Seventeen stakes races, including 13 “Win & You’re In” events for the Breeders’ Cup, will be held over the next three days (Friday-Sunday) as the final major weekend of prep races concludes. Let’s preview the races with Breeders’ Cup implications.
Keeneland features a pair of stakes on its opening-day program:
Alcibiades (G1): Ten Juvenile Fillies (G1) hopefuls are entered and runaway Arlington-Washington Lassie winner Bet She Wins is the 7-2 morning line favorite in her first dirt start. Princess Warrior, a smart debut scorer at Churchill Downs recently, looks like a player as she stretches out to 8 ½-furlongs for Kenny McPeek and Mark Casse-trained Heavenly Love will switch back to dirt after graduating in convincing fashion at Kentucky Downs. Stakes winner Kelly’s Humor exits a runner-up in the Pocahontas (G2) and Pacific Gale invades from the East Coast following a facile tally in the Sorority at Monmouth.
Phoenix (G2): Whitmore stung together five straight victories over the winter/spring but will attempt to regain some lost luster following a pair of thirds at short odds. Limousine Liberal, a multiple graded winner this season, is the main foe in this 6-furlong prep for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Let’s start with the four stakes at Belmont Park:
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1): Keen Ice enters in career-best form for Todd Pletcher, recording strong performances in the last two outings, and the 10-furlong specialists can enhance his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) credentials in the 99th edition of the prestigious race. The late runner is listed as the 9-5 choice against six opponents.
Champagne (G1): A “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and a qualifier for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, the one-mile Champagne (G1) has attracted a 12-horse field with six last-out maiden winners, including Travers Day undercard winner Hazit for Todd Pletcher and Enticed for Godolphin/Kiaran McLaughlin. Stakes winners Aveenu Malcainu and Firenze Fire aren’t receiving much due from the oddsmaker at 6-1 and 10-1, respectively. In fact, maidens Good Magic (7-2) and Bahamian (5-1) are listed at a shorter price. Good Magic is a $1 million son of Curlin who finished second to Hazit as the odds-on favorite in his lone appearance and Bahamian exits a good second to subsequent FronRunner (G1) runner-up Solomini in a Del Mar maiden.
Belmont Turf Sprint: It’s not graded but the 6-furlong test features a serious Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) contender in Disco Partner, who established a new world record when capturing the 6-furlong Jaipur (G3) in 1:05.67 in mid-June. The 3-5 morning line favorite faces four rivals including We Deer You and Ready for Rye, who are both candidates for the Turf Sprint with a good showing.
Hill Prince (G3): Nine sophomores will contest the 1 1/8-mile turf test and the connections of Bricks and Mortar, Frostmourne and Yoshida could have the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) as a possibility.
Five stakes are on tap at Keeneland:
Shadwell Turf Mile (G1): Similar to the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) last weekend, the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile shapes up as a terrific betting race. Multiple Grade 1 heroine Miss Temple City is the one to beat as she makes a title defense against 13 male rivals. Eleven-time stakes victor and Canadian champion Heart to Heart merits serious respect following a commanding wire-to-wire triumph in the Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga. Multiple Grade 1 winner Divisidero will cut back in distance after being beaten 2 ½ lengths by subsequent Joe Hirsch hero Beach Patrol in the Arlington Million (G1). International raider Mondialiste, who captured the 2016 Million and finished second to Tepin in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile, can also be considered dangerous. The field is so deep that American Patriot, who captured the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland three back, has been installed as 15-1 outsider on the morning line.
Breeders’ Futurity (G1): The 1 1/16-mile race will yield runners for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and awards points to the top four as part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series. Free Drop Billy, who finished second as the favorite in the Hopeful (G1) and Sanford (G3) at Saratoga, is the early 2-1 favorite for Dale Romans. Givemeaminit is also exiting a fine showing in the Hopeful, winding up only a nose back of Free Drop Billy in third, and comes next on the morning line at 7-2 despite being winless from two career starts. Last-out maiden winners Bourbon Resolution and Ezmosh are a couple of others to watch for the 12-horse field (Enticed will scratch in favor of the Champagne).
First Lady (G1): The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) has been shortened to 1 1/8 miles this year due to the configuration at Del Mar and the one-mile First Lady could produce multiple starters with a salty group of seven set to face the starter. Roca Rojo hails from the mighty Brown stable and has been tagged as the 2-1 morning line favorite following a third to stablemate Lady Eli in the Ballston Spa (G2). Dickinson finished second in the Ballston Spa and will receive plenty of support after defeating Lady Eli in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland last April. Dona Bruja and Hawksmoor are multiple graded stakes winners this season.
Thoroughbred Club of America (G2): A three-time stakes winner this year, Finley’sluckycharm will prep for an expected Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) appearance. Last-out Prioress (G2) vixen Vertical Oak could also earn a trip west in the seven-horse field.
Woodford (G2): The 5 ½-furlong heat doesn’t serve as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but the nine-horse field still includes many prospects including Hogy and Commend, the 1-2 finishers in the September 9 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint; Play the King (G2) victor Conquest Panthera; and 2015 Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday.
And a lone Santa Anita event Saturday:
Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2): Unraced for 70 days, Roy H has perhaps been a little forgotten but can reestablish himself as major Sprint contender. Conditioned by Peter Miller, the 5-year-old gelding capped a three-race win skein with a sensational 2 ½-length tally in the June 9 True North (G2) and netted a career-best 111 BRIS Speed rating. That performance led to him being favored over Drefong, who figures to be a prohibitive Sprint choice on November 4, in the July 29 Bing Crosby (G1) but Roy H was severely compromised when the riderless champion sprinter forced him to check repeatedly and carried him extremely wide into the stretch in a runner-up effort. His main competition in the six-horse field includes Bing Crosby winner Ransom the Moon; Pat O’ Brien conqueror Giant Expectations; and American Anthem, who posted convincing wins in the Laz Barrera (G3) and Woody Stephens (G2) before a third most recently in the Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1).
Keeneland hosts a pair of “Win & You’re In” races:
Bourbon (G2): A feeder for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), the 1 1/16-mile test will feature a full field of 14 and Arawak and John Tippman appear to be prepping for a Del Mar appearance after placing in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf. Admiralty Pier can flatter the top two from the Summer (G2) after finishing a close third at Woodbine and Captivating Moon will switch back to turf after a fast-closing second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity on Polytrack. Budro Talking and High Providence, the top two from the September 9 Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs, are also entered.
Spinster (G1): The prestigious prep managed to attract 13 females, including Cotillion (G1) third-placer Lockdown and multiple Grade 2 runner-up Bar of Gold, but can’t envision any of these being a factor in the Distaff (G1) next month.
Frizette (G1): Separationofpowers will try to rebound after weakening to third as the 3-5 favorite in the Spinaway (G1). Maya Malibu also returns for the one-mile race after rallying to be beaten less than a length in a Spinaway runner-up effort. Last-out maiden winners Calledonia Road, Critique and Purrfect Miss are also looking to stamp their ticket for the Juvenile Fillies.
Flower Bowl (G1): After shipping stateside to crush males in the May 13 Man O’ War (G1) at Belmont Park, Zhukova returns to America for trainer Dermot Weld. The classy 5-year-old mare heads a cast of six turf distaffer at 1 ¼ miles. Brown also has a couple of prospects for the Filly & Mare Turf in Dacita and Grand jete, the 1-2 finishers in the August 12 Beverly D (G1) at Arlington.
L.A. Woman (G3): Last but not least comes the 6 ½-furlong contest for female sprinters and Unique Bella will be odds-on as she makes her first start since early March. The gray sophomore daughter of Tapit has won four straight by convincing margins for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and Unique Bella can establish herself as the probable favorite for the Filly & Mare Sprint with a strong showing.