Breeders Cup Preview Day (September 28, 2013)
BREEDERS' CUP BULLETIN
Volume 10...Number 5
Friday, September 27
Breeders' Cup Auditions Take Center Stage At Belmont
6 Graded Stakes
On Saturday at Belmont Park, short of Belmont Stakes day, you'll be looking at a lineup of some of the best horses in racing in their divisions as no fewer than 6 different winners will gain automatic spots in the Breeders' Cup Races at Santa Anita on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2.
ALL STAKES ALL DAY SATURDAY
The best horses, best trainers and best jockeys will be in action on Saturday as a GRAND TOTAL OF 11 BREEDERS CUP AUTOMATIC BIDS ARE AT "STAKE." There are 6 Championship races at Belmont, including the GUARANTEED $600K PICK 4 as well as 5 more Win & You're In Challenges at Santa Anita.
You'll get Jim's Winning Sure Shots, Designated Longshots, Exactas, Trifectas, Daily Doubles, Pick 3's and Pick 4's built around all these TOP NOTCH RACES.
Last year at Belmont alone Jim hit 5 of the 6 Races on Super Championship Day, including 4 Exactas, 2 Trifectas and a Superfecta plus 3 Daily Doubles, a Pair of Pick 3's and the Guaranteed Pick 4. More winners at Santa Anita wrapped up a great day and built SERIOUS BREEDERS CUP BANKROLL.
That's right, the 2013 Breeders' Cup is only 5 weeks away and much has yet to be settled as to who will gain entry and in the minds of owners and trainers, which horses will be moving forward and cycling into their best form for the first two days of November.
At Belmont on Saturday some of the names familiar to recent Breeders' Cup fame will be on display.
In the Grade I Beldame, Royal Delta will look to defend both her Beldame and Breeders' Cup titles of a year ago as she looks to make this another springboard if she can hold off the 3-year old Princess Of Sylmar, who appears to be her main challenger.
In the Grade I Vosburgh, last year's winner Lumber Guy will be looking for the repeat with hopes of moving forward once again to Santa Anita to finish the job in 2013. He finished second to Trinniberg in last year's BC Sprint, when he ran out of race track following a solid rallying effort.
In the Grade I Joe Hirsch Invitational last year's BC Turf surprise winner Little Mike will once again use the Belmont prep as a precursor to Santa Anita repeat glory. Yet we're certain that trainer Dale Romans will want much more than "Mike's" 28 lengths beaten performance here as he battled for the lead and then drifted out badly when the real running began.
In the featured Grade I Jockey Gold Cup there are more than a few stories but the biggest headline is reserved for Flat Out, who looks to become the first horse to win as many as three straight Gold Cups (won in 2012 and 2011) since the immortal Kelso (of whom one of Saturday's BC qualifiers is named) won 5 straight times...amazingly, when the Gold Cup was run at 2 Miles. Flat Out followed up with a third place finish in the Classic. Also trying again will be Ron The Greek, who failed to fire in last year's Gold Cup edition before rallying for a decent enough 4th in the BC Classic.
Veteran Belmont BC Prep runners and newcomers make this another Super Saturday. Let's take a look.
(Sharp Three-Year Old Filly Looks To Dethrone The Queen)
Just as she did last year, Royal Delta has chased away just about all of the competition that might have otherwise used the Grade I Beldame as a BC Distaff (formerly called the Ladies' Classic) launching pad.
Royal Delta appears to have regained the form that was compromised earlier this year by what turned out in hindsight to be an ill-conceived trip to Dubai to face males in the Dubai World Cup. Following a second place finish in the Grade II Fleur Di Lis at Churchill after her return stateside she has reeled off dominant wins in the Grade I Delaware Handicap and Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga, the same two races she tested heading into last year's Beldame and BC Ladies' Classic success. Trainer Bill Mott has kept her on her toes with a busy morning workout sked as she looks to handle her five rivals.
After getting beaten 11 lengths by Royal Delta in the Delaware Handicap and following that up with an equally disappointing 5th in an overnight at Saratoga trainer Michael Matz will try Royal Delta again with And Why Not. The 4-year old daughter of Street Cry hasn't won a race in two years, so maybe that's why not.
Also testing Royal Delta Again...for the third straight time...is Centring who made up a ton of ground to be a 6 lengths beaten third in the Personal Ensign after flattening out and finishing fourth behind And Why Not's third in the Delaware Handicap. At least the Tom Albertrani trained mare can claim some success at Belmont with a career 5-1-3-1 mark over the main track and a win and third at the 9 furlong distance.
Also signed on for a projected minor share of the $400,000 purse are Roman Invader and Lady Cohiba. The former is a veteran 6-year old race mare who will be stepping up from upper level allowance/optional claimers and minor stakes races to make her 38th career start (37-7-10-7) off a last out win for David Jacobson in the 100K Parlo Stakes here 9 days ago. The latter is entered by trainer Christophe Clement following a popular win in the off-the-turf Glens Falls on closing day at Saratoga.
If form holds those four will be battling for third place money as the main challenge to Royal Delta's supremacy figure to come from the brilliant 3-year old filly Princess Of Sylmar. The Todd Pletcher trained daughter of Majestic Warrior has won three straight Grade I races and has won 7 of 8 overall. She has great versatility, consistently breaks within tracking range and has a terrific finishing kick. She has answered all the questions so far...all but one...how will she do as she faces older rivals for the first time as all her races have been in the three-year old division. Her speed figures say she belongs.
(Grade II Kelso Comes Up Light...But Competitive)
A field of seven runners (6 betting interests with the Chad Brown entry) has signed on to earn an automatic berth in the BC Dirt Mile.
Let's take a look from the rail out:
Easter Gift – Part one of the Robert Lapenta entry and trained by Chad Brown the Hard Spun colt has finished first or second since moving to the conditioner's barn from that of Nick Zito. This will be his first test at Belmont as he shortens up to the one turn mile after rushing to the lead and weakening late in the 9 furlong Alydar Stakes at Saratoga in his most recent. He has won twice from four starts at the distance.
Graydar – The lightly raced 4-year old son of Unbridled's Song has won 4 of 5 in his career and the Todd Pletcher trainee has been installed as the 7-5 ML favorite after winning the Grade II New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds in his last. He has good tactical speed and is working well for the race, but this is a tough spot to make a first start since March of this year.
Praetereo – Eligible for third level allowance, the recent David Jacobson trainee is probably improving at the right time. He showed good speed vs allowance/optional 100K claimers in last at this distance and with a bit more improvement could back into a spot in here. Whether he can move forward enough to handle some of the veteran graded stakes runners in here remains to be seen.
Jackson Bend – The second part of the Robert Lapenta entry (this one trained by Stanley Gold) the 6-year old Grade I Stakes winner turned on the buy sign with a sharp rallying second in the Grade I Forego at Saratoga four weeks back. His best distance appears to be 7 furlongs but he has the kind of kick that can get it down in the one turn mile. The hard knocker has won 9 times and placed 7 times in 32 career starts and would not be a surprise.
Hymn Book – Another veteran of the graded stakes wars the Shug McGaughey trained gelding makes his first start since a solid second in the Grade II Monmouth Cup behind Pants On Fire on July 28. The 7-year old has worked well for his return with four straight half mile breezes since 8/31. Key among his attributes is the fact that he has a sterling 7-3-3-0 mark over the Belmont main track. He just adds to the competitiveness of this short field.
Souper Speedy – Trainer Tom Albertrani has gotten major improvement out of this 4-year old son of Indian Charlie. Racing in entry level allowance/optional 25K claimers as recently as May the colt finished second in the Jaipur Stakes three back, showed good speed in the Grade III James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga two back and won a third level allowance/optional $100K claimer in his last. Distance is the question but he can motor.
Brujo De Olleros – Since moving to the barn of Richard Mettee the Wild Event horse has finished second in the Donald Levine Handicap at Park in late June and won the Carl Hanford Memorial Stakes in August at Delaware. Since coming to the states from Uruguay his three main track races have been competitive and his works at Fair Hill since his last race have been solid. Could be any kind.
(Lumber Guy Looks To Defend Vosburgh Title Against Fast Rivals)
Last year this Vosburgh winner and BC Sprint runner up stayed in Southern California and turned in a couple of clunkers under the tutelage of trainer Neil Drysdale. He first tried the Grade I Malibu Stakes and never fired and then after a two month hiatus repeated his subpar performance in the Grade II San Carlos. Off since the February debacle and back in the barn of Michael Hushion, who saddled him for the Vosburgh and BC Sprint, the 4-year old Grand Slam colt looked back in form with a second behind Palace (who he'll meet again Saturday) in a minor stakes at Saratoga on 8/23.
Lumber Guy was pumped up that day and was with the pace. Hushion has given him some time and the works indicate he should move forward. But he'll need to if he wants to bets the likes of Strapping Groom and Justin Philip.
Strapping Groom is in the best form of his career right now. He pulled the 15-1 upset in the Grade I Forego last time out after winning the $100K Russell Stakes prior to that. He has won 3 of 4 since being haltered by David Jacobson for 35K in late May and has 3 wins a second and a third from 5 Belmont main track starts.
Justin Phillip also exits the Forego in which he fished an even third after chasing 3-4 wide most of the way. Prior to that race the 5-year old won the Grade I Vanderbilt at the Spa. He has hit the board in 20 of 30 career starts with a 15-5-3-2 mark at the distance and a 7-3-2-0 tab over the Belmont main track. The Steve Asmussen trainee is remarkably consistent, as his nine straight triple digit BRIS speed numbers would indicate and once again figures to be in the thick of things.
Another consistent triple digit speed number merchant is Bahamian Squall. The David Fawkes trainee was last seen at Saratoga rallying for the place behind Grade I Vanderbilt winner Justin Phillip after winning the Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder. He has turned in 5 straight sub :48 half mile breezes since Vanderbilt and has finished first twice and second four times from seven starts at the distance. One thing he'll have to deal with, however, is making his first Belmont start.
Also making their first ever Belmont starts are Michael Mareina's Candyman E and Doug O'Neil's west coast shipper Private Zone. The former has won 7 of 17 lifetime vs slightly softer but did signal some ability when second behind the emerging Strapping Groom in the Russell. He has won 6 of 10 at the distance but hasn't found the winner's circle in his last four and probably is a candidate for a minor award at best. Private Zone on the other hand has the credentials to fit against these and ships east following a win in the Pirate's Bounty Stakes on closing day at Del Mar. The son of Macho Uno has faced the best on the west coast but loves to finish second (4 straight place results in stakes races from early November to late January) and in addition to this being his first east coast start it is only his second since March.
Wrapping up the field are last out Chowders First Stakes winner Palace, who upset The Lumber Guy in that one's return after plying his trade vs allowance/optional claimers on turf and dirt in his prior races and Todd Pletcher's 3-year old graded stakes winner Forty Tales, who has won 4 of 7 this year but like many of this year's sophomore crop has less than overwhelming speed figures and faces older horses for the first time.
(Laughing And Qushchi Hold Keys To Tough To Gauge Flower Bowl)
The two main players in the Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational, an automatic bid qualifier for the BC Filly & Mare Turf are resolute speed ball and winner of three straight, Laughing and resolute closer and last out Waya Stakes winner Qushchi.
Laughing has won three straight by utilizing his determined speed. In his first start of the year he lay just off the pace in the Grade III Eatontown at Monmouth and then wired the field in both the Grade I Diana and Grade II Ballston Spa at Saratoga. Part of the Alana Goldberg entry, along with deep closer Tannery, who won the Grade II Sheepshead Bay here three back before a rough trip in the Grade II New York Handicap and what proved to be a most useful fourth place (beaten less than 3 lengths) against males in the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga in mid-August.
There appears to be little pace in this race so Laughing could prove a tough commodity. But if she falters, in addition to her entry mate there are a slew of legitimate late runners that could make an impact.
Graham Motion's Qushchi appears to finally be acclimating to the NA racing scene with the best of her stateside career with a 5 wide rally into the stretch to win the Waya at Saratoga with a best of the field last out BRIS speed number. She has hit the board in all 5 starts since arriving from England in her current form deserves attention.
Also deserving of attention is Mystical Star. The Ghostzapper mare flashed speed and settled for third in Qushchi's Waya victory and shipped down to Kentucky to win the Kentucky Downs Ladies' Marathon three weeks ago. The Christophe Clement trainee has been an in and out runner the last few years and needs to improve on her 5-1-0-0 mark on the Belmont grass but on her best she belongs with these.
The remainder of the field consists of aspiring top graded stakes level runners that includes Somali Lemonade, a Michael Matz filly who won the Grade III Dr. Penny Stales at Parx two races back and was an even fifth (4 ¼ lengths back) in Laughing's Ballston Spa and Valiant Girl, a capable Lemon Drop Kid filly from the Graham Motion barn who is stepping up following a minor overnight stakes win at Monmouth.
Also joining the battle is Kissable, who will look to get a more advantageous trip than the one she got in the Waya, when she was bumped three times and checked badly as the favorite. Nonetheless, she will still have to improve off her effort behind Qushchi in the Grade III Bewitch two back and behind Mystical Star in the Grade III Long Island Handicap three back that completed her 2012 campaign. And completing the field is Bill Mott's White Rose, who is still eligible for non-winners of two other than and makes her graded stakes debut.
(Little Room For Mistakes In Deep Joe Hirsch)
Although the Jockey Gold Cup is loaded with talent again this year, the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational is could turn out to be the more deeply contested race.
Big Blue Kitten, Boisterous and Twilight Eclipse have been battling each other of late in contested graded stakes. In his three races since arriving from Italy Real Solution has come to hand beautifully for Chad Brown. In his first start stateside Nutello hung in there to get third behind Big Blue Kitten and Twilight Eclipse in the Grade I Sword Dancer despite racing rankly early on. Slumber, King Kreesa and Imagining have each shown enough promise to warrant a try moving up to this level and of course defending BC Turf champ Little Mike is on the same prep path he took a year ago.
Let's take a look at the challengers from the rail out:
Nutello – Was eager to go and a bit rank in the Grade I Sword dancer last time out...his first race since arriving from Europe. He was also steadied at the quarter pole in the mile and a half test yet still managed to out-finish nine other rivals. Trainer Graham Motion took him back to Fair Hill where the son of Lemon Drop Kid has breezed forwardly and he figures to improve off the first effort.
Imagining – Part of the Shug McGaughey trained Phipps entry with Boisterous (John Velazquez is named on both so it remains to be seen how the entry will go forward.) The son of Giant's Causeway was the easiest of winners of the 1 3/16ths mile Idle Rich Stakes at Saratoga in his most recent as he lead every step of the way. His rivals here are a lot tougher but if he goes he figures as part of the pace.
Big Blue Kitten – One of the three-headed Ken and Sarah Ramsey owned entry, this recent Sword Dancer winner will be saddled by Chad Brown, as will recent Arlington Million "put up" winner Real Solution: Joe's Blazing Aaron, trained by Michael Maker is the third. The son of Kitten's Joy has won five of seven and has the versatility to lay close to the pace, track mid-pack or rally from far back as he did when he broke dead last in the Sword Dancer. He is two for two over the Belmont grass and regular pilot Joe Bravo is aboard.
Slumber – Another recent European émigré, the Bill Mott trained Irish bred son of Cacique was a good fourth (beaten 1 ½ lengths for it all) when he debuted stateside in the Grade I Hollywood Derby last November. Switched to Mott's barn the horse was given an eight month break and has had his stamina and confidence built with a pair of mile and three-sixteenths allowance tallies at Saratoga. He has breezed sharply and has the consistent successful history in Group races across the pond to indicate he could be worthy of these.
Real Solution – Part two of the Chad Brown contribution to the three part Ramsey owned entry. Another son of Kitten's Joy (the Ramsey's should only hope for this sire to keep pumping forever) the 4-year-old colt has also acclimated well to the states. In three tries he went from 4th in his NA debut in the Grade III Fort Marcy (here at Belmont) to 3rd in the Grade I Manhattan (also at Belmont) to a sharp 2nd in the Grade I Arlington Million before being put up following interference from the original winner. He has had three drills over the grass here since shipping back from Illinois and appears well meant for this engagement.
Twilight Eclipse – Yet another long winded and capable graded stakes success runner, the Tom Albertrani trainee finished second behind Boisterous in the Grade I Man O'War two back and second behind Big Blue Kitten in the Grade I Sword Dancer in his most recent. The 4-year old gelding also has the best BRIS speed number at the distance, which he garnered when winning the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream earlier this year, Good tactical speed keeps him in this one until the final stages.
Boisterous – Part two of the Phipps/McGaughey entry the 6-year old Distorted Humor horse has fallen off a bit since beating Big Blue Kitten in the Grade II Monmouth Handicap in June and beating Twilight Eclipse in the Grade I Man O'War here in July. He was caught 5 wide and finished up the track in the Sword Dancer and then had to settle for the show after getting checked a bit along the rail in the Grade II Bowling green three weeks ago. Another who likes to track 3-4 lengths off the pace in the early going he'll need to rediscover his late kick. If he does, he just deepens the contention level of this race.
Joe's Blazing Aaron – Part three of the Ramsey troika the 5-year old gelding was claimed for 62.5K out of his most recent it wouldn't be a total surprise to see improvement under the care of new trainer Michael Maker. But for purposes of the Joe Hirsch it looks like he'll be using his one dimensional speed to insure a solid pace for the other two Ramsey runners.
King Kreesa – More speed to add to what already figures as a solid pace, the King Cugat gelding always fires and has had the lead at second call in his last five races (2-1-2), 4 of which were graded stakes affairs. Now the Jeremiah Englehart trainee has to prove he can carry that speed an extra half mile as 4 of those last five races were run at one mile. Takes them as far as he goes.
Little Mike – More often than not, gauging a runner that is the defending Breeders' Cup champ who is preparing to defend that title is considerably easier than projecting the performance of this Dale Romans trained gelding, who in four tries since winning the 2012 BC Turf hasn't come close to impacting a race. His inconsistency is well documented as his 28 lengths beaten escapade in this race last year verifies. On his best we know what he can do. On his worst...well we've seen that as well.
(Flat Out Looks For Three Peat In Jockey Gold Cup)
There are a lot of interesting angles in this year's Million Dollar Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational. The mile and a quarter BC Classic qualifier has drawn as divergent a field as a bettor could ask for as last year's and 2011 winner Flat Out looks to win his third straight Gold Cup and better last year's third place finish in the Classic.
Flat Out gives every indication that he is up to the task as he comes off a second place finish in the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga four weeks back in which his bad reaction to the whip probably cost him his head loss to wire-to-wire Woodward upset winner Alpha, who he'll face again on Saturday. Trainer Bill Mott has kept him sharp and his two published half mile breezes, a best of 11 on 9/18 and a 3rd best of 42 on Tuesday signal his readiness. It also helps that he absolutely loves this surface with 5 wins from 6 tries in his career.
The runner that conquered him in the Woodward, Alpha is going to not only prove he can do it again, but with a perfect 4 for 4 win mark at the Spa and a 12-2-2-0 mark everywhere else the 4-year old Bernardini colt still has much to prove. Obviously he would love to erase last year's 44 lengths beaten embarrassment in the BC Classic but given his recent form away from the Spa he has to prove he can do it here.
Another interesting prospect who has come to hand nicely but now has to show he can carry his speed another furlong is Todd Pletcher's Cross Traffic. They lightly raced son of Unbridled's Song is not a mystery. From 6 ½ to 9 furlongs in a 5 race career that has produced 3 wins and a pair of seconds (beaten a nose and a head) the colt has already faced Flat Out twice. The two time Gold Cup winner bested him by a head in the Grade III Westchester in a one turn mile here in April and then finished 3.5 lengths to the good of Flat Out in the Grade I Metropolitan Mile on Memorial Day when they respectively finished second and third behind Sahara Sky. One turn miles at Belmont, however, are more like sprints and even though Cross Traffic did win the two turn Grade I Whitney at Saratoga in his last, he still has to show he can carry his speed against the more experienced route running Flat Out and even veteran grade stakes runner Ron the Greek.
Ron The Greek, who is also trained by Bill Mott has continued without relief for the last few years, always facing the best despite winning just 3 of 13 the last two years. But the son of Full Mandate doesn't embarrass himself in this company and has finished worse than fourth only once over that time frame with a 13-3-3-2 resume and earnings of $1,865,026. He is tough to endorse on the front end but can never be easily left out of the exotics. Jose Lezcano, his regular pilot the last two years with the exception of his last will be back in the saddle.
The Gold Cup also has a pair of interesting older outsiders in Chad Brown's Last Gunfighter and Todd Pletcher's Vitoria Olympica.
Last Gunfighter has won 7 of 8 since joining the Chad Brown juggernaut and has continually moved up the class ladder while doing so. He has never been off the board in 12 career starts (7-3-2) and like a machine breaks within 1-4 lengths of the pace at first call (in all 8 races under Brown' tutelage) and always comes calling, including a good rallying second behind Flat Out in the 9 furlong Grade II Suburban Handicap here in early July. He runs as though he'll appreciate the extra furlong and at 10-1 on the morning line shapes up as a terrific longshot play.
Vitoria Olympica is even a bigger play at 20-1, and although he has yet to face graded stakes company in her two race career in the states since arriving from Brazil, his win in the $100K Alydar Stakes at Saratoga in his most recent was impressive enough to warrant a look. He was caught 3 wide on both turns in the mile and an eighth adventure and doggedly dug in to get the victory. He is definitely stepping up, but anything Pletcher makes this kind of move with needs to be looked at.
Last but not least...especially in recognition are Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy winner Palace Malice. This will be the first test vs older horse for each and though their recent BRIS speed numbers are representative it is worth noting that each will have to prove that they are better than many of the slowest major three-year old stakes race times in 10-12 years turned in by the 2013 sophomore class.
Any Triple Crown winner has to be respected but the questions they must each answer besides the maiden try vs their elders is whether they have already peaked and are going in the other direction.
Orb has not won since his Kentucky Derby triumph and he had every opportunity when the rail opened up in the Travers but flattened out when the real late running began. Shug McGaughey took him back to Fair Hill and has kept him busy but he is wading into deep waters in here.
Ditto for Palace Malice, who regrouped tremendously to crush the Belmont Stakes field after his pop and fade disaster in the Kentucky Derby. The Todd Pletcher trained colt followed the Travers with another sharp effort in winning the Grade II Jim Dandy before stumbling at the start, dropping back to last of 9 in the Travers and running out of real estate during his 5 wide rally in the late going. He has shown more of late than Orb and has turned in a trio of useful drills since the Travers but this is a tough task for a young runner that has gone deep into the well three straight times. He'll have to step forward yet again to beat his elders.
In Conclusion, I was probably a bit premature when I said that the Joe Hirsch was the most deeply competitive Breeders' Cup qualifier on the card. The Jockey Gold Cup shapes up pretty competitive in its own right. And once again this 6 Race Win & You're In Card is a bettor's bonanza.
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