About a week from now, I will be making my very first trip to Louisville to make my very first visit to Churchill Downs to see my very first Breeders’ Cup! Joining me on this pilgrimage are equine champions that in some way have a connection to the Windy City. Whether they are based in Chicago, have raced in Chicago, or were bred in Illinois, I will, in this very blog, preview some of the potential Breeders’ Cup contenders that have a connection to racing in Chicago. Let’s take an exclusive Chicago Dark Horse inside look at day 2 of the Breeders’ Cup.
A.U. Miner (24-4-2-4 / Marathon) - This six-year-old horse is no stranger to Chicago and the speed that the tracks offer. His best ever Beyer of 104 was achieved in October of 2010 at the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup finishing a very good third missing by just one length behind Redding Colliery and Chicago favorite Giant Oak. This horse also seems to like going the distance and should enjoy another long race at Churchill.
Cease (6-2-1-2 / Marathon) - If there’s a muddy or sloppy track on day two of the Breeders’ Cup, my money will be on this horse without a doubt. Cease recently finished third in this year’s Hawthorne Gold Cup on his first ever try on a fast dirt track. He even held the lead in the race for a while and posted an impressive 98 Beyer. He seems bred for distance and it will be interesting to see how he does at a lengthy 1 ¾ miles.
Giant Oak (30-5-5-5 / Marathon) - And speaking of Giant Oak, this Chicago favorite represents Illinois very well in and out of our circuit. He has been training well at Hawthorne for the Breeders’ Cup, posting a recent 5F work of 1:01.3 breezing. He has participated in some of the best racing Illinois has to offer in races such as the Hawthorne Gold Cup, the Washington Park Handicap, the Arlington Handicap, the Arlington Classic, the American Derby, the Illinois Derby, and the Secretariat Stakes. Yes, all of those! I’m pulling for Giant Oak to have a great run next weekend!
Coalport (2-1-1-0 / Juvenile Turf) - This Illinois-bred son of Kitten’s Joy has sure been impressive in his only two starts of his brief career. On September 23rd he won his maiden race in convincing fashion at Arlington Park and then stepped up to Grade 3 company at Keeneland finishing a strong second in the Bourbon. The breeding seems right for Coalport to fit in this spot.
Tequila Factor (6-3-1-0 / Juvenile Turf) - Chicago-based Ingrid Mason discovered earlier this year that her horse, Tequila Factor, must really like the turf. After breaking his maiden at Arlington, he has two more victories, both of them on the turf. He has been preparing for the big Breeders’ Cup race recently at Hawthorne and if he can get a good stalking trip, he could hit the board this weekend.
Caleb’s Posse (15-7-2-2 / Sprint or Dirt Mile) - This horse, who got his start at Arlington Park last season, has really come into his own as a three-year-old. He won his second start on the Arlington Polytrack and has done nothing but improve from there. Some of his more recent wins have been quite impressive. He defeated Uncle Mo in the Kings Bishop on August 27th and won the Amsterdam in decisive fashion before that. I think the Dirt Mile would suit him better for the Breeders’ Cup and I am looking forward to a stellar performance.
Chamberlain Bridge (36-17-4-8 / Turf Sprint) - This seven-year-old turf warrior returns to the Breeders’ Cup to defend his title in the Turf Sprint. He has had limited action in 2011 but he just might be rounding into form in time to win again. This horse has run in Chicago twice, both times at Arlington Park and both times in the Arlington Sprint Handicap. He won last year’s race by an impressive 4 ½ lengths and finished second in the 2009 version in a narrow defeat to Yankee Injunuity. He has a very good record on Churchill’s turf course (6-4-1-1) and I have a feeling he will at least hit the board in this race.
Country Day (16-6-2-2 / Turf Sprint) - I wanted to briefly highlight this horse as a possible contender in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Country Day narrowly missed against Havelock by a neck in the Arlington Sprint Handicap back on July 16th. This will only be his 4th race of 2011 and he seems to be rounding into form at the right time.
Havelock (14-6-0-2 / Turf Sprint) - Here’s a champion turf sprinter who has had quite a bit of success in Chicago. He has a perfect record on Arlington’s turf course (2-2-0-0) and a third place finish on the Polytrack. His two victories at Arlington were in an allowance race in 2010 and a victory in the Arlington Sprint Handicap this year at 6-1! If you take out the races on Polytrack, this horse has won four races in a row, all on the turf. That recent form shows that he is ready for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Take Charge Indy (3-1-1-0 / Juvenile) - This horse began his career at Arlington Park this season by dominating his first race by 6 lengths on the Polytrack. In his next race he tried stretching out two more furlongs in the Arlington-Washington Futurity and finished second to Shared Property. In his last start he tried running against Grade 1 company at Keeneland and finished fourth with the blinkers on for the first time. Coming off of a bullet work at Churchill in the mud on October 21st, this horse could surprise in this race.
Rule (15-5-2-5 / Dirt Mile) - Todd Pletcher recently shipped Rule into Hawthorne to try to take the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Rule may have finished 7th that day but don’t be fooled. Not only was the Gold Cup field a very good one but Rule’s better races are at the one mile distance. He fits very well here in the Dirt Mile.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
Dean’s Kitten (23-4-4-4 / Breeders’ Cup Turf) - Many of this horse’s recent starts over the last year or so have been on Chicago’s racing strips. While Dean’s Kitten’s first few starts in Chicago may not have been remarkable (in the American Derby, Secretariat Stakes, and Hawthorne Derby), his starts in the Arlington Handicap and Arlington Million were much better. He finished third in both of those graded stakes races at Arlington over this last summer and recently just missed against Million winner Cape Blanco at Belmont.
Winchester (24-6-6-2 / Breeders’ Cup Turf) - Six-year-old Winchester is no stranger to Arlington’s race track either. Going back to 2008, Winchester actually won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes by a huge 7 ¼ lengths. He returned to Chicago this summer to finish second in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes beaten two lengths as the favorite. He returned three weeks after that race to win the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. **NOTE since this writing I believe Winchester has been scratched from competition**
Breeders’ Cup Mile
Gio Ponti (28-12-10-1 / Mile or Classic) - Here he is, one of my favorite horses of all time. I think Gio Ponti is a champion through and through. The horse does nothing but finish in the money and has only finished out of the money three times since December of 2008!! I’m really glad he’s entered in the Mile for the Breeders’ Cup since this really seems to be his best distance. That showed in his most recent start; a victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. However, this year’s challenges will be difficult as he will have to contend with Goldikova yet again. So what’s Gio Ponti’s connection to Chicago? Well he has raced in the Arlington Million three times with a victory in 2009 and two second place finishes in 2010 and 2011. I had the privilege to see him up close and personal in the most recent Million and believe me, many photos and videos were taken!
Headache (26-8-5-5 / Classic) - Here’s a horse with incredible recent form, and will be my long shot choice in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I got to see Headache in person at the Hawthorne Gold Cup and was extremely impressed by his victory as he absolutely took over in the final part of that race. He stays at the classic 1 ¼ mile distance and if he can keep his recent form up to par, he should contend and hopefully win.
Who are your choices in the Breeders' Cup races??
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