As the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup World Championships approach, stay up to speed on the latest developments with a weekly roundup of news and notes:
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The Breeders’ Cup Classic picture took another twist with the running of the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico. On paper, the race appeared to be a showdown between Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic and Blue Grass (G2) winner Art Collector. But in the end it was the durable filly Swiss Skydiver who stole the show, charging up the rail to beat Authentic by a neck while Art Collector finished 10 lengths back in fourth place.
The victory secured Swiss Skydiver a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and trainer Kenny McPeek is reportedly open to the possibility of running his star filly against males again. Swiss Skydiver has already won over the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Classic, dominating a strong renewal of the Alabama (G1), and her Brisnet Speed ratings fit well in the prospective field. Facing fellow fillies and mares in the Distaff might seem like an easier task at first glance, but the 1 1/8-mile trip is arguably shorter than Swiss Skydiver really prefers.
In any case, Swiss Skydiver’s Preakness triumph has further muddled an already wide-open Classic picture. Her victory over Authentic was the third significant upset to occur within the last month, following the defeats of Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Derby and Maximum Security in the Awesome Again (G1). Without a clear favorite in the mix, Swiss Skydiver might actually have as strong a chance to win the Classic as anyone else. Certainly her durability and consistency are major assets—she hasn’t missed the trifecta in nine starts this season while recording five graded stakes wins.
Authentic and Art Collector weren’t the only Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders to suffer setbacks over the weekend. Two-time Grade 1 winner Code of Honor was beaten to second place by Complexity in the Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park, though a small field and a slow pace arguably comprised his chances. Racing over a flat mile shorter than he prefers, Code of Honor has the potential to improve in the Classic.
International Breeders’ Cup Contender Watch
Five Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series qualifies were held at Longchamp in France on Sunday, led by the coveted Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). Heavy pre-race rainfall left the ground heavy, blunting acceleration and lending an advantage to runners capable of slogging their way through the challenging conditions.
The Arc produced an upset as 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Enable struggled over the going and weakened to finish sixth. This left the French colt Sottsass to steal the show intenuous fashion, but unfortunately we won’t see him in the Breeders’ Cup Turf—his retirement was announced on Monday.
Opposite plans are on the horizon for Wooded, who qualified to the Turf Sprint with a tenacious victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1). The improving 3-year-old will be considered for a trip to Keeneland, in which case he would join Prix de l’Opera (G1) winner Tarnawa, who is slated to contest either the Turf or the Filly & Mare Turf after rallying to victory in the Prix de l’Opera (G1).
Also possible for trips to North America are Sealiway, who qualified to the Juvenile Turf with a powerful eight-length score in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, and Tiger Tanaka, a comfortable winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1).
Handicappers are also advised to keep an eye on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Group 1 winner Japan, Sovereign, Mogul, and Serpentine, who were forced to scratch from the Arc de Triomphe after an issue with contaminated feed introduced the possibility of positive post-race drug tests. O’Brien has won the Breeders’ Cup Turf a record six times, and any one of his scratched Arc runners would be a solid fit for a trip to Keeneland.
“Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Qualifiers
In addition to the action at Pimlico and Longchamp, ten other Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series events took place across North America last weekend, primarily at the highly-anticipated Keeneland fall meet.
The versatile sprinter/miler Diamond Oops was the first to strike, qualifying to the Sprint thanks to a tenacious victory in the Phoenix (G3). Shortly afterward, the exciting 2-year-old filly Simply Ravishing wired the Alcibiades (G1) by 6 1/4 lengths, defeating a quality field in a fast time to emerge as a favorite for the Juvenile Fillies.
Reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Uni struck on Saturday, claiming a repeat victory in the First Lady (G1). She could be joined in the Mile by Ivar, an Argentinean Group 1 winner who rallied to a surprise victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Essential Quality and Inthemidstofbiz likewise appear Breeders’ Cup-bound after winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Thoroughbred Club of America (G2), respectively, setting the stage for runs in the Juvenile and Filly & Mare Sprint.
Also on Saturday, the improving 3-year-old Gufo qualified to the Turf by rallying to victory in the Belmont Derby (G1), though the Hollywood Derby (G1) has been mentioned as a more likely target than a foray against older rivals in the Breeders’ Cup.
The action continued at Keeneland on Sunday as the rapidly-improving Valiance upset Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil in the Spinster (G1), earning a berth to the Distaff. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly was one of two stars for Pletcher over the weekend, with Juvenile Turf contender Mutasaabeq also turning heads with a sensational late-charging triumph in the Bourbon (G3). Finally, Bodenheimer qualified to the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) after wiring the Indian Summer S. with an eye-catching display of speed.