April 18, 2019

Why Mind Your Biscuits is right to try Breeders’ Cup Classic

Mind Your Biscuits works at Churchill Downs (Photo by Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)

Hitherto known as a one-turn artist, Mind Your Biscuits has become one of the most intriguing storylines in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Initially I was cool about the prospect of the $4.2 million-earner trying 1 1/4 miles. Although he answered the two-turn question resoundingly in the September 29 Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill Downs, and notched a career-best 109 BRIS Speed rating, a steadily run nine-furlong test might not have been the best gauge. After all, he’s not only tacking on another furlong in the Classic, but likely encountering a stronger pace and definitely encountering stronger opposition.

But I’ve gradually warmed to the idea. After placing in the past two runnings of the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), was there much point in competing in the six-furlong dash again? The Dirt Mile (G1) would be right in his wheelhouse, and a nice bullet point on the resume, but it wouldn’t give this seriously talented performer a chance to expand his portfolio.

Those placement considerations aside, looking more closely at Mind Your Biscuits has changed my mind.

For starters, the strongly built chestnut has more pedigree power than visible at first glance. He descends, albeit from a lesser branch, of the same potent female line as two-time Horse of the Year, and 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) star, California Chrome. Both trace to daughters of Betty Derr (foaled 1928), “Chrome” via Judy-Rae and Mind Your Biscuits via Iron Maiden, dam of 1957 Derby upsetter Iron Liege and granddam of 1955 Derby hero and Hall of Famer Swaps. This “American No. 4” family continues to churn out high-class performers over generations.

Moreover, Mind Your Biscuits sports a fascinating pedigree pattern – a duplication not only of individual strains, but a repetition of the cross of Deputy Minister over Blushing Groom.

Sire Posse is bred on this cross as a son of Silver Deputy and a Rahy mare, while Mind Your Biscuits’ broodmare sire, Toccet, is by Awesome Again, himself by Deputy Minister and out of a Blushing Groom mare. Awesome Again is so far the only Breeders’ Cup Classic winner (1998) to sire one, with Hall of Fame son Ghostzapper emulating him in 2004.

Ghostzapper famously began his career in sprints, rallying from far back to miss as a half-length third in the 2003 King’s Bishop (G1) before crushing elders, with a similar rush from well off the pace, in the Vosburgh (G1). Resuming in the 2004 Tom Fool (G2), he took up a stalking spot en route to another domination, then successfully stretched out to two turns. Given his natural speed, Ghostzapper was a pace factor in both the Philip H. Iselin (G3) and Woodward (G1), and wired the Classic at Lone Star in a track (and stakes) record 1:59.02.

If it’s overambitious to invoke the Ghostzapper angle on Mind Your Biscuits’ behalf, other precedents are quite relatable. Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Classic hero, had competed in the previous two editions of the Sprint. He was unplaced behind Dancing Spree in 1989 at Gulfstream, where the chart succinctly says “knocked sideways shortly after the start, losing all chance.” Black Tie Affair finished third in the 1990 running at Belmont Park to Safely Kept and shadow-jumping Dayjur. In 1991, the fully mature five-year-old was able to stretch out effectively, unlike early in his career, and won five straight graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles before wiring the Classic at Churchill.

Alphabet Soup, the 1996 Classic upsetter, spent the bulk of his career routing but was versatile enough to have won the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien (G3) easily at Del Mar that summer. And Pleasant Tap, runner-up in the 1991 Sprint to Sheikh Albadou and in the 1992 Classic to Hall of Famer A.P. Indy, provides another historical pointer. He’s a different case, having been proven at 1 1/4 miles already, but still illustrative of the fact that top-level horses can have a broader distance range than we think.

Mind Your Biscuits’ trainer and co-owner, Chad Summers, said they’ve thought about stretching him out before, so it’s not exactly a lark. And his resume speaks to his quality.

The richest-ever New York-bred boasts an additional historic accomplishment as a two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner on World Cup night. Only the second horse to achieve this feat after speedball Caller One (in 2001-02 at its original Nad al Sheba home), Mind Your Biscuits had to overcome a profound speed bias at Meydan to go last-to-first in his March 31 title defense.

After just missing in a photo to Bee Jersey in the Metropolitan H. (G1) on Belmont Day, Mind Your Biscuits was along for second to front-running Diversify in the Whitney (G1), besting next-out Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) upsetter Discreet Lover.

The Whitney has been the most productive prep in recent years, yielding six of the last 13 Classic winners. Thus Mind Your Biscuits brings a significant trend line.

On top of the Whitney trend, his own ability, and intriguing pedigree, Mind Your Biscuits has reportedly been training well at Churchill.

While I’ll probably be too cautious to make him my top pick, Mind Your Biscuits figures to run very well in the Classic. And if he does beat all comers in the 1 1/4-mile championship, his purchase this spring by Japan’s Shadai Farm, his future stud home, will look like quite a coup.

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