By Richard Rosenblatt
By Sunday evening, all but one of the 86 Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In’’ races will have been contested. Perhaps that will be a good day to begin sifting through your data and mapping out a strategy for the 33rd Breeders’ Cup in four weeks – two days at Santa Anita Park, 14 races, $28 million in purses and horseplayers wagering in the neighborhood of $175,000,000 at the track.
So save your money and spend some time figuring this out because it won’t be easy. Racing homework is important. Then again, some of us just wing it and do fine.
As is usually the case, the $6 million Classic (G1) generates the most publicity, and it should again this year because it’s a wide-open field led by … almost anyone you want, with the likely favorite either Code of Honor or McKinzie.
Not to get ahead of ourselves — two of the 20 weekend “Win and You’re In’’ races took place Friday at the opening of the Keeneland fall meeting — but a pair of Breeders’ Cup races everyone should be paying attention to occur just before the Classic on Nov. 2 – Midnight Bisou (7-for-7) in the $2 million Distaff and Bricks and Mortar (5-for-5) in the $4 million Turf with Horse of the Year honors on the line.
Now back to Friday’s races.
British Idiom ($9.20) took the lead at the head of the stretch and pulled away for a 6 ½-length victory in the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland.
The victory gives the 2-year-old filly an automatic berth in the BC Juvenile Fillies (G1) next month for trainer Brad Cox and owners Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables.
“She’s of really a nice filly that’s full of class … obviously capable of getting around two turns,” Cox said, adding that as long as she comes out of the race in good shape “we’ll look at California.”
Trainer Mark Casse had no excuses for Perfect Alibi, the 2-1 favorite who came into the race off a win in the Spinaway (G1) at the Spa on Sept. 1.
“She ran well for her first time going two turns,’’ Casse said. “I think she earned a (chance) in the Breeders’ Cup. She sure didn’t embarrass us today.”
In the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2), Woodford Racing’s Engage held off a late charge from Whitmore and won by a half-length for trainer Steve Asmussen. The win earned the 4-year-old an automatic berth in the BC Sprint.
Brace yourself for a long day. Keeneland features four “Win and You’re In’’ races, Belmont Park, Santa Anita and Longchamp in France has one apiece.
The most intriguing race could be the $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), a six-furlong sprint that marks the long-awaited return of Omaha Beach, the Rebel (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner and morning-line Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite before he was scratched with a throat injury.
“I’m excited,” Hall of Famer trainer Richard Mandella said. “I’m not sure if he’s quick enough to beat some of the top sprinters in there, but he sure acts like he could.”
The favorite is Shancelot, a winner of three straight, including the Amsterdam (G3), before finishing third in a blanket finish in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga.
The centerpiece is the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) for 3-year-olds and up. The 34th edition of the Turf Mile drew a field of 14 and two also-eligibles.
The stellar field includes Suedois and Next Shares, the past two winners of this race, a “Win and You’re In’’ for the BC Mile (G1)
Fourth in his previous start in a one-mile race in Ireland last month, Suedois won here two years ago and will leave from post 12 under Jamie Spencer. The 8-year-old gelding makes his 47th career start (nine wins, 10 seconds, 11 thirds).
Next Shares, trained by Richard Baltas, was a 3 ¼-length upset winner (23-1) in the Turf Mile last year and comes into the race off a seventh-place finish in the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs on Aug. 31. He will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and leave from post 1.
Other Grade/Group 1 winners are Bowies Hero (Frank Kilroe Mile, 2018); Divisidero (Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, 2016-17); Robin of Navan (Criterium de Saint-Cloud, 2015); and Valid Point (Secretariat, 2019). Others to keep an eye on include Van Beethoven and Bandua.
The 106th running of the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles has a clear favorite in Gouverneur Morris, a nine-length winner in the slop in his debut at Saratoga on Sept. 2 at odds of 3-5.
A field of 10 is entered for the “Win and You’re In’’ BC Juveniles Fillies. A son of Constitution, the gray colt is trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Javier Castellano for Team Valor International and WinStar Farm.
Trained by two-time race winner Todd Pletcher, Gouverneur Morris will be ridden by Javier Castellano and break from post position 10.
Keep tabs on Anderson Stables’ By Your Side, a winner of his first two starts, including the Sanford (G3) at the Spa. He was fifth in the slop in the Hopeful (G1) in his previous start.
A talented field of 14 led by Rushing Fall and Vasilika go at it in the $400,000 First Lady (G1) at a mile on the turf. Rushing Fall, trained by Chad Brown, won the Jenny Wiley (G1) this spring before her victory in the Just A Game (G1) and runner-up finish in the Diana Stakes (G1), both at Saratoga. Castellano has the call.
Vasilika comes into the “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the BC Filly & Mare Turf off a nose victory over rival Juliet Foxtrot in the John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar. Flavien Prat will be aboard Vasilika, trained and co-owned by Jerry Hollendorfer.
The $500,000 Champagne (G1) drew a field of seven 2-year-olds, with Pletcher-trained Alpha Sixty Six looking to make it two in a row following a victory last month at Belmont. Hall of Famer John Velazquez has he call as he seeks a fifth win in the prestigious race.
“It’s an ambitious placing but we’re doing so because he ran well first time out and you don’t have a lot of options this time of year,” Pletcher, looking for his seventh Champagne victory, said. “We’ve been successful in the past in doing this with some nice 2-year-olds, so hopefully he can step up.”
Stronach Stables’ Green Light Go is 2-for-2, including a Grade 2 win in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 10. The colt is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, and Junior Alvarado will be aboard.
Not only does the winner earn a berth in the BC Juvenile, the race it worth 10 points on the road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
Others in the field for the 148th running of the Champagne include Three Technique, a maiden winner in his third start on Aug. 31 at the Spa; and Gozilla, who won his debut before finishing third in the Hopeful on Sept. 2.
Also on the 11-race card are the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the $400,000 Hill Prince (G2), the $150,000 Matron (G3) and the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational.
And at Longchamp, the “Win and You’re In” event for the BC Turf Sprint (G1) in the Prix de L’Abbaye de Longchamp.
The super mare Enable is all set to attempt a historic third consecutive victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Sunday (post time in 10:05 a.m. ET). The race is “Win and You’re In” for the BC Distaff, which Enable won last year but
Trainer John Gosden said there’s no rush to make future plans, and Juddmonte Farm will make its decision at some point after the Arc.
“Any decisions regarding Enable’s future plans after the Arc will be taken by one man only, Prince Khalid, probably some time next week,” Gosden said. “We’ll get Sunday out of the way first.”
Enable, a winner of 10 Group 1 races, will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Also on Sunday, there are three Breeders’ Cup berths on the line at Belmont in the Flower Bowl (G1), Frizette (G1) and Futurity (G3). And four more BC berths on tap at Keeneland, in the Dixiana Bourbon (G3), the Indian Summer (G3) the Juddmonte Spinster (G1) and the Speakeasy. In addition to the Arc, Longchamp hosts three other “Win and You’re In” races.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.