Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Newsletter - October 11
Advisory: This is the eighth of nine weekly news releases focusing on the horses and races leading to the 36th Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2 at Santa Anita. For more information, please visit www.breederscup.com. The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live on NBC and NBCSN. You can follow all the contenders’ activity leading up to the Breeders’ Cup with Equibase’s free “Road to the Breeders’ Cup” Virtual Stable notification service.
Challenge Season Ends with a Bang, Classic, Distaff Highlight 36th Breeders’ Cup
A six-day stretch that saw 21 “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifiers for the 36th Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park brought the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series to a close for the year and completed all the heavy lifting for racing’s championship weekend. And while several ‘Cup races, including the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, appear relatively clearly defined, it’s the centerpiece of the 14-race championships—the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic—that looks as wide-open as it has in years, which only heightens the excitement leading up Santa Anita.
The field for the 1 ¼-mile Classic has begun to take shape and will have an emphasis on quality and depth this year, as there appears to be no overwhelming favorite among either the handicap stars or the 3-year-olds. However, a lack of a superstar and a field that is perceived to be there for the taking means the starting gate could max out at 14, which will be sure to make the Classic the must-see that it has always been.
Favoritism could go any number of ways, with Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman’s MCKINZIE, a 4-year-old son of 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense, perceived as the best of the older horses, while William S. Farish’s homebred CODE OF HONOR, a son of Noble Mission (GB), leads the 3-year-olds. McKinzie and Code of Honor are rated first and second, respectively in the latest Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings (see News and Notes). With Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and Shug McGaughey calling the shots, and an east-west matchup in the offing, there’s plenty of intrigue. Both horses earned automatic “Win and You’re In” starting berths into the race, with McKinzie, who worked a half mile in 49.60 handily at Santa Anita on Thursday, winning Saratoga’s Whitney (G1) in August and Code of Honor winning Belmont Park’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) via disqualification Sept. 28.
Potential wildcards abound in the Classic and only add to the intrigue of the race, as Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s 5-year-old mare ELATE has long been considered a Classic candidate by trainer Bill Mott, while Fox Hill Farms’ OMAHA BEACH, scratched as the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1), returned Saturday and beat older horses and earned an automatic starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in the “Win and You’re In” Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1, see race recap below) for trainer Richard Mandella. The former was second in Sunday’s “Win and You’re In” Juddmonte Spinster (G1, see race recap below), an automatic qualifier for the Distaff and earned a berth into that race when she won Churchill Downs’ “Win and You’re In” Fleur De Lis (G2) in June but is 3-for-3 at Classic’s 1 ¼ miles, while the latter won the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in April and could be the right fresh new face should he step up and stretch out in the Classic.
Charles Fipke’s homebred SEEKING THE SOUL, Hronis Racing’s HIGHER POWER, and Mongolian Stable’s MONGOLIAN GROOM earned automatic “Win and You’re In” Classic berths when they won Churchill’s Stephen Foster (G2) in June, Del Mar’s Pacific Classic (G1) in August, and Santa Anita’s Awesome Again (G1) Sept. 28, respectively, for trainers Dallas Stewart, John Sadler, and Enebish Ganbat, who indicated this week that he would pay the $100,000 Horse of Racing Age fee to place Mongolian Groom into the Breeders’ Cup program to pre-enter him in the Classic. Grade 1 stakes winners WAR OF WILL, VINO ROSSO and YOSHIDA (JPN) also are potential starters for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as is multiple graded stakes winners OWENDALE.
Midnight Bisou winning the Beldame.
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Midnight Bisou Imposing Distaff Favorite, Horse of the Year in Play
The $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, run at 1 1/8 miles, has plenty of quality and depth itself, but there’s no doubt who the overwhelming favorite will be, as Bloom Racing, Madaket Stable, and Allen Racing’s MIDNIGHT BISOU seems to hold all the aces for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute is 7-for-7 on the year, including a pair of “Win and You’re In” Distaff qualifiers; Belmont Park’s Ogden Phipps (G1) in June and Saratoga’s Personal Ensign (G1) in August; and the Beldame (G1) on Sept. 28. A win in the Distaff, along with an off-the-radar upset in the Classic, could propel Midnight Bisou to Horse of the Year.
Several other viable Distaff candidates would argue for favoritism if it weren’t for the presence of Midnight Bisou, and a quartet of “Win and You’re In” qualifiers will be waiting in the wings, should the superstar filly fail to deliver. Merriebelle Stable’s BLUE PRIZE (ARG) repeated in Sunday’s Juddmonte Sprinter (G1, see race recap below) at Keeneland for trainer Nacho Correas; Paul and Karen Eggert’s homebred OLLIE’S CANDY won Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in July for trainer John Sadler; Steve Sarkowsky and Pam and Marty Wygod’s sometimes brilliant PARADISE WOODS earned a berth when she won Santa Anita’s Zenyatta (G2) Sept. 28 for trainer John Shirreffs; and Ray Francis, Cindy Jones, and trainer Larry Jones’ homebred STREET BAND won Parx Racing’s Cotillion (G1) Sept. 21. Elate (see above), who is more likely for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, would also warrant major consideration, should she run.
Grade 1 stakes winners DUNBAR ROAD, GUARANA, and SECRET SPICE also could run in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, as could grade 3 winner GO GOOGLE YOURSELF.
Record Challenge Weekend Offers 20 ‘Cup Berths Around the Globe
This past weekend’s stakes action served up 20 “Win and You’re In” automatic starting berths into the Breeders’ Cup (see race recaps below) and spanned the globe, as Keeneland’s opening weekend led the way with nine, while Belmont Park and Santa Anita chipped in with six total, and on the international scene ParisLongchamp in France countered with five, including the historic Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), which could have a major ripple effect on the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The final, and by far the most pivotal, Challenge weekend of the year not only offered up a plethora of starting berths, but will see several who ran underneath move on to Santa Anita. The action at Keeneland and Belmont should especially warrant extra attention, as four races served as springboards to the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; the former ran the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1, Juvenile) and Darley Alcibiades (G1, Juvenile Fillies), while the latter countered with the Champagne (G1, Juvenile) and Frizette (Juvenile Fillies).
Santa Anita’s Sprint Championship (G1) also will be kept under close watch, as OMAHA BEACH (see above) returned off an April layoff and beat older horses and could use the race as a possible launching pad to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and, with a big run, a 3-Year-Old Championship, and perhaps, a Horse of the Year title.
As for ParisLongchamp, ‘Cup plans are still yet to be determined for the five Challenge race winners and several of the underneath finishers, but Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park’s WALDGEIST (GB) -- who upset Juddmonte Farm’s supermare homebred ENABLE (GB) in her bid to become the first horse to win three editions of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe -- is the talk of the racing world and could have huge Turf ramifications. Both horses have yet to be committed to the race, and are still longshots to run, but also have yet to be declared, which at least leaves the door ajar for what would be a must-see rematch. A decision on Enable figures to come in the next week, according to Juddmonte racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe.
- March 27, 2020
Focus Group will need to return to his best if he is to have a chance in the $200,000 Kitten’s Joy Pan American Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 28.
- March 27, 2020
March 28 is the biggest day of the Gulfstream Park winter meeting, with the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby topping an action-packed, 14-race card with 10 stakes.
- March 19, 2020
The five rivals in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) will have a tough time beating Finite. The three-year-old filly is the 3-5 morning line choice for the 1 1/16-mile race at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana on March 21.