Breeders' Cup News & Notes
Magician, Free as a Bird latest Breeders' Cup scratches
The Breeders' Cup Turf was slated to be Magician's final career start and the plan was to retire him to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
The other defection reported Wednesday morning was for the five-year-old mare Free as a Bird as handlers attempted load her onto a Tex Sutton charter Wednesday morning in Kentucky.
"She didn't like the sound of the engines and had to be backed off the plane. She is scratched," trainer Ian Wilkes said. "As long as she is OK, we're fine."
Ageless, second to Free as a Bird in the Franklin County at Keeneland last time, has drawn into the Turf Sprint from the also-eligible list.
Shared Belief arrives for Classic, scheduled for gate work and gallop
"He is extremely long and has great balance. He is very unique in that he can adapt during a race. That ability is really a huge plus."
With Smith in the saddle, Shared Belief has captured the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby, Grade 1 Pacific Classic and Grade 1 Awesome Again in succession. The Candy Ride gelding has been made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile Classic and will break from post position 6.
"We got here at 5:30 last night, just in time to catch the rush hour traffic," said Katie Allen, who traveled with the sophomore filly from her home base at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Trained by Tom Amoss, the Rockport Harbor miss is scheduled to gallop Thursday morning at the same time and visit the paddock.
"I took him out just before the break so we could avoid all the horses," Petty added. "That way we could be going out when most of them were coming back. If he sees horses in front of him galloping, he will try to pass them all. He only passed two that he saw and is definitely feeling good."
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint hopeful Better Lucky arrived with stablemate Twilight Eclipse and was reported to have handled the excursion without turning a hair. On Wednesday morning, the multiple Grade 1-winning Ghostzapper mare was sent to the track for a jog once around under Hernandez.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies entrant By the Moon had an easy jog with exercise rider Tom Singh aboard Wednesday morning on her first day at Santa Anita.
In other Breeders' Cup news:
Protocols will be in place again this year requiring third-party administration of furosemide as well as enhanced security -- limiting access to the horse on race day. Post-race testing of Breeders' Cup runners will be conducted at the University of California-Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory -- an RMTC-accredited facility.
Designed to further engage attendees, the Social Media Wall will consistently display tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts as the races unfold each day. The event's massive Jumbotron will also be showcasing an array of these posts in 15 second spots every hour. All fans must do is incorporate one of the two official hashtags -- #BreedersCup and #BC14 -- when uploading their pictures, posts and tweets. By doing this they will have the opportunity to see their personal posts displayed on the Social Media Wall, Jumbotron and select monitors throughout the World Championships.
American Pharoah scratched from BC Juvenile
"If you look at him he appears just fine. The timing is just terrible. I've had to scratch horses before a big race, but this is possibly the worst.
"He feels really good. He walks OK, but when he jogs you can see there is something there. Something like this gives you a sickening feeling. It's a disappointment for the barn and the Zayat family, and anyone around the horse."
Another scratch announced Tuesday was Handsome Mike from Friday's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Trainer Leandro Mora was forced to declare the five-year-old because of a leg injury.
"He came back from the track after galloping with a little swelling in his left front leg," Mora. "We scanned him, and it came back clean, but the swelling was still there. Four veterinarians recommended that I scratch for the health of the horse.
"It was bad timing," said Mora of the injury that he did not consider career-threatening. "He will get 20 days off."
Handsome Mike won the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby and has earned $1,005,413 with three victories in 30 starts. He is winless in seven outings this year.
BREEDERS' CUP ENTRIES 2014
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
FILLY & MARE TURF
Zenyatta's weanling filly euthanized following paddock accident
Zenyatta's weanling War Front filly was euthanized Tuesday night after suffering a paddock accident at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, where she was born on Easter Sunday.
It was announced earlier this month on Zenyatta's official Facebook page that the filly, nicknamed Z Princess, had successfully been weaned from her dam.
The following statement was posted on Zenyatta's official website:
Zenyatta, the 2010 Horse of the Year who became the first distaffer to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2009, attracted a large following during her career. She earned more than $7 million and suffered only one loss in her time on track, with that coming as a head second while trying to defend her Classic title in 2010.
The dark bay mare has two other foals, an unraced two-year-old colt by Bernardini named Cozmic One and a yearling Tapit colt named Ziconic.
Molly Morgan seeks third stakes win of the year in Chilukki
"She came out of her last race fine," said Baldemar Bahena, assistant to trainer Dale Romans. "She's a nice mare and she's been training well here at Churchill since."
The Ghostzapper mare also owns a second in the La Troienne, which occurred a month prior to her four-length tally in the Fleur de Lis.
Honey Hues, who the Mint Julep Handicap and Ellis Park Turf on the grass over the summer, is looking to bounce back from two sub-par efforts recently.
"This mare has a hard time with heat," trainer Bernie Flint said. "In the summer time she just doesn't run as well; that's the bottom line. It's supposed to be very cold this weekend, so she should be in good shape."
Honey Hues has won six of 13 starts on dirt, including an allowance at the Churchill spring meet by a commanding seven lengths.
Invading from California is Grade 3 veteran My Happy Face, who is seeking an elusive first win since transferring to Peter Miller's barn in Southern California. She has run third in each of her last four starts, including the Las Madrinas at Los Alamitos and the L.A. Woman at Santa Anita.
My Happy Face was twice Grade 1-placed in 2013, finishing second in the Coaching Club American Oaks and a close third in the Test.
Spring in the Air, the Canadian champion juvenile filly of 2012, will make only her second ever start on dirt in the Chilukki. Winner of the Hendrie, a Grade 3 event at Woodbine, in May, she exits a third to Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint candidate Leigh Court in the Seaway at Woodbine.
Another Grade 3 winner on Polytrack, My Option, has placed just once in three outings since taking the June 28 Chicago Handicap at Arlington. She finished fourth in her only prior attempt at Churchill in last year's Falls City.
Others of note in the Chilukki are Street Girl, the Humana Distaff runner-up, and Enchanting Lisa, an allowance-winning half-sister to dual Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
Earlier in the Churchill card, a solid group of older sprinters will travel six furlongs in the $58,000 Bet On Sunshine. Star Harbour, No Distinction, Sharp Sensation, Apprehender, Ghost Is Clear, and Card are among the leading contenders in a wide-open race, which has also attracted 2012 New Orleans Handicap winner Nates Mineshaft, who returned from a layoff of more than nine months on September 13 to beat allowance foes at Remington Park by three lengths.
The one to catch might be Bay of Plenty, a Godolphin-owned colt who has won three in a row in wire-to-wire fashion, including two allowances over a mile at Belmont.
"We're running him back in three weeks, but he's doing so well. We're excited about it," said Artie Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "In his last three, he's been forward, but he's not really speedy. He's been breaking better, and just happens to be on the lead; he doesn't have to be there. He's pretty tractable."
Noble Moon, who took the Jerome on the inner dirt in January, exits fourth-place finishes in the King's Bishop and Pennsylvania Derby. Protonico, who took the Smarty Jones at Parx on Labor Day, also exits the Pennsylvania Derby, where he finished a distant seventh.
Also in the mix are stakes winners Just Call Kenny, third in the Indiana Derby last time, and Our Caravan, who notably upset Ring Weekend in the Calder Derby by 9 3/4 lengths back in April.
The Discovery field is rounded out by Away Game, an allowance scorer in the mud at Saratoga prior to sub-par effort in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.
Moonlit Beauty could steal another edition of the Grade 3, C$150,000 Maple Leaf for fillies and mares at Woodbine. The now eight-year-old registered a 25-1 upset in the 1 1/4-mile test last year, and again appears to be the lone speed on paper.
Miss Mischief, who has won three straight since joining the Dale Capuano barn, is the probable favorite off a victory in the H.B.P.A at Presque Isle Downs. Last-out stakes winners Llanarmon and Strut the Course, 2013 Maple Lead third Sky High Lady, and the turf performers Julie's Love, Modernstone, and Industrial Policy are other potential contenders.
A field of six two-year-olds will go 1 1/16 miles in the C$125,000 Display. Bourbon Cowboy, runner-up in the Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle, will likely garner most of the wagering support, although debut winner Sea to Sea and stakes-placed maidens Glenville Gardens and Hollywood Critic have a license to improve.
Churchill Downs unveils plans for new Winner's Circle Suites
The Winner's Circle Suites will feature comfortable undercover seating with in-venue wagering options and full-service hospitality, including a premium open bar and gourmet food. Also, guests will have access to an indoor, semi-private hospitality area and restrooms exclusive to the venue. All areas of the project will be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.
In prior years, owners of Derby and Oaks horses received a complimentary six-person box in Section 318, food and beverage hospitality in a separate area overlooking the paddock, and the opportunity to purchase two additional boxes in 318. Should owners require additional seating in 2015 beyond the 18 complimentary tickets provided, they may still purchase an additional box of six seats in Section 318.
"There are many wonderful seating options at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks but these new Winner's Circle Suites are where anyone who has ever owned or dreamed of owning a racehorse wants to be," Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. "We're thrilled to make this investment and truly thank our Derby and Oaks owners by creating an exclusive area that will provide more complimentary tickets, food and beverage and other extraordinary amenities than ever before."
The Courtyard, a family-friendly green space that will create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyday racing, will be a spacious lawn area in front of the new Winner's Circle Suites. For Derby Week, more than 600 temporary premium seats will be configured in traditional rows and aisles with padded chairs, and those guests will have access to an exclusive hospitality space with an all-inclusive menu and restrooms. Seating in the existing Sections 218-219 will have access to the hospitality space, as well.
The versatile Courtyard also will be utilized to enrich the experience of big-event days throughout the rest of the year, including Downs After Dark night racing and Family Adventure Days.
Select guests that are affected by the Winner's Circle Suites and Courtyard Project are in the process of being contacted personally by track officials, and every effort will be made to relocate those guests to a comparable area. Additionally, those guests can opt to upgrade their seating packages with new inventory, including more availability in Section 318, or premium areas that include food and beverage hospitality.
The new Courtyard seats for Derby Week will be offered to existing customers first. Any remaining inventory will be sold to the general public through an online sale in mid-November. The deadline to register for the online sale at KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets has been extended to November 7.
Churchill Downs also has retained PC Sports, a division of Texas-based Raba Kistner Inc., to assist in the project's management. The firm, which helped manage the expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and construction of the KFC Yum! Center, will serve as a consultant and third-party advisor to ensure the project finishes on or ahead of schedule and on budget.
A general contractor for the project has not yet been selected.
Silver Charm pensioned, to live at Old Friends
His other major victories include the Dubai World Cup, Strub, Clark Handicap, Goodwood Handicap, Del Mar Futurity, Kentucky Cup Classic, San Fernando, San Pasqual Handicap, and San Vicente. Silver Charm also finished a close second in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Marathon, Twilight Derby highlight BC Friday undercard
Invading from the east is Cary Street, upset winner of the Greenwood Cup at Parx in September over the noted South American import Ever Rider.
Ring Weekend heads a solid field of 12 three-year-olds in the Grade 2, $200,000 Twilight Derby over 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The Graham Motion trainee is a three-time graded stakes winner this season, including the Saranac and Hill Prince on turf in his last two starts.
Divine Oath is hoping to bag his third stakes win of the year after taking the Kent at Delaware Park and American Derby at Arlington, but the local contingent looks strong, too. Enterprising looks to rebound off a disappointing sixth in the Del Mar Derby, which came on the heels of back-to-back stakes scores in the La Jolla and Oceanside. Del Mar Derby runner-up Sawyer's Hill and Del Mar Derby third Talco also return.
Baffert also has the four-year-old Declassify, who gutted out a photo-finish victory in the Triple Bend on June 28. However, the Orientate colt trailed throughout in the Bing Crosby next out.
The Damascus field also includes multiple Grade 3 winner Broadway Empire, and a trio of horses that were pre-entered in various Breeders' Cup races but didn't make it into the main body of the fields: Bahamian Squall, Unbridled's Note, and Indexical.
The other undercard stakes on Breeders' Cup Friday is the $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies for California-bred or -sired horses going seven furlongs. The early favorite is My Fiona, who won and placed in a pair of stakes during the Del Mar meet.
Richies Party Girl on familiar ground in Senator Ken Maddy
Other stakes veterans at the course and distance competing in the Maddy include Judy in Disguise, Llandudno, Gender Agenda, Biorhythm, Stars Above Me, and Velvet Mesquite.
European invaders are prominent in this year's edition of the $100,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint, which kicks off Saturday's 12-race program. Faithful Creek, Group 3-placed by Coolmore's highly-regarded John F Kennedy at Leropardstown last time, is also joined by Guilty, a winner at Newmarket and Chester, and two-time winner War Alert, who runs for successful Qatar Racing stable.
Wesley Ward has entered one gelding and two fillies hoping to replicate Richies Party Girl's success last year. The gelding is Crown the Kitten, who romped by nearly six lengths in the El Joven at Retama Park last time. The fillies are Cool Comfort, an impressive maiden winner at Kentucky Downs who faded to fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine at Keeneland next out, and Saratoga graduate Lamontagne.
Among the locally-based contenders are Stormy Liberal, a course-and-distance maiden winner; Metaboss, third to Stormy Liberal in her debut; and Ocho Ocho Ocho, who tries turf after winning on debut going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt.
The $200,000 Golden State Juvenile, a race that included a colt by the name of California Chrome last year, is scheduled between the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Senator Ken Maddy. Wake Up Nick, a four-time stakes winner already this year, and Acceptance, a 13 1/4-length debut winner, figure to take most of the wagering support in the seven-furlong dash.
Tickets for the 44th annual Eclipse Awards will go on sale Monday at 9 a.m. (EDT). The Eclipse Awards are set for January 17 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Eclipse Awards tickets are available for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. A block of rooms have been reserved at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, located on the ocean and only a short distance from Gulfstream Park. For ticket purchases and room reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at email@example.com or call 859-422-2657. The "black-tie optional" Eclipse Awards highlight a full weekend of events, several of which will be tied to charitable causes. A Friday night, January 16, party in the Gulfstream Park paddock benefiting Gulfstream Thoroughbred Aftercare will have a "Havana Nights" theme. Saturday, January 17, is Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream with five major stakes races for Florida-breds cumulatively worth more than $1 million. Sunday, January 18, features a "First Chance/Last Chance" qualifier for the National Handicapping Championship...
A field of nine has been entered to sprint six furlongs on Friday in the $58,000 Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs. Dual stakes winner Speedinthruthecity (City Zip) is looking for her third stakes win of the year, and her career, when she lines up in the far outside post under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the dark bay lass opened her four-year-old season with romping scores at Oaklawn Park, including the Carousel, and added Churchill's Roxelana to her resume on June 21. Since then, Speedinthruthecity has been fourth in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) and third by a neck in the Smart and Fancy at Saratoga and fourth last out in Keeneland's Thoroughbred Club of America (G2). Among those she'll face Friday are Grade 3-placed multiple stakes heroine Vuitton (Smart Strike) and Grade 2-placed multiple stakes vixen Sweet Cassiopeia (Five Star Day)...
Unbeaten and among the creme of her crop, Prix Thomas Bryon (Fr-G3) heroine Alea Iacta (Invincible Spirit) takes on the colts again in Thursday's one-mile Criterium International (Fr-G1) at Saint-Cloud. So impressive in that course-and-distance contest October 9, the Andre Fabre trainee was six-lengths best easing down in the closing stages after steering a lone path up the stand's rail. As usual, Richard Hannon Jr.'s presence is strongly felt in a major juvenile staging post and in Burnt Sugar (Lope de Vega) he has a leading player. After readily disposing of the subsequent Somerville Tattersall S. (Eng-G3) winner Maftool (Hard Spun) in Kempton's Sirenia S. (Eng-G3) over six furlongs, he stayed on into fourth, beaten around a length, over an extra panel in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-G1) at Longchamp. Also from overseas is Vert de Grece (Verglas), who was flattered by his three-quarter length proximity to the subsequent Lagardere demotee Gleneagles (Galileo) in The Curragh's Futurity S. (Ire-G2) over seven furlongs. He has since joined Roger Varian from Joe Murphy and his new trainer said, "Vert de Grece goes to France in good form. He has been training nicely and a repeat of his second to Gleneagles would see him in with a good chance." Cherek (Paco Boy) was green when third as the favorite for the Prix des Chenes (Fr-G3) over this trip at Longchamp, but is bred to improve with age and experience...
Superlative S. (Eng-G2) and Champagne S. (Eng-G2) winner Estidhkaar (Dark Angel) emerged from his fourth-place effort in the October 17 Dewhurst S. (Eng-G1) with a hairline fracture of a hock, according to trainer Richard Hannon Jr.. "We felt something had to be wrong in the Dewhurst, because Paul Hanagan had rung me after he had worked the Sunday before and said how well the horse had gone," Hannon noted. "However, he did not move well going to post at Newmarket and then didn't travel well in the race, which is not like him, so we suspected that all was not right, especially as he hadn't been keen on leaving the stalls. Estidhkaar will have between four to six weeks of box rest before going on the walker, but it is nothing major and he will be back next season."...
Slade Power (Dutch Art)'s participation in the VRC Sprint (Aus-G1) at Flemington November 8 is in doubt after trainer Eddie Lynam discovered that his dual Group 1 winner would not be able to be loaded last in the gates. The five-year-old, who won this year's Diamond Jubilee S. (Eng-G1) and July Cup (Eng-G1), is notorious for his bad gate behavior, and Lynam revealed that Slade Power acted up in the gates at Flemington prior to a barrier trial Tuesday. "He had a barrier trial (Tuesday) and, unfortunately, things didn't go good for him," Lynam explained. "He got very upset in the barrier. He's got a couple of nicks and a couple of cuts, but hopefully he's going to be okay." Lynam said he had spoken to Melbourne officials before making the trip, and was under the impression Slade Power would be able to be loaded last, despite the custom in that country that horses be loaded in order of barrier. Lynam noted that the last time Slade Power wasn't loaded last was for last year's Nunthorpe S. (Eng-G1), when he acted up and finished 15th of 17. "From our point of view, if he wasn't to go in late on the big race day, I'd have to think of it as a health-and-safety issue, as he could hurt (jockey) Wayne (Lordan), and we don't want that happening," the conditioner told At The Races. "He could also hurt himself, and we don't want that happening, either. He could also hurt the horses each side of him. I just don't think we're going to be able to teach him some new tricks in the week that's leading up to what is his career-final race." Lynam said that if Slade Power does not run in Australia, he could reroute to the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) in December, or be retired. He is set to stand at Darley's Kildangan Stud in Ireland next year for 20,000. "Let's see what happens tomorrow first before we make any decisions," Lynam added. "Hopefully common sense will prevail."...
World champion sprinter Black Caviar (Bel Esprit), who produced her first foal -- an Exceed and Excel filly -- down under this Southern Hemisphere breeding season, has been confirmed in foal to Sebring. Sebring, whose first crop are four-year-olds, was also a celebrated sprinter. He won the Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) and Sires' Produce S. (Aus-G1) and missed the Australian two-year-old Triple Crown by a head when second in the Champagne S. (Aus-G1). Sebring's progeny, however, have excelled at all distances. In addition to the smart miler Dissident, the winner of three Group 1s, Sebring is responsible for Australian Derby (Aus-G1) winner Criterion, as well as last season's smart two-year-old filly Bring Me the Maid. Sebring stands for A$60,500 at Widden Stud.
Fair Grounds will play host to the Fair Grounds Championship handicapping tournament on December 20 that will offer two paid berths into the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. The 16th annual NHC is scheduled for January 23-25, 2015 at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. Contest entries will cost $200 per entry, with a maximum of three entries per person. A $50 NHC Tour registration fee will be required of any player wishing to be eligible to win one of the two available NHC berths; players already registered for the NHC Tour will be exempt from the additional $50 fee. A complimentary lunch and race day program will be included in the entry fee. The contest will consist of 15 races and a $60 mythical bankroll. Players will be required to wager $2 to win and $2 to place on one horse in each of the 15 races which will include a mix of mandatory and optional races. The final ten races on the Fair Grounds card on December 20 will be considered mandatory races, and players will be able to select any five races of their choice from the last five live races at Gulfstream Park and the last five races at Aqueduct as their optional plays. Players may mix races from Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct as they see fit to reach their maximum five optional plays. A cap will be placed on all payoffs. The win cap is 20-1 ($42), and the place cap is 10-1 ($22). Players do not have to place all 15 wagers to be eligible to win, but should a player elect not to make a wager on any of the races, the $4 for that race will still be deducted from their account. All wagers are fictional and only contest account credit is accrued from winning wagers; no money is paid on contest wagers. The top two finishers will receive a paid berth into the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, along with a four night hotel stay at Treasure Island Casino and a $400 travel voucher. Third place will receive $750 cash, and both the fourth and fifth-place finishers will receive $400. Additional cash prizes may be available based on the total number of contest entries. Pre-registration for the Fair Grounds Championship begins November 20. Walk-up registrations will be taken until one hour before the post time of the first contest race on December 20. Players can pre-register by calling Katherine at 504-948-1230 or Lindsay at 504-948-1171 beginning at 11 a.m. (CST) on November 20. All players will need to provide a valid government issued ID on the day of the contest to complete registration...
The Fair Grounds OTB Challenge is scheduled for November 8 and offers two players the opportunity to gain free entry into the Fair Grounds Championship ($250 value). The entry fee for the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge is $10 with a maximum of three entries per player. Players are eligible to compete at any of the 11 Fair Grounds off-track betting facilities and at the Fair Grounds OTB. The contest format will mirror that of the Fair Grounds Championship, but with ten races and a $40 mythical bankroll. Players will be required to wager $2 to win $2 to place on one horse in each of the 10 races which will include a mix of mandatory and optional races. The final six races from Churchill Downs will be considered mandatory races, and players may select any four races of their choice from the last four live races at Gulfstream Park West and the last four races at Aqueduct. Players may mix races from Gulfstream Park West and Aqueduct as they see fit to reach their maximum four optional plays. The payoff caps and rules regarding fictional wagers applied in the Fair Grounds Championship will also apply in the OTB Challenge. The first-place finisher will receive a paid berth into the Fair Grounds Championship along with 60 percent of entry fees collected, and the second-place finisher will receive a paid berth into the Fair Grounds Championship along with 20 percent of entry fees collected. Third place receives 10 percent of entry fees collected, and both the fourth and fifth-place finishers will each receive 5 percent of entry fees collected. Pre-registration for the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge begins Sunday at 11:00 a.m. (CST) at any Fair Grounds OTB and at the Fair Grounds Race Course OTB and continues until one hour before post time of the first contest race on November 8. Complete rules and additional information for the Fair Grounds Championship and the Fair Grounds OTB Challenge can be found at fgno.com.
For Thursday or Next Raceday
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 29, 2014
Distaff deserving of its high reputation
One of the original seven Breeders' Cup races, the Distaff has been known as the sister race to the Classic. In fact, the race was renamed the Ladies' Classic in 2008 to reflect it.
That proved a disservice to both the race and the division, and the race reverted back to its original name in 2013.
But why is the Distaff so important?
Since 2000, four Distaff winners have gone on to be named champion older female. Three others managed to beat their elders and earned the Eclipse Award (Thoroughbred racing's equivalent of the Oscars) for champion three-year-old filly.
So half of the last 14 winners were credited with being the best of their crop.
However, the Classic has proven little better in determining the year-end champions with eight of the past 14 winners being awarded either a championship, Horse of the Year or both.
Despite this, it actually only takes a few names to prove the worthiness of the Distaff -- Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Dance Smartly, Azeri, Royal Delta and, yes, Zenyatta.
Those are but a few of the winners who achieved glory long before their Distaff triumphs and the Breeders' Cup proved to be the icing on the cake.
That is why the Distaff is so important.
The Breeders' Cup was created to pit the best Thoroughbreds against one another; there were enough prestigious races from coast to coast in the United States to keep the best separated each year before the first running in 1984.
And what about the international community?
Worldwide, countries have established their own championship-style events. They're not necessarily billed that way because for centuries -- yes centuries -- those were the races everyone knew produced the best and brightest.
Races like the Epsom Derby, Ascot Gold Cup, St Leger, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Melbourne Cup are just a few that shine the brightest among the top races across the globe. In recent years, the Dubai World Cup and Hong Kong Cup have been added to the list.
The Distaff, like the other Breeders' Cup events, presents an opportunity for fillies and mares across the world to assemble in one place and strut their stuff against the best in their division.
Now it doesn't always work out that way. The worldwide racing jurisdictions have different schedules, different seasons of competition, so getting all the greats together in one place at the same time is a daunting task.
But the Distaff is there for just that reason. North American horses pretty much dominated the entry box for the race, but when a foreign import decides to make an appearance people take notice.
A good example of that is Argentinean-bred Bayakoa, a back-to-back winner of the Distaff (1989-90). She was followed two years later by fellow Argentinean-bred Paseana, who just fell short of joining her countrymate as a dual scorer when missing by a nose in 1993. Third that year was yet another Argentinean, Re Toss.
South American runners are not the only ones who eventually wound up competing against the best in the Distaff. Finishing fifth behind Paseana in 1992 was multiple Group 1 heroine Marling, who spent her career based in Great Britain. And this year's Distaff includes L'Amour de Ma Vie, a stakes winner in France and Dubai who will be making her U.S. debut at Santa Anita.
The reason the Distaff doesn't attract more foreign entrants is because it's run on the main track. Most overseas racing takes place on turf courses, but periodically owners and trainers take a stab at Distaff glory.
Even when those efforts don't produce a win for the connections, it still results in a victory for the Breeders' Cup and, especially, the Distaff. It proves that the race is living up to its purpose of bringing the best runners across the globe together.
The Breeders' Cup has changed over the years, with races being created and removed, but the Distaff has been a fixture and will remain so as long as the event takes place. Champions come and champions go, but the great races remain the same.
OCTOBER 28, 2014
The Breeders' Cup through the eyes of a child
by Vance Hanson
The Breeders' Cup was inaugurated 30 years ago this month, but for those of us with slightly less gray on our temples, the first memories of racing's showcase day would come a little later.
Fast forward two years to 1986, and the grade-school version of me was just starting to get his toes wet following the sport and, ahem, betting. My father, an immediate race tracker when Canterbury Downs opened the previous year, would kindly oblige my whims with token $2 wagers on selections that sometimes involved nothing more than liking a horse's name. We all start somewhere.
Memories are fuzzy, but it seems that through the course of that season I subconsciously absorbed bits and pieces of information on some of the nation's top horses while browsing through my father's old programs and occasionally watching racing broadcasts with him. I don't know how else to explain the fact that, after trick-or-treating on Halloween night, I glanced at the next day's Breeders' Cup fields and swiftly recognized a horse in each race for my father to back on my behalf.
Santa Anita was a first-time host for that third Breeders' Cup, and back then the first race was the Juvenile. I don't recall why I liked Gulch other than he was the second choice in the morning line and had the familiar, potent combo of trainer LeRoy Jolley and jockey Angel Cordero Jr. in his corner. In hindsight, it wasn't a bad pick. Gulch had won his first five races, four of which were graded stakes, before finishing second to Juvenile favorite Capote in the Norfolk.
Gulch couldn't catch Capote in the Breeders' Cup, either, over a track biased toward early speed. Gulch wound up fifth in a field that also included Alysheba, Bet Twice, Polish Navy and Demons Begone. In other words, the winners of the 1987 Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell Invitational, Super Derby, Met Mile, Wood Memorial, Woodward and Arkansas Derby were in that field. They don't make Breeders' Cup Juveniles like they used to.
Gulch, who would eventually earn Breeders' Cup glory in the 1988 Sprint, is virtually the lone remaining survivor of that fabulous crop. He's been a neighbor of mine for a while, living a mile or so down the road from me at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. Who would have believed, 28 years later, my first ever Breeders' Cup pick and I would be so close?
My Juvenile Fillies selection, Zero Minus, was more of a sentimental choice having broken her maiden and winning a small stakes at Canterbury that summer for future Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger. She also had Canterbury's leading jockey that year, Hall of Famer Sandy Hawley, on her back. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had later achieved something more notable by winning the Alcibiades at Keeneland, but she fared no better than a distant seventh behind Brave Raj in the Juvenile Fillies.
Canterbury-related sentimentality would have been better served in the next race, the Sprint. Smile, the 1985 Sprint runner-up, was owned by Minneapolis resident Frances Genter and had won the $150,000 Canterbury Cup in July. But how could I go against odds-on speedball Groovy, who I remembered from his pace-setting tactics in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and could surely outrun anything at a much shorter six-furlong trip?
In the event Groovy was flat leaving the gate, and over that track that was a death sentence. D. Wayne Lukas' filly Pine Tree Lane broke on top, with the rail-hugging Smile in close pursuit. The latter ultimately put her away in deep stretch at odds of 11-1, while Groovy languished in fourth. As great a sprinter as he was, Groovy for some reason always had difficulty out-breaking fillies in the Breeders' Cup.
My pari-mutuel fortunes turned around in the next three races. Palace Music, who I knew had run well in the Mile the previous year, was my pick to make amends in the first turf race of the day. I didn't win much, but at least I cashed, when the future sire of Cigar ran a terrific second at odds of 7-2.
Shuffled back early from post 1, Palace Music was last of 14 with a half-mile to go. Forced to make a ridiculously wide rally under Gary Stevens, the chestnut closed like a freight train but fell a frustrating head short of longshot French sprinter Last Tycoon. If memory serves, Palace Music's trainer Charlie Whittingham put it succinctly to NBC after the race: "They don't make it a mile and a jump."
The Distaff was a no-brainer. Even I was quite familiar with the brilliance of Lady's Secret, and there was nothing to do but accept the short price and enjoy the procession from the eventual Horse of the Year, both of which I did.
The Turf was undoubtedly the highlight of my day. I knew nothing about European sensation and odds-on favorite Dancing Brave, but had watched the two leading American contenders on television earlier in the year. The mare Estrapade had won for fun in the Arlington Million, while the up-and-coming three-year-old Manila had caught my eye winning the United Nations Handicap and Ballantine's Scotch Classic against older horses.
Seeking value for perhaps the first time in my horse-playing life, I went with the longer-priced Manila, who had to overcome traffic in deep stretch to overtake Theatrical in the final strides with a whip-less Jose Santos hand-urging him to victory.
Turkoman, a long-striding son of Alydar, was the slight favorite over Precisionist in the Classic, and having watched Turkoman get the better of that rival in the 1 1/4-mile Marlboro Cup, was my pick to do so again. Unfortunately, Turkoman's style of running was not conducive to winning over the track as it was playing. Ridden by Pat Day for the first time, he could not overcome a 16-length deficit and finished second to Skywalker, who had enjoyed a perfect trip tracking a fast pace from third and taking what would be an insurmountable lead around the far turn.
As can be gleaned from these recollections, my first Breeders' Cup was quite a memorable one for me. But there's an asterisk. Dejected by Gulch's no-show, and naturally having the attention span of someone my age, I had turned off the TV after the Juvenile and went about my day. It was only after my father returned home from watching the Breeders' Cup simulcast at Canterbury that I found out the rest of the results -- and about my positive ROI.
Again, memories are hazy, but I like to think what happened on November 1, 1986 ignited what was already a simmering passion. At the very least, the events of that day convinced me that this was a hobby worth pursuing more seriously. Simply put, it was fun.
As was customary, my father had videotaped the entire four-hour NBC broadcast of that Breeders' Cup. I watched and re-watched that tape countless times that winter, acquainting myself with the sport's leading horses, owners, trainers and jockeys. I familiarized myself with the names of the top racetracks and graded stakes, and probably a little bit about pedigree and breeding. For a rookie, it was an incredibly useful tool, among many, in aiding my racing education.
For three decades, the Breeders' Cup has changed the lives of many of those fortunate enough to have participated in it. It also changed, long ago, the life of at least one young spectator.
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 28, 2014
Breeders' Cup celebrates its 31st edition
by James Scully
The Breeders' Cup serves as the preeminent showcase for Thoroughbred racing in the fall. Inaugurated in 1984, the championship event brought cohesion to the industry that is still evident today.
Prior to Breeders' Cup, year-end events were spread out at different tracks across the country, often leaving little incentive for top horses from each region to meet. Ad-hoc championship events existed -- fans could hope to see leading older horses from California travel to Belmont Park for the Jockey Club Gold Cup -- but match-ups didn't always materialize on track.
That enabled divisional Eclipse Awards, as well as Horse of the Year, to be decided at the ballot box, but the landscape changed with the advent of the Breeders' Cup.
The championship event proved a natural draw for American-based interests -- everybody wants to win a Breeders' Cup race -- and international participation raised its presence to another level.
Connections of foreign stalwarts such as Miesque, Goldikova, Ouija Board, Giant's Causeway, Sakhee, Dancing Brave, Galileo, Daylami, St Nicholas Abbey, The Fugue and others suddenly had the motivation for a North American sojourn in late fall. And the international appeal remains with 38 horses from other continents pre-entered to this year's event at Santa Anita.
Founded by John Gaines, who died in 2005 at age 76, the Breeders' Cup achieved one of its goals as a showcase event when the first running was held at Hollywood Park in 1984.
"It did indeed bring together, at one racetrack on a single autumn day in Southern California, more good racehorses and first-rate jockeys that had ever competed at any one place on any day in history," esteemed turf writer Bill Nack said at the time.
A prominent owner and breeder, John Gaines was a man of great vision and marketing genius. He developed Gainesway Farm into one of the world's leading stud farms; founded the National Thoroughbred Association, which later became the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA); and was instrumental in the creation of the Kentucky Horse Park and Maxwell H. Gluck Center for Equine Research at the University of Kentucky.
It's remarkable that his idea for the Breeders' Cup ever came to fruition.
Thoroughbred racing lacks a governing body with no commissioner. There are so many competing interests and rivalries between racing jurisdictions. The industry struggles with uniformity issues like a national medication policy and security protocols.
Gaines envisioned the Breeders' Cup bringing a sense of unity to the industry by promoting the sport in a positive light and attracting new fans. It would be Thoroughbred racing's version of the Super Bowl.
His son, Thomas Gaines, a fourth-generation horseman who co-founded Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, remembers how it all started.
"My dad came up with the idea for the Breeders' Cup but had to decide how to present it," Thomas Gaines explained. "He was confronted with two choices. Build a consensus before he announced it, and he soon realized that would be impossible, that would kill it before it could ever become a reality. So what he decided to do, he told nobody and invited reporters to attend a news conference."
In the spring of 1982, John Gaines revealed his Breeders' Cup plans at the annual Kentucky Derby Festival "They're Off" awards luncheon at Churchill Downs.
"He stepped up to a podium and announced the vision for the Breeders' Cup," Thomas Gaines said. "It was a strategic decision because he decided to get TV and the media behind his grand idea and then he would bring in everybody else in the industry, including those who may not want to do it for whatever reason.
"And that's what he did. Nobody had heard of it before, people were scrambling around after his announcement, and momentum started to build. Television got behind it, said they would broadcast this great day of racing in the fall, and then all the politics came together."
The first edition at Hollywood Park featured seven races with $10 million in total purses. And the centerpiece event, the $3 million Classic, delivered a rousing conclusion that quickly became a staple of the Breeders' Cup's legacy, with Wild Again narrowly out-finishing accomplished rivals Gate Dancer and Slew O' Gold after a prolonged stretch duel.
"If you dig through a highlight reel of the greatest races over the last 30 years, so many will be Breeders' Cup races," Thomas Gaines said. "It's become an incredible showcase of the very best horses."
The Breeders' Cup has grown to a two-day event, featuring 13 races worth a combined $24.5 million in 2014.
It didn't cure all of Thoroughbred racing's problems, but the Breeders' Cup continues to make an enormous impact that benefits the sport -- total handle in 2013 was a record $135,958,816.
Breeders' Cup handle numbers should be robust again this year as wagering opportunities abound for horseplayers, with full and highly-contentious fields of top-class horses. And the Breeders' Cup will determine numerous championship honors.
John Gaines was asked what he thought was the Breeders' Cup's greatest accomplishment several years after its inception.
"The fact that it exists," he said without missing a beat.
BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 27, 2014
BC Trainer Report
by James Scully
Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has been the target for top stables around the world. And many of the biggest trainers in Thoroughbred racing will be represented by multiple starters in this year's races at Santa Anita.
The two-day, 13-race event drew a record 201 pre-entries and handicappers will spend plenty of hours breaking down all the horses. But this is an opportunity to focus upon the conditioners, providing statistics and a look at their horses in the Breeders' Cup.
Among trainers in this year's Breeders' Cup, with a minimum of three wins, David Hofmans leads the way with a 20 percent win rate (three-for-15). He will be represented by only Home Run Kitten, who enters the Turf Sprint off a victory in the Eddie D. Stakes down the hillside course at Santa Anita.
Michael Stoute ranks second by win percentage, 17.6 percent. We'll take a closer look at the English-based trainer below.
Here is a breakdown of some major trainers in this year's Breeders' Cup:
Todd Pletcher (103-7-11-13 Breeders' Cup record)
The leading conditioner in the United States, Pletcher has earned the Eclipse Award for champion trainer an unprecedented six times and is poised to easily capture a fifth straight earnings crown. As of October 20, the Pletcher stable has bankrolled $19,737,598 in 2014, more than $8 million ahead of Chad Brown in second, and is scoring at an overall 24 percent clip (208-for-854).
Pletcher's Breeders' Cup record (6.7 percent win) does not come close to matching his typical heady win rate at high-profile meets like Saratoga, Gulfstream, Belmont and Keeneland,. He ranks second in overall starts (103) but only seventh by wins, going 17-1-1-2 the last two years at Santa Anita.
His number of Breeders' Cup horses is down significantly; Pletcher pre-entered a record 18 in 2006, but he started eight horses in 2013 and is represented by only five entries this year.
Breeders' Cup horses:
Angela Renee (Juvenile Fillies) She is the Juvenile Fillies morning line favorite following her comfortable 1 1/2-length Chandelier victory at Santa Anita on September 27. Bernardini filly has won two-of-four starts, placing in a pair of graded stakes.
Carpe Diem (Juvenile) Two for two in his career, son of Giant's Causeway earned a 100 BRIS Speed rating when rallying from just off the pace in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, scoring by a widening 6 1/4-length margin while making a spectacular two-turn debut at the Juvenile's 1 1/16-mile distance.
Daredevil (Juvenile) -- Provides a formidable one-two punch, impressively winning both career starts on wet tracks. Speedster registered a Juvenile field-best 104 Speed rating taking the Champagne at Belmont Park.
Feathered (Juvenile Fillies) -- Posted a smart 9 3/4-length maiden win at Saratoga two starts back and exits a rallying third in the Frizette at Belmont. Out of a Dynaformer mare, she could appreciate the stretch out to two turns.
Isabella Sings (Juvenile Fillies Turf) A debut winner on Belmont's turf, she established herself as a top contender with a neck second in the Natalma at Woodbine. Daughter of Eskendereya is bred to relish two turns and will show speed.
Outlook: Pletcher is focused upon juvenile events this year and two-year-olds have accounted for four of his seven Breeders' Cup victories, including three wins in 2010 (Juvenile, Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf). His only victory at Santa Anita the past two years came via Shanghai Bobby in the 2012 Juvenile and Havana finished second in the same race last year. His youngsters could make a serious impact.
Bob Baffert (83-10-11-3)
Baffert ranks second by wins among Breeders' Cup trainers, trailing D. Wayne Lukas 19-10, and the Hall of Famer appears well-represented this year with a couple of likely favorites, American Pharoah and Secret Circle, as well as Horse of the Year contender Bayern.
His 12 percent win clip compares favorably and four of his Breeders' Cup victories have come at Santa Anita, including New Year's Day (Juvenile) and Secret Circle (Sprint) last year as Baffert rebounded from a disappointing zero-for-10 stint in 2012. Baffert pre-entered eight horses for the 2014 Breeders' Cup but Midnight Lucky has been scratched from the Filly & Mare Sprint.
American Pharoah (Juvenile) Broke his maiden in sensational fashion second time out in the Del Mar Futurity, registering a 103 BRIS Speed rating for the 4 3/4-length decision, and exits a 3 1/4-length romp in the local prep, the September 27 FrontRunner at Santa Anita. Son of Pioneerof the Nile looms a serious wire-to-wire threat.
Bayern (Classic) Speed is his game, posting smashing front-running wins in the Haskell Invitational (106 Speed rating), Pennsylvania Derby (109) and Woody Stephens (108) in his last four starts, and his last-place Travers finish came over a deep track at Saratoga. Speed-friendly track at Santa Anita could aid his chances of getting the 1 1/4-mile distance.
Fed Biz (Dirt Mile) Hasn't been a factor in this event the past two years (eighth in 2012 and sixth in 2013) but will enter in strong form this year, recording a convincing win in the San Diego before runner-up finishes in the Pat O'Brien and Awesome Again. Nearly defeated Shared Belief in the latter, falling a neck short in a valiant performance.
Indianapolis (Sprint) Lightly-raced colt was on Kentucky Derby trail after opening career with a pair of sharp wins over the winter, including a 4 1/4-length tally in six-furlong San Pedro, and came back from eight-month layoff with a nice triumph in a recent Santa Anita allowance. Must overcome a lack of seasoning but can be considered a wildcard due to his immense potential.
One Lucky Dane (Juvenile) High-priced son of Lookin at Lucky exits a 9 1/2-length maiden win going two turns at Santa Anita in his third start. Promising sort will be an outsider against a deep field of rivals.
Secret Circle (Sprint) Following the same pattern as last year when he came back from a lengthy layoff with an October prep race before the main event. Proved best as the 5-2 Sprint favorite in 2013, rallying from just off the pace to a neck decision, and prepped for his title defense with a good third in the October 4 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, his first race since early February. Very formidable.
Tiz Midnight (Distaff) She'll need a career-best to challenge, but four-year-old exits a respectable second to Beholder in her stakes debut, the September 27 Zenyatta, and could prove to be the speed of the speed. Filly will attempt to outperform expectations with further improvement.
Outlook: With major contenders in four events, Baffert probably expects to add to his Breeders' Cup trophy case. He's got a home-field advantage at Santa Anita.
Bill Mott (77-9-10-5)
With nine wins, Mott is tied with fellow Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for third all-time. Five were recorded in the Distaff and he'll send out this year's likely favorite, Close Hatches.
Mott scores at an 11.6 percent rate in the Breeders' Cup, three coming in California, the last via 2012 Distaff winner Royal Delta. Two of his eight pre-entries this year will need assistance from the also-eligibles list.
Bio Pro (Turf Sprint) An allowance winner most recently at Belmont Park, Bio Pro is stuck five spots down on the also-eligibles list and will be a huge longshot if he makes the starting gate.
Cigar Street (Classic) Registered one of the top BRIS Speed ratings in 2013, a 115 for his victory in the Skip Away early in the year, but wasn't seen again under silks for nearly 17 months. He shows two starts in preparation, including a game win in the September 27 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs, but needs to move forward significantly from that effort to challenge.
Close Hatches (Distaff) Established her dominance in the division by opening the year with four straight stakes wins, including June's Ogden Phipps at Belmont over top rivals Beholder and Princess of Sylmar, but surprisingly came up flat in the October 5 Spinster at Keeneland, finishing a well-beaten fourth at 1-5 odds. That looks like an aberration and four-year-old filly appears capable of rebounding given her fine second in last year's Distaff at Santa Anita.
Emollient (Filly & Mare Turf) She likes Santa Anita's turf, finishing only a length back in fourth in last year's Filly & Mare Turf and winning the Rodeo Drive over the course on September 27, but will need to raise her game against a deep group of challengers, including several quality invaders from Europe.
Puca (Juvenile Fillies) Exits a 16-length maiden win over a short field at Belmont Park in her third career start and will face a stiff class check in her stakes bow.
Quality Rocks (Juvenile Fillies Turf) After opening her career with a pair of wins on synthetic tracks, she was transferred to Mott and turned in a solid second in her turf debut, the October 8 Jessamine at Keeneland. Daughter of Rock Hard Ten figures to be up close from the start and rates as a possible sleeper.
Seek Again (Mile) Proved to be a game winner of the Fourstardave at Saratoga two starts back but experienced a troubled trip last time, checking in sixth in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. With Wise Dan's absence, he's among the best U.S hopes but is in tough versus a talented group of European-based rivals.
Tourist (Mile) Likely can make the field from the also-eligibles list (needs two defections) and would add to the pace, but it's probably best to look for more down the road from the promising three-year-old colt.
Outlook: The Distaff is a forte and Mott has been in this position before previous winners Ajina (1997), Escena (1998), Unrivaled Belle (2010) and Royal Delta (first Distaff in 2011) all lost their final prep race. Close Hatches is the big gun and it's difficult to get excited about his remaining Breeders' Cup stock.
Chad Brown (23-2-3-3)
Brown led all trainers with 11 entries and easily captured the trainer's title during the Belmont fall meet. He has enhanced his reputation as a turf conditioner through the Breeders' Cup, with all eight of his top three finishes coming in grass races, and will bring a strong contingent of turf horses into this year's event.
Bakken (Sprint) Speedster possesses a nice set of BRIS Speed ratings but has raced sparingly, with two starts this year and no stakes wins to his credit. He didn't fire when shipping to Santa Anita last year and it's tough to make a strong case for his chances.
Big Blue Kitten (Turf) Rallied to finish a respectable second to Hillstar in the recent Canadian International but his only win since August 2013 has come in a restricted stakes. No factor in this race last year and he'll face an extreme class test once again.
Bobby's Kitten (Turf Sprint) Poised to make first career start at less than a mile and brings quality speed to the race. Exits a fine third in the September 14 Woodbine Mile, his best performance since the spring, and finished a close third as the favorite in last year's Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Dayatthespa (Filly & Mare Turf) Cross-entered to both the Mile and Filly & Mare Turf, her best chance comes in the latter. The 1 1/4-mile distance represents a challenge, but five-year-old mare is arguably in career-best form, registering a 103 BRIS Speed rating for her commanding Grade 1 victory in the October 4 First Lady at Keeneland. Will be up close from the start.
Lady Eli (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Two for two in her career, daughter of Divine Park will contend for favoritism. She overcame a troubled trip to win her debut by a nose and captured the September 28 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park with ease, registering a 112 BRIS Late Pace rating while scoring by three lengths. Very formidable.
Offering Plan (Juvenile Turf) Rallied to an easy debut maiden win over New York-bred rivals before a respectable third in the September 28 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, earning commendable BRIS Speed and Late Pace numbers after a wide trip. His ability to finish makes him an interesting candidate for a top three finish at an expected price.
Partisan Politics (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Broke her maiden second time out in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga but checked in a non-threatening fourth in the Miss Grillo last time. More Than Ready filly possesses a decent late kick but doesn't rate as one of Brown's main contenders in this event.
Sivoliere (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Regally-bred daughter of Sea the Stars will be piloted by Gary Stevens in her first U.S. start. She's run better on ground with less give to it, which could benefit her over expected firm conditions at Santa Anita, and displayed good class overseas. Sivoliere may not be the most imposing European shipper on paper but remains eligible to run well from off the pace.
Startup Nation (Juvenile Turf) New York-bred colt opened career with a pair of convincing wins, defeating state-bred maiden foes prior to a 4 1/2-length romp in the With Anticipation at Saratoga, but fell short as the 1-2 favorite in the September 28 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, finishing fourth. Will look to rebound and deserves serious consideration.
Stephanie's Kitten (Filly & Mare Turf) Big chance to give Brown his second win in this event in three years (Zagora captured 2012 edition). Stephanie's Kitten opened the year with a couple of unplaced efforts before posting consecutive runner-up finishes, but she was dropping too far back during early stages before rallying belatedly. Displayed noticeable improvement last time, the September 27 Flower Bowl at Belmont, racing up close from the start before crushing rivals, and the multiple Grade 1 heroine is hitting her best stride at the right time of year.
Tammy the Torpedo (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Easily broke her maiden first time out at Saratoga, looking like a filly with a bright future when rolling from off the pace to a 3 1/4-length decision, but came up short in third as the favorite in the Miss Grillo. Daughter of More Than Ready can't be completely dismissed from win consideration in a highly-contentious field.
Zivo (Classic) Loves Belmont, earning 103 and 104 Speed ratings in his last two outings at "Big Sandy," both at 1 1/4 miles, and turned in a huge effort rallying for second in the September 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup after being steadied repeatedly during the race. New York-bred has really come on at age five but carrying his form forward to Santa Anita, with his deep closing style, is a difficult proposition.
Outlook: Brown could be labeled a "turf maestro" following this year's Breeders' Cup he has a legitimate chance to win several grass races.
Steve Asmussen (32-4-4-2)
Asmussen brings a respectable 12.5 percent win clip into the Breeders' Cup and has fared well at Santa Anita. He didn't have the stock last year with only three starters, but upset the 2012 Dirt Mile with 15-1 Tapizar and recorded three seconds (all 9-2 or higher) at that year's edition in Arcadia, California.
Lucky Player (Juvenile) Exits a career-best effort in the September 6 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, posting a narrow upset at 11-1, but the runner-up (Bold Conquest) and third-placer (Hashtag Bourbon) did not run well in subsequent starts versus graded rivals and Lucky Player steps up to face a deep group in this year's Juvenile.
Mico Margarita (Sprint) Figures to be overlooked following stakes wins at Remington Park and Mountaineer, but four-year-old colt merits respect given his current form he's posted BRIS Speed ratings of 103 (last time) and 101 (twice) in his last three outings. Class concerns remain but don't be shocked to see him jump forward with a strong effort.
Tapiture (Dirt Mile) Cuts back in distance off a pair of commendable efforts, registering century-topping Speed ratings for a victory in West Virginia Derby and a runner-up effort in Pennsylvania Derby, and he's displayed a fine finishing kick in three outings since the Kentucky Derby. Don't know if he'll be able to run down the speed at Santa Anita, but three-year-old belongs in the mix of serious win contenders.
Unbridled's Note (Turf Sprint) Finished second in 2012 and fourth last year in this event but is unplaced in all three outings this year and ranked sixth on the also-eligibles list, one spot ahead of stablemate Regally Ready. Appears unlikely to factor if he does make the field.
Untapable (Distaff) Connections hope to see her make amends for a dreadful experience in last year's Juvenile Fillies in which she was eased after experiencing extreme trouble. Three-year-old filly is five-for-six this season, the only setback coming against males in the Haskell, and arrived early at Santa Anita, training locally the entire month of October with a recent five-furlong bullet work (:58). Classy filly is the likely second choice to Close Hatches.
Outlook: Asmussen has proven that he can get his horses ready for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita and his 2014 contingent appears to be in good form (excluding the also-eligibles). He may not come away with any wins, but his horses appear capable of challenging in at least a couple of spots.
Aidan O'Brien (88-8-12-7)
Irish-based O'Brien is a huge supporter of the Breeders' Cup, targeting multiple races each year, and he's done his best work in the Turf, earning a fourth win in the 1 1/2-mile event when Magician posted a 12-1 upset last year. He'll send the colt back for a title defense and also has the filly Chicquita pre-entered.
Chicquita (Turf) Her success on "good ground" overseas could bode well for her chances. After displaying top-class form at age three last season, she sold for a record price at an Irish auction ($8.073 million) in November. Her Coolmore connections brought her back in mid-September and despite dropping all three outings, she's performed respectably twice against good company, the only subpar showing coming from an extreme post position in the Arc. Don't underestimate O'Brien's ability to get the most out of his horses despite a demanding schedule as Chicquita makes her third start in a four-week window.
Magician (Turf) Magician was off since June and had never raced at 1 1/2 miles prior to last year's Turf, but he won't be an unknown quantity this year. The four-year-old colt captured a Group 3 stakes at the Curragh before recording runner-up finishes to The Fugue and Noble Mission in Group 1 events during the spring/summer, and he's been freshened up since a second in the Arlington Million, a tactic that worked so well last November at Santa Anita. He's one of several capable international raiders in this event.
Qualify (Juvenile Fillies Turf) Exits a Group 3 triumph at the Curragh and is bred to appreciate the stretch out to a two-turn mile. She wasn't a serious factor in two previous stakes attempts versus better company, but Qualify remains eligible to keep improving off a confidence-building win and shouldn't be easily dismissed from win consideration.
The Great War (Juvenile) He's raced exclusively on turf but is bred to flourish on a dirt surface with similar bloodlines to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing (both are by War Front and are out of full sisters). The $1 million yearling purchase hasn't performed up to lofty expectations so far but does show three wins from seven starts, including a convincing listed stakes tally last out on September 28. Faces a difficult challenge in a deep Juvenile field.
War Envoy (Juvenile Turf) Looks like a serious player in this spot. A bit disappointing early in his career, the son of War Front brings improving form into the Breeders' Cup. He posted a third in an Irish Group 3 event and a second in an English Group 2 race before rallying to be a close fifth in a Group 1 test on the Arc undercard at Longchamp. Could continue to show more at Santa Anita.
Outlook: O'Brien is very adept shipping his horses to America and European-based horses tend to show up with their best over the Santa Anita turf course, producing four wins in 2013.
Sir Michael Stoute (34-6-2-3)
A 10-time champion English trainer, Stoute handles most of the Queen's best horses and is one of the most respected horsemen in the world. The four-time Turf winner has recorded four of his six Breeders' Cup victories at Santa Anita.
Dank (Filly & Mare Turf) Showed an affinity for the course winning last year's Filly & Mare Turf but has been dogged by a foot problem and won't bring the same form into this event, recording a pair of non-threatening efforts in her lone appearances this year. She had won three of her previous four starts before last year's Breeders' Cup and is probably facing a deeper field this year, but Dank is still a talented mare who is unbeaten from two Grade 1 attempts in America.
Telescope (Turf) After a solid sophomore season, Telescope has improved significantly at age four. He displayed high class in his last two outings, a third in the Juddmonte International and a second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and his easy seven-length tally in the Group 2 Hardwicke three starts back was flattered by runner-up Hillstar's recent victory in the Canadian International at Woodbine. When Stoute announced in September that he was skipping the Arc and pointing the four-year-old son of Galileo to the Turf, it was easy to take notice. Telescope prefers good-to-firm ground and will take some beating.
Outlook: Stoute does a great job targeting big races and his horses will show up with their best at Santa Anita he's won a Breeders' Cup race over the course in four of the last five editions (2003, 2008, 2009 and 2013).
Trainers with multiple Breeders' Cup wins like Richard Mandella (seven), Neil Drysdale (six) and John Gosden (four) are conspicuous by their absence in this year's Breeders' Cup.
Andre Fabre (44-4-5-7) and Freddy Head (6-3-0-1) have both proven dangerous in past editions and will be represented by a lone starter, with Fabre sending out Arc runner-up Flintshire in the Turf and Head responsible for Anodin in the Mile.
Flintshire's improving form must be respected and he's in good company following his second-place finish to Treve last time -- eight also-rans from the Arc have shipped over to win the Turf. Anodin doesn't rate as a top contender, but he shows some respectable performances this season and is a full brother to three-time Mile winner Goldikova.
D. Wayne Lukas and Shug McGaughey are both represented by a pair of entries, but none rate as serious win prospects.
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HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
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