The Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) remains the logical target for The Pizza Man, winner of the 10-furlong Arlington Million (G1) and 1 ½-mile Stars and Stripes (G3) in his last two starts, but trainer Roger Brueggemann isn’t willing to dismiss the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) from the equation. The 6yo will be given an opportunity to prove himself at the shorter distance when he lines up for Saturday’s $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1).
One of five graded stakes on a blockbuster Keeneland program, the Shadwell Turf Mile drew a strong field of 13 that includes three international raiders – Dutch Connection, Kelinni and War Envoy. Dutch Connection is likely the most formidable of the trio, winning the Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot before producing a pair of close seconds in the Jean Prat (G1) at Chantilly, France and the Lennox (G2) at Goodwood, England. Regular rider Jim Crowley will accompany the Charles Hills-trained 3yo colt.
War Envoy has U.S. experience, recording a troubled 12th, beaten only four lengths as the favorite, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and the Aidan O’Brien charge captured a listed stakes at Royal Ascot two starts back. European rider Seamus Heffernan picks up the assignment. Kelinni has competed mostly in handicaps the past two seasons and the 7yo gelding exits an encouraging tally at Leopardstown, Ireland. Fergal Lynch will be in to ride for conditioner Kevin Ryan.
The Pizza Man, who is 3-for-3 this year, heads the U.S. contingent. Ranked first in BRIS Prime Power (179.1) by a wide margin, the English Channel gelding will keep Florent Geroux in the saddle.
Grand Arch and Tourist are contestants to watch off recent performances. Grand Arch exits a game victory in the Fourstardave (G2), defeating the well-regarded Ironicus by a neck at Saratoga, and 6yo gelding likes Keeneland, posting a 2-3-0 record from five attempts, including a runner-up to Wise Dan in last year’s Shadwell Turf Mile. Luis Saez will be back aboard the Brian Lynch trainee. Tourist returned from a 10-month layoff with a sharp 3 ¾-length score in the More Than Ready at Kentucky Downs and the promising 4yo colt will make his second start back for Bill Mott with new rider Jose Lezcano.
Heart to Heart, last year’s champion 3yo male in Canada, exits a convincing tally in the Oceanport (G3) at Monmouth Park and will be seeking his overall fifth stakes win for Lynch. Shaun Bridgmohan rides the front-runner. Multiple Grade 3 hero King Kreesa also brings plenty of speed to the mix for conditioner David Donk and jockey Manny Franco.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hero Bobby’s Kitten, unplaced as the favorite in the August 23 Play the King (G2) at Woodbine, is eligible to improve upon the tightener in his second start of the year for Chad Brown. Bernard Baruch (G2) runner-up Grand Tito is also part of the line-up along with Jack Milton, Seek Again and Skyring.
A solid field of 11 fillies and mares will contest the $400,000 First Lady (G1) one race prior to the Shadwell Turf Mile and Grade 1 heroine Tepin is the likely favorite in the one-mile turf affair.
Winner of the Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and Just a Game (G1) earlier this season, the 4yo filly just missed in her last two outings at Saratoga, finishing a nose second in the Diana (G1) and a head second in the Ballston Spa (G2). Julien Leparoux will be up on the Mark Casse-trained Tepin. Who will have to overcome the far outside post in her first try on Keeneland’s turf.
O’Brien has a pair of Irish-based invaders, Easter and Outstanding, and the 3yos are daughters of leading international stallion Galileo. Easter captured a listed event in August and has placed in three Group 3 events overseas. She’ll keep Heffernan up. Outstanding will be making her second start stateside, shipping over to record a third in the Belmont Oaks (G1) this summer, and was last seen finishing third in a Group 3 race at Gowran Park, Ireland. Colm O’Donoghue regains the mount.
Crowley’s Law will make her second straight U.S. start for trainer Thomas Dascombe following a rallying third in the Noble Damsel (G3) at Belmont Park. Victor Espinoza will take over the reins.
Kiss Moon merits respect off a victory in the Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs; My Miss Sophia, a close third in the Ballston Spa most recently, can’t be dismissed from consideration; and She’s Not Here will enter in career-best form following a minor upset in the Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mar.
Completing the First Lady field are Cara Marie, Jealous Cat, Sky Treasure and Solid Appeal.
The Pizza Man (green silks), shown beating subsequent Joe Hirsch (G1) winner Big Blue Kitten (red silks) in the Arlington Million, photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos
Tepin winning the Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography