Stakes Tracker: Early look at Breeders’ Cup prep fields

September 24, 2018 10:44am

The next two weekends will see most every Breeders’ Cup contender make his or her final start before the Nov. 2-3 championships, aside from the number of horses whose connections are electing to train up to the races at Churchill Downs.

This Saturday alone are seven “Win and You’re In” qualifiers spread across Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park — plus a showdown between Mind Your Biscuits and Toast of New York in Churchill’s Grade 3 Lukas Classic.

Here’s an early look at fields for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge races ahead of entry deadlines Wednesday:

Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (Classic)

This is the big one, in which Diversify will have his front-running speed tested again while looking for a repeat victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Mendelssohn will take on older for the first time off his Travers Stakes runner-up; Thunder Snow returns to dirt for the first time since winning the Dubai World Cup; and if they go too fast early, Gronkowski could be flying late to pick up the pieces. With a win, Diversify very well could be among the top Breeders’ Cup Classic betting choices.

 
Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (Turf)

Robert Bruce follows his Arlington Million score here and will face some of the division’s top challengers, namely Spring Quality and Hi Happy, both Grade 1 winners on turf in New York this year. Also notable is the presence of Carrick, the Donegal Racing charge who won the Secretariat against 3-year-olds on the Arlington undercard. He’ll face elders for the first time Saturday.

 
Grade 1, $350,000 Vosburgh (Sprint)

This looks like Imperial Hint’s race to lose after the Luis Carvajal Jr. trainee blitzed his rivals last out in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt. Accordingly, his competition has come up light here with top sprinters Roy H and Ransom the Moon based on the West Coast, while X Y Jet, Whitmore and Promises Fulfulled are expected to prep for the Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Phoenix.

 
Grade 1, $300,000 American Pharoah (Juvenile)

No Instagrand or Roadster — both are on the shelf for now — but what’s left is still in intriguing field. Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity winner Game Winner will be joined by the pace-setting runner-up, Rowayton. Tale of the Union is certainly an up-and-comer to watch out of his maiden win. Yes, Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer train all the early probables.

 
Grade 1, $300,000 Chandelier (Juvenile Fillies)

This is essentially a redux of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, in which Bellafina galloped to a win going seven furlongs. But there’s reason to believe she won’t be as potent around two turns, while Brill ran inexplicably poor in her last start, finishing fourth in the Debutante. Recent works earned her the green light to try again against these foes.

 
The Grade 1 Awesome Again, a prep for the Classic division, will be ruled by the presence of Accelerate. Meanwhile, we’re awaiting word on who could contest the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive toward the Filly & Mare Turf aside from Richard Baltas-trained Queen Blossom. Sunday, Santa Anita has also scheduled the Grade 1 Zenyatta. With Unique Bella retired, that race represents La Force’s opportunity to step up.

 

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