December 1, 2022

Modern Games joins exclusive club in Breeders’ Cup Mile

Modern Games, with William Buick aboard, wins the Breeders' Cup Mile for trainer Charles Appleby (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Godolphin’s homebred Modern Games accelerated in the nick of time in Saturday’s $1.84 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Keeneland, and in the process, the 1.38-1 favorite joined an exclusive club. As last year’s Juvenile Turf (G1) hero, the Charlie Appleby pupil became the seventh horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.

Beholder is the most decorated of that select group, having taken the 2012 Juvenile Fillies (G1) and two editions of the Distaff (G1) (2013 and 2016). Modern Games’s nearest analog is arguably Stephanie’s Kitten, who captured the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) and 2015 Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Modern Games has also etched his name alongside other dual-race winners Golden Pal, who scored in the 2020 Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and 2021 Turf Sprint (G1); Secret Circle, winner of the short-lived Juvenile Sprint (2011) on dirt and the 2013 Sprint (G1); Knicks Go, victor of the 2020 Dirt Mile (G1) and 2021 Classic (G1); and Zenyatta, queen of the 2008 Distaff and 2009 Classic.

Along with his stellar resume that made him the one to beat, Modern Games brought memories of his drama at Del Mar. In the 2021 Juvenile Turf, he was announced as a gate scratch, put back into the field upon further clarification, but ran for purse money only. His backers were left without compensation for his brilliant win. On Saturday, they would reap the mutuel rewards.

The only suspense in the Mile was when Modern Games would work his way into the clear. The son of Dubawi didn’t break that alertly, but recovered to set up shop slightly past midpack.

As expected, a pace scrum ensued between Smooth Like Strait and British shipper Pogo. Smooth Like Strait had the upper hand through fractions of :23, :46.81, and 1:10.96. But the scrappy Pogo headed him in upper stretch, and Ivar burst from the chasing pack to pass them both entering the final furlong.

Then Modern Games was switched out into the daylight by a cool William Buick. Surging in deep stretch, the chestnut prevailed by three-quarters of a length in 1:33.96 on the firm course.

Shirl’s Speight and Kinross speared late to force a photo for the minors. The 55-1 Shirl’s Speight got his nose on the line before the 9.39-1 Kinross, who nearly overcame post 12. Ivar was another neck back in fourth, in his third consecutive admirable run in this race.

Malavath, last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up, made a bold move on the inside in fifth. Next came Order of Australia, the 2020 Mile shocker; Pogo; Beyond Brilliant; Smooth Like Strait; Regal Glory; Annapolis; Dreamloper; and the tailed-off Front Run the Fed, the first also-eligible who drew into the field. King Cause was scratched along with the second also-eligible, Gear Jockey.

Domestic Spending was pulled up by jockey Flavien Prat leaving the backstretch. The Chad Brown trainee was making his comeback from a 14-month layoff for a soft tissue injury, but this was a different concern. Vanned off the course, Domestic Spending did not appear to have a fracture on radiographs taken of his left hind leg. He was transported to Rood and Riddle for further evaluation. Brown reported via Twitter that the gelding sustained a “serious pelvic fracture.”

Modern Games now sports a mark of 13-7-3-1, $3,177,654. A classic winner in his sophomore bow in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), he also garnered the Somerville Tattersall (G3) at two and the Sept. 17 Woodbine Mile (G1) in a 5 1/4-length rout. His resume includes several major placings this term, including seconds in the Sussex (G1) (to Baaeed) and the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) in his latest on an unsuitably soft course at Ascot. Modern Games was a gallant third to Vadeni when attempting the about 1 5/16-mile Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1).

The Irish-bred is a half-brother to current Duchess of Cambridge (G2) heroine Mawj, third in the Cheveley Park (G1) last out to Lezoo and eventual Breeders’ Cup star Meditate. Their older half-brother is multiple Group 3-placed stakes scorer Modern News. Their dam, the New Approach mare Modern Ideals, is herself a half to Group 1 victor Ultra from the further family of Bosra Sham.

Appleby indicated that Modern Games would be back in 2023, with the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot his major early-season target and another Breeders’ Cup date at Santa Anita.