April 23, 2018

Workers out in force one week before Breeders’ Cup Friday

World Approval from his stall at Churchill Downs one week before the 2017 Breeders' Cup World Championships take place at Del Mar (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

A number of hopefuls from around the country put in their final major moves on Friday ahead of next week’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 3-4 at Del Mar.

The pre-entries for the event were revealed Wednesday and final entries are due Monday, October 30, for the two-day extravaganza.

BELMONT PARK

A pair of Breeders’ Cup contenders worked at Belmont Park on Friday, with Takaful blazing a half-mile over the fast training track and Sadler’s Joy covering the same distance on the fast main track.

Takaful blitzed four furlongs in a bullet :46.66, best of 46 other moves at that distance on the day, and galloped out five-eighths in :59.80.

“He’s a very fast horse,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He went off very quickly :22 and change and :46 and three, and out in :59 and four. He’s a fast horse so it was a good work.”

The Bernardini sophomore captured the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) last out and is targeting the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

“Coming into the Vosburgh, we knew El Deal was going to be on the lead,” McLaughlin said. “We knew it was going to be tough to go with him or come off the pace and get to him. (Jockey) Jose (Ortiz) had confidence in him and laid pretty close. We stalked and were able to catch him late to win by length.

“It was a good effort,” he continued. “He’s only three, but he’s doing very well. We’re going to be facing some top sprinters and the draw will be important. Hopefully, we draw in towards the middle or outside where we can stalk out a good trip.”

Takaful is scheduled to ship to California on Tuesday. McLaughlin indicated tentative plans call for the dark bay colt to walk Wednesday and jog either Thursday or Friday heading into the race on Saturday, November 4.

“We don’t like to do much with him before a race,” McLaughlin said. “He’s fit and ready so we’ll go from here.”

Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) winner Sadler’s Joy posted his final major move Friday ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) when breezing five furlongs on Belmont’s main track in :50.02.

Regular exercise rider Alberto Garcia was aboard as the Tom Albertrani trainee clocked the first quarter in :24.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04.

“It was a good, even work,” Albertrani said. “He broke off from the five-eighths pole in :13 and 2 and it was steady the rest of the way. It’s what we were looking for today and he galloped out good, and we’re all set to go.”

Sadler’s Joy will enter the Breeders’ Cup Turf off his first unplaced run of the year, a fourth-place finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) on September 30. He also breezed a half-mile in :49.66 on October 16 in his first move since that 1 1/2-mile contest.

“The first time, I usually go four (furlongs) after they run, usually,” Albertrani said. “We’re kind of cramming in a couple of works before we leave, so the other day, we let him stretch his legs out and today was just what he needed according to his distance and schedule.

“He loves the (1 1/2-mile) distance (of the Breeders’ Cup Turf). It’ll be down to getting a good, clean trip. We’re hoping we’re not too far back this time around. In his last start, we were a little too far back than we needed to be and had a lot of ground to make up. Hopefully we get a good position early on and it’ll set up for us.”

Sadler’s Joy is scheduled to ship to California on Sunday morning.

CHURCHILL DOWNS

Seven Breeders’ Cup pre-entrants worked over Churchill Downs’ fast main track on Friday.

World Approval, conqueror of the Woodbine Mile (Can-G1) and Fourstardave Handicap (G1) in his past pair, breezed four furlongs in :47.80 ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

The Northern Afleet five-year-old was caught in splits of :12.80 and :24.80 before galloping out five-eighths in 1:00 and three-quarters in 1:13.80 with regular exercise rider Pierre Gadoy aboard.

“World Approval has been a completely different horse since we turned him back in distance,” assistant trainer Norman Casse said. “He ran extremely well in the Woodbine Mile and we’re very confident entering the (Breeders’ Cup) Mile.

“I feel like exercise riders make a big difference and we have a great crew of riders throughout the country,” Casse added. “We flew in Pierre, from Florida, for three weeks, to breeze World Approval and Awesome Slew and he’s really benefitted both horses in their works.”

World Approval was one of five Mark Casse-trained Breeders’ Cup hopefuls who readied for the World Championships under the Twin Spires on Friday.

Godoy was in the saddle as Awesome Slew recorded splits of 12:20 and :24.20 before posting an official time of :47.60 for four furlongs. The Awesome Again colt, who galloped out five furlongs in 1:00 and three-quarters in 1:13, brings a win in the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) hopefuls Gio Game and Wonder Gadot breezed in tandem under Julien Leparoux and E.J. Bowler, respectively. The two-year-old filly pair traveled a half-mile in :47.60 for Casse off respective wins in a maiden special weight and the Mazarine Stakes (Can-G3).

Grade 2 victor Holding Gold also went out for Casse, breezing half-mile in :49.60 with Bowler aboard. The Lonhro gelding is pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

“It is very rewarding going into the Breeders’ Cup with a string of horses that can participate at the highest level our sport has to offer,” Norman Casse said.

Whitmore, a nose victor in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) last out, logged a half-mile in :48 just after Churchill opened the track at 6 a.m. (ET) on Friday. The Pleasantly Perfect gelding breezed in company with stablemate Junket.

“It was a really solid work,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “I think he’s the happiest he’s been since Oaklawn last winter. He’s a horse that breezes in company and will go as fast as the workmate but keep head-in-head throughout the breeze until the rider asks him to go. If his workmate goes :48, he’ll go :48. If they go :46, he’ll go :46.

“This morning’s breeze started out a bit weird because the pony started acting up a bit so they went a little quick into the early portion of the work. He galloped out very well and there’s nothing more we can ask of him before heading to Del Mar. It’s nice going out to a race like this when you truly feel like you have a shot.”

Finley’sluckycharm breezed four furlongs in :47.80 for trainer Bret Calhoun on Friday, recording splits of :12.80 and :24.80 before galloping out five panels in 1:00.80. The Twirling Candy four-year-old miss is preparing for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) off a win in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) last out.

“We’re ready to get out to California,” Calhoun said. “It’s a tough group from top to bottom. I think she stacks up with them and I think it will just come down to a little racing luck.”

Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) contender Forever Unbridled will join the Casse contingent, Whitmore and Finley’sluckycharm on Monday’s plane to Del Mar, according to trainer Dallas Stewart. The Unbridled’s Song mare has captured her two races this year in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) and Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), and breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 Thursday morning under the Twin Spires.

KEENELAND

Six Breeders’ Cup hopefuls took to Keeneland’s track on Friday ahead of next weekend’s championship events.

Trainer Mark Casse breezed Alcibiades (G1) winner Heavenly Love and Bourbon (G3) scorer Flameaway together over the fast main track. The duo clocked a time of :47.40 for the half-mile and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40.

Heavenly Love is pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) while Flameaway is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Undefeated Jessamine Stakes (G3) vixen Rushing Fall breezed four furlongs in :47.80 for trainer Chad Brown.

The More Than Ready filly is targeting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and remained at Keeneland following her Jessamine win.

“Because there was such a short turnaround between that race and the Breeders’ Cup, I didn’t want to put that many ships (trips) into her,” Brown explained the decision to keep the filly in Kentucky rather than ship her to his base in New York. “So we left her at Keeneland. She’s been doing super.”

Stainless, runner-up in the Jessamine Stakes (G3) last out, covered a half-mile in :48.80 before galloping out five panels in 1:01.60 for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Flatter filly is pre-entered in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), but is not listed among the main field for the latter event.

First Lady Stakes (G1) heroine Zipessa breezed four furlongs over Keeneland’s firm turf Friday in :49.80 for trainer Mike Stidham.

Regular rider Joe Bravo was aboard the five-year-old daughter of City Zip as she readied for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Stidham also sent out Moon Dash, a nose second in the Surfer Girl Stakes most recently, to clock a half-mile on Keeneland’s green in :50.20 with Florent Geroux holding the reins. The Malibu Moon juvenile miss is pre-entered in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

All six horses are scheduled to depart for California on Monday.

Spinster (G1) winner Romantic Vision toured Keeneland on Thursday, breezing four furlongs over the fast main track in :48 for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

The Lemon Drop Kid mare was caught in fractions of :12, :24, :36 and :48 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01 under exercise rider Jozefat Calvo.

“She’s a fit horse,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “This was just a maintenance work for her. I feel like she’s going to run her race. Now we’re going to see how good she is.”

The five-year-old bay is also set to leave for Del Mar on Monday and will gallop every morning up until the race.

GULFSTREAM PARK WEST

Multiple Grade 2 king Gunnevera posted his final major move for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when breezing five furlongs in 1:02 on Friday over the fast main track at Gulfstream Park West.

The Antonio Sano-trained sophomore had jockey Edgard Zayas aboard for the work, which was his sixth since running second most recently in the Travers Stakes (G1) to fellow Classic hopeful West Coast.

“The horse went very good this morning. He started out slow but finished strong,” said Sano, who caught Gunnevera going the last quarter-mile in :23.20. “We are very happy and excited about him. Everything is very good.

“He’s doing very good. He’s ready. I’m so happy for my horse. He is happy and we are looking forward to the race.”

“He worked great, really good. We were very happy with his work. It was slower than last week but it was way easier, and he galloped out nice and strong,” said Zayas, who has been aboard Gunnevera for his past two starts. “At the beginning I just let him go on his own. At the quarter-pole I just touched him a little bit and he picked it up and the last furlong I gave him a little tap on the shoulder and he kept going.

“He worked way better than last week in my opinion because this time I didn’t do much on him. He was push-button today.”

Gunnevera is scheduled to leave for Del Mar at 6 a.m. (ET) Saturday morning. Zayas will be aboard for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“I’m excited. I’m very confident in the horse,” Zayas said. “I’m just going to do the same thing we did for the Travers, just sit back and do one run with him. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of horses in the race so that’s a plus for him so he doesn’t get in too much traffic or too wide. He likes to be on the outside when he does his move. I’m pretty sure he’s going to run a big race.”

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SANTA ANITA PARK

Stakes winner Princess Karen, runner-up in the L.A. Woman Stakes (G3) most recently, readied for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on Friday over Santa Anita Park’s fast main track. The Stay Thirsty sophomore covered what trainer Jeff Bonde termed a “dynamite” half-mile in :48.80.

“When you race in a world championship event, you’ve got to come armed and loaded,” Bonde stated.

Princess Karen will ship to Del Mar on Sunday.

Champion Champagne Room, upset winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), turned five furlongs in a bullet :59.80 under regular jockey Mario Gutierrez on Friday at Santa Anita for this season’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). The Peter Eurton pupil returned off a spring/summer-long break to take the Remington Park Oaks by 3 3/4 lengths on September 24.

Former claimer turned Grade 2 winner Skye Diamonds geared up for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) with a three-quarter work on Thursday over Santa Anita’s fast training track in 1:16.20 under regular pilot Tiago Pereira.

“Workouts and time fit the personality of the horse,” trainer Bill Spawr said in regards to Skye Diamonds’ leisurely final time. “I haven’t changed anything in her training that has gotten us where we are today. What you don’t know about that work is if she went the last three-eighths in :35. That doesn’t show. Working three-quarters, you show me a horse who did that on the training track.”

Skye Diamonds left on Friday for Del Mar, where she’ll likely have one more breeze “five or six days from now. We’ll see how the track is,” according to Spawr.

On Wednesday at Santa Anita, Grade 3 hero Battle of Midway posted a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.80 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), while horseman Peter Miller sent last-out Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) victor Roy H to cover five furlongs in 1:03 in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

DEL MAR

A quartet of Breeders’ Cup workers took to Del Mar’s fast main track Friday.

Conditioner Bob Hess Jr. had American Pastime sizzle a half-mile in :45.80 ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The Tapizar sophomore, a half-length second while making his stakes bow last out in the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3), posted splits of :12.20 and :23.60 before galloping out five furlongs in :58.40. American Pastime worked in company with stablemate Bardstown.

Grade 3 winner Pavel turned four furlongs in company with stakes victress Mopotism, breaking off behind his stablemate but making up ground to finish in :49.60. Mopotism was caught in :49.80.

Trained by Doug O’Neill, Pavel is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) off a third-place effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) while last-out Cotillion Stakes (G1) fourth-placer Mopotism is pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Also working for O’Neill on Friday was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) hopeful Piedi Bianchi. The gray daughter of Overanalyze, placed in the Chandelier Stakes (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1) in her past pair, traveled a half-mile in :49.20.

In other Breeders’ Cup news:

Unbeaten dual Grade 1 hero Bolt d’Oro is scheduled to post his final major move on Sunday at Santa Anita Park. Owner/trainer Mike Ruis said the likely Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) favorite would go out around 7:45 a.m. (PT) under regular rider Corey Nakatani and breeze five furlongs.

Ruis added that the Medaglia d’Oro colt would walk at Santa Anita Monday and ship south to Del Mar on Tuesday.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer indicated multiple Grade 2 victress Unique Bella may not have another major work following her :59.20 bullet five-furlong move over Santa Anita’s fast main track Wednesday. The Tapit filly romped in her return off a seven-month break, the L.A. Woman Stakes (G3), and is targeting the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

Conditioner Dan Hendricks plans to ship multiple Grade 2 scorer Om to Del Mar from Santa Anita on Saturday and breeze him on the grass Sunday for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). The five-year-old son of Munnings just missed by a nose last year in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and is currently not part of the main field for the Mile.

The first flight of European contenders arrived at midnight Thursday at Los Angeles International and five horses shipped down to quarantine barns at Del Mar. Another flight with 28 European runners aboard is scheduled to arrive Saturday at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.

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