One of the new twists this year is the decision by connections of several major contenders in Breeders’ Cup races – Arrogate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Stellar Wind for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Drefong for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to name a few – to skip the final round of prep races and train right into the Breeders’ Cup.
Those decisions just create opportunities for others, however, and this Saturday at Santa Anita five births to Breeders’ Cup races will be assigned for victories in Grade I races that have “win and you’re in” implications. Here is a quick rundown of those races and the major contenders.
Grade I $300,000 Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 1-1/16 miles on dirt: Grade I Del Mar Debutante winner Moonshine Memories was on the fence as to whether to run or train into the Breeders’ Cup, but an excellent five furlong drill at Santa Anita this past Sunday (59-4/5) has trainer Simon Callaghan leaning toward entering her on Wednesday. If she runs, she should love two turns and is strictly the one to beat.
Gas Station Sushi, who missed the Del Mar Debutante due to illness, won her debut this summer like a filly with a future and also should love a route of ground. Piedi Bianchi, runner-up in the Debutante, continues to improve with each race, while Terra’s Angel comes off a win in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf and will experiment on the dirt in the Chandelier. The winner earns a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Grade I $300,000 Frontrunner Stakes for 2-year-olds going 1-1/16 miles on dirt: Bolt D’Oro has made his $630,000 purchase price look like a bargain, as he was very sharp winning the Grade I Del Mar Futurity over Labor Day weekend. He is bred to like two turns, but the interesting note is trainer Mick Ruis plans to take off the blinkers in this first route attempt after winning both starts wearing the hood.
St. Patricks Day, the full brother to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, has been pointed to this race by trainer Bob Baffert after beating Maidens in his second career start. His stablemates Zatter (second to Bolt D’Oro in the Futurity) and impressive Maiden winner Solomini could give Baffert a strong say as usual in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile prep.
Grade I $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes for Fillies & Mares 3-year-olds & Upward going 1-1/4 miles on turf: The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf will be conducted at the shorter 1-1/8 mile distance for the first time this year due to the track configuration at Del Mar, and that may help some of the American contenders.
The 1-2 finishers in the Grade II John Mabee over the same Del Mar course and distance this summer – Cambodia and Goodyearforroses – are scheduled to return in the Rodeo Drive, where they figure to meet a couple of trainer Chad Brown’s deep group of talented turf fillies and mares in Rainha Da Bateria and Fourstar Crook. The winner of this race gets the pleasure of trying to beat the Brown-trained Lady Eli and a host of top Euros at Del Mar.
Grade I $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes for Fillies & Mares 3-year-olds & Upward going 1-1/16 miles on dirt: With Stellar Wind sitting out this dance, Vale Dori could take some catching. The Baffert-trained import has come up short vs. Stellar Wind of late, but make her the one to beat in this spot. The interesting entrant could be 3-year-old Paradise Woods, who looked like a budding superstar winning the Santa Anita Oaks in the spring before flopping in the Kentucky Oaks as the favorite.
Paradise Woods had some excuses for her dull try at Del Mar last time off the layoff, and she continues to work like a beast. Stellar Wind’s stablemate Shenandoah Queen will represent the John Sadler stable and try to earn her own spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Grade I $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes for 3-year-olds & Upward going 1-1/18 miles on dirt: The nine furlong distance enables horses pointing to both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to get in their final preps, though the winner of this race will get their invitation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
A big win by Cupid could lead to a start in either Breeders’ Cup event, since Bob Baffert has many options already for the Classic (Arrogate, Collected, West Coast, etc.). Midnight Storm will use this race to determine if he runs in a dirt race or turf race in the Breeders’ Cup, while Dortmund, who was retired in April and unretired this summer, could return in this spot. There is a slight chance Collected could make an appearance, and if he does he is the one to beat in a real mixed bag of runners.
Best at Los Al
Apprentice Evin Roman finished strong to pull away and win the riding title at Los Alamitos with 17 victories, five more than Bryan Pena. Roman also won the Los Alamitos title in July.
Doug O’Neill won six races, one more than Jeff Bonde and Molly Pearson, to win the training title. This was the seventh training title won or shared by O’Neill at Los Alamitos since the return of daytime thoroughbred racing in 2014.
Trainer Jeff Bonde won five races from just 10 starters, including two Stakes, and deserves credit for a huge meet as well.
Play of the Week
Pleasanton Friday Race 6 – Isee It in Hiseyes (3 post): So Cal shipper improved a ton in career start number two, beating Maidens at Del Mar Aug. 3. The time between starts is perfect and trainer Steve Miyadi ships him to Pleasanton into a claim-proof spot. All systems go.