Edited Breeders Cup Notes Team Release — LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC: Epicenter – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter wrapped up his training for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Friday and now the anticipation for the marquee race of the event builds leading into Saturday.
“It’s unbelievably exciting to be part of this field,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “Flightline is the physical specimen watching him train. I can’t say enough about the job (trainer) John (Sadler) has done handling him. You see Taiba come to town and how good he looks training. It’s just an unbelievably talented group of horses. You have Rich Strike, the Derby winner at a mile and a quarter. It’s a highly anticipated race and we’re excited to be a part of it.
“Epicenter looks excellent and we are expecting a huge effort from him.”
Flightline – Hronis Racing, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm and Woodford Racing’s Flightline completed his preparation for the $6 million Classic (G1) by galloping a strong 1 1/4m under Juan Leyva shortly after the track opened for training at 5:30 Friday morning.
Trainer John Sadler said the undefeated son of Tapit would not go to the track in the morning.
With the biggest race of Flightline’s career looming, Sadler was asked what he would like to see Saturday afternoon.
“More of the same,” Sadler said.
Happy Saver/Life Is Good – WertheimerandFrere’sHappySaver and CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good both galloped 1 1/2m Friday morning to complete their preparations for the Classic.
Amelia Green was aboard Life Is Good and Humberto Zamora was on Happy Saver. Trainer Todd Pletcher said neither colt would go to the track in the morning.
Pletcher was asked what the keys to success were for his runners Saturday.
“They are both going to need the best race of their careers,” said Pletcher, who counts Vino Rosso’s win in the 2019 Classic at Santa Anita as one of his dozen Breeders’ Cup victories.
“Happy Saver will be helped by a solid pace and Life Is Good, just let him do his thing and let (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) decide how to play it.”
Hot Rod Charlie – Classic contender Hot Rod Charlie went to the track for the final time Friday morning before making a bid for his first Breeders’ Cup title tomorrow. The colt galloped 1 1/8 m under exercise rider Connor Murray before returning to Barn 66 on Rice Road where he will await his start.
“The ideal trip would be Life Is Good and Flightline going out to the front and kind of softening each other up so we can pick up the pieces,” Trainer Doug O’Neill said.
While Hot Rod Charlie will be facing Flightline for the first time this weekend, the 4 yo already has beaten four of the other horses in Saturday’s field of eight. One of those was a second-place finish in the Dubai world cup ahead of 2021 Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1) victor Life Is Good. He has also finished ahead of 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and Grade 1 winners Olympiad and Happy Saver.
Tyler Gaffalione will have the mount Saturday for the third time in Hot Rod Charlie’s career. Gaffalione has been aboard for all of Hot Rod Charlie’s works since their win in the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs Oct. 1. His most recent work was a 6f breeze on Oct. 29 in 1:12 4/5 here on Keeneland’s main track.
“He loves competition,” Gaffalione said. “Even in the mornings when he works by himself he can be a little bit lackadaisical and kind of lazy getting into stride, but once he finds a stride he gets going. In the race (the Lukas Classic), he made the lead and his ears came forward and he was kind of just waiting on the other horses. When Rich Strike came to his outside he re-engaged. He’s very tenacious. He won’t back down from a fight.”
Gaffalione and Hot Rod Charlie will break from post five tomorrow for the ownership group of Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable and Strauss Bros Racing.
Olympiad – Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables and LNJ Foxwoods’ Olympiad had an easy gallop Friday morning, one day before the Grade 1-winning son of Speightstown starts in the $6 million Longines Classic.
It has been an excellent season for the bay 4yo, winning six of seven and staying active from January to September without a layoff. Within those efforts, he broke two track records and won a total of five graded stakes on three tracks and over as many distances.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised he’s done as well as he has because we have been really high on him since the beginning,” said Jamie Roth, principal of LNJ Foxwoods. “He has a great pedigree, he’s beautiful and he did everything right early. When we sent him to Bill (Mott), he loved him – and it’s never easy to win as a 2-year-old at Saratoga and he did. Being that talented and precocious early said a lot about him.”
A setback prevented the Emory Hamilton-bred charge from racing for 364 days following his graduation on Sept. 5, 2020. He has returned and been not only impressive, but rather dominant in most of his efforts. Six of his seven wins have been by open lengths (18¾ lengths total), including victories in the Mineshaft, New Orleans Classic, Alysheba and Stephen Foster prior to the his aforementioned 2-length Jockey Club Gold Cup win. A murky performance on a swampy day in the Whitney is the lone black mark on an otherwise sparkling record.
“Horses having (injuries) happens so many times in this game, so you can’t dwell on it – that’ll take you to bad places,” Roth said. “It’s way more rewarding to take all the time and have this kind of year we have had with him than to rush him and risk him getting hurt. That’s a no-brainer.
“Winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup was big for us,” she continued. “We really needed that race for his breeding career and were really excited. We were concerned about it being only four weeks after the Whitney, so when he won, it was huge.”
Roth confirmed that while the earner of $2,007,560 will head to Gainesway Farm, as reported Oct. 24, at the end of his career – but said the end has yet to be decided. In the interim, all focus is on relishing the Classic experience.
“We are a stable that primarily focuses on fillies and we, of course, have had United in the (Longines) Turf – and I actually prefer turf racing – but we are honored to be here and just want to appreciate it because this game will break you at times. It is amazing to have a horse like this in the Classic. I can’t believe it.”
Rich Strike – RED TR Racing’s Rich Strike jogged once around accompanied by a pony Friday morning as the Kentucky Derby winner completed his preparations for the Classic.
“I couldn’t risk a gallop this morning; he’s ready,” trainer Eric Reed said.
Rich Strike, who will not go to the track in the morning, had Gabriel Lagunes aboard this morning.
Rich Strike stunned the racing world with his 80-1 victory at Churchill Downs six months ago and Reed was asked what it would take for a repeat.
“A lot of things have to happen but first is if Flightline doesn’t show up,” Reed said of the overwhelming favorite. “Then Richie has to run his best race of the year by far. If it rains, it might give him an edge. He’s never raced on an off track, but he likes it in the morning.”
Rain is in the Lexington forecast for Saturday evening, well after the Classic, with its 5:40 post time, is run.
Taiba – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is in familiar territory, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Zedan Racing Stables’ Taiba.
When he goes to the post late Saturday afternoon, Taiba will be Baffert’s record-extending 28th starter in the richest race in the United States. Baffert has won the Classic a record four times and with an overall top-three record of 4-6-2 his horses have earned a record $21.2 million in purses.
Taiba went to the track during the early training hours Friday morning for a routine gallop.
Baffert has been effusive in his praise of the 4yos Flightline and Life Is Good, but said that Taiba is an improving runner.
“I really like this horse. He’s getting better,” Baffert said. “For what he did, breaking his maiden and then winning a Grade 1 going to a mile and an eighth, the Derby was just a toss. That race was just like a stampede and he wasn’t ready for something like that. We’ve learned a lot about him.
“Sometimes you don’t figure things out. Like American Pharoah, we figured him out after the Derby, what he wanted to do. Now we know how this horse wants to run and he’s not one-dimensional. He has speed and I think he can be right there in the mix. I’m not going in there thinking I’m just going to devour those two top horses because they’re really top horses.”
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF
Awake At Midnyte – The Doug O’Neill-trained Awake At Midnyte galloped 1 1/8 m under exercise rider Connor Murray Friday morning on Keeneland’s main track, which she will not see again until she makes her start in Saturday’s Longines Distaff as the 30-1 underdog on the morning line.
“I think (the ideal trip would be) to leave there running and be in a good striking position,” O’Neill said. “A good clean trip where we don’t have to break stride and we can stay trouble-free would be ideal.”
Owned by Reddam Racing, Awake At Midnyte was purchased as a 2yo and has made eight starts for her owners since. Her most recent start was a second-place finish in the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita that earned her a $15,000 credit toward her entry in the Distaff.
The 3yo daughter of Nyquist will be making her first Breeders’ Cup start when she breaks from post five tomorrow. Mario Gutierrez, who has ridden the filly in all her starts, will have the mount.
Blue Stripe – Pozo De Luna’s Blue Stripe walked the shedrow Friday morning and trainer Marcelo Polanco said the 5yo mare would not go to the track Saturday morning.
Polanco was asked the key to getting Blue Stripe to improve on her seventh-place finish in the Distaff last year.
“She needs a nice, clean break and get a good position and see how fast they are,” Polanco said of Blue Stripe, who will be ridden by Hector Berrios. “She will either be close (to the pace) or far away.”
Clairiere/Society – Trainer Steve Asmussen sent both his Grade 1-winning fillies, Clairiere and Society, out for one last gallop Friday before Saturday’s race. Stonestreet Stables’ Clairiere will be looking to improve off her fourth in last year’s Distaff, while Peter Blum’s late developing Society, who did not make her 3yo debut until the undercard of the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, will be looking to jump to the head of the class against the likes of Oaks winner Secret Oath and the current head of the division Nest with a strong performance Saturday.
Malathaat/Nest – Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat and Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House’s Nest, the top two choices on the morning line for the Distaff, galloped 1 1/2m Friday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Nora McCormack was aboard Nest and Amelia Green was on Malathaat. Pletcher said neither filly would go to the track in the morning.
The Distaff will mark the first meeting between the stablemates and Pletcher expects Nest to be tracking the pace with Malathaat just behind her in the early going.
“It’s not really a rivalry between them because they haven’t raced each other,” Pletcher said. “The owners of both respect the quality of top fillies.”
Search Results – Assistant trainer Baldo Hernandez reported that Klaravich Stables’ Search Results is doing “very well” after her routine gallop Friday morning. The Grade 1 Acorn winner from 2021 will contest Saturday’s $2 million Distaff.
Secret Oath – Briland Farms’ homebred Secret Oath jogged Friday morning, the day before she makes her seventh consecutive Grade 1 start in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the daughter of the late stallion Arrogate was doing well. Secret Oath scored the biggest victory of her career in the Kentucky Oaks May 6.
The Distaff, could be the final start with Lukas, the 87yo training legend who has a record 20 Breeders’ Cup victories. Briland owners Rob and Stacy Mitchell have entered the chestnut filly in Fasig-Tipton’s Night of the Stars sale Sunday. Lukas has said many times this season that Secret Oath has not reached her peak on the track.
“Personally, I think it’s a little premature to sell her,” he said. “I think she’s going to have a tremendous 4-year-old year. I’d like to be a part of it. I think that that’s an offering that you very rarely see, again, an Oaks winner being offered for sale at the prime of her career.”
If Secret Oath is sold, Lukas said he would be happy to train her for the new owners.
“I’d love to have her back,” he said. “It’s a situation where surely anybody that buys her will consider running her again. She’s right at the top of her game in the prime of her life. I would sure think that they’d want to run again.”
Secret Oath led the revival in 2022 of Lukas’ stable, which has already earned more than $3.5 million, by far its best figure since 2014.
“It’s really been an exciting year. Not only profitable, but an exciting new year,” Lukas said. “We’re going to make one more good run now with our yearlings. We’ve got a strong set of yearlings. We’ve got a strong set of horses coming behind her, but at this time it was really very gratifying to have her and have the excitement of another Oaks winner. Rob and Stacy Mitchell have been with me for 20 years, so for me to win the Oaks for the was special, too.”
Chain Of Love (Filly & Mare Sprint) was the first international horse to exercise this morning. She warmed up on the training track before going on to the main track.
Race day jockey William Buick said, “Chain Of Love feels good. we just did a light canter this morning and all is well.”
When asked of his chances for Charlie Appleby over the two days he said, “I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve got some very nice rides so hopefully we can bag a winner. It’s always so competitive here but the horses are in good form and have done everything right in preparation during the week.”
Highfield Princess (Turf Sprint) went on the training track and once again did a light canter under jockey Jason Hart.
Hart said, “She feels great. We haven’t done much with her during the week, but I get an idea of her wellbeing when we walk home after exercise. If she gives a small buck I know she’s bouncing and that’s been the case each day.”
Highfield Princess’ trainer John Quinn said, “I’m very happy. All is well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Jason rode her on the turf yesterday and said it was nice safe quick ground so I’ve no real concerns on that front.”
Mishriff (Turf) and Nashwa (Filly & Mare Turf) both went out together. Frankie Dettori rode Mishriff with Hollie Doyle on Nashwa. Both horses look in fine condition.
Appleby’s horses all went on the main track.
Aidan O’Brien’s horses did a nice gallop this morning on the main track. Today was the first day they really gave the button a slight push.
Dreamloper (Mile) and Kinross (Mile) went on to the training track together under the watchful eyes of their trainers Ed Walker and Ralph Beckett.
Walker said, “She’s doing great, traveled really well, settled in great. Really pleased with her and Molly Stratton who rides her every day is delighted. I was nervous about the weather coming here and the possibility of rain but fortunately for us there has been little rain. She really does love rattling ground, the faster the better. We’ve got a great draw in three which is really important. I think a strong end to end gallop will really suit her.”
Beckett said, “Kinross should handle the track. The draw we have in 13 is the issue. It’ll be tough from there and we’ll need the breaks. Frankie (Dettori) will have a plan, so I’ll leave it to him. He’s taken his racing really well this season so hopefully he’s got another big one in him.”
NETJETS JUVENILE FILLIES
American Rockette – Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ American Rockette was scratched from the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Friday morning by her trainer. The Bill Mott-trained daughter of 2015 Classic winner American Pharoah spiked a fever. She was 20-1 on the morning line.
BIG ASS FANS DIRT MILE
Laurel River – Juddmonte’s Laurel River has been scratched from the Dirt Mile according to the Breeders’ Cup racing office by order of the veterinarians.
Bran – Hronis Racing’s Bran has been scratched from the Turf Sprint according to the Breeders’ Cup racing office by order of the veterinarians.