First Look: Breeders' Cup qualifiers lead 17 graded stakes

First Look: Breeders' Cup qualifiers lead 17 graded stakes
Photo: NYRA

Life Is Good returns from his Grade 1 Whitney win to try the Woodward (G1) at Aqueduct on Saturday, and Country Grammer could sew up a Breeders' Cup bid with a win in Saturday's Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita.

It's a calendar packed with 17 graded stakes, mostly at those New York and California tracks but with a couple “win and you’re ins” at Churchill Downs as well.

Here's an early look at the likely fields.


Woodward (G1), Aqueduct, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up

Life Is Good is the star of this show, coming off his win in the Whitney last out and a winner of eight of 10 career starts. Law Professor’s win in the listed Tapit Stakes at Kentucky Downs was his first start after a five-month break. Twilight Blue came back in February after 11 months off and has compiled a 5: 3-2-0 record for the year. Informative got his first win of the year last out in the Philip Iselin (G3). Thomas Shelby has no graded wins and most recently won an allowance optional claiming race at Monmouth Park.

2022 Woodward (G1)

Champagne (G1), Aqueduct, 1 mile, 2-year-olds

Forte, Gulfport and Blazing Sevens would meet again here after finishing 1-2-3 in the Hopeful (G1) last out. Forte rallied to win by three lengths, with Blazing Sevens nine lengths behind Gulfport. Andiamo a Firenze won the Funny Cide at Saratoga by 5 1/2 lengths last out after finishing third in the Sanford (G3). This is a “win and you’re in” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

2022 Champagne (G1)

Miss Grillo (G2), Aqueduct, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 2-year-old fillies

Pleasant Passage won her debut at Saratoga by a neck at 15-1 odds. Im Just Kiddin broke her maiden on her second try, as did Essaouira and Georgees. Lady Jasmine went from winning her debut to the P.G. Johnson Stakes, where she finished seventh. This is a “win and you’re in” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

2022 Miss Grillo (G2)

Belmont Turf Sprint (G3), Aqueduct, 6 furlongs (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Thin White Duke won the Lucky Coin by a nose over Dancing Buck after finishing third in the Troy (G3) by a head and a neck. Cazadero returned from a seven-month layoff to finish third in a Saratoga allowance optional claiming race in August. Voodoo Zip tries his second graded stakes after finishing fourth in the Lucky Coin and before that, he was fifth in the Highlander (G2).

2022 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational (G3)

Lukas Classic (G2), Churchill Downs, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up

This is shaping up as a race for redemption. Happy Saver has finished second in his last five starts, including a two-length loss to Life Is Good last out in the Whitney (G1). Hot Rod Charlie, also expected here, was a head back in third. His last win came in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan in February. Rich Strike steps into Grade 2 company after the Kentucky Derby winner finished sixth in the Belmont Stakes and fourth in the Travers (G1). Dynamic One won the Blame and Suburban (G2) but was sixth last out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). And Last Samurai hasn’t won in three starts since his Oaklawn Handicap (G2) victory.

2022 Lukas Classic Stakes (G2)

Ack Ack (G3), Churchill Downs, 1 mile, 3-year-olds and up

After starting the year with three graded-stakes wins, including the Carter (G1), Speaker’s Corner is 0-for-3, including a fourth-place finish last out in the Pat O’Brien (G2). Three Technique won at this track and distance but then finished fourth and second, again at Churchill at a mile. Señor Buscador was third in the Pat O’Brien, and his only win in four starts this year came in an allowance at Lone Star. This is a “win and you’re in” for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

2022 Ack Ack (G3)

Awesome Again (G1), Santa Anita, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up

Country Grammer is coming off a 19 1/4-length loss to Flightline in the Pacific Classic (G1), but trainer Bob Baffert – who has won the Awesome Again seven times – said he ran well and didn’t like the Del Mar track. Royal Ship was third in the Pacific Classic but beat Country Grammer by 2 1/4 lengths in their previous race, the San Diego Handicap (G2). Slow Down Andy has wins in the Del Mar Derby (G2) last out and the Sunland Park Derby (G3) in March, with two stakes seconds in between. This race is a “win and you’re in” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

2022 Awesome Again (G1)

John Henry Turf Championship (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/4 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Beyond Brilliant won the Charles Whittingham (G2) in his second start of the year but came back to manage only a sixth-place finish last out in the Eddie Reed (G2). Gold Phoenix has finished in the money in all eight of his career starts. In his only other graded-stakes start, he was third to Beyond Brilliant in the Whittingham.

2022 John Henry Turf Championship (G2)

City of Hope Mile (G2), Santa Anita, 1 mile (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Hong Kong Harry has a record of 5: 4-1-0 this year with a win in the Del Mar Mile (G2) last out over others expected here. Before that, he was second in the Eddie Read (G2) and won the American (G2) on the Santa Anita turf. Masteroffoxhounds is looking for his first win of the year, and his best finish was a second in the Charles Whittingham.

2022 City of Hope Mile (G2)

Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2), Santa Anita, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up

C Z Rocket won a Del Mar allowance in July after a six-month break, then finished eighth in the Pat O’Brien Handicap. Forbidden Kingdom would make his first start since the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1), where he finished sixth. Before that, he won the San Felipe (G2) and the San Vicente (G2) to start the year.

2022 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2)

Eddie D. (G2), Santa Anita, 6 1/2 furlongs (turf), 3-year-olds and up

Lieutenant Dan, winner of this race last year, had his first start of the year on Sept. 4, when he won the Green Flash (G3) over several expected here. Gregorian Chant’s only win of the year came in a Santa Anita allowance in March, though he finished second in the Wickerr last out. None Above the Law has not finished better than fourth in five starts since winning last year’s Del Mar Derby (G2).

2022 Eddie D. Stakes (G2)


Frizette (G1), Aqueduct, 1 mile, 2-year-old fillies

In this “win and you’re in” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Leave No Trace will look to improve to 3-for-3 after a pair of wins at Saratoga including the Spinaway (G1) on Sept. 4. American Rockette, a debut winner at Saratoga in July, came back in the Spinaway and was fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Leave No Trace. Chocolate Gelato steps into stakes company after an 8 1/2-length maiden win at Saratoga that was among the more impressive of the meet. The Great Maybe also impressed on debut in a Saratoga maiden when romping by eight lengths on Aug. 28. Vedareo ships in from Parx after dominating the one-mile Sorority at Monmouth Park on Aug. 21. She is the only one of these contenders to race beyond seven furlongs.

2022 Frizette (G1)

Pilgrim (G2), Aqueduct, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 2-year-olds

Battle of Normandy won his bow at Saratoga and came back to be beaten just a neck when second in the Aug. 31 With Anticipation (G3). I’m Very Busy was a sharp debut winner by 3 3/4 lengths under top rider Flavien Prat at Saratoga on Aug. 13. Major Dude will be trying turf for the first time after finishing off the board in both the Sanford (G3) at Saratoga and Sapling at Monmouth Park. This is a "win and you're in" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

2022 Pilgrim (G2)

Waya (G3), Aqueduct, 1 3/8 miles (turf), fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up

Capital Structure won a second-level allowance at Saratoga in July, then moved up to stakes company in the Sept. 10 All Along at Pimlico. The 5-year-old mare checked in sixth with a troubled trip as the chart notes the saddle slipped during the race. Gladys also tried the All Along, where she pressed the pace before weakening late to finish fourth. Lovely Lucky takes a drop in class after being no factor in a string of Grade 1s and Grade 2, including the New York (G1) on June 10 at Belmont Park.

2022 Waya (G3)

*Rating is based on HRN fan votes, which rank the Top Active Horses in training.

Zenyatta (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/16 miles, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up

Three of the top five finishers from the Torrey Pines (G3) are possible here. Midnight Memories upset that race in her first graded-stakes start and is 3-for-4 on her career. Desert Dawn has two seconds and two thirds since winning the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), finishing as runner-up to Midnight Memories in the Torrey Pines and third behind Under The Stars in the Summertime Oaks (G2). Soothsay’s fourth-place finish in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) was his first start in more than a year.

2022 Zenyatta Stakes (G2)

Chillingworth (G3), Santa Anita, 6 1/2 furlongs (turf), fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up

Ce Ce, winner of this race last year, has been on a win-lose streak since scoring in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last fall. Before her fifth-place finish in the Ballerina (G1), she won the Princess Rooney (G1) by 6 1/2 lengths. Grace Adler has not scored in four starts since winning the Debutante (G1) a year ago.

2022 Chillingworth Stakes (G3)

Tokyo City Cup (G3), Santa Anita, 1 1/2 miles, 3-year-olds and up

Tizamagician has won only one start since scoring in this race last year, when it was held in April, and that came in the 2021 Cougar II (G3). Before his fourth-place finish in the Del Mar Handicap, he was second to Heywoods Beach, also expected here, by a length in this year’s Cougar II.

2022 Tokyo City Cup (G3)

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