West Coast stretched his win streak to four recording a 3 ¼-length victory in the August 24 Travers (G1), netting a whopping 112 BRIS Speed rating for the wire-to-wire decision, but his status for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) remains uncertain.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert already has a talented trio — Arrogate, Collected and Cupid – readying for the November 4 Classic at Del Mar and West Coast needs another strong showing in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) to prove he belongs. Otherwise, the late-blooming sophomore could bypass the championship event in favor of perhaps the Clark H. (G1) over Thanksgiving Weekend or cut back for the $1 million Dirt Mile (G1) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday program.
The latter option seems unlikely given his success in the 1 ¼-mile Travers, but Gun Runner did so after finishing second in last year’s Pennsylvania Derby and his runner-up Dirt Mile effort served as a stepping stone toward a fantastic 4-year-old season.
The Dirt Mile looks like a logical option for Irish War Cry and Timeline, a pair of multiple graded stakes winners who probably want no part of the 1 ¼-mile Classic distance regardless of how they perform in the Pennsylvania Derby.
The connections of Irap still have Classic aspirations. Winner of the Blue Grass (G2), Ohio Derby (G3) and Indiana Derby (G3) since April, the colt was left in the unenviable position of having to press the loose-on-the-lead West Coast and weakened to third after the less-than-ideal Travers trip. Pace shouldn’t be an issue in this spot, with Timeline and Outplay both likely to show speed from inside posts, and Irap is eligible to pack more of a closing punch. His recent BRIS Speed (109-102-107) and Late Pace (109-110-105) numbers have been outstanding.
And if Irap doesn’t meet expectations, trainer Doug O’Neill can consider turning back for the Dirt Mile.
The Pennsylvania Derby is one of three graded stakes at Parx Saturday with Breeders’ Cup implications.
No uncertainty surrounds the Baffert-trained Abel Tasman, who has already stamped her ticket to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) by recording Grade 1 wins in her last three outings. She will make her final prep in the $1 million Cotillion (G1) but has not scared away the competition, with 11 sophomore rivals entered to face her.
But it’s not a deep group of challengers and the probable odds-on favorite dominated her main rival, Salty, on three consecutive occasions this spring/summer. Abel Tasman is presently the likely third choice to Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled in the Distaff wagering and even with an impressive Cotillion win, the sophomore filly probably won’t close much ground on her elders.
Salty, Actress, Lockdown and It Tiz Well are among the upset hopefuls and a runner-up finish could lead to a Distaff berth, but Abel Tasman is the only viable prospect entering the race.
The $300,000 Gallant Bob (G3) features a field of 10 3-year-olds at 6-furlongs and win contenders include American Pastime, Coal Front, Excitations and Petrov. The winner figures to proceed to the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and I won’t be surprised to see Petrov stretch back out to the Dirt Mile with a respectable second- or third-place effort.