Pre-entries for the 2017 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar Nov. 3-4 were due on Monday, and an announcement of those entered will be made on Wednesday. Post positions with final entries will be drawn Monday, Oct. 30, but with less than two weeks until the big dances, what horses are coming into the Breeders’ Cup the right way? Who is vulnerable?
As far as horses based in California go, here are some of my observations for key horses as they get ready for their final workouts going into the Breeders’ Cup.
Arrogate: Defending Breeders’ Cup Classic champ showed this summer that Del Mar is not his favorite track. However, after acting a bit quiet coming out of that Del Mar meet this summer, he perked up quite a bit last weekend in his gallops, showing renewed energy while carrying more weight. He was scheduled to work on Monday and trainer Bob Baffert has stated Arrogate will complete his prep work at Santa Anita before going to Del Mar.
Gun Runner: He has thrived since shipping to Santa Anita from the East coast at the end of September for trainer Steve Asmussen. His coat is bright, and he has filled out nicely through his neck and shoulders. It should be noted he got very hot Sunday morning on the track when an injured horse and rider forced a delay to his usual gallop. Overall this horse has adapted nicely to Southern California.
West Coast: The Travers winner continues to move forward. He worked a solid six furlongs on Sunday (1:12 2/5) and while he has to prove just where he belongs with the older horses, the three-year-old still has some upside.
Collected: Yet another Bob Baffert trainee and he showed his fondness for Del Mar this summer winning the Pacific Classic. He continues to do very well, and he looked outstanding working six furlongs in 1:12 flat last Saturday. Physically he looks healthy and appears ready to give another good account of himself.
Stellar Wind: Trainer John Sadler has taken a different approach to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. A hard race in the Grade-I Zenyatta last year may have taken its toll when she was unable to threaten Beholder and Songbird in the 2016 Distaff, so connections decided to skip that race this year and come into the B.C. fresh. Stellar Wind has not been flashy in her most recent team drills Oct. 14 and 21, but she did put away her workmate with ease each time and she is proven on the Del Mar main track. No excuses going into the Distaff.
Abel Tasman: Filly has gotten rank and made early moves in her last two races, and it cost her in the Cotillion at Parx when she was run down by It Tiz Well. Trainer Bob Baffert has been working on getting her to relax in the morning. In her drill last Sunday, she broke cleanly under Mike Smith, rated kindly early, and finished well to put away her stablemate in a solid drill. We will see if the mental preparations pay off in the Distaff.
Drefong: He came around in the fall last year and won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as a 3-year-old. He appears to be duplicating that pattern this year, as he has come out of his Grade-I Forego Stakes win at Saratoga in August in great shape. His Oct. 16 gate drill at Santa Anita (1:12 1/5) was outstanding and he is proven at Del Mar. He is coming up to a big race.
Bolt D’Oro: His win in the Grade-I Frontrunner at Santa Anita Sept. 30 was the best race by a juvenile this year. He has been in maintenance mode since, including an even five furlong work (1:01 2/5) on Sunday. It looks like he may have lost a little weight out of that big win, but he is another you won’t have to wonder about regarding his ability to handle Del Mar.
Free Drop Billy: He is rapidly improving for trainer Dale Romans. He shipped to California razor sharp and in his Oct. 21 work (five furlongs in 59 3/5) he was really reaching out nicely at the wire. Expect another forward move in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Moonshine Memories: This filly continues to impress. She came home slowly winning the Chandelier Stakes Sept. 30, but she showed she can rate that day and in her five furlong drill on Sunday she rated kindly behind her stablemate before running past easily to finish up in a minute flat. She loves Del Mar and is coming into the race in terrific shape.
Trainers Bob Baffert, Mick Ruis, Peter Eurton, and John Sadler are among the local contingent who plan to complete their major Breeders’ Cup preparations at Santa Anita. Trainers Richard Mandella, Simon Callaghan, and Steve Asmussen are among those who plan to complete their prep work at Del Mar.
This is closing week at Santa Anita with mandatory payouts in the Pick Five, Pick Six, and Super High Five on Sunday.
The main track was very dull but played fair to all running styles last week, while the turf course is hard and fast and horses with tactical speed have been the beneficiaries.
Pat Valenzuela is back working horses at Santa Anita and told me last Thursday he has an offer to ride first call for a major owner down at Fair Grounds this winter. He does have a valid jockey license in Louisiana.
Play of the Week
Santa Anita, Friday Race 1: Inscom (post 8). Juvenile cost $850k in May and came alive when switched to the grass Sept. 30. He is a Pick Five single to kick off the Friday Santa Anita card.