Stepping up to face older horses for the first time in Saturday’s $1 million Coolmore Turf Mile (G1), Annapolis stamped his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) over the same Keeneland course. The Todd Pletcher pupil delivered a performance that stacks up well historically. The first sophomore in 16 years, and just the fourth overall, to win the lucrative feature, he also set a new stakes record.
After Annapolis scored an easy wire job in the Sept. 3 Saranac (G3) at Saratoga, Pletcher circled this spot as his stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup. The Bass Racing homebred didn’t have to take on the pacesetting chore here, and reverted to his stalking style for Irad Ortiz Jr.
The scratch of Smooth Like Strait removed a key pace factor, but the tempo was still honest. Masen strode forward through fractions of :23.58, :46.60, and 1:10.01, tracked by Atone. Annapolis sat in a ground-saving third until midstretch, when muscling his way into the clear to go after Masen.
Collaring the longtime leader, the War Front colt got the jump on the closers and powered home by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:33.29. The former stakes record of 1:33.72 had been held by Altibr since 2000.
Ivar, the 2020 winner of this race, rallied to nip Aidan O’Brien shipper Order of Australia, the Breeders’ Cup Mile shocker here in 2020, for runner-up honors. Another neck away in a late-running fourth was Set Piece, who was the same margin up on Casa Creed.
Masen retreated to sixth, followed by Classic Causeway; Atone; 3.04-1 favorite Santin, who was never involved after a slight hop out of the gate; Gray’s Fable; and Somelikeithotbrown. Aside from Smooth Like Strait, Emaraaty and also-eligibles Dark Shift, Greyes Creek, and Natural Power were all withdrawn.
Annapolis has joined the exclusive club of sophomore winners – Favorite Trick (1998), who had been Horse of the Year at two, and the Ballydoyle pair of Landseer (2002) and Aussie Rules (2006).
“He is very tactical; he can do anything,” said Ortiz, who was capping a three-win day including Golden Pal in the Woodford (G2) and Forte in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1).
“Last time (in the Saranac), there wasn’t too much speed in the race so we decided to let him do his thing. It was a slow pace, :49 (49.79) and he was going relaxed; it was pretty much an easy win. But before, in the race at Belmont (the July 4 Manila S.), he was right in behind the speed and on the bridle and he responded really well with a good turn of foot coming home.
“The pace today was a little different from last time. I knew there would be some pace in front of me. I tried to get some position going into the first turn, and thank God everything worked out perfect. I ended up where I wanted to, sitting fourth on the rail, saving some ground, and then was able to keep him out in the stretch. He gave me a good turn of foot going down the lane.”
Rewarding his backers with a $14.70 win mutuel, Annapolis boosted his bankroll to $1,166,100 from a 7-5-2-0 line. The bay won both starts at two, highlighted by a hard-fought Pilgrim (G2) that made him a major player for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Annapolis missed that target with a chipped ankle. His June 3 Penn Mile (G2) comeback occurred on a boggy course, and he wound up a wheel-spinning second. Back with a bang in the Manila at a firm Belmont Park, Annapolis found only Nations Pride too strong in the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby (G1). The cutback for the Saranac returned him to the winner’s circle, and he raised his profile for the Breeders’ Cup here.
Kentucky-bred Annapolis was produced by the versatile Grade 2 heroine My Miss Sophia, who placed in the 2014 Kentucky Oaks (G1) as well as the 2015 First Lady (G1) on turf. The Unbridled’s Song mare is a half-sister to 2015 Florida Derby (G1) scorer Materality.
Had Annapolis made it to the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, he might have given Godolphin’s Juvenile Turf hero Modern Games something to think about. The two are now on a collision course one year later, in the Mile.