Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships

Wild Again wins 1984 Breeders' Cup Classic

Wild Again wins 1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic

provided by Breeders’ Cup

Santa Anita Opens with Major Qualifiers toward Breeders’ Cup
The calm before the storm is over; the final countdown to the Breeders’ Cup has begun. Over the next two weekends, no fewer than 24 “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifiers for racing’s signature Championship will be run. They will span the globe and send countless runners to Keeneland, where the Breeders’ Cup will be run for the first time October 30-31. And while the Cup shifts away from Santa Anita for the first time in three years, the Arcadia, California track will still take center stage when it opens this weekend, as it has five Challenge races Saturday, on a weekend that sees nine total, with Belmont Park and Newmarket also joining in.

If you’re a leading Breeders’ Cup contender and are stabled in California, there’s a good chance you’re running Saturday at Santa Anita, as all five grade I “Win and You’re In” races will surely have a major impact on several Breeders’ Cup races. And while the featured Awesome Again will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it’s the Zenyatta for fillies and mares that could have the biggest impact on America’s richest horse race, as BEHOLDER will start as an imposing favorite in what her connections hope will be a springboard to the Classic.

The $300,000 Zenyatta, run at 1 1/16 miles, will award an automatic starting berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but Spendthrift Farm’s Beholder has her sights set on a much bigger prize. The 5-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes has been one of the leading fillies and mares in the country over the past three years for trainer Richard Mandella, but the dual-champion and two time Breeders’ Cup winner took her game to a new level in her last start, when she secured a Classic berth with a 8 ¼-length win over males in Del Mar’s TVG Pacific Classic (GI) August 22. Beholder, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in 2012 en route to being voted champion 2-year-old filly, and the Distaff there in 2013 to secure the 3-year-old filly championship, has won all four starts this year and secured a Distaff berth when she won Del Mar’s “Win and You’re In” Clement L. Hirsch (GI) by 7 lengths in August. Overall she’s won 14-of-19 career starts and will look to win the Zenyatta for the third straight year.

Spendthrift Farm’s general manager Ned Toffey cautioned that the plan is to make sure Beholder is at the top of her game before committing to the Classic, but reaffirmed that is assuredly the goal.

“This business is day-to-day, and we have to basically let the horses tell us,” Toffey said. “And that’s what Richard will do. Richard will let her tell him if she’s ready for the next race, and for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and beyond. We’re never going to run her unless she’s 100%, so if she’s 100% we would plan on the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But we don’t have to make that decision for a little bit. Right now the intention is the Zenyatta and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”

The presence of such an imposing favorite didn’t prevent the Zenyatta from drawing a deep field, as eight others will tackle Beholder, with WARREN’S VENEDA the biggest threat on her return to Santa Anita. The 5-year-old daughter of Affirmative won the local Santa Maria (GII) and Santa Margarita (GI) this winter for trainer Craig Lewis and was beaten just 1 ¼ lengths when second to Beholder in the local Adoration (GIII) in June, though she was 11 ¼ lengths behind her in the Hirsch. MY SWEET ADDICTION, who won the local Vanity (GI) for trainer Marty Jones and WILD IN THE SADDLE, who won Del Mar’s Tranquility Lake for trainer Richard Baltas, could also threaten on their best day, while BIG BOOK, KYRIAKI, MY MONET, OSCAR PARTY and SAVINGS ACCOUNT round out the field in the Zenyatta.

A Chance to Make Amends in Awesome Again

With Beholder sticking within her own gender, and the California handicap division in flux, the $300,000 Awesome Again, run at 1 1/8 miles, will bring together a mixed bag of runners that will look to secure the sixth of seven automatic starting berths into the Classic. Trainer Bob Baffert will send out a pair—BAYERN and HOPPERTUNITY—and both will be looking to restore tarnished reputations.

Kaleem Shah’s Bayern won a controversial renewal of the Classic at Santa Anita last year but nothing has gone right since, as he’s winless in four starts this year and has been uncompetitive in three of them. The 4-year-old son of Offlee Wild dueled on the lead and backed up readily behind Beholder when ninth in the Pacific Classic but fans will point to his 3-for-3 record over the Santa Anita main track as a hope he can right the ship in time to make another Classic run.

Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s Hoppertunity hasn’t fared much better than his stablemate, as he’s just 1-for-6 this year. The 4-year-old son of Any Given Saturday won the local San Pasqual (GII) in his seasonal debut in January, but has lost five straight since, though he hasn’t been worse than fourth in any of them and finished in that slot in the Pacific Classic.

Hronis Racing’s HARD ACES secured the second automatic Classic berth when he won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (GI) in June for trainer John Sadler but will have to rebound from a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic, while GLOBAL VIEW, IMPERATIVE, POINT PIPER, SAMMY MANDEVILLE and SMOOTH RULER will be decided longshots in the Awesome Again.
Juvenile Races to Have Strong Favorites

The $300,000 FrontRunner and its sister race, the $300,000 Chandelier, will offer automatic starting berths into the Sentient Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, respectively, and both could have potential odds-on, undefeated favorites.

The FrontRunner, run at 1 1/16 miles, will mark the two-turn debut for Paul Reddam’s NYQUIST, who has dominated the California 2-year-old contingent in his three starts for trainer Doug O’Neill. The son of 2010 Juvenile winner Uncle Mo has won his three starts by a combined 9 lengths and was untested in winning Del Mar’s two biggest juvenile stakes; the Best Pal (GII) by 5 ¼ lengths in August and the Del Mar Futurity (GI) by 3 ¾ lengths September 7.

The remainder of the FrontRunner is filled by a group of untested, but promising 2-year-olds, with BLAMEITONTHELAW and SWIPE looking to improve on their 2-3 finish for trainers John Sadler and Keith Desormeaux, respectively, behind Nyquist in the Del Mar Futurity. MT VEEDER, undefeated in two starts for trainer Bob Baffert, including the Contender at Los Alamitos Race Course September 13 and ON FIRE, a two-turn maiden winner at Del Mar August 26, also warrant respect, while GO LONG, HOLLYWOOD DON and RARE CANDY will need to improve to make a dent in the FrontRunner.

The 1 1/16-mile Chandelier will have an even biggest favorite in Fox Hill Farm’s SONGBIRD, who has won her two starts by a combined 11 ¾ lengths for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro broke her maiden by 6 ½ lengths at Del Mar in July and then turned the Del Mar Debutante (GI) into a public workout en route to a 5 ¼-length win September 5.

Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman’s PRETTY N COOL, who entered the Debutante undefeated in two starts for Baffert, including a win in Del Mar’s Sorrento (GII) in August, but was no match when second, looms the main danger, with Debutante third-place finisher LAND OVER SEA also in the mix. HALO DARLIN, LADE PRINCESS, RIGHT THERE, SHEEZA MILKY WAY, VIEJA LUNA and YODELSONG are also entered for the Chandelier, but will have to make a big leap forward to threaten.

Rodeo Drive to Offer Filly & Mare Turf Bid

The $300,000 Rodeo Drive, run at 1 ¼ miles, will offer an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and has lured Speedway Stable’s HARD NOT TO LIKE, who has risen to the top of the division for trainer Christophe Clement off wins in the local Gamely (GI) in May and Saratoga’s Diana (GI) July 25. The 6-year-old daughter of Hard Spun is 8-for-20 lifetime and would further strengthen her championship credentials with a win, which she will be heavily favored to secure.

ELEKTRUM (IRE), who won Del Mar’s John C. Mabee (GII) August 8 for trainer John Sadler and SHARLA RAE, who won the Del Mar Oaks (GI) August 15 for trainer Doug O’Neill, rate the biggest dangers and clearly enter in top form, while FAMOUS ALICE, FANTICOLA, LADY PIMPERNEL (GB), PHOTO CALL (IRE), QUEEN OF THE SAND (IRE), STAR ACT, STORMY LUCY and THREE HEARTS are also entered in the Rodeo Drive.

Vosburgh, Hirsch to Offer Breeders’ Cup Bids at Belmont
Though Belmont Park’s busiest Challenge day will take place October 3 when they host four automatic Cup qualifiers, Saturday will see a pair of “Win and You’re In” races in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) and Vosburgh (GI), which will award automatic starting berths into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, respectively.

The $600,000 Joe Hirsch, run at 1 ½ miles, figures to draw the best of the East Coast turf division, with Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred BIG BLUE KITTEN leading the way. The 7-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy already secured a Turf bid with his win in Monmouth Park’s “Win and You’re In” United Nations (GI) in July and enters off a second-place finish, beaten a neck, in the “Win and You’re In” Arlington Million (GI). Big Blue Kitten, who was eighth in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita, is 13-for-28 lifetime.

Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s RED RIFLE, who won Saratoga’s Bowling Green (GII) in August then was second in their “Win and You’re In” Sword Dancer (GI) August 29 for trainer Todd Pletcher; Michael Dubb’s SLUMBER, who was eighth in the Arlington Million but was second in the U.N. and won the local Manhattan (GI) in June for Brown; Ramsey’s SHINING COPPER, a pacesetting third in the Million and fourth in the U.N. for Brown and West Point Thoroughbreds’ TWILIGHT ECLIPSE, who won the local Man o’ War (GI) in May for trainer Tom Albertrani, are also entered for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, as are longshots  PERFECT TITLE and QUIET FORCE.
The $400,000 Vosburgh, run at six furlongs, marks the return of Stonestreet Stable’s divisional leader ROCK FALL, who staked his claim as the best sprinter in the country with back-to-back wins in Belmont’s True North (GII) in July and Saratoga’s Alfred Vanderbilt (GI) August 1. The 4-year-old son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown is 6-for-7 lifetime for trainer Todd Pletcher and would loom a solid Sprint favorite with a win.

Antonino Miuccio’s PALACE, who won Saratoga’s Vanderbilt and Forego (GI) in 2014 but is winless in two starts this year for trainer Linda Rice; Southern Equine Stable’s SALUTOS AMIGOS, a multiple graded stakes winner who was fourth in the Vanderbilt for trainer David Jacobson and Salvatore Delfino’s WILDCAT RED, who won Monmouth’s Teddy Drone in August for trainer Jose Garoffalo, are the main challengers, with BROTHERSOFTHETIME, STALLWALKIN’ DUDE and WEEKEND HIDEAWAY also entered.

Juvenile Turf Bids on the Line at Newmarket

Newmarket in the United Kingdom will host a pair of Challenge races this weekend, with Saturday’s $156,000 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (GII) taking center stage and offering an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Run at 1-mile, the Royal Lodge figures to be led by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s FOUNDATION (IRE), who is undefeated and untested in two starts for trainer John Gosden. The 2-year-old son of Zoffany (IRE) won his debut at Haydock in August by 3 ½ lengths and then took their Play Your Way by 3 lengths September 5.

Shadwell Stable’s homebred IBN MALIK, who enters off consecutive second-place finishes in Glorious Goodwood’s Vintage (GII) in July and Champagne (GII) at Doncaster September 12 for trainer Charles Hills could offer the biggest danger in the Royal Lodge, while trainer Aidan O’Brien could start as many as nine runners and will choose among AIR VICE MARSHALL, BEACON ROCK (IRE), DEAUVILLE (IRE), GENERAL MACARTHUR, LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY (IRE), LIEUTENANT GENERAL (IRE), PORT DOUGLAS (IRE), SHOGUN (IRE) and UNICORN (IRE).

The “Win and You’re In” action kicks off Friday in the $156,000 Shadwell Rockfell, which will offer an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Run at seven furlongs, the Rockfell has seven pre-entered, with HAWKSMOOR (IRE) leading the way, while DOUBLY MOTIVATED (IRE) and PROMISING RUN are also attracting support.

News and Notes
Sentiero Italia Gives Godolphin Potential Filly & Mare Turf Starter

Godolphin’s homebred SENTIERO ITALIA, who has won two straight graded stakes for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, could be in line for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is 4-for-6 lifetime and has won Saratoga’s Lake Placid (GII) in August and Belmont Park’s Sands Points (GII) September 12 and will make her next start in Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (GI) October 10. And while that would leave her coming back in the Filly & Mare Turf on short rest, McLaughlin think she’s could be up to the challenge.

“I absolutely think she’s Breeders’ Cup quality,” said McLaughlin. “We’d be back in three weeks after the Queen Elizabeth, but if she runs like she has been and wins, we might in fact do it because there’s nothing else for her.”

Keen Ice Back on Work Tab, to Train Up to Classic

Donegal Racing’s KEEN ICE, who shocked Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in Saratoga’s Travers (GI) August 29, returned to the work tab for the first time since that win when he went a leisurely four furlongs in 51.20 at Churchill Downs September 19. The son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin has come to hand this summer for trainer Dale Romans while facing American Pharoah in his last four starts, as he was seventh in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Belmont in June and second in Monmouth Park’s “Win and You’re In” William Hill Haskell (GI) in August before breaking through in the Travers. Keen Ice, who is 2-for-11 lifetime, will train up to the Classic and has his trainer thinking that he’s finally turned the corner and developed into the top class horse he hinted at all along.

“It looked like he felt real good. He just kind of stretched his legs a little bit. We have a lot of time between now and the Breeders’ Cup (Classic).” Romans said. “He has just always seemed like a horse with a lot of talent. He’s really figured out how to run. He’s developed and matured a lot mentally, and (Jockey) Kent (Desormeaux) helped with that and helped him switch leads a bit better. The horse has really developed his own confidence.”

Moms Choice Eyes Jessamine, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Cocked and Loaded to Train Up to Juvenile

Patricia Hope’s MOMS CHOICE, most recently second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies September 5, has trainer Larry Rivelli thinking big later this fall and will run next in Keeneland’s October 8 “Win and You’re In” J.P. Morgan Chase Jessamine (GIII), which is the last Breeders’ Cup Challenge race on the 2015 calendar. The Jessamine will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, a race Rivelli is hoping to advance to with Moms Choice, a 2-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy who broke her maiden in her debut on the Polytrack at Arlington Park in August in her only other start.

“I want to run her at Keeneland in the Jessamine Stakes,” Rivelli said. “It’s a ‘Win and You’re In’ and I would love to get her to the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies Turf).”

Rivelli also indicated that COCKED AND LOADED, who he trains for Hope and Richard Ravin and who earned an automatic starting berth into the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a win in Churchill Downs’ Iroquois (GIII) September 12, will train up to the race. The 2-year-old son of Colonel John is 3-for-5 lifetime and rebounded from poor performances when sixth in Saratoga’s Sanford (GIII) in July and fifth in Arlington’s Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII) in August. The Iroquois was Cocked and Loaded’s first start at two turns, which suggests the Juvenile should be well within his scope.




A listing of the upcoming major stakes races this weekend:




September 26 – $300,000 Awesome Again (GI) at Santa Anita. Run at 1 1/8 miles for 3yos & up.


September 27 – $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (GIII) at Remington Park. Run at 1 1/8 miles for 3yos.




September 26 – $400,000 Beldame (GI) at Belmont Park. Run at 1 1/8 miles for fillies & mares.


September 26 – $300,000 Zenyatta (GI) at Santa Anita. Run at 1 1/16 miles for fillies & mares.




September 26 – $100,000 Jefferson Cup (GIII) at Churchill Downs. Run at 1-mile on the turf for 3yos.


September 27 – $200,000 City of Hope (GII) at Santa Anita. Run at 1-mile on the turf for 3yos & up.




September 26 – $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park. Run at 1 ½ miles on the turf for 3yos & up.


September 27 – $187,535 Preis von Europa (GI) at Koln. Run at about 1 ½ miles on the turf for 3yos & up.




September 26 – $300,000 Rodeo Drive (GI) at Santa Anita. Run at 1 ¼ miles on the turf for fillies & mares.


September 26 – $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (GIII) at Laurel Park. Run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3yo fillies.




September 26 – $300,000 FrontRunner (GI) at Santa Anita. Run at 1 1/16 miles for 2yos.




September 26 – $300,000 Chandelier (GI) at Santa Anita. Run at 1 1/16 miles for 2yo fillies.




September 26 – $400,000 Vosburgh (GI) at Belmont Park. Run at six furlong for 3yos & up.




September 26 – $300,000 Gallant Bloom (GII) at Belmont Park. Run at six and a half furlongs for fillies & mares.




September 26 – $100,000 Ack Ack (GIII) at Churchill Downs. Run at 1-mile for 3yos & up.




September 26 – $280,800 Middle Park (GI) at Newmarket. Run at six furlongs on the turf for 2yos.


September 26 – $200,000 Pilgrim (GIII) at Belmont Park. Run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 2yos.




September 26 – $280,800 Cheveley Park (GI) at Newmarket. Run at six furlongs on the turf for 2yo fillies.


September 27 – $200,000 Miss Grillo (GIII) at Belmont Park. Run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for 2yo fillies.


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