start, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint at Saratoga, in wire-to-wire fashion.
His acceleration was eye-catching and Carpe Diem registered an excellent 100 BRIS Speed rating last time. He figures to put his tactical speed to good use in this spot, dropping in behind the first flight of runners in midpack during the early stages, and a hot pace seems certain. That should play favorably for his late kick and Carpe Diem will look to make his move on the far turn. Jockey John Velazquez retains the mount on the promising colt.
2ND -- SOUPER COLOSSAL has been off since late August, but New Year's Day returned from a similar layoff to capture last year's Juvenile and there's plenty to like about Souper Colossal's chances. By top young sire War Front and out of a Kingmambo mare, the Eddie Plesa-trained colt made a seamless transition to two turns last time, scoring easily by 5 1/2 lengths in a Monmouth Park stakes race, and his BRIS Speed numbers have been increasing.
The unbeaten colt could prove to be the speed of the speed Saturday with regular rider Paco Lopez, and Souper Colossal appears to be training forwardly at Santa Anita, recording a five-furlong work (:59 2/5) on Monday that impressed onlookers. He's a threat to last a long way.
3RD -- ONE LUCKY DANE dropped his first two starts on Del Mar's Polytrack but discovered his best form when trying the dirt track at Santa Anita, romping home to a 9 1/2-length score at two turns. He covered a lot of ground with his massive strides and One Lucky Dane must be considered a serious Kentucky Derby prospect for Bob Baffert, a three-time winner of the race.
The Juvenile won't be easy given the seasoning advantage and talent that some of his rivals possess, but we may not have seen the best of One Lucky Dane either. He should be up close stalking the pace with regular rider Rafael Bejarano and the son of Lookin at Lucky rates as an intriguing upset contender in his first start against winners.
OTHERS -- DAREDEVIL will show speed from his outside post and can't be dismissed from consideration, but he'll be making his two-turn debut and first start on a fast track. Will still include him underneath in the exotics. MR. Z is an interesting longshot (20-1 morning line) for the gimmicks. The Malibu Moon colt exits an encouraging second in the Breeders' Futurity for D. Wayne Lukas and has posted some decent BRIS Speed ratings.
BREEDERS' CUP TURF SPRINT (G1), 7TH-SA, $1,000,000, 3YO/UP, *6 1/2FT, 5:05PM, 11-1
by Vance Hanson
For those with unlimited funds, the "ALL" button might come in handy for this renewal of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint over Santa Anita's about 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course. An unbelievably tough handicapping exercise, a case can be made for virtually everyone in the field. As in years past, our focus will be on those with positive prior experience over the course and/or distance.
1ST -- Although he finished in a dead heat for second in last year's Turf Sprint with the filly Reneesgotzip, TIGHTEND TOUCHDOWN is going to offer at least twice the price as that one, who drew a tough spot on the rail. Ignored at 18-1 in 2013, most likely due to not having run over the local turf, the chestnut gelding handled the course remarkably well. Tracking Reneesgotzip from second all the way down the hill, he eventually finished on even terms with that one while losing by a half-length to the brilliant Turf Sprint repeater Mizdirection.
Tightend Touchdown turned in his worst performance since beginning his stakes career when eighth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in February, but had a legitimate excuse after getting bumped at the break. He rebounded to take the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup at Penn National for a second time, ran the iconic Ben's Cat to a nose decision in the Parx Dash, and then might have been a tad short when third in the Turf Monster Handicap over wet ground on Labor Day.
A gem of consistency for most of his stakes career, he'll have every chance to get a trip similar to the one he had a year ago, and perhaps can fend off the late surges from various locally-based hopefuls.
2ND -- The beaten favorite in the one-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf a year ago when setting too fast a pace, BOBBY'S KITTEN might find the cut back to sprinting helpful. A top miler in the three-year-old ranks this term, the Chad Brown trainee fared well when taking on older rivals for the first time in the Woodbine Mile, finishing 2 1/4 lengths third to the globetrotting Trade Storm.
Bobby's Kitten won't be showing as much early speed here as others are far quicker, but he should be well-placed in mid-pack and might get the jump on some of the other serious stalkers and closers. He's unlikely to get leg-weary as this will be the shortest distance he will have ever raced over.
3RD -- RENEESGOTZIP ran third here in 2012 and in a dead heat for second in 2013, but it might be a little tougher for the speedball mare this time as she drew post 1. She'll have to come out winging to protect her position coming down the hill, and the threat exists that other speed benefiting from outside posts might snatch the early advantage from her.
The five-year-old has raced just twice since last year's Turf Sprint, finishing third to an in-form Judy the Beauty in the Rancho Bernardo, and then blowing the doors off lesser in a restricted stakes at Del Mar. Worse than third only once in 15 starts, that in the 2012 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, she'll be difficult to keep out of the frame.
OTHERS -- SWEET SWAP is certain to be overlooked despite having won the San Simeon and Joe Hernandez here at the winter-spring meet, and the only question is whether he will be fit enough off a layoff approaching seven months. HOME RUN KITTEN and AMBITIOUS BREW, one-two in the opening day Eddie D, are also logical course-and-distance specialists.
Multiple Grade 2 winner SILENTIO has won or placed in eight of nine starts over this course, but the miler doesn't have a lot of experience sprinting. The Wesley Ward-trained duo of NO NAY NEVER and UNDRAFTED have made their marks both stateside and in Europe, but concede crucial experience over this course.
SOMETHNG EXTRA, DIMENSION, CASPAR NETSCHER, MARCHMAN, and AGELESS are all capable of making noise if they handle the course.
BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT (G1), 6TH-SA, $1,000,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 7F, 4:21PM, 11-1
by Vance Hanson
The $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint has attracted only a field of 10, but there is a lot riding on the outcome of the seven-furlong dash. In its first seven runnings, the winner has gone on to be named champion female sprinter six times, including two-time champion Groupie Doll.
1ST -- Second to Groupie Doll in the Filly & Mare Sprint last year was JUDY THE BEAUTY, who is on target to make amends for owner-trainer Wesley Ward. Since her half-length defeat a year ago, the Ghostzapper mare has won three of four, taking the Las Flores at Santa Anita, Madison at Keeneland, and Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar in fine style.
The only sub-par effort from Judy the Beauty this term was the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. Ward took the blame for her loss, a fourth-place effort by six lengths to Midnight Lucky, who was withdrawn from this race and retired last week. Ward said he had been on the fence whether to run her back so quickly following the Madison three weeks earlier. In hindsight, he said he would have given her more time between starts.
Judy the Beauty hasn't run since August 17, so she should be fresh as a daisy for this. The main concern is she doesn't typically enjoy getting caught between rivals while running, which Ward speculated might have caused a delay in her uncorking a bid against Groupie Doll last year.
2ND -- Canadian champion LEIGH COURT enters off one of the best last-race preps, a three-length demolition of her rivals in the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland. A speedball on Polytrack and grass, she reverted to her old stalk-and-pounce ways returning to dirt and was helpfully aided by a fast pace.
A winner in six of seven starts around one turn, Leigh Court enters in peak form and figures once again to get a strong setup. She's perfect in three starts at this seven-furlong distance and obviously has few faults.
3RD -- The three-year-old STONETASTIC was among the dueling leaders in the Thoroughbred Club of America, and simply didn't have enough left in the tank to fend off Leigh Court in the final furlong or so.
A dynamite winner of the Prioress at Saratoga against her peers two back, she would seem better suited to six furlongs having lost all four of her outings beyond that distance. However, with the defection of Midnight Lucky, she now looks like the primary speed of the field and could take them a long way if she can shake loose early. We'll keep her in the minor slots due to distance, but she remains the one to catch.
OTHERS -- The sophomore ARTEMIS AGROTERA is one of the top contenders for the divisional title after beating older rivals in both the Ballerina and Gallant Bloom Handicap. However, she had to turn in a Forego-like rally to win after a very slow start, neededing every yard to overtake a rival that had insanely gone out in :21 3/5 and :43 3/5. She's undefeated under a mile, but didn't run particularly well here in the Breeders' Cup last year and might be on the downward part of her form cycle.
SWEET REASON, another three-year-old, captured the Acorn and Test before finishing a solid second to Untapable in the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion. The highly-consistent filly certainly fits, but seems a notch slower than her older rivals. LIVING THE LIFE, a former mainstay on the all-weather courses of England, is undefeated in two U.S. starts. She won the Presque Isle Downs Masters, which has yielded numerous winners of this race, but we'll take a stand against her having not raced on dirt before.
BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE TURF (G1), 5TH-SA, $2,000,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/4MT, 3:43PM, 11-1
No Filly & Mare Turf champion has come back to repeat the following year, a factoid that reigning titleholder DANK may consign to oblivion.
Until earlier this week, however, that statistic appeared bound to stand firm. Sidelined since June, and with only two starts since last fall's heroics at Santa Anita, Dank has not exactly had an ideal preparation. Her abbreviated campaign was sure to cost her at the Breeders' Cup, and continue the pattern of past F&M Turf winners who were beaten in their title defense -- Banks Hill (2001), Ouija Board (2004, who lost in 2005 but came back to win in 2006), Forever Together (2008), Midday (2009) and Shared Account (2010).
We were all set to oppose her with European sophomores Veda and Tarfasha. But both defected, with Tarfasha heading into retirement and Veda sticking to the Mile. Dank's task was considerably eased, while our task of trying to beat her ending up hitting a brick wall.
1ST -- DANK is the best horse in the race, and if anyone can get her back to peak fitness off the 4 1/2-month holiday, it's her master trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. Aside from her Eclipse Award-winning season of 2013, highlighted by victories in the Beverly D. (in virtual course record-equaling time at Arlington) and the F&M Turf, Dank has mixed it up in two of the world's toughest races this year. She returned from a similar break in the March 29 Dubai Duty Free, where she was a hard-charging, troubled third to Japan's superstar Just a Way, who smashed Meydan's course mark for about 1 1/8 miles. Dank next tried the June 18 Prince of Wales's over 1 1/4 miles at Royal Ascot, finishing fifth behind The Fugue, Magician and Treve -- in another course record.
A foot injury derailed her in the interim, but she has reportedly been pleasing Stoute of late. She maintains her partnership with all-world jockey Ryan Moore, who interestingly told Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh that Dank was his best winning chance at the Breeders' Cup.
2ND -- STEPHANIE'S KITTEN, the best of the American hopes, is most likely to capitalize if Dank doesn't fire her best. Among the leaders of her division for four straight years, the Ramseys' homebred daughter of Kitten's Joy has already won a Breeders' Cup trophy, in the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill. Stephanie's Kitten has hurt her own cause a few times this season by dropping too far back early. That was a major contributing factor in the August 16 renewal of the Beverly D., where she flashed home off an early crawl for second to European sophomore Euro Charline (who's nice but no Dank). Stephanie's Kitten took up a far better tactical position in the September 27 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont -- historically the most productive prep for this race -- and delivered her trademark kick to win convincingly. We're slightly concerned by her drawing post 10 here, for she's in danger of dropping back off another tepid pace, or of covering a lot of extra ground throughout.
3RD -- SECRET GESTURE might prefer a little more ground, but the Galileo filly has been a model of consistency in salty company. Runner-up in both the 2013 Epsom and German Oaks, and third to The Fugue in the Yorkshire Oaks, Secret Gesture kicked off 2014 with a bang-up second to globetrotter Ambivalent in the May 15 Middleton at York. The Ralph Beckett trainee was expected to dominate lesser foes in the June 16 Warwickshire Oaks, but had to dig a bit before quickening in the final strides. Secret Gesture showed a similarly battling attitude versus males in the July 26 York Stakes, where she was just outpaced late by Sheikhzayedroad (subsequently the winner of Woodbine's Northern Dancer Turf). Her third in the August 24 Prix Jean Romanet was solid enough at a boggy Deauville, and she'll appreciate better conditions at Santa Anita. A pick-up mount by Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen, Secret Gesture is a forwardly-placed type who will stay on doggedly for the duration.
OTHERS -- ABACO has bomb potential at 15-1, while Europeans JUST THE JUDGE and FIESOLANA are likely to make their presence felt. Abaco has strong formlines with Stephanie's Kitten, capped by a closing second in the Flower Bowl. The Shug McGaughey mare has yet to finish worse than second in three starts at this trip, and she will be doing her best work late.
Just the Judge has high-class European form, and finished third to Euro Charline and Stephanie's Kitten in the loaded Beverly D., but she's wheeling back quickly off a score in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine October 19. While we have a lot of respect for her, we would have liked her better if it weren't for her rapid turnaround plan. Her fellow Qatar Racing colorbearer, Secret Gesture, has the benefit of coming in fresh. Fiesolana has high-class form at a mile, as evidenced by her rapier-like verdict in the September 13 Matron at Leopardstown, but has yet to prove herself at this level over the 10-furlong trip. A relatively steady pace could put the premium on finishing speed, which she has in abundance.
DAYATTHESPA faces a tall task to stretch her cruising speed farther than ever before, especially versus such accomplished international competition. Of those coming out of the Rodeo Drive -- EMOLLIENT, PARRANDA, RUSTY SLIPPER and IRISH MISSION -- the latter holds the most appeal. The Christophe Clement-trained Irish Mission rallied excellently after being shuffled back at a crucial point. Nevertheless, the Rodeo Drive (formerly known as the Yellow Ribbon) has historically been a weak indicator for this race.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES (G1), 4TH-SA, $2,000,000, 2YO, F, 1 1/16M, 3:05PM, 11-1
Unless a major longshot crosses the wire first, this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies will be the deciding factor in who is honored with an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 2014. That's not always been the case, but this crop is very well-matched, resulting in an array of Grade 1 winners who could never put away their opponents with any sort of authority.
Experience could be the deciding factor on Saturday -- experience over the track and at the 1 1/16-mile distance -- leaving a very clear cut choice for the top spot.
1ST -- ANGELA RENEE is the only filly in the 12-strong field with a win over both track and distance. That came in the Grade 1 Chandelier on September 27, the traditional local prep for the Juvenile Fillies that could very well live up to its billing this year.
Angela Renee tracked the pace through the opening half-mile before commencing her run. The Todd Pletcher trainee took command and held a two-length lead in the lane that was whittled down to 1 1/2 lengths by Conquest Eclipse on the wire.
Angela Renee was making her Santa Anita bow in that spot, having begun her career on the East Coast at Belmont Park. She took her maiden debut on June 27 at Big Sandy, then finished second while facing stakes rivals for the first time in Saratoga's Grade 2 Adirondack. The Bernardini miss returned just 21 days later at the Spa to be third following a bumpy start in the Grade 1 Spinaway.
Each of those races provided a gradual progression in distance, culminating when Angela Renee stretched out to 1 1/16 mile in the Chandelier. She earned a 91 BRIS Speed rating for the win, which was actually lower than the 97 she garnered for her Adirondack effort, but it's still on par with this group. John Velazquez rode the bay filly up until she made her West Coast debut, and takes back the reins on Saturday.
2ND -- In sticking with the theme of track and distance, CONQUEST ECLIPSE could use her experience in the Chandelier to make an impact here as well.
The Malibu Moon filly broke her maiden at Churchill Downs, was given a brief rest, then returned to be a rallying third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on August 30. Though she took her debut in front-running fashion, the Mark Casse pupil displayed a late running style in her past two and seemed to relish the added distance of the Chandelier.
Conquest Eclipse has been working well at Santa Anita since her last race and recorded a bullet five furlongs in :58 3/5 two weeks ago. Corey Nakatani will be aboard as the Kentucky-bred miss looks for her first stakes victory in this spot.
3RD -- Considering Angela Renee is 3-1 and Conquest Eclipse is 4-1 on the morning-line, PUCA might add some value to the exotics at 6-1 early odds.
Though the Bill Mott trainee has yet to face stakes rivals, she did run a close third to Lady Eli, who returned next out to romp in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo. Both those races, the maiden and stakes, were on the turf, but Puca broke her maiden on October 1 by 16 lengths over Belmont Park's dirt. She was even three wide on the turn while doing it, too.
That maiden score was enough for the Big Brown filly to earn a spot in the top three here, but she gets the added bonuses of first-time Lasix and Joel Rosario taking the mount. Taken all together, it could be enough to see Puca in the winner's circle at the end of the Juvenile Fillies.
OTHERS -- FEATHERED and CRISTINA'S JOURNEY appear too good to leave out completely and could add some value.
The former, another Pletcher trainee, wired her maiden by 9 3/4 lengths at Saratoga on August 31 before stretching out an extra furlong to be third in the one-mile Grade 1 Frizette behind the re-opposing BY THE MOON and WONDER GAL. Our biggest knock against Feathered is that she stayed in New York to train for this one and doesn't own a published work over the track.
Cristina's Journey is unbeaten in two starts thus far, including a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dale Romans shipped his Any Given Saturday filly to Santa Anita in time for some valuable experience in the form of a couple of nice moves over the track. The bay lass appears to be still improving while flying under the radar.
Like Feathered, By the Moon enters this race having no formal moves over the track, and that could cost her despite her obvious talent. Trainer Leah Gyarmati shipped Wonder Gal into Santa Anita in time for one work after the Frizette, and the Tiz Wonderful miss gets Mike Smith in the irons. It wouldn't be a surprise to see her closing again at the end.
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
NOVEMBER 1, 2014
Following on the heels of the Breeders' Cup Friday report, here's the briefing on the international team set for Saturday.
BREEDERS' CUP SATURDAY
Filly & Mare Turf
SECRET GESTURE is a game and genuine performer who has come up a bit short on the big occasion, perhaps just lacking that unassailable turn of foot. A leading contender for the 2013 Oaks after a 10-length romp on soggy ground at Lingfield, the Galileo filly was upstaged by her lesser-fancied stablemate Talent at Epsom. Secret Gesture next went for classic compensation in the German Oaks, only to suffer a tough beat in second again. She ended her sophomore year with a distant third to The Fugue in the Yorkshire Oaks and a subpar last in the Prix de l'Opera -- the only time this admirable filly has ever finished unplaced. The pattern of useful efforts just shy of the mountaintop has continued into 2014. In the May 15 Middleton at York, Secret Gesture was cruising on the bridle to challenge Ambivalent, but that accomplished globetrotter (now a Melbourne Cup hope) found extra to put her away comfortably. Trainer Ralph Beckett prescribed class relief for the June 16 Warwickshire Oaks, but she had to work harder than expected to get up by a half-length from Wall of Sound (who would go on to finish fourth to Just the Judge in the E.P. Taylor). Tackling males in the July 26 York Stakes, she uncharacteristically set the pace, was headed by Godolphin's Windhoek, fought back, but got nipped by Sheikhzayedroad (who went on to win Woodbine's Northern Dancer Turf). Secret Gesture was convincingly outkicked by Ribbons in the August 24 Prix Jean Romanet on very soft going at Deauville, a result that looks better after Ribbon's near-miss in the Prix de l'Opera on Arc Day. Secret Gesture is one of two Qatar Racing colorbearers here, along with Just the Judge (in partnerships with Newsells Park and the Sangster Family, respectively). Secret Gesture's best Breeders' Cup chance might have been in a theoretical 1 1/2-mile race for distaffers. Her own divisional race is a tad short of ideal. Nevertheless, her great attitude could land her in the exotics.
FIESOLANA has been a remarkable success story for Irish trainer Willie McCreery, but it's worth noting that he really wanted her in the Mile. When the F&M Turf was officially listed as her first preference, I initially thought that it was because she earned an automatic berth by capturing the Matron. But her owners, the Niarchos Family's Flaxman Holdings, also have Karakontie in the Mile, so perhaps it's a case of desiring to split them up. In any event, Fiesolana hasn't raced over this far a trip since her old French days with Jean-Claude Rouget. McCreery brought her to Ireland for her 2013 campaign and developed her into a consistent performer at the Group level. A rare flop last season was her sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Kilboy Estate, beaten five lengths by Dank. Fiesolana capped her breakthrough year with a sharp score over males in the seven-furlong Challenge at Newmarket. Relaxed off the early pace while traveling best, she quickened well to prevail by two lengths. McCreery thought that would be her finale for him, as she was subsequently sold for more than $1.65 million at Tattersalls in December. But her new owners kept Fiesolana with him. After coming down with an infection in early 2014, she understandably took time to round into form, yet she still performed creditably. Fiesolana hinted that she was back with a fine third in the August 10 Prix Maurice de Gheest, where she was up on the pace throughout on heavy ground. Next time out in the September 13 Matron, she capitalized on her ideal set-up to notch a coveted Group 1: buried behind horses early, she was full of run in the stretch, knifed through a seam, and outkicked a high-class yardstick in Rizeena. She can be forgiven her most recent seventh in the Prix de la Foret, a messy race in which she never factored from off the pace. The BC Mile could have unfolded for her much like her career-best in the Matron, held around a turn at left-handed Leopardstown. It's questionable whether Fiesolana would offer the same kind of kick in the 1 1/4-mile F&M Turf. On the other hand, the steady pace could turn it into a sprint to the wire, and she won't mind that at all.
Filly & Mare Sprint
LIVING THE LIFE comes off a rallying victory in her stakes debut for Gary Mandella in the September 8 Presque Isle Downs Masters. That was far and away the signature win for this former handicapper, who plied her trade in the blue-collar world of winter all-weather racing in England. Initially sharing the same owner/trainer connections as Toast of New York (see the Classic), Living the Life was purchased by American Anglophile Hank Nothhaft earlier this year and transferred to Phil McEntee. The nicely-bred filly repaid the investment with four fine efforts over Lingfield's Polytrack, culminating in a 3 1/2-length romp in the lucrative "All-Weather Fillies' and Mares' Championships" on April 18. Despite its grandiose title, that was a conditions race, not a stakes. Living the Life also benefited from a canny ride by all-weather ace Adam Kirby. Immediately admitting that he "had a freebie" on the front end, Kirby craftily opened up turning for home, and no one could catch her. Living the Life didn't race again until Del Mar and Presque Isle, where she put her synthetic proficiency to good use. The Presque Isle Masters has been a useful stepping stone to this race in the past, but it's doubtful whether she'll cope with the big guns on the dirt at Santa Anita. Although she certainly has earned her chance to try, it's difficult to see her as anything other than a substitute for Nothhaft's brilliant speedball Kindle, who hasn't worked since May.
CASPAR NETSCHER strikes while the iron is hot, fresh off his late-running heroics in the October 19 Nearctic at Woodbine, and he's capable of turning the double. Trained by the shrewd David Simcock, who has similarly plundered North America with the likes of Trade Storm (see the Mile), Sheikhzayedroad, and I'm a Dreamer, Caspar Netscher is a textbook case of a horse who has been taking incremental steps forward with each start this campaign. By Dutch Art, the sire of current sprint supremo Slade Power, the five-year-old didn't resume until August. He obviously needed the race in the Maurice de Gheest, then traveled in contention before being outkicked late in both the August 23 Hopeful and the September 6 Haydock Sprint Cup (where he ran much better than his 100-1 odds). Caspar Netscher improved again in the October 4 Bengough at Ascot, striking the front only to tire on ground that was softer than preferable. Everything came together for him at Woodbine -- race fitness, a fast pace, good ground -- and he showed his old sparkle. That really was an old sparkle, for he was winning for the first time since he returned from a failed stint at stud in 2013. This marks his second Breeders' Cup appearance, having tried the 2011 Juvenile Turf for original trainer Alan McCabe. The impressive winner of that season's Gimcrack and Mill Reef, he was given rave reviews by Kieren Fallon, but didn't do himself justice at Churchill Downs. Caspar Netscher rebounded with a successful 2012 campaign, capturing the Greenham and the German Two Thousand Guineas and posting an honorable fifth in an all-star Jacques le Marois at Deauville -- to Excelebration, Cityscape, Elusive Kate, and Moonlight Cloud. That's a formline to envy, and now he's back to his best.
THE GREAT WAR is taking a speculative shot on the dirt for Aidan O'Brien, who freely admits that he hasn't run up to his home reputation. On the plus side, he is a close relative of Departing, a multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire on dirt. The $1 million Keeneland September yearling purchase is by Departing's sire War Front and out of the Pulpit mare Guide, who is a full sister to Departing's dam Leave. The Great War looked like a budding star for Ballydoyle when simply coasting in his first two starts this spring. The bubble was burst, however, as he lost his way over the summer. Only fifth as the odds-on favorite in the June 19 Norfolk at Royal Ascot, he didn't lengthen at all when sixth behind the smashing Ivawood in the July Stakes. The Great War was in danger of being a disappointment, and a mistaken use of a name to mark this centenary of the outbreak of World War I. While he was beaten again in the August 23 Curragh Stakes, he at least showed a sign of life as a fast-finishing second to the useful filly Ainippe. His run in the September 11 Hamilton Insurance at Doncaster was better than it looks on paper. One of the co-highweights at 128 pounds, he produced a bold rally on the far side of the course, but couldn't sustain it and weakened late. The Great War finally regained the winning thread last time in the September 28 Blenheim at the Curragh, where he reveled in quicker ground than he's had of late. Joseph O'Brien took a confident look over his shoulder as the colt was striding effortlessly, and he picked up on cue to win handsomely from the promising filly Tamadhor. The Juvenile Turf would be a more natural option, but this offers a timely dirt experiment for a colt who could act on it. Even if he handles the surface, there are two significant worries: he's in the deep end against some serious-looking Kentucky Derby hopefuls, and taking a substantial step up in trip. The Great War is bred to cope with 1 1/16 miles. But O'Brien actually toyed with running him versus older horses in the five-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc Day, and such a great divergence in possible targets doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.
FLINTSHIRE has abundant logic in his favor -- the compelling strike rate of Arc losers in this race, his outstanding formlines, his top-two reliability in quicker conditions, and renowned connections as a Juddmonte homebred trained by the inimitable Andre Fabre. Yet as capable and well-qualified as he is, he doesn't quite fire the imagination of a flashier type like Telescope. A full brother to multiple stakes scorer and Group 2-placed Dance Moves, who just missed in the 15-furlong Prix Kergorlay in 2013, Flintshire also hails from the family of Spanish Moon, the 2009 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner and fourth in the BC Turf. The son of Dansili has kept to this 1 1/2-mile distance since the summer of 2013, when he crushed the Prix du Lys and readily disposed of a perhaps iffy group in the Grand Prix de Paris. He could have answered that critique of the form, but the weather went against him last fall. Unable to quicken on rain-softened ground, he cannot be held liable for his fourth in the Prix Niel or his eighth in the Arc. Not seen again until the June 7 Coronation Cup at Epsom, Flintshire traveled comfortably off the pace, was nudged to go after Cirrus des Aigles, and kicked on strongly, but not enough to reel in the venerable (and race-fit) gelding at the peak of his powers. Flintshire again was undone by soft going in the June 29 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, finishing fifth (later elevated to fourth via disqualification). Fabre intended to have a crack at the King George, but Flintshire spiked a fever and missed his midsummer engagement. Rested for the fall, Flintshire was a strong second to front-running Ruler of the World in the September 14 Prix Foy, doing well to reduce the gap late. He finally got his preferred ground for another try at the Arc, and lost no stature by beating all but the historic Treve. Flintshire will love the firm turf at Santa Anita, but he'll need to deploy it on a dime around a sharper course.
BROWN PANTHER ran off riderless prior to the October 19 Canadian International, prompting his last-minute withdrawal from the North American race that played more to his strengths. His breeder and co-owner Michael Owen, of English soccer fame, has been completely candid that Santa Anita won't suit the high-class stayer as well as the broad canvas of Woodbine. This isn't exactly a change in plan, since connections had previously held out the possibility of advancing from Woodbine to the Breeders' Cup. Still, the main reason for going to the Canadian International was to give the six-year-old his best shot at a top-level victory at 1 1/2 miles (the European classic distance), and thereby enhance his value as a stallion prospect. Otherwise, Brown Panther would be disregarded as a pure marathoner who needs at least 1 3/4 miles to excel in elite company. (He does own wins at 1 1/2 miles, but versus lesser, and his seventh to Danedream in the 2012 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth was on good-to-soft going.) Had he accomplished his mission at Woodbine, there would have been a great temptation to pass on Santa Anita, where he will meet a different type of course and far stiffer competition. Brown Panther has been a terrific campaigner over the years. Runner-up in the 2011 St Leger and victorious in the 2013 Goodwood Cup, he tried the Melbourne Cup at this time last year, was struck into and suffered cuts, and finished a creditable eighth. Brown Panther was back with a bang in May, outstaying Hillstar in the Ormonde at Chester and rolling home in the Henry II at Sandown. After a trio of solid efforts in defeat, he earned his first Group 1 tally in the September 14 Irish St Leger, with a brilliant assist from jockey Richard Kingscote. Sure of his mount's abundant stamina in the 1 3/4-mile affair, Kingscote had Brown Panther chase the Ballydoyle rabbit as they opened up a big lead on the rest of the field, made an early move, and delivered the coup de grace. Unlike the Canadian International, which could have been turned into a test of stamina, the BC Turf will be a test of finishing speed, and it's difficult to envision Brown Panther equaling the pace of a Telescope or Flintshire. While his sire, Shirocco, won the 2005 Turf, that came on a rain-affected course at Belmont, and his dam's side only doubles up on the stoutness factor.
WIND FIRE makes an ambitious tilt at the Sprint, a tall task unless her thoroughly dirt pedigree brings about substantial improvement. The Qatar Racing colorbearer has some useful formlines on turf. Third to No Nay Never in his juvenile course record-setting Norfolk at Royal Ascot in 2013, the David Brown filly has held her own in some hotly contested sprints this season. She scored a determined victory (in spite of being forced out and herded) in the June 14 Scurry at Sandown, with future Haydock Sprint Cup hero G Force back in third, and she hasn't been beaten far versus older horses in Goodwood's King George August 1 (not to be confused with Ascot's King George VI) and the September 14 Prix du Petit Couvert. Although she used to be more effective at five furlongs, a step up to six looks necessary at this point in her career, and she's certainly bred to excel on dirt. Wind Fire is by Distorted Humor and out of a full sister to Hopeful winner and promising young sire Majestic Warrior (sire of Princess of Sylmar). Her second dam is Test and Ballerina queen Dream Supreme, herself out of a Ballerina winner in Spinning Round. Needless to say, it would be preferable to test this hypothesis in a softer spot.
MUSTAJEEB rates as a fascinating prospect who can upstage the big names. Sheikh Hamdan's homebred broke his maiden convincingly at Galway, where trainer Dermot Weld loves to race his best juveniles, and concluded 2013 with a solid second to War Command (then at his best) in the Futurity at the Curragh. Mustajeeb did not reappear until the May 11 Amethyst at Leopardstown, where he launched a strong sustained rally at the left-handed track to win handily -- mowing down some salty old veterans in a superb three-year-old debut. The Nayef colt made a quick return 13 days later in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas at the Curragh and reported home a distant third on bottomless ground. The top two -- imperious Kingman and Shifting Power -- were both exiting an epically deep renewal of Newmarket's Guineas, giving the form a solid look even before Kingman went on to run the table the rest of the year. Mustajeeb shortened up to seven furlongs in the June 18 Jersey at Royal Ascot, and promptly lugged 130 pounds to a clear-cut victory while flirting with the course record. The second and third in the Jersey had both taken part in Karakontie's French Guineas, and Mustajeeb summarily dismissed them. Weld then gave him a holiday by design in order to point for bigger prizes at season's end. Mustajeeb resumed in the September 13 Clipper Boomerang Mile back at Leopardstown and closed stoutly, only to be held off by the race-fit Celebration Mile winner Bow Creek. Finishing third was globetrotting Gordon Lord Byron (who was subsequently second in that rowdy edition of the Foret). Mustajeeb was considered for the Queen Elizabeth II on Champions Day until the ground turned unsuitable, and Weld immediately pronounced him bound for the BC Mile. With his powerful closing kick and proficiency at Leopardstown, Mustajeeb could transfer his game seamlessly to Santa Anita.
VEDA would have been the top selection had she gone in the Filly & Mare Turf, with a profile vaguely reminiscent of Banks Hill, but she also fits here. The Aga Khan homebred is somewhat like Banks Hill, the 2001 F&M Turf romper, in that she has yet to race beyond a mile, but is bred to go farther and acts as if she might want to step up in trip. Sire Dansili, an unlucky third in the 2000 BC Mile, is a full brother to Banks Hill and 2005 F&M Turf heroine Intercontinental (among others). A cozy debut winner over a mile at Longchamp last fall, Veda disappointed from a wide post position on soft ground in the Prix Marcel Boussac. But the Alain de Royer-Dupre filly proved that all wrong back over the same course and distance in her sophomore bow. Exuding class on better ground, Veda just galloped under a motionless Christophe Soumillon, stamping herself as a league apart from the smart runner-up Fintry. She was again compromised by a poor post position in the May 11 French One Thousand Guineas, dropped back early, and stayed on well for second to Avenir Certain (who brought an unbeaten record into the Arc). The June 1 Prix de Sandringham went wrong from the beginning, as she had no pace help, and wound up sixth to Fintry. Veda went on summer break until the October 4 Prix Daniel Wildenstein and was just denied by Freddie Head's highly-regarded older male Solow (who is aiming for Hong Kong in December). Veda is sure to move forward off that. She will get a lot more pace to set up her kick in the Mile. This daughter of the multiple Group 3-winning Trempolino mare Vadapolina hails from a prolific family effective over a range of distances, including 2001 BC Mile hero Val Royal. Veda's worth a flyer.
TRADE STORM is here by virtue of his up-in-time decision in the September 14 Woodbine Mile, but it's not certain that the David Simcock veteran will be as happy around the confines of Santa Anita. His other top efforts have come over the expansive course at Meydan, where he closed with a flourish to win the 2013 Zabeel Mile and finished fourth in that year's Dubai Duty Free. Trade Storm again performed creditably at this Carnival, with a second to Mshawish as the defending Zabeel champion on February 27 and a fourth in the March 8 Jebel Hatta. Never involved in the March 29 Duty Free, the six-year-old returned to action in England this summer and turned in two near-misses. In his second time back in the August 23 Strensall at York, Trade Storm cruised to the fore, seemingly going much better than Custom Cut, only to have that scrappy rival come again to beat him. Trade Storm did well to maneuver through the field at Woodbine, showcasing his finest late-running flair. At the same time, it's worth remembering that he was third to Wise Dan and Za Approval in the 2013 Woodbine Mile. This year's edition was weaker and smacks of an opportunistic success. Trade Storm was also no match for Toronado in the 2013 Sussex, beaten eight lengths. Chances are that Trade Storm will leave himself too much to do and not enough stretch to do it.
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
California Chrome, Tonalist connections hoping to cap banner year in BC Classic
"He looked great," trainer Art Sherman said Friday after the Kentucky Derby winner galloped 1 5/8 miles at 6 a.m. (PDT) under regular exercise rider Willie Delgado for the Classic.
"I plan to jog him in the morning the wrong way for a mile," Sherman explained. "I'm hoping everything goes smooth. He's as good as I can get him. Let the cards fall where they may."
"It's always better to be labeled as something than nothing," he mused. "I am fortunate in that I have owners who send some very nice horses to me. I train mostly for breeders, and I am very grateful to the people I train for. Whether the horses run on turf, dirt, in sprints or at a mile and a half, as long as they keep coming our way we are happy."
Cary Street pulls clear in Marathon
Cary Street trailed in last early during Friday's Grade 2, $200,750 Marathon, the first stakes on Breeders' Cup Friday, before easily engulfed the field and drew off to a 9 1/4-length victory upon hitting the stretch. Campaigned by Marc Detampel and trainer Brendan Walsh, the bay gelding completed the 1 3/4-mile epic distance in 2:58 1/5 over Santa Anita Park's fast dirt with jockey Miguel Mena in the irons.
Big Cazanova led the way though the early part of the race, but was pressed the entire time by Big Kick to establish splits of :23 2/5, :46 2/5, 1:10 2/5 and 1:35 4/5, quicker than normal for the distance. Cary Street was loping along in last while that battle took place up front, saving ground on the inside before angling out three wide leaving the final turn.
Irish Surf, the 2-1 favorite, had taken command by this point but was unable to hold off Cary Street in the lane. The bay pulled away from the tiring field to return $7.80 as the near 3-1 second choice against his seven rivals.
"I didn't really want to be that far back early on but they were rockin' and rollin' the first part of the race," Mena said. "This horse runs all day so I wasn't worried about it when they went out there so quick. He likes this distance; the farther he goes, the better he gets.
"I started looking for the leader at the five-eighths pole and he started to kick on for me. He finished great, he was rolling. He was the best horse in the race. I didn't panic, I knew he was going to come running at the end."
"I wasn't too concerned (with Cary Street being so far back the first half of the race). This horse can run all day," Walsh stated. "I had a fair idea that they might go quickly, so I just told him (Mena) to get him in the rail, save the ground, and he gave him such a great ride. He was so patient."
Irish Surf held second by a half-length over 23-1 longshot Patrioticandproud. Sky Kingdom came next and was followed by Big Cazanova, Ice Cream Truck and Volkonsky. Big Kick gave way and was eased in the stretch while Mystery Train was scratched.
Cary Street began his career in the claiming ranks, passing through two different barns before arriving in Walsh's shedrow as a $10,000 claim in February 2013. After competing against allowance/optional claiming company, he took a step forward in his stakes debut two back, capturing Parx Racing's Grade 3 Greenwood Cup on September 1 while going 1 1/2 miles.
Not only was the Greenwood Cup his first try against stakes rivals, but the Smarty Jones gelding was running farther than nine furlongs for the first time in his career as well. Walsh sent his five-year-old charge to Belmont Park next for the 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill Invitational, and Cary Street managed third while 10 lengths behind the winner.
Friday's Marathon is Cary Street's biggest win to date, bumping his career line to 6-4-3 from 19 races and increasing his lifetime earnings to $370,275.
Bred in Kentucky by Darley, Cary Street sold for $60,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before bringing $32,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-old in training. He is the first registered stakes scorer out of the listed-winning Sultry Song mare Shady Reflection and counts as his second dam French Group 3 heroine Woodland Melody.
Cary Street's third dam -- Group 3-placed multiple stakes queen Eloquent Minister -- also produced English Group 3 victress Saintly Speech, who is herself the dam of dual Group 3 vixen Chrysanthemum. Also of note in this female family is Grade 2-winning successful sire Put It Back.
Long On Value surprises in Twilight Derby
Owned by Wachtel Stable and George Kerr, the Bill Mott trainee returned $25.
Sawyer's Hill, a 9-1 chance, outlasted another 9-1 shot, Divine Oath, by a neck for second. Following Divine Oath was Flamboyant, Talco, 8-5 favorite Ring Weekend, Patriots Rule, Enterprising, Sammy Mandeville, Yard Line, and Crushed It. Ashleyluvssugar was scratched.
This was the fourth career stakes win for Long On Value, who captured the restricted $50,000 Jamestown at Colonial Downs on the turf for trainer Don Roberson, and the $50,250 Strike Your Colors at Delaware Park on dirt for trainer Randy Allen last season.
Mott, who took over training duties after the Strike Your Colors, preceded this victory with a 1 3/4-length score in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury over a mile. Earlier this year, the bay placed in the Arlington Classic, the Manila at Belmont Park, and Fred "Cappy" Capossela at Aqueduct. His record now stands at 13-5-2-1, $418,388.
"I was doubtful (about getting the mile and an eighth), but we gave him a chance thinking the turf was firm and maybe we'd have a little more pace than what we'd had," Mott said. "We liked the match up with Rosie (Napravnik), who's very patient, and I think she did a great job with him. A good ride made a big difference.
"I just asked her (Napravnik) to be as patient as possible, to wait as long as she could. They started to force her hand a little bit around the turn and she got him running and it worked out."
A son of Value Plus, Long On Value brought a mere $3,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic September yearling. He was reared by Long Message, an Orientate half-sister to multiple stakes winner Long Distance.
Long On Value was bred in Virginia by Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds.
Pontchatrain looking to rebound in Goldikova
Strathnaver, who earned her Grade 3 stripes taking the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch at Keeneland in 2013, has run two sharp races going short this season, losing the one-mile Just a Game at Belmont by a nose, and the 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa at Saratoga by a neck.
I'm Already Sexy has prevailed in the Modesty Handicap at Arlington and the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, with a solid sixth in the Beverly D. sandwiched in between those wins. The Wayne Catalano trainee has post two bullet works at Keeneland since the latter score on September 13.
Wall of Sound, who weakened to fourth after setting a slow pace in the 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, returns on two weeks' rest to make her U.S. debut. The Singspiel filly was multiple stakes-placed in England earlier this year, including a half-length second behind Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf participant Secret Gesture in the Warwickshire Oaks.
Rhagori, Emotional Kitten, Legacy, and Queen of the Sand complete the Goldikova field.
Gentildonna returns in Tenno Sho Autumn
Sunday's Grade 1, $2.3 million Tenno Sho Autumn, one of the more prestigious events on the Japanese calendar, marks the return of Gentildonna, whose many accolades include Horse of the Year, Triple Tiara victress and dual Grade 1 Japan Cup winner.
The Deep Impact five-year-old, who finished second to Just a Way in this race last year, has had mixed fortunes this campaign. After running sixth in her February 16 seasonal debut in the Group 2 Kyoto Kinen, she shipped overseas to best Cirrus des Aigles in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on March 29. Her comeback ninth in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen on June 29 was the worst performance of her career.
"To be honest, I didn't think she'd ever lose that badly," said Taihei Inoue, assistant to trainer Sei Ishizaka. "Maybe it was the going. Some people say she can't run clockwise, but if that were the case, she wouldn't have won the (Grade 1) Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas). It so happens to be that when she runs clockwise, the going has been bad."
It is worth noting that Gentildonna has won first-up just once in her career, and usually needs a prep race to reach peak fitness. So while one would be excused for considering this a prep for her tilt at a third Japan Cup, Inoue indicated she is in with a winning chance.
"I definitely don't want her to lose here," he stated.
Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) winner Isla Bonita bypassed last weekend's Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) for a shot at his elders in this lofty spot and, like Gentildonna, the Fuji Kiseki sophomore enjoys a five-pound weight break. Unlike in other parts of the world, Japan's Guineas is contested over 2000 meters, so Isla Bonita is proven over the distance. After finishing second in the Grade 1 Japanese Derby, the dark bay -- who has never finished worse than second -- warmed up for this spot with a victory in the Grade 2 St. Lite Kinen on September 21.
Last year's five-length Kikuka Sho victor Epiphaneia, who was second in the Guineas and Japanese Derby, has not been seen since finishing fourth in Hong Kong's Group 1 QEII Cup on April 27, and makes his first start back off a summer holiday. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga expressed confidence after working the Symboli Kris S four-year-old on October 16.
"I think he'll really start to get back in the swing of things after today," Fukunaga said that day. "He's come back to us looking really, really good. He's become a lot easier to ride now. In the spring, he just wasn't himself, even in the workouts. He didn't have that oomph to him. He's not heavy or anything so he should shape up fine in time for the race."
Fenomeno won the spring edition of the Grade 1 Tenno Sho the last two years, and he also comes off the shelf, having last been seen winning this year's renewal on May 4. The Stay Gold five-year-old has won off a layoff before, although never an event this tough, but he is remarkably consistent.
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
"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."
Close Hatches had a routine gallop Thursday 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."
"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
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.
"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."
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.
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.
"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."
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.
Pletcher doubles down in both Nashua and Tempted
Pletcher, who on Saturday will send out Angela Renee and Daredevil as morning-line favorites in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, respectively, will also have the program favorites in the Nashua and Tempted.
Blofeld, 8-5 morning-line favorite in the one-mile Nashua, is undefeated through two career starts and coming off a huge score in the Grade 2 Futurity on October 5 at Belmont Park. The Quality Road colt had a bit of trouble along the inside in the Futurity, but exploded late to win by three-quarters of a length and complete the six-furlong distance in 1:09 2/5.
Blofeld was equally impressive in his debut after having to concede a sizeable advantage to the lightning-quick Signature Cat. The gray commenced a relentless pursuit in the five-furlong dash and, ultimately, prevailed by a length over that rival as well as next-out winner and Nashua entrant El Kabeir.
Blofeld, who has earned BRIS Speed figures of 84 and 100 for his first two starts, will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post position 2.
Pletcher's other runner, Savoy Stomp, has only one career race under his belt, but it was an impressive one on September 27 at Belmont. The Medaglia d'Oro dark bay rode the rail into the stretch of the seven-furlong sprint and cruised to a two-length victory over a promising field of youngsters.
The $875,000 yearling purchase, who sits at 8-1 on the morning-line, will break from the rail under Javier Castellano.
After encountering Blofeld in his debut, El Kabeir broke his maiden by 10 lengths while earnings a BRIS Speed rating of 100 for trainer John Terranova. The performance was good enough to make him the 5-2 second choice in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 4 at Belmont, but the gray son of Scat Daddy failed to handle the sloppy track that day and finished fourth, beaten 17 lengths by Daredevil.
El Kabeir, 4-1 on the morning-line, drew post 6 with Irad Ortiz Jr. named to ride.
First Down, a debut winner for trainer Tom Albertrani; Hebbronville, runner-up in the Futurity following a pair of romping wins at Parx Racing; and The Truth Or Else, third in the Champagne, complete the Nashua field.
In the one-mile Tempted, restricted to fillies, Pletcher will be represented by Enchantress and Miss Always Ready.
Enchantress, the 7-5 morning-line favorite, has raced only once but made a positive impression when taking a six-furlong dash on October 4 at Keeneland by 6 3/4 lengths. The Malibu Moon filly, a $950,000 Barretts purchase, will break from post 6 with Velazquez aboard.
Miss Always Ready made her August 10 debut over Saratoga's turf, finishing ninth, but broke her maiden next out by 5 3/4 lengths in a one-mile, off-the-turf event on October 4 at Belmont. Castellano has the call on the More Than Ready filly, who sits at 10-1 on the morning-line, from post 7.
Grade 2 Matron winner Paulassilverlining will join the fray for trainer Michelle Nevin. The Ghostzapper filly has made three career starts and won two while never racing beyond six furlongs. Paulassilverlining enters the Tempted at 7-2 on the morning-line, and drew post 4 with Ortiz in the irons.
Rounding out the Tempted field are Save Rock and Roll, fourth in the Matron; stakes-placed Sunday Sonnet, fifth in the Grade 1 Chandelier last out; Stakes romper Harlan's Honor, most recently fourth in the Selima at Laurel Park; and Jacaranda, an impressive five-length debut winner for trainer Mike Hushion.
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.
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.
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.
For Friday 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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