The majority of Breeders’ Cup prep races were completed last weekend. Those results moved several winners into the Breeders’ Cup “contenders” category, while others appear more likely to become Breeders’ Cup “pretenders”.
Here is a closer look:
Omaha Beach – The three-year-old won the Gr. I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Saturday over fellow sophomore Shancelot in a blistering 1:08.79 on the dull Santa Anita main track. Trained by Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach was the morning line favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby prior to being a late scratch due to a throat problem. He had corrective throat surgery, but missed his planned return in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar this summer due to a virus and a botched workout cancelled his plans to face older horses in the one mile Ack Ack at Churchill Downs last month.
Mandella said on Steve Byk’s satellite radio show “At the Races” Monday “all three Breeders’ Cup Races (the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Breeders’ Cup Classic) are in play. As of today, I would say the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is most likely.”
His top trainer will do what is best for the horse, so expect Omaha Beach to be a major player in whatever race they decide upon.
Maxfield – Gorgeous two-year-old colt was trying two turns for the first time in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last Saturday. Last early over a course that doesn’t cater to deep closers, he worked his way thru traffic like an old pro, looped the leaders around the far turn and drew off to win easily.
The longer stretch at Santa Anita should only flatter his style, and an honest early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a certainty. Look for this son of Street Sense to move forward again in the Breeders’ Cup.
Wicked Whisper – This $500,000 yearling purchase was stretching out to a one-turn mile in the Gr. I Frizette at Belmont Park. She ended up dictating the pace while relaxed early and maintained a safe margin throughout without being asked for her best by jockey Joel Rosario.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, she appears to have a great temperament that will allow her to rate if needed and is bred to handle two turns. We should see her best race yet in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Sistercharlie – Defending Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf champ may not have been at her best over the Belmont turf, but she rallied nicely to win the Grade I Flower Bowl there on Saturday in a manner that suggests she is returning to the Breeders’ Cup in peak form. She loves firm turf, which bodes well for her chances at Santa Anita.
Bowies Hero – SoCal invader used a perfect trip to win the Gr. I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in a blanket finish. Run this race 10 times, however, and you would probably get eight or nine different winners from the 14-horse field based on trips and pace. It has been a long time since Bowies Hero has been able to put wins back-to-back, so he may be one to try to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile despite returning to his home base at Santa Anita.
Engage – Benefitted from a strong rally-wide bias on opening day of the Keeneland meet to win the Gr. II Phoenix Stakes. The time for the six furlongs was ordinary (1:10.21), so don’t expect this one to strike fear into the hearts of some of the top sprinters from around the country. That includes his stablemate Mitole.
Arklow – Snapped a seven-race losing streak winning the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont despite a wide trip last Saturday. The pace of the race was slow throughout and the field was marginal at best. He may be hard-pressed to repeat his fourth place finish in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. I Don’t think the Euro shippers will be scared away based on this victory.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Thursday, Race 7 – Doc Yco Cheeks (No. 8). In a race where the obvious contenders have not shown much win spirit, Doc Yco Cheeks looks like the right play. She rallied to just miss in her only start a year ago, returns with a solid work tab, and the Peter Eurton stable is very good with horses coming back off layoffs.