September 29, 2023

Breeders’ Cup candidate Big Invasion extends streak to six in Mahony

Big Invasion stayed on a roll in the Mahony (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

After Big Invasion turned on the afterburners in Sunday’s $150,000 Mahony S. at Saratoga, extending his winning streak to six, trainer Christophe Clement indicated that he’s mulling the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

“I’ve always thought he was the best three-year-old in the country on the grass sprinting,” Clement said of the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing colorbearer. “We just don’t have a program with Grade 1, Grade 2, that’s the way the program is made. But, I don’t know, I’d have to talk to Mr. (Dean) Reeves.

“I need to give him some time at some stage and maybe we can think about a race like the Breeders’ Cup, even if it’s very ambitious. Why not?”

Considering that Clement had to be nudged to send Pizza Bianca to Del Mar last year, and she went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), it’s significant that he’s exploring the idea for Big Invasion.

Since placing second in his career debut at Gulfstream Park Jan. 7, the Declaration of War colt has won all his starts by daylight. Moreover, Big Invasion is honing his craft along the way. He had raced more forwardly in his first two wins, especially in the Texas Glitter S. Then he stalked in fourth early in the William Walker S. at Churchill Downs, and rated much further back in fourth on the step up to seven furlongs in the Paradise Creek S. at Belmont Park.

Big Invasion closed from fifth in the July 17 Quick Call (G3) back down in trip at the Spa. In the Mahony, at the same 5 1/2-furlong distance, he settled seven lengths behind free-wheeling That’s Right through splits of :21.76 and :44.14 on the firm Mellon turf. Irish shipper Cadamosto appeared to be perched in the ideal spot in second, poised to strike in the lane. Yet as soon as Joel Rosario turned Big Invasion loose, the 0.35-1 favorite blew past to win by three, under wraps, in 1:01.42.

“Today was his best race,” Clement stated. “He’s a very good horse, he keeps winning, so there’s no doubt about it, but today I thought he behaved better than he’s ever done. He looked better than he’s ever done and you know, he came from out of it. He broke well, he (Rosario) took him back, he behaved well and he finished very well, so I’m thrilled. I’m very happy.”

If favorite backers momentarily worried that he had too much work to do, Rosario knew what he had underneath him.

“He’s getting there mentally. He was a little more relaxed, and let them get away from him a little bit,” his rider said, “and he was just kind of off the bridle nice and came with a run. He relaxed a little and sometimes he can jump in the bridle, but he was all good today and it worked out perfectly.

“I had a lot of confidence in him turning for home. I know when I asked to go he was going to go, and I think the pace in front worked everything out.”

Cadamosto placed second, a half-length to the good of Determined Kingdom. That gives Big Invasion intriguing collateral form, since Cadamosto had finished fourth in both the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot and the Sapphire (G2) at the Curragh last out.

If Big Invasion does advance to the Breeders’ Cup, he’d probably go fresh without another run, and arrive at Keeneland with a mark of 7-6-1-0, $444,045.

“Maybe, I wouldn’t mind doing that, that would be my feeling,” Clement said of training up to the Turf Sprint. “Let’s see how he comes out of it and we can go from there.”