After Saturday’s smorgasbord of preps, Breeders’ Cup implications continue Sunday. The $200,000 Zenyatta (G2) at Breeders’ Cup host site Santa Anita serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Distaff (G1). At Belmont Park, the $200,000 Miss Grillo (G2) isn’t part of the Challenge program, but is sure to have an impact on the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). And Sunday night, the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) at Remington can also have ramifications for the Breeders’ Cup.
Carded as Belmont’s 8TH race, the Miss Grillo features P.G. Johnson winner Crystalle who has crossed the wire first in both starts. The John Kimmel trainee was controversially disqualified from a daylight maiden score, but shrugged off a slow start to become the first black-type winner for freshman sire Palace Malice in the P.G. Johnson.
Two of her Saratoga foes hope to turn the tables. English Breeze, a rallying third in the P.G. Johnson, is an English Channel filly with upside for David Donk. Todd Pletcher’s Sparkling Sky, elevated to second via Crystalle’s debut demotion, came back to break her maiden in style.
Chad Brown is double-handed with Jazzique and Selflessly, the top two in a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash in their mutual debut at the Spa. Jazzique navigated a little better trip as Selflessly moved wider in tandem, and they were separated by just a half-length at the wire. Both are bred to handle the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles here. Jazzique, an Alpha Delta Stables homebred, is by Kingman and out of a Group 2-placed half to Dylan Thomas. Klaravich Stables’ Selflessly, like Sparkling Sky, is by More Than Ready.
Michelle Nevin’s duo of My Sassy Sarah and Ava K’s Girl are stepping up in class and trip from New York-bred maiden victories. My Sassy Sarah, by freshman sire Summer Front, romped at Belmont, while Ava K’s Girl, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway, got up in time at Saratoga. Wicked Title will make both her turf and stakes debut for Chad Summers after both of her Spa races were transferred to the main track. Judging by her photo verdict in a restricted maiden, she has a bit to find in this spot.
The Zenyatta, scheduled to go off about 45 minutes later at 2:30 p.m. (PDT), is a reunion of the top four from the Clement Hirsch (G1) over the same 1 1/16-mile trip at Del Mar.
Ollie’s Candy booked her Distaff ticket with a gritty effort there, outdueling Secret Spice by a head, but the runner-up lost nothing in defeat. Secret Spice was conceding four pounds as the Beholder Mile (G1) heroine. Ollie’s Candy also had a recency advantage that day, while Secret Spice hadn’t raced since her close second in the Humana Distaff (G1). That might have told as Secret Spice made a bold move to catch Ollie’s Candy before failing to put her away. The two square off again on more even terms Sunday, as co-highweights at 125 pounds coming out of the same race.
The on-again, off-again brilliance of Paradise Woods is frustrating to fans and bettors alike, but the 2017 Zenyatta winner is eligible to have a good day back at her favorite track. Three starts back, the John Shirreffs mare put on a show in the Santa Margarita (G2), and in her last local appearance, she was a decent second in the Santa Maria (G2) after a bobbling start. Paradise Woods didn’t get away well in the Clement Hirsch either, but she was in position before weakening to a poor fourth. Considering that she tends to run worse at Del Mar, it could be advisable to draw a line through that one and expect a turnaround.
La Force, who caught the wrapped-up-on Paradise Woods for third in the Hirsch, is best known for her minor awards. Second to champion Unique Bella in the 2018 Beholder Mile and Hirsch, La Force closed for runner-up honors as well in last year’s Zenyatta. The German-bred finally earned a reward for her honesty, a stakes breakthrough in the aforementioned Santa Maria. Unlike the other three exiting the Hirsch, La Force has run in the interim, finishing a non-threatening seventh in the August 31 John C. Mabee (G2). Trainer Paddy Gallagher sports a 30 percent strike rate in the turf-to-dirt category, but the mare’s late-running style makes life tougher.
Joining the Zenyatta cast are David Randall’s Kaydetre, second in the Tranquility Lake in her stakes debut, and Mongolian Humor, who tries stakes company second off the claim for Vladimir Cerin.
Not to be missed later Sunday night, the Oklahoma Derby features a few sophomores cutting back in trip following Travers (G1) losses.
New York shipper Tax is arguably at his best at nine furlongs, the distance of his signature wins in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Withers (G3). Bob Baffert dispatches Mucho Gusto, a hard-trying runner-up to Maximum Security in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and third in the “Midsummer Derby” in his last two. Owendale, the Preakness (G1) third, warrants another look for his Ohio Derby (G3) score over Math Wizard, a result that takes on fresh importance after the latter’s upset of the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
While Breeders’ Cup possibilities hinge upon performance, remember that 2017 Dirt Mile star Battle of Midway prepped with a second in the Oklahoma Derby.
The stakes-laden card at Remington includes a small but noteworthy field in the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks (G3). Fantasy (G3) and Iowa Oaks (G3) winner Lady Apple, the Kentucky Oaks (G1) third, meets streaking stakes debutante Gold Standard, Mother Goose (G2) runner-up Classic Fit, and Oklahoma-bred speed merchant She’s Shiney.