As the 2020 Breeders’ Cup approaches, “Win and You’re In” berths are up for grabs ahead of the Nov. 6-7 championships at Keeneland. This weekly series from Horse Racing Nation highlights upcoming Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races, recaps recent stakes and shows how the fields for each division are shaping up.
Upcoming Challenge Series races
Woodbine Mile, Woodbine, Saturday, Mile
War of Will, a Grade 1 hero on both dirt and turf, carries the high weight of 126 pounds Saturday in the $1 million Woodbine Mile (G1).
The 4-year-old, who won last year’s Preakness Stakes, enters off a last-out victory July 10 at Keeneland in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1). Trainer Mark Casse has arranged a grass-based campaign this year for War of Will, who failed to replicate his Preakness effort when running ninth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Casse has three of the eight runners entered in the Woodbine Mile, with stablemates March to the Arch and Olympic Runner set to battle War of Will. Two intriguing Canadian entries are 7-year-old Starship Jubilee, the Sovereign Award 2019 Horse of the Year, and 3-year-old Shirl’s Speight, who was under Kentucky Derby consideration until developing a cough before shipping to Churchill Downs.
Natalma Stakes, Woodbine, Sunday, Juvenile Fillies Turf
Alda, winner of the local Catch a Glimpse Stakes on Aug. 23, now aims for a top-level win and Breeders’ Cup berth Sunday in the $250,000 Natalma Stakes (G1) going a mile over the Woodbine lawn.
Graham Motion trains Alda, who broke her maiden July 9 on second asking at Belmont Park. The Munnings filly will attempt to become the first North American runner to clinch a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, an event Motion took in 2019 with Sharing.
Trainer James Toner, who saddled Seasons to a debut win Aug. 9 at Saratoga, has that Tapit filly entered for the Natalma. Two Woodbine first-out winners, Big Big Plans and Lady Speightspeare, strive to stay unbeaten while moving up in class.
Summer Stakes, Woodbine, Sunday, Juvenile Turf
One day after saddling a live trio for the Woodbine Mile, Casse sends out a pair of 2-year-olds Sunday in the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G1) going a mile on the turf.
Ontario-bred Gretzky the Great became the first stakes winner for 2016 Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist on Aug. 23 when taking Woodbine’s Soaring Free. Fellow Casse trainee Dolder Grand, son of Candy Ride, was third on debut Aug. 23 at Woodbine.
Trainer Bill Mott has American Pharoah colt American Monarch, a debut winner Aug. 8 at Saratoga, making a stakes debut in the Summer. Into Mischief colt Secret Potion, second to American Monarch in that race at the Spa, is entered for trainer Chad Brown.
Recent Challenge Series races
Irish Champion Stakes, Leopardstown (Turf)
Magical, runner-up to Ghaiyyath on Aug. 19 in the International Stakes (G1), turned the tables on that one Saturday when earning a seventh career Group 1 triumph in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien trains Magical, who beat Ghaiyyath by ¾ of a length under jockey Seamie Heffernan. The 5-year-old mare won the Leopardstown event for a second straight year.
“That will suit her really well,” O’Brien said of the Breeders’ Cup. “We are learning about her all the time. She eyeballed the colt (Ghaiyyath) all the way. She’s a great filly. I’m over the moon. All credit must go to the lads for keeping her in training this season.”
Matron Stakes, Leopardstown (Filly and Mare Turf)
Champers Elysees earned conditioner Johnny Murtagh his first Group 1 victory Saturday when taking the Matron Stakes.
The Elzaam filly is undefeated in four 2020 starts. While the Matron was a Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf qualifier, Murtagh said the 3-year-old may instead run in the Mile.
“The mile in America would suit her down to the ground,” said Murtagh, who won three Breeders’ Cup races as a jockey. “She’s quick and she’s got a great turn of foot. She’s made for it round there.”
Champions Juvenile Stakes, Leopardstown (Juvenile Turf)
Cadillac dominated the Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2) to earn the Juvenile Turf division’s first 2020 “Win and You’re In” berth.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, Cadillac rolled to a 3½-length victory Saturday under jockey Shane Foley.
“He's a horse that just goes through the motions at home, you don't really know how big an engine is in there but it's fairly big,” Harrington said. “I'd say all being well his next start will probably be in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.”
Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2)
1610m, 125.000 EUR, for 2yo
(2C Lope De Vega - Seas Of Wells by Dansili)
J :Shane Foley
T : @Jessica_Racing
O :Alpha Racing 2020
B :Sunderland Holdings Incpic.twitter.com/RtKIiBNI9C— ???? (@WorldRacing1) September 12, 2020
Turf Sprint, Kentucky Downs (Turf Sprint)
Imprimis, beaten favorite in the 2019 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3), found the winner’s circle Saturday when taking the 2020 running of the six-furlong event.
Under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Imprimis was shuffled back nearing the lane. The 6-year-old found running room three-wide and rallied to prevail by a neck over Front Run the Fed as a 3-1 favorite.
“We were very happy with him coming here,” trainer Joe Orseno said. I expected this effort. But this was a tough race. There were some quality horses in there. I mean, the Breeders’ Cup won’t be any tougher. We’re very happy where we have him right now.”
Imprimis raced in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last November, running sixth at Santa Anita.
Flying Five Stakes, Curragh (Turf Sprint)
After running behind Battaash twice earlier this summer, Glass Slippers took advantage of that star’s absence Sunday to win the Flying Five Stakes (G1).
Kevin Ryan trains Glass Slippers, who became a two-time Group 1 winner with the victory. She picked up the lead inside the final furlong to take the five-furlong event.
Ryan said Glass Slippers will run next month in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1), a race she won in 2019.
Moyglare Stud Stakes, Curragh (Juvenile Fillies Turf)
In the third meeting between Pretty Gorgeous and Shale, the latter came out on top to earn a Group 1 breakthrough in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Trained by Donnacha O’Brien, Shale defeated Pretty Gorgeous in a Group 3 event earlier this summer before running behind that rival in a Group 2 clash. Shale now holds a 2-to-1 edge and a Breeders’ Cup berth.
Three members of the O’Brien family – father Aidan and sons Donnacha and Joseph – earned Group 1 victories Sunday in Europe.
Challenge Series race winners
Authentic, Haskell Stakes, Monmouth Park, July 18
Authentic’s win in the Haskell (G1) made him the first runner from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert — a 15-time Breeders’ Cup winner — to clinch a berth in the 2020 Championships. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt then scored an even bigger victory Sept. 5 when taking the 2020 Kentucky Derby in front-running fashion. Now 5-for-6 in his career, Authentic is at Churchill Downs training for Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3. The 3-year-old is No. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings.
Ghaiyyath, International Stakes, York, Aug. 19
Ghaiyyath made it 3-for-3 during his 5-year-old season when leading at every call of the International (G1). The Irish-bred son of Dubawi then took his first loss Saturday when second to Magical in the Irish Champions Stakes (G1). Trainer Charlie Appleby said the Breeders’ Cup Turf would be Ghaiyyath’s most likely race if he traveled this fall to Keeneland.
Improbable, Whitney, Saratoga, Aug. 1
Improbable shipped East from Baffert’s California base for the Whitney (G1) and proved best in a field of five millionaires. The Kentucky-bred son of City Zip has now posted back-to-back top-flight wins, also taking the Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes (G1) on June 6 at Santa Anita. Improbable, No. 4 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings, worked a bullet five furlongs Monday at Santa Anita.
Maximum Security, Pacific Classic, Del Mar, Aug. 22
Maximum Security became the third Baffert trainee to clinch a Breeders’ Cup Classic berth when going gate-to-wire in the Pacific Classic (G1). The 4-year-old New Year’s Day colt has won six straight races, a streak that began last July in the Haskell (G1), and has 10 official wins in 12 starts. The Kentucky-bred sits at No. 1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings and is working at Santa Anita.
Mozu Ascot, February Stakes, Tokyo Racecourse, Feb. 23
A Kentucky-bred son of Frankel, 6-year-old Mozu Ascot is a two-time Group 1 winner in Japan, including his February victory. The Yoshito Yahagi trainee last finished sixth May 5 at Funabashi in the Kashiwa Kinen.
Tom’s d’Etat, Stephen Foster, Churchill Downs, June 27
7-year-old Tom’s d’Etat was a dominant winner of the Stephen Foster (G2) for trainer Al Stall Jr. but saw a four-race winning streak snapped Aug. 1 in the Whitney (G1). The Kentucky-bred Smart Strike horse went off favored at Saratoga but stumbled at the start and finished third to Improbable and By My Standards. Tom’s d’Etat is No. 2 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings and returned to the work tab Monday at Churchill.
C Z Rocket, Pat O’Brien Stakes, Del Mar, Aug. 29
Former claimer C Z Rocket improved to 4-for-4 under trainer Peter Miller when winning the Pat O’Brien (G2). The Florida-bred 6-year-old previously ran for Stall. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is also an option for the City Zip gelding, who is working at Del Mar.
Vekoma, Metropolitan Handicap, Belmont Park, July 4
One race after stamping a Breeders’ Cup Sprint “Win and You’re In” ticket by taking Belmont’s Carter Handicap (G1), Vekoma won the Met Mile (G1) to also earn a Dirt Mile berth. Trainer George Weaver and owners will have to choose which way to go with the 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt. Vekoma is working at Saratoga.
Fighting Mad, Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, Del Mar, Aug. 1
Fighting Mad entered her 4-year-old season with only five starts to her name but has become the West Coast’s hottest distaffer. After winning the Santa Maria Stakes (G2) on May 31 at Santa Anita, she backed up 9-5 favoritism in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1). The Kentucky-bred filly shares the same trainer (Baffert), owners/breeders (Gary and Mary West) and sire (New Year’s Day) as Maximum Security. She worked a bullet five furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita.
Midnight Bisou, Fleur de Lis, Churchill Downs, June 27
Midnight Bisou looked like her dominant self in the Fleur de Lis (G2), but then took an unexpected loss to Vexatious on Aug. 1 at Saratoga in the Personal Ensign (G1). Steve Asmussen trains the 5-year-old Midnight Lute mare, who was named Eclipse Award 2019 Champion Older Dirt Female. The Kentucky-bred has run twice in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, finishing third in 2018 and second in 2019. Midnight Bisou is working at Saratoga.
She’s a Julie, Ogden Phipps Stakes, Belmont Park, June 13
Asmussen trainee She’s a Julie became a two-time Grade 1 winner with her Ogden Phipps victory. The 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality mare has followed that victory with two off-the-board finishes, including Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs in the La Troienne Stakes (G1).
Swiss Skydiver, Alabama, Saratoga, Aug. 15
Swiss Skydiver became the first 3-year-old to clinch a Breeders’ Cup Distaff berth with her Alabama (G1) triumph. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Daredevil has tallied four graded stakes victories this year for trainer Kenny McPeek, all of them coming at different tracks. She ran second to Shedaresthedevil on Sept. 4 at Churchill in the Kentucky Oaks. Swiss Skydiver is under consideration for the Preakness.
Vexatious, Personal Ensign, Saratoga, Aug. 1
Never one to duck a challenge, Vexatious has made 15 of her 24 career starts in graded stakes. The 6-year-old Jack Sisterson trainee broke through with her biggest win Aug. 1 when beating Midnight Bisou to the wire in the Personal Ensign (G1). The Giant’s Causeway mare posted a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in that victory, the best number a female runner has tallied this season in a main track race going more than a mile. She finished a disappointing fifth in the La Troienne.
Filly and Mare Sprint
Serengeti Empress, Ballerina Stakes, Saratoga, Aug. 8
Tom Amoss trainee Serengeti Empress set blazing fractions, then dug in gamely to win the Ballerina (G1). The Kentucky-bred, 4-year-old Alternation filly is now a Grade 1 winner at both one and two turns, having also won the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. She put forth another valiant effort Sept. 5 at Churchill in the Derby City Distaff (G1) but lost a head bob to Bell’s the One.
Filly and Mare Turf
Almond Eye, Victoria Mile, Tokyo Racecourse, May 17
Sakae Kunieda trains the Japanese-bred Almond Eye, a 5-year-old Lord Kanaloa mare. A Group 1 winner in both Japan and the United Arab Emirates, she was second last out at Tokyo on June 7 in the Yasuda Kinen (G1).
Champers Elysees, Matron Stakes, Leopardstown, Sept. 12
Champers Elysees earned Murtagh – a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner as a jockey – a trip to the 2020 Championships as a trainer when taking the Matron Stakes (G1). The 3-year-old Elzaam filly is undefeated in four starts this season. Bred in Ireland, Champers Elysees could run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than the Filly and Mare Turf.
Love, Yorkshire Oaks, York, Aug. 20
Aidan O’Brien trainee Love scored her third consecutive Group 1 win in the Yorkshire Oaks. The Irish-bred, 3-year-old Galileo filly is targeting the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (G1) on Oct. 4 at ParisLongchamp.
Queen Supreme, Cartier Paddock Stakes, Kenilworth, Jan. 11
Irish-bred Queen Supreme is a 4-year-old Exceed and Excel filly trained by Mike de Kock, who American racing fans will remember as conditioner of 2015 Kentucky Derby contender Mubtaahij.
Sittin On Go, Iroquois Stakes, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5
Sittin On Go became the first 2-year-old to clinch a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile berth when upsetting the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at 24-1 odds for trainer Romans. The Kentucky-bred son of Brody’s Cause is 2-for-2, having also won on debut Aug. 16 at Ellis Park.
Girl Daddy, Pocahontas Stakes, Churchill Downs, Sept. 3
Uncle Mo filly Girl Daddy clinched the first Juvenile Fillies division “Win and You’re In” berth when taking the Pocahontas Stakes (G3). Romans trains the Kentucky-bred 2-year-old, who is unbeaten in two starts.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Shale, Moyglare Stud Stakes, Curragh, Sept. 13
In his first year as a trainer, Donnacha O’Brien has earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup thanks to Shale’s victory in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1). The Irish-bred 2-year-old is a Galileo filly.
Cadillac, Champions Juvenile Stakes, Leopardstown, Sept. 12
The first Juvenile Turf berth of 2020 went to Irish-bred 2-year-old Cadillac, who dominated the Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2). Jessica Harrington trains the son of Lope De Vega and said a Breeders’ Cup start is likely.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Campanelle, Prix Morny, Deauville, Aug. 23
The Irish-bred Campanelle improved to 3-for-3 so far in her career when taking the Prix Morny (G1) for trainer Wesley Ward. The 2-year-old Kodiac filly also won the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot. She’s training in France and could work straight up to a start in the Breeders’ Cup, likely in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The Lir Jet, Norfolk Stakes, Ascot, June 19
The Lir Jet improved to 2-for-2 when winning the Norfolk Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot. Since that victory, the 2-year-old has run second in a pair of stakes, including the Phoenix (G1) on Aug. 9 at Curragh. Michael Bell trains the Irish-bred Prince of Lir colt.
Circus Maximus, Queen Anne Stakes, Ascot, June 16
Circus Maximus, a Galileo colt, won his 4-year-old bow in the Queen Anne (G1), marking the second Royal Ascot victory of his career. He has followed that victory up with by finishing second, third and third in a trio of Group 1 events. The Irish-bred Aidan O’Brien trainee ran fourth last November in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Gran Alegria, Yasuda Kinen, Tokyo Racecourse, June 7
Kazuo Fujisawa trains the 4-year-old filly Gran Alegria, a daughter of Deep Impact. The Yasuda Kinen marked a second Group 1 triumph in her native Japan.
Halladay, Fourstardave Handicap, Saratoga, Aug. 22
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s first “Win and You’re In” berth came courtesy of Halladay, who earned a Grade 1 breakthrough in the Fourstardave. The 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of War Front has won three of his last four races. Halladay is working at Saratoga. He could target the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) on Oct. 3 at Keeneland, the same track hosting the Breeders’ Cup a month later.
Mohaather, Sussex Stakes, Goodwood, July 29
Four-year-old Mohaather unleashed a thrilling rally to take the Sussex Stakes (G1), a second straight triumph in group company. Marcus Tregoning trains the Great British-bred Showcasing colt.
Palace Pier, Prix Jacques le Marois, Deauville, Aug. 16
Kingman colt Palace Pier improved to 5-for-5 in his career when defeating Circus Maximus and others in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1). John Gosden trains the Great British-bred 3-year-old, who also won the St. James’s Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Raging Bull, Shoemaker Mile Stakes, Santa Anita Park, May 25
The French-bred Raging Bull secured the first “Win and You’re In” berth of the U.S. racing season with his Shoemaker Mile (G1) score. Brown trains the 5-year-old Dark Angel gelding. Raging Bull was most recently fifth Aug. 22 in the Fourstardave at Saratoga and is working at Belmont Park.
Vardy, L'Ormarins Queen's Plate, Kenilworth, Jan. 11
Vardy is a 5-year-old Var gelding bred in South Africa. Adam Marcus serves as trainer.
Collusion Illusion, Bing Crosby Stakes, Del Mar, Aug. 2
Trainer Mark Glatt chose to keep the Twirling Candy colt Collusion Illusion on the West Coast facing older in the Bing Crosby (G1) rather than traveling East to run against fellow 3-year-olds in Saratoga’s H. Allen Jerkens (G1). That proved the right move, with the Florida-bred winning and improving to 5-for-6 lifetime. He is working at Del Mar and could target the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) on Sept. 27.
Vekoma, Carter Handicap, Belmont Park, June 6
Weaver trainee Vekoma made his Grade 1 breakthrough with a 7 1/4-length Carter victory. The 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt also won a “Win and You’re In” race for the Dirt Mile division July 4 when taking Belmont’s Metropolitan Handicap. Vekoma is working at Saratoga.
Channel Maker, Sword Dancer, Saratoga, Aug. 29
Channel Maker, a 6-year-old son of English Channel, wired the Sword Dancer (G1) to snap a 10-race winless streak. The Ontario-bred has now won Grade 1 events on the NYRA circuit in each of the last three seasons. Mott said the $250,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) on Oct. 3 at Belmont Park will likely serve as Channel Maker’s Breeders’ Cup prep. The gelding was 11th and 12th, respectively, in the 2018 and ’19 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He is working at Saratoga.
Chrono Genesis, Takarazuka Kinen, Hanshin Racecourse, June 28
4-year-old Bago filly Chrono Genesis scored her second Group 1 victory in the Takarazuka Kinen. Takashi Saito trains the Japanese-bred runner.
Enable, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Ascot, July 25
Enable scored the first win of her 6-year-old campaign when taking the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) for a remarkable third time. She was first again Sept. 5 at Kempton Park in the September Stakes (G3), a tune-up for the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. The Great British-bred daughter of Nathaniel has now earned more than $14 million running for trainer Gosden. The 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf champ didn’t attempt to defend her title last year.
Lord North, Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Ascot, June 17
Irish-bred 4-year-old Lord North won Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes in his Group 1 debut. Gosden trains the Dubawi gelding, who was third Aug. 19 at York in the International Stakes (G1).
Magical, Irish Champion Stakes, Leopardstown, Sept. 12
Aidan O’Brien saddled 5-year-old Magical to a seventh career Group 1 triumph in the Irish Champion Stakes. The Irish-bred Galileo mare has one U.S. start over her 25 career races, running second to Enable in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf. O’Brien said Magical is likely to travel across the Atlantic for this November’s championships.
Nao Da Mais, Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini, San Isidro Racecourse, Dec. 14
Nao Da Mais is a four-time Group 1 winner in his native Brazil. The 4-year-old T.H. Approval colt last raced March 14 at San Isidro in the Gran Premio Latinoamericano (G1), finishing seventh. Marina Bragante Lopez is the trainer.
Red King, Del Mar Handicap, Del Mar, Aug. 22
Phil D’Amato trainee Red King became a multiple graded stakes winner when upsetting 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up United to win the Del Mar Handicap (G2). The 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of English Channel also won the San Juan Capistrano Stakes (G3) earlier this summer at Santa Anita. He is working at Del Mar.
Battaash, Nunthorpe Stakes, York, Aug. 21
Six-year-old gelding Battaash defended his 2019 Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) score by taking the race’s 2020 running. Charlie Hills trains the Irish-bred son of Dark Angel, who has won five of his last six starts dating to last August.
Glass Slippers, Flying Five Stakes, Curragh, Sept. 13
Glass Slippers earned a Breeders’ Cup berth when taking the Flying Five Stakes (G1) for trainer Ryan. The 4-year-old, Great British-bred filly is a daughter of Dream Ahead.
Hello Youmzain, Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Ascot, June 20
Ryan also trains Hello Youmzain, a 4-year-old son of Kodiac. The French-bred colt has run three times since his Diamond Jubilee (G1) score. Hello Youmzain most recently finished fifth at Haydock Park in the Betfair Sprint Cup (G1).
Imprimis, Turf Sprint, Kentucky Downs, Sept. 12
Imprimis, who was disqualified from a win at Saratoga on Aug. 8 in the Troy Stakes (G3), got to keep his first-place laurels when coming home first in the Turf Sprint (G3) at Kentucky Downs. Joe Orseno trains the 6-year-old Broken Vow gelding. The Florida-bred Imprimis was sixth last year in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Oleksandra, Jaipur, Belmont Park, June 20
Six-year-old Animal Kingdom mare Oleksandra edged Kanthaka by a neck in the Jaipur (G1), marking her first top-level victory. Neil Drysdale trains the Australian-bred runner, who has raced in the U.S. since 2018. Oleksandra does not show any recent works.