Countdown to the Breeders' Cup World Championships Newsletter - September 24
Advisory: This is the fourth of eight weekly news releases focusing on the horses and races leading to the 38th Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6 at Del Mar. For more information, please visit 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.
Knicks Go, Essential Quality Give Cox a Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic 1-2 Punch; Letruska Stands Tall for Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Trainer Brad Cox used four Breeders’ Cup victories last year at Keeneland as a springboard to his first Eclipse Award as Outstanding Trainer but the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) eluded him. A win could just be a matter of time, however, as two of his last year’s Breeders’ Cup heroes — Korea Racing Authority’s KNICKS GO and Godolphin’s homebred ESSENTIAL QUALITY — rate as the two clear favorites for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. They are also the two top rated horses in the latest Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings.
The $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) has its own clear favorite, as St. George Stables’ homebred LETRUSKA has dominated her division throughout the year and shows no slowing down for trainer Fausto Gutierrez.
The Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff are just two of 14 championship races to be held Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California, which is the second time the World Championships have been to the seaside track after a widely successful debut run in 2017. All told, the 14 races, which will undoubtedly crown several divisional champions, will offer a total of $31 million in purses.
The 1 ¼-mile Classic will be new territory for Knicks Go, a brilliantly fast 5-year-old son of Paynter who ran the field off their feet in last year’s $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) but has yet to try the distance. Knicks Go, who is 8-for-22 lifetime, which includes a win in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park in January, earned one of nine automatic Classic berths when he won Saratoga’s Aug. 7 “Win and You’re In” Whitney (G1). He’s scheduled to make his final start before the Classic in Churchill Downs’ Oct. 2 Lukas Classic (G3).
Knicks Go tuned up for the Lukas Classic with a strong 6-furlong move in 1:12.80 Sept. 18 at Churchill, and Cox is looking forward to one final prep before a trip to Del Mar.
“This race is a good spot for him leading into the Breeders’ Cup,” Cox said.
Essential Quality defeats Midnight Bourbon in the Runhappy Travers
Eclipse Sportswire photo
Essential Quality cemented a 2-year-old championship when he won the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) and is the favorite to win another championship this year at 3. The son of Tapit is 5-for-6 this year, with the lone hiccup coming in a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He rebounded to win the Belmont Stakes (G1) in June and Saratoga’s Aug. 28 Runhappy Travers (G1). Cox indicated this week that Essential Quality will likely be trained up to the Classic.
Knicks Go may be the clear leader among the older horses, but contention runs deep, with George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp.’s MAX PLAYER in career-best form for trainer Steve Asmussen, as the 4-year-old son of Honor Code won Belmont’s “Win and You’re In” Suburban Stakes (G2) on July 3 to earn a free berth into the race, and then captured his second Breeders’ Cup Challenge race of the summer when he won Saratoga’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on Sept. 4. Hronis Racing’s TRIPOLI, a 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, did the same when he won Del Mar’s Aug. 21 “Win and You’re In” TVG Pacific Classic (G1) for trainer John Sadler, as did Godolphin’s homebred MAXFIELD, a 4-year-old son of 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Street Sense who qualified when he won Churchill’s “Win and You’re In” Stephen Foster (G2) in June for trainer Brendan Walsh. Stakes winners BY MY STANDARDS, EXPRESS TRAIN, HAPPY SAVER and SILVER STATE also are pointing to the Classic.
Santa Anita’s Oct. 2 “Win and You’re In” Awesome Again (G1) is the last Classic automatic qualifier of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, and is scheduled to include Express Train and Tripoli, along with Zedan Racing Stable’s Kentucky Derby winner MEDINA SPIRIT, a son of Protonico who looked good winning his comeback in Del Mar’s Aug. 29 Shared Belief.
A true Classic wildcard is Prince A.A. Faisal’s MISHRIFF (IRE), an international superstar who qualified for the race when he captured the Aug. 18 “Win and You’re In” Juddmonte International (G1) at York Racecourse for trainers John and Thady Gosden. The 4-year-old son of Make Believe (GB) won his lone dirt start this year, when he beat Knicks Go in the Saudi Cup (G1) at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in February, then won the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan in March.
Essential Quality towers over the rest of the 3-year-olds but several have designs on the Classic, including Medina Spirit, along with Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing and William Strauss’ HOT ROD CHARLIE, a son of Oxbow who was a game second in the Belmont for trainer Doug O’Neill, while Hronis Racing and Talla Racing’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner ROCK YOUR WORLD was a good second in the Shared Belief. Hot Rod Charlie headlines Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing, over stakes winners MIDNIGHT BOURBON and KEEPMEINMIND, who also are eyeing the Classic.
Letruska leads Longines Distaff Contenders
Eclipse Sportswire photo
Letruska Keeps on Keeping on Toward Distaff
In a campaign that would make the warhorses of yesteryear proud, Letruska already has started six times in 2021 and figures to run once more before she heads to Del Mar as a strong favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The 5-year-old daughter of Super Saver’s busy schedule hasn’t been a good thing for her opponents either, as she’s won five times, including three “Win and You’re In” Distaff automatic qualifiers. Letruska came on the national scene in April, when she upset two-time Distaff winner Monomoy Girl in Oaklawn Park’s Apple Blossom (G1), before winning her trio of qualifiers in Belmont Park’s Ogden Phipps (G1) in June, Churchill Downs’ Fleur de Lis (G2) later that month, and Saratoga’s Aug. 28 Personal Ensign (G1). Letruska is 16-for-21 lifetime and likely will prep for the Distaff in Keeneland’s Oct. 10 Juddmonte Spinster (G1), which is also a “Win and You’re In” for the race.
Five of the seven “Win and You’re In” Distaff qualifiers have been run, and both Haras Pozo De Luna S.A.’s BLUE STRIPE (ARG) and Flurry Racing Stables, Qatar Racing Limited and Big Aut Farms’ SHEDARESTHEDEVIL rank as upset contenders at Del Mar. The former, a 4-year-old daughter of Equal Stripes (ARG), earned her berth when she won the Grand Premio Criadores in May for trainer Nicolas Martin Ferro, while the latter, a 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil, did the same when she won Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in August for trainer Brad Cox. In addition to the Spinster, Santa Anita’s Oct. 3 Zenyatta Stakes (G2) is also a “Win and You’re In” for the Distaff. Graded stakes winners BONNY SOUTH, HOROLOGIST and VENETIAN HARBOR are also potential Distaff starters.
Shadwell Stable’s MALATHAAT is the 3-year-old filly counterpart to Essential Quality, as she too has a divisional stranglehold off Grade 1 wins in the Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland Stakes in April, the Longines Kentucky Oaks in May, and Saratoga’s Aug. 21 Alabama Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher. The daughter of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Curlin is 6-for-7 lifetime and recently recorded her first work since the Alabama, going 4 furlongs in :49.49 Sept. 18 over the Belmont training track. “Her energy level is really good at the moment,” Pletcher said. “We plan on training up to the Breeders’ Cup.” Graded stakes winners MARACUJA and WILL’S SECRET also are pointing to the Distaff, with the former and latter running Saturday in Parx Racing’s Cotillion (G1).
Juveniles in the “Win and You’re In” Spotlight at Newmarket
The weekend “Win and You’re In” action is solely in the U.K., as Newmarket has a pair of 2-year-old qualifiers with Friday’s $95,900 Unibet Rockfel Stakes (G2), which will award an automatic starting berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), while Saturday’s $137,000 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (G2) will offer a berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
The 7-furlong Rockfel, with nine starters after the scratch of KIWADA (GB), looks wide open, as six are trading at 9-1 or under with European punters, who have Mrs. Doreen Tabor’s MAJESTIC GLORY (GB) as a tepid 3-1 favorite for trainer Andrew Balding. The daughter of Frankel is 2-for-4 lifetime and enters off a win in Aug. 7 Sweet Solera (G3).
John and Tanya Gunther’s GIRL ON FILM (FR) is 4-1 off an Aug. 7 debut win at Newmarket for trainer Ralph Beckett, while Emmy Rothschild and Partner’s JUMBLY (GB) is 9-2 off a 2-for-2 mark that includes a Sept. 3 novice win at Kempton for trainer Roger Charlton. CACHET (IRE), FEMME FRIENDLY (GB), HELLO YOU (IRE), OSCULA (IRE), ROMANTIC TIME (GB), and SUNSTRIKE (IRE) are also entered in the “Win and You’re In” Unibet Rockfel.
The Royal Lodge, at 1-mile, drew seven, with Mick and Janis Mariscotti’s MASEKELA (IRE) a strong favorite for trainer Andrew Balding. The son of El Kabeir is 2-for-4 lifetime, including the Aug. 14 Denford at Newbury, and is trading as low as 13-8 among the European punters.
Godolphin’s homebred COROEBUS (IRE), who won on debut Aug. 13 at Newbury for trainer Charlie Appleby, and Highclere T’Bred Racing and Woodland Walk’s ROYAL PATRONAGE (FR), who won the Aug. 18 Acomb (G3) at York for trainer Mark Johnston, are co-second choices at 11-4, while HOWTH (IRE), ONEFORTHEGUTTER (GB), SEATTLE KING (GB), and UNCONQUERABLE (IRE) are also entered for the “Win and You’re In” Juddmonte Royal Lodge.
- October 24, 2021
“We were very saddened to learn today of the passing of Bob Neumeier. Bob was a big part of the NBC Breeders’ Cup World Championships broadcasts for many years as a handicapper, reporter and analyst. Bob brought his expertise of Thoroughbred racing and a great sense of humor to every show. We extend our sincere condolences to Bob’s wife Michele and to his extended family.”
- October 22, 2021
For good reason, much of the attention on the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) will be on the international runners who come to Del Mar for the 12-furlong contest. In the last decade, just three winners have hailed from the United States, with the other seven coming from Europe. Since 2000, that split is 16 Europe, six for America.
- October 22, 2021
Breeders' Cup Pre-Entry Announcement to be Televised Live on TVG and Streamed Live on Breederscup.com on Wednesday, October 27
Pre-entered fields for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be announced live on TVG along with the Breeders’ Cup website, Official Mobile App, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET.