HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 19, 2021 – A number of horses won their Breeders’ Cup prep races over the weekend and will be on their way to Oceanside, CA. The question is whether they will be good enough when they get there for the big dances on November 5th and 6th.
Here’s a ‘Win And In’ HRI RedBoard look at Saturday’s six featured preps:
Jockey Club Derby: The Charles Appleby and Godolphin invasion continues. Yibir shipped in and totally outran and outclassed an eclectic collection of seven international three-year-olds, and this Dubawi gelding is all business.
When Yibir gets in gear on a straightaway, he lowers himself such that he could represent himself a new species of animal, an equine aardvark, a very long and very low body.
Yibir’s stride and turn of foot was devastating, making up about five lengths while losing ground, all within a sixteenth of a mile. And despite a moderate tempo was still timed in a solid 2:26.23.
Meanwhile, Irad gave Soldier Rising a perfect trip and was able to secure the place, Bolshoi Ballet had an impossible trip, 3- 4-path trip for the entire 12 furlongs.
Jockey Club Oaks: Commentators and handicappers talk about it all the time, the laughably slow-paced tempo of turf routes, but this was ridiculous: 25.51, 51.70, 1:18.12, making it possible for a Chad Brown uncoupled pair to sprint the final three furlongs in 33.52.
I realize it’s turf racing and I love it, but that was annoyingly stupid. The problem is that rival jockeys don’t want to have the too-soon finger pointed their way.
So with Hidden Truth inside and Shantisara outside, the stable mates “battled” it out and the outside filly, Shantisara with Brown’s Flavien of the Week in the boot, prevailed.
Favored Harajuku was flat-footed leaving the barrier and between the pace and her outside draw, she chased the pacesetters home to no avail, looking very one-paced in the process. It was a no-win situation.
All the ground Baby Blythe lost might be found in the current Churchill Downs infield. Anyone watching the Jockey Club Oaks replay will be tempted to bet her back somewhere, preferably with a notch-drop.
Canadian International: Appleby and Godolphin again and the only storyline beyond that headline would be which was the more impressive, Yibir or Walton Street?
Frankie Dettori, as he does in virtually every race he rides, waited for the last moment, the last best moment, before pushing the button on Walton Street. When he did, the separation was immediate.
Walton Street is a gelded 7-year-old but is lightly raced, with nine starts since FEB 14, 2019.
Much respect for next-county runnerup Desert Encounter, a 9-year-old, who jumped four or five lengths behind but finished strongly in the middle of the course the entire stretch. But another mismatch, brought to you by the boys in blue.
Woodbine Mile: Indeed, we’ve been making a big deal of lack of turf pace. But what happened in this million-dollar race was so bizarre you’ll see it as often as a Firenze Fire munching on a Yaupon.
A one-turn Grade 1 mile on firm ground that unfolded in 24.08, 47.10, 1:10.41, 1:22.37, wound up in 1:35.14 with Town Cruise a wire winner, essentially stringing out the field Woodbine-Mohawk style. For a million bucks? Really?
Well, good for Brandon Greer, who co-bred, owns and trains the winner and for his rider, Daisuke Fukumoto, known for his patience which paid big dividends yesterday. In the lane, with everyone starting to make their run, Fukumoto appeared to be in ridden-out-driving mode to the end.
On the gallop out, Town Cruise looked like he was just getting started.
Raging Bull had a tough, wide trip and finished with a flourish to win a show photo, Space Traveler was extremely good, finishing up very nicely after racing 3- to 4-wide throughout.
March to the Arch had his annual tough WO Mile trip, finishing better than the running line is likely to suggest. Favorite Set Piece didn’t come with his ‘A+’ game but even if he had, didn’t impress as the type that relishes one-turn elongated sprints.
Pocahontas Stakes: It certainly appears that blowout winner Hidden Connection is a serious filly. While the pace was on the moderate side, we’re taking juveniles going two turns for the first time on dirt.
Beyond that, the filly was bumped and forced at least four wide on the first turn, was in stalk/chase mode throughout, took over when ready and separated herself in a hurry, getting her final three-sixteenths in a worthy 30.41.
Goddess of Fate was an excellent show finisher, used between horses head-to-head, severely angled out 6-wide into the lane, and finished with game resolution.
Overlay Mama Rina was a good second but had an easier time of it, making a good turn move, finishing gamely through the stretch while saving ground.
Iroquois Stakes: While the connections of Stellar Tap might have been disappointed by note following up on his impressed debut score at Saratoga, they had to be proud the effort.
Forced into stalking mode while losing ground, he got first run on the winner while between horses on the far turn, battled gamely inside down the stretch but may or may not have found the distance beyond him at this stage. Worthy of a second chance.
But Major General is a serious colt, better than his maiden breaker suggested.
Bumped 4+ wide on the first turn, he continued to lose ground throughout, was forced to move 4-wide, head-to-head on the second turn outside Stellar Tap, and was ultra-courageous in deep stretch. It certainly appeared that distance will not be at issue.
SAME STORY DIFFERENT DAY
Appleby and Godolphin ended their Canadian invasion the same way they began, sweeping two turf stakes only this time with the youngsters. This weekend at Belmont Park and Woodbine was the most successful British invasion since the Beatles.
Godolphin, Appleby and Frankie Dettori went back to back in Grade 1 juvenile stakes at Woodbine as Albahr took the Summer Stakes following Wild Beauty’s victory in the Natalma. Both horses earned entrance into the Breeders’ Cup starting gate come November.
Dettori virtually rode the same race on both, allowing both horses to settle far back early, making some mid-race progress, but never pushing the all-in button until the last instance. While not as challenging at Kentucky Downs, reserves are needed to finish the job.
Wild Beauty is a very serious talent. Buffeted about between horses after brushing the gate and getting away last, Dettori made up five lengths down the backside, waited at the turn, angled out into the 6+path and put the field away quickly after hitting full stride.
Pizza Bianca was given a perfect trip throughout until after straightening away into the lane where Joel Rosario made a bid between horses, was badly squeezed, but bulled her way through and finished courageously for place.
Eminent Victor was a good finishing third but had a clear run, fishing on stride with the runnerup at the end, albeit two lengths behind and no threat. The time of 1:35.08 was excellent, last ¼-mile in 23.64, a final furlong in a tad under 11 seconds.
The Summer looked like a virtually replay at the start as Albahr broke slowly and Dettori rode his Natalma Stakes back, through he was forced to push the button a tad sooner when the leaders attempted to get away after a more moderate half-mile in 1:12.17.
The colt was a bit less profession as he jumped over to his left lead in midstretch, causing him to lug in. Runnerup Grafton Street made an excellent turf debut.
Trailing the favorite about three lengths midway, Graton Street’s stretch trip was a bit circuitous but after trying to get through between he did his best running when switched outside, finishing strongly late. He looks like he’ll handle a longer distances.
While the fillies went faster—1:35.77 for the boys—the Summer pace was slower, 1:12.17 as opposed to 1:11.44—but the finish was a tad faster at 23.60.
Bottom line? The Godolphin-Appleby team sent good horses oversees and, in almost every case, outclassed the Americans.