HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 3, 2021 – Between the sheer vast number of preps and time zones stretching from Southern California to Kentucky, New York, and Paris, France, it was an all-Visine-all-the-time weekend for bettors and fans alike.
Hyperbole? I think not. Every division and every manner of horse were represented, trying to either prove they belonged at the very highest level and possibly win a free trip to Del Mar in the process and not reaching the bottom to do so.
For the handicap division, there were three proving grounds, the Grade 1 Woodward, Awesome Again, and the G3 Lukas Classic featuring the top ranked horse in America, Knicks Go. The Distaff set on the West Coast offered the G2 Zenyatta.
The turf division had eight long features for both sexes. Open races were the Prix du Cadran, John Henry and, of course, the storied Arc de Triomphe.
The ladies could have danced all night in the Prix du Royallieu, Rodeo Drive, Sun Chariot, Waya, or Prix de l’ Opera. And a pair for turf milers; the Prix de La Foret and City of Hope Mile.
If speed moves your needle, there was the open Santa Anita Sprint Championship and two sprints especially for the ladies—the Ontario Fashion and Chillingworth. And there was the Ack Ack for dirt milers; not many plodders win those.
And if it’s future stars you seek, it was babies on parade—both surfaces, both sexes—with Friday’s American Pharoah and Saturday’s Champagne and the Chandelier and Frizette for the girls.
The elders had the speedy Eddie D., Belmont Turf Sprint, and Prix de l’Abbaye. And for baby turfers, there was the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, Pilgrim, Miss Grillo Prix Marcel Boussac.
Bets n’ Pieces Breeders’ Cup Storylines
Out of sight of late but never to be ignored, Bob Baffert, racing’s litigious anti-hero, announced his presence loudly this weekend at Santa Anita and he did it with the horse that rocked the sport to its foundation.
Medina Spirit was put to a serious test, older horses, first time going a mile and an eighth, and he won. For fun. The final margin was five ridden-out lengths in a solid 1:49.67, setting similarly moderate fractions as comprehensive 1:49.22 Woodward winner, Art Collector.
But when you consider the top ranked horse in America is forward, too, very forward indeed. And he too ran fast, faster than his main rivals by a lot: same trip in 1:47.85. Or that recent Grade 1er Hot Rod Charlie won’t be up close, applying pressure if need be.
So then does Medina Spirit make an adjustment and return to his early season stalking style. And will that matter once Essential Quality enters the frame, and can he take the measure of talented, older speedsters.
No hyperbole, fact: This is the deepest prospective Classic field I can recall. No horse on the planet is faster early going two turns than Knicks Go. But given classy pressure and a 10th furlong, a Classic victory and a Horse of the Year title is no certainty.
As for Baffert, he will have one of the top choices in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But however talented Corniche may be, what good is it in the longer view if the Churchill Downs stall doors are shuttered to him in 2022?
Admittedly, I had some reservations about Echo Zulu’s chances of dominating Sunday’s Frizette, especially after Gunite emptied out so badly in the Champagne. Was this asking too much?
Whether she is ever beaten given what was demonstrated yesterday, I won’t ask again. Nothing seems too much for Gun Runner’s daughter.
As fast and as handy as she is, who would dare challenge her into the lower first turn at Del Mar? It certainly didn’t appear yesterday that a second turn will stop her. The term “very special” is overused ad nauseum. Let’s agree on extraordinary.
Turf racing fans had to be impressed by the manner yesterday’s Group 1s winners at ParisLongchamp finished up, but how does heavy ground in Paris translate into the course awaiting them in Oceanside? And if class and ability is the measure, will it matter?
Finally, Keeneland opens Friday with its Fall Stars Weekend** series of graded stakes, listed below, with many probable entrants likely prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Championships in all divisions.
Soon thereafter, pre-entries are released and the research will begin in earnest:
Fall Stars Friday – entries taken Tuesday
*$400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1) Probable: Diamond Wow (trainer Patrick Biancone), Distinctlypossible (Chad Brown), Dream Lith (Robertino Diodoro), Juju’s Map (Brad Cox) Mama Rina (Kenny McPeek), Matareya (Cox), Miss Interpret (Todd Pletcher), Myfavoritedaughter (Jeff Engler), Penny Saver (McPeek), Pipeline Girl (Tom Amoss), Runup (Laura Wohlers), Sequist (Dallas Stewart). Possible: Verylittlecents (Randy Morse).
*$250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) Probable: Aloha West (Wayne Catalano), Just Might (Michelle Lovell), Mucho (John Ortiz), Special Reserve (Mike Maker). Possible: Baby Yoda (Bill Mott), Bango (Greg Foley), Endorsed (Maker), Quick Tempo (Chris Davis).
Fall Stars Saturday – entries taken Wednesday
*$750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile (G1) Probable: Diamond Oops (Patrick Biancone), Field Pass (Mike Maker), Front Run the Fed (Caio Caramori), In Love (BRZ) (Paulo Lobo), Ivar (BRZ) (Lobo), Lope Y Fernandez (IRE) (Aidan O’Brien), Monarchs Glen (GB) (Maker), Order of Australia (IRE) (O’Brien), Somelikeithotbrown (Maker), Space Traveller (GB) (Brendan Walsh), Tell Your Daddy (Tom Morley).
*$500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Probable: Classic Causeway (Brian Lynch), Double Thunder (Todd Pletcher), Kevin’s Folly (Tom Amoss), King Curlin (Brittany Vanden Berg), Rattle N Roll (Kenny McPeek).
*$400,000 First Lady (G1) Presented by UK HealthCare Probable: Abscond (Eddie Kenneally), Althiqa (GB) (Charles Appleby), Blowout (GB) (Chad Brown), Daddy Is a Legend (George Weaver), Dalika (GER) (Al Stall Jr.), Empress Josephine (IRE) (Aidan O’Brien), Harvey’s Lil Goil (Bill Mott), Hendy Woods (Mark Casse), Regal Glory (Brown), Viadera (GB) (Brown).
*$250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) Probable: Club Car (Ben Colebrook), Estilo Talentoso (Juan Arriagada), Frank’s Rockette (Bill Mott).
$200,000 Woodford (G2) Presented by TVG Probable: Golden Pal (Wesley Ward), Inhalation (GB) (Edward Vaughan).
Fall Stars Sunday – entries taken Thursday
*$500,000 Juddmonte Spinster (G1) Probable: Bajan Girl (Rohan Crichton), Bonny South (Brad Cox), Dunbar Road (Chad Brown), Envoutante (Kenny McPeek), Letruska (Fausto Gutierrez).
*$200,000 Castle & Key Bourbon (G2) Probable: Brit’s Wit (Andrew McKeever), Credibility (Mark Casse), Dowagiac Chief (Tom Amoss), Fast N Steady (Javier Gonzalez), Martini’nmoonshine (Tom Amoss), On Thin Ice (Casse), Play Action Pass (Robert Medina), Red Danger (Brian Lynch), Tiz the Bomb (Kenny McPeek), Vivar (Brad Cox).
*$200,000 Indian Summer (L) Presented by Keeneland Select Probable: Averly Jane (Wesley Ward), Kaufymaker (Ward), Roman Poet (Tom Amoss).
**List of probable entrants provided by Keeneland press staff