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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 6, 2023 – Are the Breeders’ Cup preps over? Well, there will be some stragglers next weekend but that should be it. Let’s span the country for last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge events:


G2 MISS GRILLO: Unlike her winning trouble-filled debut, Hard To Justify was blessed with a perfect stalking trip beneath Flavien Prat but like her debut she powered home after taking the lead at headstretch.

She attended the pace eagerly but controlled and probably, because of race dynamics, moved sooner than the connections would have preferred. Undefeated in two starts now, she is a major U.S. player in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Runnerup Life’s an Audible impressed in defeat. Finding herself surrounded on either side approaching headstretch, she tipped out perfectly in the lane and kicked strongly late, just as she had in her maiden breaker at 5-1/2 furlongs. Have to love the transition she made in her two-turn debut.

G2 PILGRIM: Despite the fact that Agate Road had one horse beaten most of the trip, after being taken back to co-trail into the first turn by Irad Ortiz Jr., one had the sense that the rider had the competition right where he wanted them.

Riding as if he was on the best horse, Ortiz launched a 3-4 wide rally mid-turn, the momentum carrying 6-wide into the lane and, after switching leads, caught them all to win going away in a deceptively handy score. Agate Road ran strongly through the wire as if he were just getting warmed up.


Finally, the real War Like Goddess showed up in time for a repeat Hirsch score. For various reasons, she did not perform to expectations until yesterday. The old turn of foot was back, and to do so over yielding ground was so much the better. New rider Junior Alvarado, a Bill Mott regular, gave her a perfect trip.

Soldier Rising benefitted from the off going and was a good second as expected. Rebel’s Romance, who previously had one a Group 1 on soft ground, didn’t care for the footing at Aqueduct, said trainer Charles Appleby. But the-six-year-old mare was the story. Will she attempt to avenge last year’s BC Turf third, or her 2021 third in the F & M Turf?

G1 FRIZETTE: What to make of this year’s sloppy track renewal is the issue. Just F Y I was a facile winner, ears pricking as she crossed the line.

The Justify filly, as she had in her sprint debut, showed turn-of-foot acceleration on the turns, taking the widest route in both starts. The time was moderate, the function of a soft pace, she ran her final quarter in the rain in :24.49. Two turns will be her friend.

G1 CHAMPAGNE: Many observers, I among them, thought that Fierceness could be any kind, as the racetrackers say, even if that win came on a sealed muddy track.

The slop was supposed to be his friend but when he bobbled out of the gate, he was destined for a troubled trip. He steadied between horses midway of the backstretch, made a strong run at mid-turn but was done after the winner ran by on his inside.

And what a run it was by a serious colt named Timberlake. After breaking maiden by 9-1/4 at the Pea Patch, she shipped to the Spa, chased a very strong pace in the G1 Hopeful, staying very well for the place.

Yesterday, he raced mid-pack while saving ground, moved into contention on the inside tipping out and headstretch, met the challenge of a promising General Partner, drew out to a very handy score as is looking for more. He appears to have a future, in November, and beyond.


G2 WOODFORD: He hadn’t won a race since May 2022 until this summer at Saratoga but Arzak parlayed an optional allowance win into a Grade 2 score after Euro import set the table for his late run with a sub-21 second opening gambit.

The pace was super-hot and it was only a matter of which rallier would get the money. Joel Rosario had Arzak in the right place at the right time. It’s hard to imagine him repeating in a Grade 1 but not to envision the Irish speedball Live In The Dream loving the billiard table in Arcadia.

G1 FIRST LADY: Gina Romantica took advantage of an inside post and a contested pace, exploding in midstretch and running away from the competition to win her second Grade 1 on the Keeneland course.

Chad Brown continues to dominate this G1 mile, winning his sixth straight. Favored pacesetter, stablemate In Italian was hounded and never had a breather but continued gamely for place. Brown fillies in fact have finished one-two the last three years.

Gina Romantica has improved at 4. She finished second in the G1 Beverley D in her second start of 2023 before yesterday. She’s developing nicely this year and she will be an interesting fresh filly heading into Santa Anita.

G1 BREEDERS’ FUTURTY:  Much was expected of Locked off his dominate maiden breaker at a mile in Saratoga and he delivered and then some. The margin of victory was scant but the effort was amazing.

Locked raced 4-5 around the first turn, ran head-to-head 3-4 wide throughout the backstretch, launched 5-wide midturn, 6 wide into the lane, then withstood a serious challenge from well ridden good-tripping The Wine Steward who ran a winning race, the team separating themselves from the group through the finale furlong.

G1 COOLMORE TURF MILE: At the end of the day, the most talented, best ridden horses finished together at the line in a head-bobbing thriller but the camera decided that Up To The Mark was several inches better than Master of The Seas.

It was only fitting they raced to a photo finish that was thisclose at the end, as they traded strides throughout at the back of the pack, trailed only by eventual show finisher Set Piece.

James Doyle knifed his way between horses beautifully while saving ground. Jose Ortiz, coming off a Grade 1 score with Locked 30 minutes earlier, shadowed him through a seam that opened approaching midstretch.

The turn of foot from both horses was electric, especially that of America’s top turf male. The Coolmore pace was a realistic 1:10.49 for six furlongs into a final time of 1:34.18. That means the winner finished up in better than :23.69.

And while we are doling out well-dones, we should mention both winners were Todd Pletcher trainees. ‘Mark’ was making his first run since June 10. The Not This time four-year-old is said to be pointing to the longer Breeders’ Cup Turf.


G3 ZUMA BEACH: Not too much to report here in our view re BC XL. Favorite Endlessly took advantage of perfect pocket trip, tipped out soon after entering and showed good extension when in full stride. While not brilliant, the colt was very professional and is now 3-for-3, all on turf.

G3 SURFER GIRL:  Undefeated Dreamfyre took pressure throughout the mile and showed class in her turf and two turn debut. She knows how to distribute her energy and showed it, coming home in final quarter-mile in 23.20, very impressive for a frontrunning winner.

Runnerup Buttercream Babe stalking the winner throughout and tested her all the way down the stretch. She had two turf runs but this was her first go around two turns.

‘Babe’ was bumped by the winner, who was race-ridden by Hector Berrios in midstretch, but the contact was more incidental; ‘Babe’ had every chance to go by. Good, though somewhat controversial, non-DQ.

G2 CHANDELIER:  Inside speed was fairing well on the main track, too. Chatalas broke like a shot from the rail, rated well while pressed throughout, and was driven out in a very game performance. Maiden stretch-out Scalable finished well along the rail under an intermittent drive. She appeared to relish the added distance and second turn.

SPEAKEASY STAKES: Slider impressed with his class while racing greenly in turf debut. Pressed early, he bore out into the 5-path at headstretch, was corrected back to the inside by Berrios and responded quickly, engaged corner-cutting Dark Vintage and was strong at the finish. He will only get better with education.

G2 RODEO DRIVE: Didia is one classy Argentinian mare, improving her record to 9-for-11 with one placing on grass. She rated 2-3 wide all the way around in s good trip run, tipped out at headstretch, drew away strongly from her classy sophomore rival, Anisette, and one with something left.

Strong second favorite Anisette enjoyed a ground-saving trip throughout, tipped out while moving between rivals leaving the five-sixteenths, fired her best shot but was second best. Third finisher Juncture finished well in the center of the course and galloped out strongly thereafter.

G1 AMERICAN PHAROAH: Saving ground throughout under Juan Hernandez who got him to switch off going into the first turn, Muth relaxed in the pocket behind a battling threesome and tipped out for the drive.

After straightening away, he was engaged briefly by stablemate Wine Me Up on the inside, powered away late, winning with energy in reserve and galloped out nicely. Home towner will be formidable threat in November.


G3 PRINCESS ROONEY: Seven furlongs is a specialized sprint distance as all are aware and the ability to get it combines the elements of sprint speed and stamina.

Well, we know Three Witches loves the trip as the winner of two straight and is racing in career form but at first blush doesn’t have enough gas to compete with faster and demonstrably classier.

Racing between horses much of the way, it wasn’t an easy run and she was all out to hold off a very wide Maryquitecontrary. But South Florida horses fare pretty well when looking for bigger game elsewhere, and she likely will be a huge price for vertical players to think about.


G1 JUDDMONTE SPINSTER: Good news and bad news for fans of the older mare division. Champion Nest performed poorly, never a threat after breaking slowly from the gate.

The good news is that the division may have a suitable replacement if Nest were unable to rebound. Idiomatic has speed, style and high quality, a much improved version of a filly that already was very good.

Looking at her sends a counter-intuitive message, speedy and handy for a horse her size. Rated brilliantly by Florent Geroux, she showed gears to control things and the kick to finish the job. Will be interesting to see how the Distaff pace shakes out on paper.

As for Nest, one either puts a line through Sunday’s effort or a line through the balance of her career. When mares give their all at the highest levels, sometimes they signal that they don’t want to play anymore and want to be sent home. Hopefully, that won’t be the case here.

G2 BOURBON STAKES: It appears Mark Casse has a player for the BC Juvenile Turf when Can Group became the fifth Casse trainee to win this event. Having tactical position in the pocked behind battling leaders, favorite Noted got first run as the field reached midstretch and appeared on his way to victory.

But in a trip reminiscent in the Coolmore Mile, Can Group followed Noted int the breach his late turn of foot grabbed Noted in the very last jump. Noted appears to be a tactical grinder type while Can Group, coming from last of 12, owns the better turn of foot. Both appear live for the Juvenile Turf.

INDIAN SUMMER TURF SPRINT: The parade of agonizing two-horse photos on the Keeneland turf course finally came to an end when three sprinters finished up beneath a blanket in the 5-1/2 furlong sprint and handicappers could bet any of the three back in Arcadia.

Committee of One finished strongly with a clear outside run to give Steve Asmussen back-to-back victories in this race. Legitimate arguments could be made that the filly runnerup, Amidst Waves, was best, or perhaps even show finisher Shards, defeated by a diminishing half-length margin.

Both runners-up had ground saving trips but they were not trouble free, Johnny Velazquez bent his filly in half to bet a clear run between rivals whereas Shards steadied very briefly behind her before making his strong late surge. This is what makes turf sprints so interesting, and so agonizing.

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2 Responses

  1. From Bloodhorse: “Favored Nest broke last, couldn’t get going after trying a number of paths, and failed to bid late. After the race jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. summed up the fourth-place effort with two words, “no excuses.””

    That is the description a jockey has when riding a horse that isn’t interested in competing. Looks like we might very well have another case of an older filly coming off a long layoff and rapidly losing interest in running after the comeback race.

  2. Clearly, when I saw the results and that Idiomatic was even money, I assumed that Nest had scratched. But she was fourth and a bad fourth at that. You may be right, Doc; she ran like a filly that wants to go home–and her comeback race was devastating, perhaps too much so…

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