Road to 2019 Breeders’ Cup: Three Heating Up, Three Cooling Down for Aug. 14
Courtesy of Mike Curry of the America's Best Racing
The path to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1-2 is a road with plenty of ups and downs as talented racehorses vie for a spot in one of 14 championship races.
This blog provides a capsule look at three horses who are heating up on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and three horses whose Breeders’ Cup chances are not quite as strong as they were a week or two ago. In the new edition of Three Heating Up, Three Cooling Down for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, we take a look at the previous two weeks of races.
You won’t see Arlington Million Stakes winner Bricks and Mortar, Beverly D. Stakes winner Sistercharlie, or Whitney Stakes winner McKinziein the heating up section because they all won as odds-on favorites and were already at or near the top of their respective divisions.
1. Amalfi Sunrise
This filly from the first crop of 2014 Florida Derby winner Constitution looks like a superstar in the making after overwhelming five opponents in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes Aug. 3 at Del Mar. She pressed the early pace from between horses and simply proved too fast for Schuylerville Stakes winner Comical and Princess Mo as she pulled away to a two-length lead through a half-mile in :45.91. While Comical and Princess Mo faded to last and second-to-last, respectively, Amalfi Sunrise turned on the burners and powered to a six-length win with her final eighth of a mile coming in 12.79 seconds. Amalfi Sunrise earned a career-best 101 Equibase Speed Figure, an eight-point improvement from her career debut seven weeks earlier at Santa Anita Park. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Amalfi Sunrise has won her two starts by a combined margin of 12 ¼ lengths; she has a victory on the dirt main track at Santa Anita Park, which will host the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies; and she has terrific tactical speed that should allow her to stalk or press the pace. The average winning Equibase Speed Figure for the Juvenile Fillies over the last 10 years is 99.5 with a median of 100, so Amalfi Sunrise is well within range. I don’t expect the 1 1/16-mile distance to be an issue for a filly by Constitution out of an Empire Maker mare. You never know how a horse will handle stretching out around two turns, but I’m very optimistic. Callaghan’s best finish in the Breeders’ Cup was a third with Taris in the 2015 Filly and Mare Sprint, and Bellafina ran fourth last year in the Juvenile Fillies.
If I had to place a bet today on the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, I’d take Covfefe. She’s got such a high cruising speed, as she showed when she stalked Serengeti Empress through a half-mile in :44.28 in the Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes Aug. 3 before pulling away to win the seven-furlong race in 1:21.26, less than a second off the track record at Saratoga Race Course. In addition to Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress, who held on for second, Covfefe also defeated three-time Grade 1 winner Bellafina in the Test. She improved to 3-for-4 this year, with her only defeat a loss by three-quarters of a length in her previous start. Covfefe earned a 112 Equibase Speed Figure for the Test win, one point higher than the 111 she registered for winning the Grade 3 Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes May 17. The average and median winning Equibase Speed Figure for the Filly and Mare Sprint over the last decade is 109.5. As a 3-year-old with only six career starts, Covfefe is still learning and I think she has significant room to improve for trainer Brad Cox, who last year won the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff with a 3-year-old facing older females in Monomoy Girl. I expect Covfefe to be formidable in the 2019 Filly and Mare Sprint.
3. Got Stormy
The last spot here was a tough choice, considering there were multiple eye-catching wins over the last two weeks, but I ultimately landed on Got Stormy after she set a course record of 1:32 for one mile when defeating males in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap Aug. 10 at Saratoga. According to Trakus data, Got Stormy completed her final quarter-mile in 22.71 seconds as she pulled well clear of nine opponents. Got Stormy earned a new career-best 118 Equibase Speed Figure for her 2 ½-length win. Considering the average Equibase Speed Figure for TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile winners over the last 10 years is 121.6 with a median of 122, Got Stormy would need to at least match if not improve her top figure to be a serious threat. On the bright side, the Mile typically features plenty of pace to set up Got Stormy’s closing kick — she rallied from 14 lengths back in the Fourstardave — and females have won the race five times since 2003 (three of those by Hall of Famer Goldikova) . While Got Stormy has never raced in Southern California and thus has no experience on the turf course at Santa Anita Park, she has traveled well in her career and won at five different tracks. Trainer Mark Casse has won the Mile twice (Tepin, 2015; World Approval, 2017) among five overall victories at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, and Got Stormy looks like a serious threat to make it three Mile wins in five years for Casse come November.
Also-Eligibles: With Got Stormy taking the third spot, I must mention Beau Recall coming off a nose victory in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap Aug. 3 at Del Mar, where she halted Vasilika’s four-race winning streak. Beau Recall defeated Got Stormy by 1 ¼ lengths in the May 4 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes and has been very consistent this year with three wins and two seconds in five races for Brad Cox, a big change from a year ago when she won two of nine races. One significant concern is that she has not excelled on the Santa Anita turf, with only two wins in 11 races. … I had trouble separating the male 2-year-old dirt stakes winners from last weekend – Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes winner Collusion Illusion and Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite winner Green Light Go. The former improved to 2-for-2 with a 1 ¼-length win at 7.70-1 odds and earned a career-best 102 Equibase Speed Figure for trainer Mark Glatt. The latter was a little green in the stretch but showed a willingness to split horses and made multiple moves in a 3 ¾-length runaway win in which he surged clear after switching leads a bit late. Green Light Go is also 2-for-2 with an 89 Equibase Speed Figure for his debut and a 92 for the Saratoga Special. Based upon pedigree, I don’t see why both Collusion Illusion and Green Light Go should have trouble stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. … Leinster also warrants a mention off a three-quarter-length win in the Grade 3 Troy Stakes Aug. 3 at Saratoga, where he set a course record for 5 ½ furlongs in 1:00.23. That earned the 4-year-old Majestic Warrior colt a career-top 116 Equibase Speed Figure, and he seems to have found his calling in turf sprints with three straight wins.
After winning her first two races, including a victory in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakesat Saratoga Race Course July 11, Comical returned to her West Coast base to compete in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes Aug. 3 at Del Mar. She dueled for the early lead with Amalfi Sunrise and faded badly late to finish last of six. While I do think there is a chance that Amalfi Sunrise is a budding star, I would have liked to have seen more fight from Comical considering the pace was fast but not outrageously so. Perhaps the cross-country trip to Saratoga and back took something out of Comical, but I expect she would need to bounce back in a significant way to be considered for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after a disappointing effort like we saw in the Sorrento.
Perhaps I overrated Preservationist just a bit off his 4 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes, but even so I thought he took a step back in the Grade 1 Whitney when he faded to finish fourth, beaten by 7 ¾ lengths, in his first try in a Grade 1 race. There is no doubt it was a stout test in class with proven Grade 1 winners McKinzie, Yoshida, and Vino Rosso taking the top three spots, but given that Preservationist was allowed an uncontested lead, I expected he would show a little more tenacity in the stretch. The Whitney was by no means a disaster and I still think Preservationist has an extremely bright future, but there is no doubt the gap between graded stakes-quality dirt horses and the elite runners in the division targeting the Breeders’ Cup Classic is a difficult hurdle to clear. In the Whitney, Preservationist was not quite ready to make that jump.
The 2019 Santa Anita Oaks winner received a nice break after running fifth, beaten by eight lengths, as the 9-5 favorite in the Longines Kentucky Oaks May 3. She returned from the three-month layoff in the seven-furlong Longines Test Stakes Aug. 3 at Saratoga having won her last four starts at one mile or less and was sent off as the tepid favorite. Bellafina got off to a slow start and never really threatened while finishing third, 9 ¼ lengths behind winner Covfefe. The 95 Equibase Speed Figure was nine points below her career best. I expected Bellafina to run better but given the layoff, the cross-country trip from her Del Mar base to New York, and the fact that she ran into a monster in Covfefe, I’m willing to give her a mulligan for the Test. If she disappoints for the third straight time in her next start, that might be reason enough to jump off the Bellafina bandwagon.
Of note: Anonymity has been running against top competition in her last five starts, including a third-place finish by a neck in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. However, she is winless during that stretch, which includes three seconds as the odds-on favorite. Her speed figures have been pretty consistent, but the 102 she earned when running second to Danuska’s My Girl as the 3-5 favorite in the Aug. 11 Rancho Bernardo Handicap was the lowest of the stretch, and it sure would be nice to see her win one of these stakes races.
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to americasbestracing.net
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