As racing resumed at picturesque Keeneland Race Course, more Breeders’ Cup prep races were added to those being contested at Belmont and Santa Anita Park. Here are some thoughts and conclusions that I took away from last weekend’s coast-to-coast action.
Amazombie sprung a mild upset when beating The Factor in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes. Bet down to 2/5, The Factor was making his first start in 6 weeks while being stuck on the rail in a speed dual, in which the opening ¼ mile was run in 21.27 seconds and the ½ mile in 43.80 seconds. When the field reached the top of the stretch, The Factor was anything but as the closers passed the tired front runner. In fact, the pace was so quick that the first 3 runners to the ½ mile pole captured the final 3 places at the wire. Though The Factor ran 4th, my confidence is not wavering. I believe The Factor needed the race, and he should now be set to deliver a top performance in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
In Saturday’s Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile, Jeranimo held off Mr. Commons by a diminishing ¾ length to stamp his ticket to Louisville. While the top 2 finishers should be in the starting gate against Goldikova, both will hard pressed to dethrone the 3 time Breeders’ Cup Mile champ. I prefer Mr. Commons of the duo to spring the upset in Louisville. In the Oak Tree Mile, Jeranimo sat in 2nd place most of the race behind front runner, Monterey Jazz, and pounced on that one when called upon at upper stretch. Meanwhile, Mr. Commons, an improving 3-year-old, was wide most of the way, raced 4 wide on the final turn, and would have bested Jeranimo, but just ran out of real estate.
Last Monday, Secret Circle had a perfect trip when capturing the listed Jack Goodman Stakes. He sat 3rd behind a torrid speed dual, took control at the top of the stretch and pulled away from the rest of the field in a professional matter. Trainer Bob Baffert has been on the fence as whether to run Secret Circle in the Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles or the new Juvenile Sprint at 6 furlongs. He appears to be bred for route races being out of Eddington, but lacks 2 turn experience, so it may be rushing him by going to the Juvenile at this time. I would run in the Juvenile Sprint and point toward Hollywood Futurity at the end of the year.
California Flag appears ready to make his 4th straight start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after winning the Grade 3 Morvich Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course. Churchill Downs has not been kind to California Flag though, and this year will be no different. He is a Santa Anita turf specialist, who seems to have lost a step, and with the Turf Sprint being 5 furlongs, California Flag will find himself in the back of the pack early and not near the front, where he is a accustomed to running when competing in the Golden State.
In my opinion, there is not much to say about the Polytrack prep races run at Keeneland. All main track stakes winners were primarily turf runners prior to last weekend. They include Hoofit (Gd. 3 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix), Stephanie’s Kitten (Gd. 1 Alcibiades), Holiday for Kitten (Gd. 2 Thoroughbred Club of America), Dullahan (Gd. 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity) and Aruna (Gd. 1 Spinster). If the winners of those races decide to contest any of the Breeders’ Cup dirt races, they will be automatic throw outs. All 3 winners of the turf prep stakes, Gio Ponti (Gd. 1 Shadwell Turf Mile), Havelock (Gd. 3 Woodford) and Animal Spirits (Gd. 3 Bourbon) should be considered contenders in their respective Breeders’ Cup races.
Union Rags and My Miss Aurelia stamped themselves as the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies when winning the Grade 1 Champagne and Frizette Stakes respectively. With a trip riddled with traffic trouble, Union Rags surged through the pack easily dusting his competition by 5 ¼ lengths. The highly regarded, Alpha, plodded up for second but was no match for the winner, and shouldn’t be anytime soon.
My Miss Aurelia was equally impressive, but took a different path to the winners circle. A front runner, My Miss Aurelia blazed her first 6 furlongs of the 1 mile stakes in 1:10.38, and still had enough reserve to run her final quarter mile in 24.84 seconds. Her main competition in the Breeders’ Cup will be Frizette runner up, Stopshoppingmaria. Bumped at the start, Stopshoppingmaria rallied nicely to soundly defeat the rest of the field. Third place finisher, Miss Netta, is another horse to keep an eye on. Making her second career start, Miss Netta had a horrendous start spotting the winner 17 ½ lengths after the first ¼ mile. She rallied stoutly to finish 9 lengths behind My Miss Aurelia, but only 3 ½ behind Stopshoppingmaria.
Please be sure to follow me on Twitter-@Cappercorner and/or friend me on facebook.com to continue the horse racing conversation!