By Laura Pugh
The final countdown of the Breeders Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge races has begun. It is Super Saturday at Belmont Park, where we will see a rematch of the top two finishers in the Hopeful Stakes, and if the mighty king of Belmont, Tonalist will defend his Jockey Club Gold Cup crown. Then there is opening day at Keeneland, that starts just one day earlier. To celebrate their opening, Keeneland has lined up nine spectacular stakes races from Friday to Sunday.
The weekend offers a delectable smorgasbord of options to choose from, starting with Keeneland, featuring the Darley Alcibiades Stakes and the Phoenix Stakes. The featured favorites in those two races are Just Wicked and Ruhappy, respectively.
Just Wicked, winner of the Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga, will be looking to rebound off a disappointing fourth in the Pocahontas Stakes. Today, she will have to run the same distance of 1 1/16 miles that she did in the Pocahontas. Was the extra distance the reason she fizzled out after such a bold move, or could it have been the travel that left her flat? We will get our answer today, as she will not have to deal with the long haul from New York to Kentucky this time around.
If Just Wicked is not up to the two-turn task awaiting her, who shall be the one to overtake her? Marquee Miss, the filly who won at first asking in the Arlington-Washinton Lassie Stakes? Or what about the unbeaten daughter of Pure Prize, Pocahontas victoress Dothraki Queen? These promising fillies are eligible to build upon the potential they have shown us.
In the Phoenix, Runhappy will try to run away with another victory just as he did in the Kings Bishop at Saratoga. The difference will be the son of Super Saver is facing elders in today’s race, including last year’s Breeders Cup Sprint champion Work All Week, who will defend his title in the Phoenix. Runhappy will also have to contend with the very fast and ultra consistent Fast Anna, who will not let him get away with an easy lead. In addition to facing some very legitimate older talent, Runhappy must also overcome the inside rail….a draw that can often be the ultimate detriment to a front running sprinter.
Will Just Wicked step up to the challenge, or will one of her rivals steal the spotlight? Will Runhappy overcome the challenges that stand in his way, or will he bounce off his superb King’s Bishop? We shall receive our answers at the close of Keeneland’s loaded opening day!