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Breeders' Cup 2017

Pletcher Runs Four in Frizette

Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Grade 1 Frizette with Devil May Care, will have four capable starters on Saturday in this year’s edition of the one-mile, $300,000 race for 2-year-old fillies.


The Frizette, which will be contested for the 63rd time, is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, with the winner to receive a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 5 at Churchill Downs.


Pletcher’s diverse quartet is led by E. Paul Robsham’s R Heat Lightning, who rallied from eighth to win the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga on September 5 last time out.


“She’ll probably be placed in midpack,” said Pletcher, who also won the race in 2005 with Adieu. “She has enough tactical speed that she can be close, but she can also come from off the pace.”


The Frizette will be the fourth start at as many tracks for R Heat Lightning, who debuted a five-length winner at Delaware Park on July 5 and was runner-up in the Colleen at Monmouth Park on August 7. The homebred, made the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will leave from the rail under John Velazquez.


Also exiting the Spinaway is Valiant Passion, who finished third, defeated 6 ½ lengths, as the 2-1 favorite. Prior to the race, the daughter of Lion Heart had been acquired privately by Team Valor and was transferred to Pletcher off a 9 ¼-length score for previous trainer Ralph Nicks at Saratoga on August 12.


“We lost a little bit of training between her maiden race and the Spinaway as we were able to get just one breeze into her,” said Pletcher. “I think she has tactical speed and should be in a good position, and we expect an improved effort.”


Valiant Passion, installed at 8-1 on the morning line, drew the outside in the field of nine and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.


Maple Forest, second in the Sorority at Monmouth on September 6 following a maiden victory at Saratoga, will look to carry her speed when she stretches out from six furlongs to one mile on Saturday.


“I thought she ran well in both races,” said Pletcher. “She’s a filly who is precocious, and this is a good opportunity for us to run her in a Grade 1 race in a one-turn mile.”


David Cohen has the assignment aboard Maple Forest, who will leave from post 4 at 12-1 on the morning line.


Tap for Luck will stretch out even farther in the Frizette, which will be her first start against winners and beyond five furlongs. In her lone previous effort, the gray stalked the pace and was driven to a 2 ¼-length score at the Spa on August 20.


“Looking at our options, we felt this was the closest thing to an easy stretch out,” said Pletcher.


Tap for Luck, owned by Summit West Racing, will have the services of Alex Solis when she leaves from post 7 at 6-1 on the morning line.


Like Tap for Luck, Promise Me a Cat will be facing winners for the first time. Hailing from the barn of Carlos Martin, Promise Me a Cat graduated by 8 ¼ lengths in a 5 ½-furlong dash at Belmont on September 26, having previously finished second in a pair of six-furlong events at Saratoga.


“In her first start she didn’t have the best of breaks, and in her second start she ran into a nice Afleet Alex filly [Alexandra Rylee],” said Martin. “The third-place horse that day, Missyoulikecrazy, came back and won on Saturday, so we know she has been running with true horses.”


While Martin noted how Promise Me a Cat’s pedigree suggests speed over stamina, he believes she is mentally capable of handling the Frizette’s additional distance.


“The light switched turned on in her last race,” said Martin. “Her pedigree is more speed-oriented, but we were encouraged by the way she galloped out. She has a good mind –

she’s a push-button horse that does everything relaxed.”


Edgar Prado was named to ride Promise Me a Cat, who drew post 2 and was installed as the morning line’s 5-1 co-third choice.


Joyful Victory is the only Frizette entrant who will be cutting back in distance, having prevailed by a neck in her debut, a one-mile, 70-yard maiden event at Delaware Park on September 11.


“We think she is a Grade 1 filly,” said Tony Dutrow, who trains Joyful Victory for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. “She has been promising for the previous two months that she is a special filly. Our expectations have been high.”


Joyful Victory will leave from post 8 under Cornelio Velasquez at 5-1 on the morning line.


Shipping in from California is A Z Warrior, second in the Grade 3 Sorrento at Del Mar on August 6 and fifth in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante at that venue on September 4 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Alan Garcia has picked up the mount aboard the Zayat Stables representative, who will be trying conventional dirt for the first time when she leaves from post five as the 4-1 morning-line second choice.


Coax Liberty, fourth in the Spinaway, and After Later, an easy debut winner at Monmouth on August 29, complete the field.


The field for the Grade 1 Frizette:








R Heat Lightning (FL)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Promise Me a Cat (FL)

E S Prado


C F Martin



Coax Liberty (KY)

J C Caraballo


J L Lawrence, II



Maple Forest (KY)

D Cohen


T A Pletcher



A Z Warrior (KY)

A Garcia


B Baffert



After Later (KY)

P Fragoso


P L Biancone



Tap for Luck (KY)

A O Solis


T A Pletcher



Joyful Victory (ON)

C H Velasquez


A W Dutrow



Valiant Passion (KY)

J Lezcano


T A Pletcher




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