By Mike Farrell
And then, there was only one.
The “One” is the final remaining Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier before the season-ending championships next month at Del Mar.
That contest is the $200,000 Jessamine (G2) on Wednesday at Keeneland. The winner of the 1 1/16 miles contest for 2-year-old fillies on the grass gets an automatic fees-paid invitation to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
It’s a last chance to grab for the gusto, and the response overwhelmed the entry box. The Jessamine attracted a full field of 14 with two more, Blissful and Haughty, sitting on the also-eligible list hoping for a defection or two. This is a party no one wants to miss.
The Jessamine is also the 10th and final BC “WAYI” that Keeneland front-loaded into it’s too-brief fall meet.
Trainer Brad Cox (who else these days?) sends out Turnerloose, the filly to beat from post 3. She is a perfect 2-for-2 with victories over a pair of Kentucky courses.
Both were route wins, giving her a considerable experience edge over several rivals. Turnerloose dug in to capture her debut at Ellis Park in July before crushing the competition last month in the $500,000 Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs.
Florent Geroux retains the mount. He’d be a fool not to stay with the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Cox is attempting a repeat parlay. He won last year’s Jessamine and the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf with Aunt Pearl.
It’s a big field of inexperienced fillies, so anything can happen, and no bettor should apologize for shopping for a better price. Misthaven looks like one of the promising value plays at 6-1 following a very encouraging debut win in a grass sprint at Kentucky Downs. It was a very professional effort as she was forced to steady and check before surging to victory. The ability to shrug off road trouble suggests the daughter of Candy Ride can handle this trip just fine.
After Wednesday, the shouting subsides until Breeders’ Cup weekend. It’s a quieter stretch dominated by state-bred stakes. A case in point: Remington Park on Friday offers a festival of 10 Oklahoma-bred stakes culminating with the $175,000 Classics Cup.
There are several Grade 1 turf stakes penciled into this weekend’s calendar. For the jumper set, the Grand National Steeplechase tops the 100th running of the annual one-day Far Hills race meeting at Moorland Farm in the heart of New Jersey’s horse country. The annual sporting and social event has raised over $18 million to support local health-care organizations.
Keeneland offers the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday while Woodbine stages the E. P. Taylor for fillies and mares on Sunday.
Bocachica (jockey) wins 8 at Charles Town; Runco (trainer) wins 7
Congratulations to jockey Arnaldo Bocachica and trainer Jeff Runco for their incredible Saturday on West Virginia Classic night at Charles Town.
Bocachica won eight stakes on the card, including the $300,000 Classic on Muad’dib. Some will snigger, pointing out it’s “only Charles Town” and that many of the winners were favored.
No matter. Eight wins on one card – anywhere — is remarkable. The eight victories erased the longstanding Chuck-Town record of seven set by Travis Dunkelberger in 2000.
The record for riding wins on one day is nine, held jointly by Eddie Castro and the late Chris Antley.
Runco also had a bonanza evening, sending out seven stakes winners, all with Bocachica in the saddle. Bocachica’s other winner was Door Buster, trained by Ollie Figgins, in the $75,000 West Virginia Tourism Office Stakes.
NYRA extends fall meet through Nov. 7
The New York Racing Association announced it will extend the Belmont Park meet with three additional dates, concluding Nov. 7 instead of Oct. 31. Racing fans planning to attend the track for Breeders’ Cup weekend should detour from the Big A to the Big B.
Aqueduct is currently used as a COVID vaccination site and is closed to the racing public. The stakes slated for Aqueduct will now shift to Belmont, including the Nashua (G3) for 2-year-olds on Nov. 7.
The shift shrinks the Aqueduct fall meet to 15 days from Nov. 11 to Dec. 5. Only a limited number of licensed owners, trainers and staff will be allowed on site at Aqueduct.
Gulfstream meet update
On the subject of upcoming meets, Gulfstream announced d
etails of the 2021-2022 championship meet that runs Dec. 3 to April 3. And it’s good news for race fans.
There will be 76 stakes worth over $14 million. The biggest development is the addition of the $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) undercard on Jan. 29. The Filly & Mare Turf replaces the Marshua’s River (G3) on the stakes calendar.
All the major 3-year-old stakes on Gulfstream’s Road to the Triple Crown will see purse increases with the most significant being a $250,000 boost to lift the Florida Derby (G1) purse back up to $1 million, the prize it last carried in 2019.
There are no stakes scheduled for the track’s new all-weather Tapeta course. However, the Tapeta course will be employed if any grass stakes are shifted off the turf course due to wet weather. That should ensure fuller fields, and more competitive races, when they are “off-the-turf.”
Mike Farrell has worked in thoroughbred and harness racing for much of his career in journalism. Mike is a turf writer, harness writer, and handicapper, covering and analyzing races at dozens of racetracks around the country. Based on the East Coast, Mike has covered the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup for a number of publications, including Daily Racing Form, as well as The Associated Press. He spends time at Gulfstream Park taking in the races, and also hits the harness racing circuit in the Northeast region. He’s been a fixture at The Hambletonian and the Haskell Invitational for longer than he’d like to remember.