The first of two final rounds of Breeders’ Cup prep races is in the books and here are some of my thoughts on the action:
Beach Patrol changed the landscape of the turf male division winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park. After dropping his first four starts of the season, recording a pair of runner-up finishes and a third while competing exclusively in Grade 1 events, the 4-year-old colt has really stepped up for Chad Brown with back-to-back wins in the Arlington Million (G1) and Joe Hirsch.
World Approval put himself in the divisional driver’s seat with a convincing victory in the September 16 Woodbine Mile (G1), improving to 4-for-5 this year with a second consecutive Grade 1 tally, and his overall body of work is still arguably better.
But considering Beach Patrol became only the third horse to record the Million-Joe Hirsch double in the same year, joining John Henry (1984) and Sulamani (2003), he’s put himself into serious contention for the Eclipse Award.
The race comes down to their respective Breeders’ Cup events, with World Approval the possible Mile (G1) favorite and Beach Patrol the leading American representative in the Turf (G1).
Beldame (G1) winner Elate looks poised to run a big race at Del Mar. She’s trained by Bill Mott, who leads all trainers with five Distaff (G1) triumphs, and two of the Hall of Famer’s wins came in Southern California, including with the 3-year-old Ajina. He’s flattered Elate by comparing her favorably to three-time champion and two-time Distaff heroine Royal Delta.
Mott knows how to get them ready and Elate has taken giant strides in recent months. The Distaff competition is well-respected, with elders Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled and sophomore counterparts Abel Tasman and It Tiz Well, but none have run as fast as Elate, who has netted back-to-back 108 BRIS Speed ratings while scoring with consummate ease.
Takaful and El Deal will make things interesting during the early stages of the TwinSpires Breeders’ Sprint. I don’t think either can win, but the confirmed front-runners bring a dynamic reigning sprint champion Drefong hasn’t faced in previous stakes starts.
Drefong has only three stakes on his resume (not counting the Bing Crosby where he dislodged the jockey shortly after the break) and didn’t face significant pressure leading wire-to-wire in the 2016 King’s Bishop (G1) and the Forego (G1) last out. Masochistic proved to be the only speed chasing him in last year’s Sprint and Drefong essentially had him put away by the far turn.
El Deal and Takaful can run :21 and :44 opening fractions and as we witnessed in Saturday’s Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park, runner-up El Deal is as fast as they come from the starting gate. Vosburgh winner Takaful will also be in high gear from the break, with the duo potentially providing a one-two punch as Takaful applies secondary pressure on the front end.
Drefong may be a different level from the competition, capable of overpowering his Sprint rivals regardless of whether he’s dueling up front or sitting just off it, but the expected presence of a couple blazing early runners makes for a more compelling title defense.
Pick 4 wagers bookend the nine Breeders’ Cup Saturday races and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) has been the odd race out of the sequence in recent years. And given Bolt d’Oro’s towering presence, the 2017 Juvenile figures to once again be part of only daily double, Pick 3 and Pick 6 multi-race bets.
By Medaglia d’Oro, the Mick Ruis-trained colt turned in a spectacular performance winning Saturday’s FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita, putting the race away within a few strides as he stormed to the lead entering the stretch. Bolt d’Oro proceeded to cruise to a 7 ¾-length decision, registering a whopping 105 BRIS Speed rating that is 11 points higher than the best number Classic Empire posted prior to winning last year’s Juvenile at Santa Anita.
The fields aren’t finalized and a pair of Juvenile preps remain with the Champagne (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) this weekend, but Bolt d’Oro may wind up being the most likely winner among the 13-race Breeders’ Cup championship program in my estimation.
Moonshine Memories will bring a different vibe to the Juvenile Fillies (G1). The unbeaten Malibu Moon filly established herself as the probable favorite posting a 2 ¾-length decision in the Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita, adding to a resume that includes the Del Mar Debutante (G1), but she didn’t come home fast (73 BRIS Late Pace rating) and registered the third average BRIS Speed number (90) from as many starts. Many bettors probably will be trying to beat her as a result.