11.5.22 Breeders’ Cup Saturday
Happy Breeders’ Cup Day!
It’s Super Saturday at Keeneland with nine Breeders’ Cup races headlined by the Turf and Classic. Flightline looks to stamp himself as one of the best in this era in the Classic. In addition, Jackie’s Warrior tries to round out his career resume with a Breeders’ Cup win and the Distaff is packed with top shelf fillies and mares.
Race 10 – Breeders’ Cup Turf– Grade I
One Mile and One Half on the Turf for Three Year Olds and Upward
The Bill Mott trained mare War Like Goddess headlines the American contingent against a group of European runners led by Charlie Appleby’s Nations Pride and Rebel’s Romance.
1. Bye Bye Melvin: Enters here off of paired up Beyer tops of 101 where he set the pace but was caught late on. Last out in the Joe Hirsch he ran a strong second but was no match for War Like Goddess. Will be on the pace today from the rail and is likely to be joined by Channel Maker up front. Not today.
2. War Like Goddess: Rebounded off a loss in the Flower Bowl to Virginia Joy with an emphatic win in the Joe Hirsch where she easily handled the colts going twelve furlongs (105 Beyer). In the Joe Hirsch, Jose Lezcano kept her closer to the pace and she responded with a very impressive performance. She is the top American competition to the Euro runners, and is five for five at today’s distance. Bill Mott is running her here specifically because the Filly and Mare Turf was too short for her. Rosario back in the irons today. She’ll be a decent price given her record. The Pick.
3. Stone Age: Ran in two thirds of the NYRA Turf Triple and had wide trips in both efforts finishing third in the Belmont Derby and fifth in the Saratoga Derby. Both trips were clean but wide and it did not appear to look like a horse that wanted further. Since that Saratoga effort he ran in two very serious Group 1s at Leopardstown and Ascot – where they changed tactics and went to the front, but he was caught in both efforts. If he tries to get to the front here he will get cooked. If he stalks he lacks the needed kick. Passing. Trainer Stat: Entering this Breeders’ Cup Aiden O’Brien won only 5% (4/73) of North American starts over the past four years. Two of those wins were by Santa Barbara.
4. Broome: We last saw this one on our side of the Atlantic in the Sword Dancer at the Spa where he just got up for third (102 Beyer) – but was no threat to the top two. Since then he raced twice in Europe this Fall in the Arc De Triomphe (8th) and the Irish Champion Stakes (7th). We know he can handle North American ovals. Trainer Stat: Aiden O’Brien is 4 for 73 (5%) with North American races since 2019. You will get you usual O’Brien swooners – but this one ran behind Gufo in August. Ask yourself, what price would Gufo be here? Would need a major step forward to win here. Passing.
5. Rebel’s Romance: Has won four in a row since moving to the turf including two Group 1s in Germany for Godolphin/Appleby since shipping back from Meydan last winter. He has eight
wins from eleven lifetime races and is four for four at twelve furlongs. Timeform figs are competitive here. But he was not running in the toughest fields in Germany. Regular rider William Buick takes off to ride Nations Pride and Ryan Moore takes the mount. Vulnerable favorite.
6. Channel Maker: Wonderful eight year old is competing in his fifth consecutive Breeders’ Cup Turf. Look for him to be attending the pace today. Can he still defeat Grade 1 company at age 8? He has not run a triple digit Beyer in two years. I love this horse – but it appears this level is beyond him at this point in his career. Not today.
7. Nations Pride: Charlie Appleby shipped this one over from England for the NYRA Turf Triple series and he did not disappoint with two wins and a second. Last out going today’s twelve furlongs he tracked Classic Causeway and made his move mid-stretch to draw off by six lengths (96 Beyer) in the Jockey Club Derby. Had a similar effort and trip in the Saratoga Invitational where William Buick did a nice job of establishing position behind the leaders. Beyer will need to improve to win. Tries elders for the first time. Will relish the distance. William Buick stays here. Win candidate.
8. Master Piece: West Coast invader for Mike McCarthy tries the big boys (and one special filly) here today. He has some competitive figs, but he is facing much tougher than his recent foes. Finished behind Gold Phoenix last out at DelMar. Not today.
9. Gold Phoenix: Never off the board in eight career turf starts 8-3-2-2 in California with a win in the Grade 2 DelMar handicap two back (98 Beyer). Can successfully close from deep or stalk the pace. Faces a way tougher bunch even though the speed figs aren’t far off. Passing.
10. Red Knight: Deep closer should be at the back of the pack and will try and pass them all in the stretch. That’s a tough assignment against the assembled field. Has seven won four times with seven exacta finishes at today’s distance. Came flying late last out but it wasn’t enough to catch Highland Chief in Sycamore Stakes over this course and distance. Possible bottom side of exotics.
11. Mishriff: In 2021 he fantastic with three Group 1 wins but in 2022 he has not been the same and now he has not won in eight starts – dating back to August 2021. Last out in the Arc D’Triomphe he was a no impact thirteenth although the soft going may not have suited him. This is the last start in a storied career and has Frankie Dettori is in the irons. Blinkers go ON. Would be a mild surprise given recent form, but this is not the toughest field. Using.
12. Nautilus: Brazilian bred by Drosselmeyer would be a major shock as he has been running primarily on soft and heavy turf in Brazil and against pretty suspect competition. Demand a huge price. Will need to work a trip from the outside. Passing.
13. Highland Chief: Last out in the Grade 3 Sycamore he got a win over the Keeneland turf course with a 98 Beyer at today’s distance with a dream inside trip saving ground the whole way and when it looked like he would be bottled up the seas parted, and he shot up the rail for the win. Bested Yibir in the Man O’ War last Spring, but it was an oddly run race with fractions of 25.1, 51.4, 1:17.3 and Yibir totally missed the break. Far outside draw is tough. Looking elsewhere.
Race 11 – The Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade I
One Mile and One Quarter On the Dirt, For Three Year Olds and Upward
Greatness in horse racing comes on different forms.
Sometimes a horse just explodes under the right conditions and race dynamics, and no one saw it coming. Frosted winning the 2016 Met Mile by over fourteen lengths comes to mind. All of sudden at the quarter pole he just opened up like the others were standing still.
Other times we wait for greatness to be confirmed. Rachel Alexandra’s Woodward Stakes win is a good example. We knew she was excellent – but was she going to do it against that field of colts.
It’s the “is he/she really going to do it” question.
Today we wait to see if Flightline is going to do it. He has already had a spectacular, albeit abbreviated, career – but at Keeneland he faces the best of his era. If he does what he appears to be capable of, then this race has a chance to be one for the ages.
1. Taiba: Winner of the Pennsylvania Derby last out (108 Beyer) looked very good drawing off in the stretch after stalking the leaders. Ran well in the Haskell two back as he was just nipped at the wire by Cyberknife (101 Beyer). He’ll definitely have some speed in front of him to aim at. Possibilities.
2. Life Is Good: Has won four of five starts this year with his only defeat occurring in Dubai World Cup. At Meydan he got to the lead but faded in the stretch in his only attempt going this long. Last out he handled an overmatched field in the Woodward. Has was very impressive in the Whitney where he earned 107 Beyer by getting to the lead and then holding off Happy Saver and Hot Rod Charlie who were both game late. He has enough speed to cause Flightline a potential issue early, but does he want a mile and a quarter? Might be left chasing and get cooked. Lean against.
3. Happy Saver: Doesn’t have a win this year from four starts – but finished second three times. However, those placings were behind Olympiad, Flightline and Life is Good, and he also finished behind Hot Rod Charlie and Rich Strike in his other race. Did not work as planned this week due to a quarter crack. DRF reported Pletcher stated they will repair the crack and still run – but it makes you wonder. Minor award at best.
4. Flightline: What can you say – the horse is from a different planet. Last out in the Pacific Classic the only questions remaining were can he get two turns and a route of ground. Well those were answered with an emphatic YES and YES. How does a 126 Beyer grab you? The only small hope for this field is that this is the quickest he has ever come back to the track. It has
been over two months, but given all of his layoff lines. Nonetheless he’s a single in horizontals with maybe a small amount through Epicenter on back up tickets. The Pick.
5. Hot Rod Charlie: Has had a nice four year old season with wins in Dubai and last out in the Lukas Classic (101 Beyer) at Churchill where he showed a lot of grit and toughness to fight back from the rail to best Rich Strike. Will look to stalk the speed and hope for a misfire in front of him. Hits the Board.
6. Epicenter: He was much the best the Travers (112 Beyer) which was a real exclamation point to his season and probably sealed the Three Year Old Championship. He is very consistent and has five straight triple digit Beyers going back to his Louisiana Derby win. Versatile runner who can win on the front end or can come off the pace. I expect him to sit behind Life Is Good and Flightline and try to pounce at the eighth pole. Small chance for the big prize.
7. Olympiad: Failed to fire in the Whitney behind Life is Good – but then rebounded to win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (105 Beyer). He has good tactical speed and is very proficient at working out good trips as a result. This field is much tougher than the Gold Cup and Life is Good is quicker based on the Whitney, not to mention Flightline. Possible bottom side of vertical plays.
8. Rich Strike: The Kentucky Derby winner comes in here off a close second in the Lukas Classic to Hot Rod Charlie. Looked to be the winner but some questionable riding tactics may have cost him the race. He has two wins over the Churchill surface and is zero for eight on the dirt elsewhere. He will need the race to fall apart to get a piece. Nope.