Pair of juvenile fillies among notables from final round of Breeders’ Cup preps
Some thoughts on last weekend’s final round of Breeders’ Cup preps:
Keen Ice couldn’t catch the lone speed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park but I expect him to bring a formidable late kick to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Diversify received the right set-up and ran a huge race over his home track, registering a second consecutive 110 BRIS Speed rating, and third-placer Pavel recorded a highly-commendable performance in only his fourth start. But Keen Ice is best-situated to make an impact at Del Mar.
Granted, his uninspiring form from previous years is difficult to get past. Keen Ice quickly dismissed any optimism surrounding a massive upset of American Pharoah in 2015, following with five consecutive unplaced finishes, and the losing streak had reached 10 entering this summer. That’s when something clicked for the 5-year-old and Keen Ice has really come on of late for Todd Pletcher.
It started with a three-length victory in the July 8 Suburban (G2) and Keen Ice followed with a rallying second to Gun Runner in the Whitney (G1) a month later. He wound up a length short in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after rating about 10 lengths back in last during the early stages, launching his move heading into the far turn and reaching a threatening position by upper stretch, and the powerful closer continued to distinguish himself from a BRIS Speed rating perspective (109). His Speed and Late Pace numbers have risen significantly and 10 furlongs is the chestnut’s optimal distance.
He may not prove good enough to win against a deep Classic field, but I can easily envision Keen Ice challenging for a top three finish on November 4.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) has a much different feel than the Bolt d’Oro-led Juvenile (G1) and Heavenly Love and Separationofpowers look like major players.
Heavenly Love displayed good tactical speed after rating in her first two appearances, putting herself into the Alcibiades (G1) from the start, and thrashed the competition by a 5 ½-length margin at Keeneland. The Malibu Moon filly is discovering her best stride for Mark Casse and is eligible to keep moving forward off the impressive showing.
Separationofpowers is the one to beat following a stylish victory in the Frizette (G1) at Belmont Park, earning a whopping 104 BRIS Speed rating for the 3 ½-length decision. The Chad Brown trainee led all the way winning her debut by 11 ¾ lengths but wound up getting softened up after dueling on the front end of the Spinaway (G1) the second time out. She showed excellent versatility Saturday, settling just off the early action down the backstretch, and the Candy Ride filly kicked for home with purpose.
Give Bret Calhoun credit for orchestrating a change in tactics with Finley’sluckycharm, who shed her need-the-lead identity winning the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) from just off the pace. I thought she was toast sitting back in fourth approaching the far turn at Keeneland – she finished up the track in seventh the last time she wasn’t showing the way up front – but jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. wasn’t concerned sitting chilly. The 4-year-old filly’s connections devised a new game plan after watching her three-race win streak end with a neck second in the Honorable Miss (G2) at Saratoga and Finley’sluckycharm returned from a 73-day freshening with a different look, gamely reeling in the speed in the stretch and edging clear to a 1 3/4-length score. She has the numbers to challenge, registering century-topping BRIS Speed ratings in the last three starts, and tractability only enhances her Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) prospects.
The local contingent has hit the board in three of the last four runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) out west (Euros 1-2-3 in 2014) and Blackjackcat is the best turf miler in Southern California, stretching his win streak to four with a facile tally in Sunday’s inaugural running of the Obviously Mile at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old gelding doesn’t receive much respect outside of the Golden State but captured a pair of stakes at Del Mar this summer and is 3-for-3 over the course at distances of a mile or 1 1/16 miles. I really liked his win in the Del Mar Mile (G2) two back, defeating a field that included subsequent Awesome Again (G1) runner-up and 2016 Mile third-placer Midnight Storm, and the Del Mar Mile has proven to be a key race with Midnight Storm, Silentio and Obviously all competing before placing in the Breeders’ Cup.