Where does one begin this graded stakes Breeders’ Cup prep weekend? At Belmont Park, where the headliners are the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and the bubbly Champagne?
Or how about Keeneland, which opens its Fall session today with the Phoenix and Alcibiades and where tomorrow, an All Grade 1 Pick 3 will commence with the First Lady, end with the Shadwell Turf Mile, the Breeders’ Futurity making it a nice sandwich?
However, gas must remain in the tank for a trip out to Santa Anita where, among other things, a blur named Shancelot will attempt to rebound versus the finally-returning top-class three year old Omaha Beach.
And never mind Sunday’s G1 Frizette back in New York, just another of the 21 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” over the weekend. So many races; so little brain bandwidth.
Let’s start with a selected look of races beginning at our old home where once, literally, we occupied a corner office:
G3 MATRON: A sprint for juvenile fillies, it might produce a Juvenile Filly Turf entrant. The two early choices are extremely formidable. Alms was classy and professional breaking maiden on debut by nearly four long-striding lengths. Already a winner at today’s trip on Belmont turf.
Karak is a well-regarded Wesley Ward miss. An open lengths over the course in May, he was sent to Royal Ascot, showed high speed but understandably tired, pressed at one point or another by several of her 20 rivals. Subsequently, she won Monmouth’s Tyro. Both her sibs are winners, including another stakes winner.
G2 HILL PRINCE: Not sure any of the three year old turf horses entered here, a nice group of colts and geldings, are worthy of a Breeders’ Cup run vs. older, proven turf stars.
G1 JOE HIRSCH TURF CLASSIC: European shippers to be named later notwithstanding, there are worthy Breeders’ Cup Turf entrants in this matchup as six of the seven starters are either Grade 1 winners or G1 placed.
The strength of this group is drawn outside. While Sadler’s Joy has too many seconds and thirds to suit some handicappers, he has done his share of winning (24) 6-4-6. Last time he was given superb last-run handling and missed by a neck in the G1 Sword Dancer. He returns fresh with Lezcano on the re-ride.
Channel Maker, not to be confused with Channel Cat, also in here, boasts the best combined course and trip record in this match. Gelded five year old may benefit from switch to white hot Johnny Velazquez.
G1 CHAMPAGNE: Obvious Breeders’ Cup implications and beyond, two horses are of peak interest. Green Light Go is one of, if not, the best juveniles we’ve seen this year.
Undefeated in two starts including the G2 Saratoga Special, he scratched from the sloppy Hopeful awaiting this. Workline is old school Jerkens, with Jimmy being profitable with horses going first-time long.
Don’t know what to do with second favorite Tiz the Law for two reasons: He spots the group experience winning his only start—impressively, and he ran fast. Perhaps too fast? Without getting into the weeds, running too fast early has ruined more careers than it’s helped. Not saying that’s the case here, but I am aware and bettors should be, too.
Tiz the Law won at 6-1/2 furlongs, pretty good foundation for stretch to a mile, winning by 4-1/4 lengths. He’s come back to work bullets since, so he might have that freaky dimension to him.
But a 3-1/4 on the Thoro-Graph scale, in hand at the finish, is an immense effort. Can’t wait to see how he will fare.