July 18, 2024

Road to the Breeders’ Cup

Last updated: 10/19/04 8:51 PM


ROAD TO
THE BREEDERS’ CUP


by James Scully


Cup fever


Entries are released Wednesday as the Breeders’ Cup in Texas
is less than two weeks away. A look at each race follows.


Classic


A near full field is expected for the Classic (G1) and the top
two betting choices are likely defending winner PLEASANTLY
PERFECT (Pleasant Colony) and GHOSTZAPPER (Awesome Again), who is
unbeaten from three 2004 starts. Pleasantly Perfect is much more
of an off-the-pace runner and will train into the Breeders’ Cup
for Richard Mandella off a victory in Pacific Classic (G1) 69
days ago. Four-time Classic hero Jerry Bailey has the mount.


Ghostzapper can race close to the pace, as he did winning his
final prep in the Woodward S. (G1), or close from farther back.
He’s never been 1 1/4 miles, but his sire captured the 1998
Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The four-year-old has been training
well at Belmont Park for Bobby Frankel.


The defection of front-running Saint Liam (Saint Ballado)
leaves ROSES IN MAY (Devil His Due) as the possible lone speed in
the Classic. AZERI (Jade Hunter) would be a serious pace factor
as well, but she appears more likely to run in the Distaff (G1).
Roses in May has never been 1 1/4 miles, but he does own
excellent form, winning all five starts in 2004, including the
Whitney H. (G1).


FUNNY CIDE (Distorted Humor) heads the second tier of
contenders and must be respected off a win in the 1 1/4-mile
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). The competition can be questioned last
time, but the dual classic winner is hitting his best stride
right now for trainer Barclay Tagg, recording a 113 BRIS Speed
rating in the Jockey Club, and will have no trouble with the
Classic distance.


Belmont S. (G1) victor BIRDSTONE (Grindstone) turned in a
resounding performance to capture the Travers (G1) by 2 1/2
lengths and now trains into the Classic off a lengthy rest for
Nick Zito. He’s the top three-year-old contender this year and
can be placed anywhere in the early running by Edgar Prado.
Birdstone will deserve Horse of the Year honors if he can earn
his first stakes victory outside New York in the Breeders’ Cup
Classic.


The late-running PERFECT DRIFT (Dynaformer) is always a threat
to run past all but looks more likely to challenge for second or
third instead of the win. Another exotics contender with an upset
shot is DYNEVER (Dynaformer), who showed a preference for the
track with a victory in last year’s Lone Star Derby (G3). He’ll
need to improve upon a 101 Speed rating from his last outing, a
runner-up finish in the Meadowlands Breeders’ Cup (G2).


A mystery horse is PERSONAL RUSH (Wild Rush), who will make
his U.S. bow off a nine-length score in a Group 1 dirt race in
Japan. The best dirt horse in Japan figures to be overmatched in
the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but nobody knows how the improving
Personal Rush will perform.


Turf


The Turf (G1) will mostly be compromised of North American-based
runners, but Aidan O’Brien is expected to run Arlington Million (G1)
first-place finisher POWERSCOURT (GB) (Sadler’s Wells) (placed
fourth via DQ) and the connections of OUIJA BOARD (GB) (Cape
Cross [Ire]) said they would cross-enter the multiple classic
winner to both the Turf and Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The three-year-old
filly showed her ability to compete at the highest level against
males with a stellar third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1)
last out.


MAGISTRETTI (Diesis [GB]) is another with European form, but
he’s been a much better performer since arriving America during
the summer. Now trained by Patrick Biancone, the four-year-old
colt finished well for third (placed second via DQ) in the
Arlington Million and then displayed a dynamic turn of foot to
capture the Man o’ War S. (G1). Magistretti will try to improve
upon a runner-up finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).


KITTEN’S JOY (El Prado [Ire]) will likely go favored in the
Turf off his 2 1/2-length victory in the Joe Hirsch and has
developed into a phenomenal runner this season for conditioner
Dale Romans. A winner of three straight turf stakes over
sophomore rivals earlier this year, the chestnut colt suffered
his only career setback on grass when finishing second by a head
in June’s Jefferson Cup (G3) at Churchill Downs. Since then,
Kitten’s Joy has been unbeatable, recording outstanding
performances in the Virginia Derby (G3), Secretariat (G1) and Joe
Hirsch. Those easy wins earned his BRIS Speed ratings of 108, 110
and 110, respectively, as well as BRIS Late Pace figures as high
as 128.


Kitten’s Joy looks very special.


Other hopefuls include the front-running BALTO STAR (Glitterman),
who will bring commendable form into the Turf off a victory in
the Meadowlands Cup; STAR OF THE BAY (Cozzene), who was claimed
for $80,000 in May and has developed into the best turf route
runner on the West Coast for trainer Mike Mitchell with victories
in the Clement Hirsch (G1), Del Mar H. (G2) and Sunset H. (G2) in
his last three outings; and MUSTANFAR (Unbridled), an improving
three-year-old who put it all together last time for a three-length
score in the 12-furlong Sycamore Breeders’ Cup (G3) and may
continue to show more against better turf horses for Kiaran
McLaughlin.


Distaff


Azeri will be a heavy choice here, but she hasn’t scared away
the competition. At least 10 other fillies and mares are lining
up to tackle the 2002 Horse of the Year, who would enter the
Distaff off a sparkling three-length tally in the Spinster S. (G1).


ASHADO (Saint Ballado) recorded major wins in the Kentucky
Oaks (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and tuned up for
the Distaff with a sharp 2 3/4-length score in the Cotillion H. (G2),
earning a 105 BRIS Speed figure. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly
posted a fast work at Belmont on Monday in preparation.


STORM FLAG FLYING (Storm Cat) was taken out of her game
chasing a slow pace in the Beldame S. (G1) last out and could be
much more effective reverting to rating tactics at Lone Star Park.
TAMWEEL (Gulch) and ELLOLUV (Gilded Time) should help ensure a
realistic early pace along with Azeri in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff.


Another possibility is the classy NEBRASKA TORNADO (Storm Cat),
who is expected to be cross-entered to the Distaff and Filly
& Mare Turf (G1). The four-year-old filly has never raced on
dirt, but she’s tackled top class company all season, including
males on multiple occasions, and could be a serious factor in the
Distaff is she takes to the main track in Texas.


Two other top-class fillies worth mention are ISLAND FASHION (Petionville)
and SOCIETY SELECTION (Coronado’s Quest). The former reeled off
victories in the Santa Monica (G1) and La Brea (G1) over the
winter and then bounced back from an overseas summer trip to
captured the Lady’s Secret Breeders’ Cup H. (G2) in fine fashion
last time. Society Selection reeled off excellent wins in the
Alabama (G1) and Test S. (G1) at Saratoga and was taken out of
her element like Storm Flag Flying in the Beldame most recently.
The Allen Jerkens-trained three-year-old will be running from off
the pace at Lone Star.


Mile


The Mile (G1) will likely have the most international flavor
with at least three or four Europeans expected to enter. More
than the allowed 14 are expected to oversubscribe, including
defending winner SIX PERFECTIONS (Fr) (Celtic Swing). The four-year-old
filly is winless from three starts this season, but all came
against males in top-class Group 1 events and she turned in fine
runs to place second on two occasions. She’s one of the top
contenders.


The U.S. contingent includes NOTHING TO LOSE (Sky Classic),
who has really come on for Bobby Frankel with victories in the
Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and Fourstardave H. (G2) in his last two
starts, and MR O’BRIEN (Ire) (Mukaddamah), who earned a
supplemental berth with a fine win in the Kelso Breeders’ Cup H.
(G2) recently.


The Oak Tree Breeders’ Cup Mile (G2) has been a Mile influence
before and will produce a couple of contenders this year in
MUSICAL CHIMES (In Excess [Ire]) and SINGLETARY (Sultry Song).
The former is a top-notch four-year-old lass trained by Neil
Drysdale who is peaking at the right time. Singletary needed the
Oak Tree off a lengthy layoff and just missed with a stiff late
rally. He may continue to show more at Lone Star.


A couple of other Californians to consider are SPECIAL RING (Nureyev)
and BLACKDOUN (Fr) (Verglas [Ire]), both trained by two-time Mile
winner Julio Canani. The former, who will make his second start
of 2004 off a 97-day hiatus, runs well fresh, capturing the Eddie
Read H. (G1) off a lengthy layoff last time, and looms a
legitimate wire-to-wire threat. Blackdoun covers the bases for
Canani with his off-the-pace running style. The French import
closed powerfully to capture the Del Mar Derby (G2), La Jolla H.
(G2) and Oceanside S. at Del Mar in his first three U.S.
appearances and could transfer his form to the big stage.


WHIPPER (Miesque’s Son), who edged Six Perfections when
capturing the Prix Morny (Fr-G1) in August, is being considered
for a Mile attempt by conditioner Robert Collet, and Aidan
O’Brien could send a runner in ANTONIUS PIUS (Danzig), who placed
in a couple of prestigious mile events this year in England and
France.


ARTIE SCHILLER (El Prado [Ire]) is another intriguing prospect.
He’s displayed tremendous form on the grass this season for
trainer James Jerkens but will have to step up and face older
rivals for the first time at Lone Star.


Sprint


The Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) is the division’s biggest event
by far and should be the most important race in deciding each
year’s champion. The connections of one decent sprinter have
chosen not to show up for this year’s Sprint, but the Eclipse
Award is still up for grabs if OUR NEW RECRUIT (Alphabet Soup) or
SPEIGHTSTOWN (Gone West) can prove best at Lone Star.


The John Sadler-trained Our New Recruit recorded a superb win
in the $2 million Golden Shaheen S. (UAE-G1) earlier this year
and returned to action in September with a victory in the
Pirate’s Bounty S. at Del Mar. He’s the nation’s best sprinter if
he wins the biggest event.


Speightstown opened this year with victories in the Artax H.,
Churchill Downs H. (G2), True North Breeders’ Cup H. (G2) and A.G.
Vanderbilt H. (G2), earning Speed ratings of 112, 113 and 111.
The East Coast’s top sprinter suffered his first setback in
almost 18 months when finishing third in the Vosburgh S. (G1),
but he can make amends for one sub-par performance in the
Breeders’ Cup.


Bobby Frankel has a pair of solid contenders in MIDAS EYES (Touch
Gold) and CAJUN BEAT (Grand Slam). The former returned from a
freshening to score a runaway allowance win at Saratoga and then
captured the Forego H. (G1) in commanding fashion last out. Cajun
Beat took last year’s Sprint at Santa Anita and was turned over
to Frankel this season. The four-year-old needed his effort in
the Vosburgh and could show more in his second start back off the
layoff.


KELA (Numerous) is a stakes winner over the Texas track and
raised his game this year for trainer Mike Mitchell with
victories in the Bing Crosby Breeders’ Cup H. (G1) and Pat
O’Brien Breeders’ Cup H. (G2). The six-year-old will be a fresh
and dangerous contestant. Another formidable late runner is CLOCK
STOPPER (Gilded Time), who is winless from his last four stakes
appearances but got part while rallying to be close each time.
He’s the type who could finally put it all together for
conditioner Dallas Stewart.


Filly & Mare Turf


The Filly & Mare Turf (G1) figures to be in flux until
final entries are drawn next Wednesday. The connections of Ouija
Board and Nebraska Tornado have announced their intentions to
cross-enter to other races, with the Filly & Mare Turf as the
second preference for both.


Ouija Board looks like a heavy favorite if she elects to face
her own kind. Winner of the English (Eng-G1) and Irish Oaks (Ire-G1),
the highly touted sophomore filly turned in an outstanding
performance in the Arc, rallying to be beaten only 1 1/2 lengths
in third. She’s a threat for the Turf and a possible standout in
the Filly & Mare Turf.


Nebraska Tornado is considering the Distaff and will be tested
for distance over 1 3/8 miles in the Filly & Mare Turf. The
Andre Fabre trainee is a listed winner at 10 furlongs, but she’s
proven more adept at shorter routes.


Another European expected to make the trip is YESTERDAY (Ire)
(Sadler’s Wells), who finished third to Islington (Ire) last year.
The four-year-old miss remains a danger to find her form again,
but she’s unplaced from two attempts this year.


LIGHT JIG (GB) (Danehill) will vie for favoritism if Ouija
Board does not run. Winner of the Beverly Hills H. (G2) in June,
the Frankel-conditioned four-year-old displayed an explosive turn
of foot to open up on her rivals in the stretch of the Yellow
Ribbon (G1) in her final prep.


Grade 1 queens WONDER AGAIN (Silver Hawk) and RISKAVERSE (Dynaformer)
will represent New York-based outfits and each has the class to
be a serious factor in the Filly & Mare Turf. STAY FOREVER (Stack)
and SUPER BRAND (SAf) (Royal Chalice) will each bring commendable
form into the Breeders’ Cup off a 1-2 finish in the WinStar
Galaxy S. (G2) at Keeneland.


Juvenile


One of the smaller fields is expected for the Juvenile (G1),
including the top three finishers from the Champagne S. (G1) -
PROUD ACCOLADE (Yes It’s True), AFLEET ALEX (Northern Afleet) and
SUN KING (Charismatic). They could run 1-2-3 in any order on
October 30.


Proud Accolade was highly impressive earning a 108 Speed
rating for his half-length score over Afleet Alex in his stakes
bow. An easy maiden and allowance winner at Saratoga, the
unbeaten colt was kept wide throughout the Champagne and
displayed awesome push-button acceleration to make the lead while
getting a 111 Late Pace figure. There’s room for improvement.


Afleet Alex showed his class winning the Hopeful (G1) and ran
boldly from off the pace for second in the Champagne. He could
capitalize upon a heated early pace in the Juvenile. Sun King
raced closer to the pace than expected and held well for third in
his stakes bow. Look for him to be farther back early at Lone
Star and the added seasoning from the Champagne could lead to a
shining performance.


ROMAN RULER (Fusaichi Pegasus) is suddenly an enigma for the
Juvenile. Jockey Corey Nakatani was talking Triple Crown
following the dark bay colt’s seven-length score in the 6 1/2-furlong
Best Pal S. (G2), but the Bob Baffert charge suffered his first
career defeat in his next start (an excellent runner-up in the
Del Mar Futurity [G2]) and then turned in a lackluster
performance through the stretch when making his first two-turn
appearance in the Norfolk S. (G2). His 95 Speed rating was a
major regression.


His last race will send clear signals to some observers, but
Roman Ruler still owns tremendous potential and is a candidate to
bounce back strong for Baffert.


Breeders’ Futurity (G1) hero CONSOLIDATOR (Storm Cat) is
another leading contender. The chestnut colt earned his first
stakes victory with a sharp two-length decision at Keeneland last
out and is trained by five-time Juvenile winner D. Wayne Lukas.


Juvenile Fillies


SWEET CATOMINE (Storm Cat) is the probable favorite for the
Juvenile Fillies (G1) on the basis of her wins in the Oak Leaf (G2)
and Del Mar Debutante (G1). A confirmed closer, the Julio Canani
trainee was a marvelous four-length winner of the Oak Leaf in her
first attempt at two turns.


Grade 1 heroine SENSE OF STYLE (Thunder Gulch) was the early
leader in this division but suffered her first setback finishing
fifth in the Alcibiades (G2) last time. The Biancone lass was
bottled up through the far turn and into the stretch before
spitting the bit on that afternoon and is a candidate to bounce
back in style.


RUNWAY MODEL (Petionville) comes off a fine win in the
Alcibiades and the narrow runner-up, SHARP LISA (Dixieland Band),
was making only her second career start there. Trained by Doug
O’Neill, Sharp Lisa is eligible to keep showing more at Lone Star.


BALLETTO (UAE) (Timber Country) rallied well to finish second
to Sense of Style in the Matron (G1) and then demonstrated
another formidable late kick to capture the Frizette (G1) most
recently. She’s won three of four starts for Tom Albertrani.
READY’S GAL (More Than Ready) suffered her first loss when
finishing a commendable second in the Frizette and is threat for
Pletcher in the Juvenile Fillies.