By Richard Rosenblatt
A busy weekend of Breeders’ Cup challenge series races already is underway as Santa Anita Park kicked off its fall meet Friday with three “Win and You’re In’’ races.
Hopefully, your handicapping is about complete for Santa Anita’s opening day, which features the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) for 2-year-olds. Post time for this one is 8 p.m. ET, with three other stakes contested earlier on the card.
A total of 14 “Win and You’re In’’ races in the U.S. and France are set for the weekend, including five at Longchamps Racecourse in Paris topped by the 100th running of the $5.77 million Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) on Sunday (scheduled post time is 10:05 a.m. ET, and broadcast live by FOX Sports’ FS2).
A stellar field of 15 was finalized Thursday for the 1 ½-mile Arc, with Adayar, trained by Charlie Appleby, a slight favorite over Tarnawa, trained by Dermot Weld. Appleby also sends out Hurricane Lane and Aidan O’Brien has three entries: Snowfall, Love, and Broome. The winner earns a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Belmont Park has four stakes on Saturday, including the $500,000 Champagne (G1) for 2-year-old. Also, the $500,000 Woodward (G1) is back at Belmont after a 15-year run at Saratoga, with Maxfield the favorite over Code of Honor.
At Churchill Downs, top-ranked Knicks Go gets a final tune-up before the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when he takes on five rivals (Tacitus among them) in the $400,000 Lukas Classic (G3) on Saturday.
“He’s a horse that puts a lot into his training and he’s done that leading into Saturday’s race,” Knicks Go trainer Brad Cox said. “He’s accomplished a lot this year and we believe the Lukas Classic is a good race to compete in prior to the Breeders’ Cup. This race doesn’t require him to ship, and he can run out of his own stall.”
Santa Anita’s blockbuster weekend continues Saturday with three “WAYI” races, the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2), the Rodeo Drive (G1), and the Awesome Again (G1), which includes Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit (pending a final ruling on his Derby win after the horse had a post-race positive for a prohibited raceday medication).
In addition to the big day at Longchamps on Sunday, Santa Anita’s “WAYI” race is the Zenyatta Stakes (G2) for 3 and up fillies and mares, and Belmont has the Frizette (G1) for 2-year-old fillies.
America’s Day at the Races airs on FOX Sports’ FS2 from 12:30-6:30 p.m.; and TVG will have live coverage from races around the country all weekend.
From 8-10:30 a.m., FS2 airs races from Longchamps: in addition to the Arc, other races scheduled include the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) for 2-year-old fillies (BC Juvenile Fillies Turf), post time 8:15 a.m.; and the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) for 2-year-olds (BC Juvenile Turf), post time 8:50 a.m.
FS1 will have live racing from 4:30-5:30 p.m., and FS2 takes over from 5:30-6 p.m.
Before our brief rundown of the weekend races, let’s single out the Arc, where rain this week is like to making for soft ground on Sunday which could be a determining factor. Adayar has not fared so well on softer ground, for example, while Tarnawa seemed to handle it without much issue.
Godolphin’s Adayar comes into the race off a victory over Mishriff in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot on July 24, which followed a win in the Epsom Derby on June 5. A hind leg infection kept him out of the Prix Niel (G2) on Sept. 12, but he has been training well for the big one. The 3-year-old colt will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon.
Tarnawa, a 5-year-old mare owned by Aga Khan, had won five in a row dating to 2019 (including the 2020 BC Turf) before a narrow, and somewhat controversial, loss to St. Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown on Sept. 11. The winner, under Ryan Moore, drifted about eight paths wide, forcing Tarnawa to do the same, in a stretch duel to the wire. With no apparent contact between the horses, the result stood, although Moore was suspended one day for careless riding.
Tarnawa leaves from post 5, while Adayar drew post 10. Six-time Arc-winning jockey Frankie Dettori will be aboard Love leaving from the 4 post.
What else is new? Chad Brown is looking for his ninth win in this one and sends out even-money favorite McKulick and 5-2 second choice Kinchen in a field of six. In her career debut, McKulick took the lead near the sixteenth pole and won at Saratoga on Aug. 8 at 1 1/16 miles.
A field of six may turn into a two-horse duel between Gunite (4-1) and Wit (2-1). These two met in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga on Sept. 6, and Wit stumbled awkwardly at the starts as Gunite went on to a 5 ¼-length win – Wit recovered enough to finish second. Gunite, trained by Steve Asmussen, leaves from post 5 with Ricardo Santana, Jr., aboard; Wit, trained by Todd Pletcher, drew the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard.
Backtohisroots is the 3-1 favorite in a field of nine for trainer John Terranova. A year ago, the now 5-year-old gelding lost his rider Jose Lezcano just after the start of this race. In his first start of 2021, he ran second in the Lucky Coin at the Spa on Sept. 3. Luis Saez has the call, leaving from post 2. Pulsate is the 7-2 second choice, and Therapist is 9-2.
A compact field of six is set for one of New York’s most storied races, with Maxfield the 7-5 favorite over Art Collector and Honor Code. Art Collector has won his last two, including the Charles Town Classic (G2) on Aug. 27. Brendan Walsh-trained Maxfield is 9-7-1-1, his only in Grade 1 races – third in the 2020 Santa Anita Handicap and second to Knicks Go in the Whitney.
Zulu Alpha, winner of the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga on Sept. 5 after winner her career debut by 5 ½ lengths at the Spa, is the tops a field of nine in this “WAYI” race for the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, the daughter of Gun Runner leaves from post 6 under Ricardo Santana, Jr. Todd Pletcher has a pair of fillies in the race, A Mo Reay and Jester Calls Nojoy.
Knicks Go puts in a final race prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic when he takes on a mostly overmatched field. The 5-year-old Knicks Go, trained by Brad Cox, took the Whitney with ease after rolling to an easy win the Cornhusker Handicap (G3). He is the 2-5 favorite and will be ridden by Joel Rosario from post 2. Tacitus is 5-2 for trainer Bill Mott in his first start since running seventh in the Saudi Cup (G1) on Feb. 20.
Beau Liam from Steve Asmussen’s barn is the 3-1 favorite over 4-1 Rushie in a field of 11. The 3-year-old Beau Liam is 3-for-3 and moves up to his first stakes race. The 4-year-old Rushie, meanwhile, has a 12-3-2-3 career mark but comes in with an 0-5 record dating back to his win in the 2020 Pat Day Mile (G2).
Forbidden Kingdom is the 2-1 favorite in a field of seven for trainer Richard Mandella, with One Timer and Miss Alacrity co-second choices at 5-2 in this evenly matched sprint. A son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Forbidden Kingdom won his career debut on the lead throughout going 5 ½ furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 21.
Bob Baffert sends out 9-5 favorite Grace Adler and 12-1 Censorship in this “WAYI” race for the BC Juvenile Fillies. Ain’t Easy is the second choice at 5-2 for trainer Phil D’Amato in the field of seven. A filly by Curlin, Grace Adler is 2-for-2.
A field of nine is entered, including invader Snapper Sinclair for trainer Steve Asmussen. Listed at 4-1 as the co-second choice with Gregorian Chant, the 6-year-old ‘Snapper’ has earned more than $1.7 million with a career mark of 33-7-8-4. He comes in off a win in the TVG Sakes at Kentucky Down on Sept. 8. Lieutenant Dan is the slight 7-2 favorite.
Bob Baffert has three of the seven in the field with the winner earning an all-fees paid berth in the BC Juvenile (G1). He sends out the two favorites in Corniche at 6-5 and Rockefeller at 3-1, a co-second choice with Oviatt Class, trained by Keith Desormeaux.
Mo Forza, winner in seven of his last eight races after breaking his maiden in his sixth career start on Sept. 29, 2019, at Santa Anita is the 6-5 favorite in a field of five. Peter Miller trains, Flavien Prat rides, and the 5-year-old son of Uncle Mo leaves from post x. Mo Forza won the Del Mar Mile (G2) on Aug. 21 in his only 2021 start. He also won last year’s City of Hope. Smooth Like Strait, runner-up in the Del Mar Mile – nipped at the wire by a head — is the second choice at 8-5.
$200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2), 6 furlongs, 3 and up
Post time: 7 p.m. (race 8)
A “WAYI” race to the BC Sprint, a half-dozen speedsters are entered, including 7-year-olds C Z Rocket at 5-2 and Flagstaff at 7-2. The favorite is Dr. Schivel for trainer Mark Glatt. The 4-year-old colt has won four in a row, most recently the Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar on July 31.
Trainer Richard Baltas has the two favorites for this “WAYI” race, Going to Vegas at 5-2 and Luck at 3-1. A field of nine is entered. Four-year-old filly Going to Vegas comes into the race off a win in the John C. Mabee (G2) and has a career record of 21-6-8-2. The 4-year-old Luck tries her first graded stakes race after winning an optional claimer at Del Mar on Aug. 7.
Derby winner Medina Spirit, who captured the Shared Belief in his most recent start, headlines a field of nine in this “WAYI” in to the BC Classic. However, Pacific Classic (G1) winner Tripoli is the slight 3-1 favorite for trainer John Sadler, leaving from post 7. Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, drew post 5 and will be ridden by John Velazquez.
Others in the field include 4-1 Tizamagician, 5-1 Idol, Midcourt, and Baffert-trained Azul Coast.
United (5-2) tops a field of 13 for this turf test. Trained by Richard Mandella, the 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway comes into the race off a fourth in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) on Aug. 21. He’s earned more than $1.6 million with a career record of 21-9-4-1. He’s won the Eddie Read (G2) the past two years and won this race in 2020. Nine of the entries are at double digit odds; Acclimate is the 9-2 second choice.
Guess what? Bob Baffert has a pair of top choices in As Time Goes By and Private Mission. The “WAYI” race for the BC Distaff drew a field of eight. As Time Goes By has three wins and two seconds in five races at Santa Anita; she won the Santa Margarita (G2) and Santa Maria (G2) earlier this year but did not fare well at Saratoga – running sixth in the Personal Ensign (G1) on Aug. 28.
Private Mission won the Torrey Pines (G3) by 6 ½ lengths in her first graded stakes race.
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.