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
With the Breeders’ Cup Classic prep races complete, key contenders have been busy in the mornings, sharpening their speed and fitness for the Nov. 7 championship showdown.
Art Collector: Coming off a fourth-place effort in the Preakness (G1), Art Collector took to the all-weather track at the Skylight Training Center and breezed a half-mile in :49.20 on Thursday.
Authentic: In his first workout since finishing second in the Preakness (G1), the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner sped 5 furlongs in :59.80 on Saturday at Santa Anita.
By My Standards: Four-time Grade 2 winner continues to train sharply at Churchill Downs, breezing 6 furlongs in 1:12.00 on Thursday.
Global Campaign: Woodward H. (G1) winner took things easy on Saturday at Churchill Downs, working 5 furlongs in 1:03.20.
Higher Power: The 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic third-place finisher has already breezed three times over the Keeneland main track, most recently working 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 on Sunday.
Improbable: The Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite clocked 6 furlongs in a bullet 1:12.40 on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Maximum Security: Not to be outdone by stablemates Authentic and Improbable, the Pacific Classic (G1) winner turned in a fast workout of his own over the weekend, going 5 furlongs in :59.80 on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Midcourt: Cruised through 5 furlongs in 1:03 on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Swiss Skydiver: The Preakness (G1) winner returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile in :49 on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Tiz the Law: Picked up the pace in a 6-furlong breeze on Friday at Belmont Park, clocking the distance in a quick 1:12.26.
Tom’s d’Etat: Turned in the fastest 5-furlong workout on Saturday at Churchill Downs, recording 6 furlongs in 1:13.20.
In theory, British Champions Day (held last Saturday at Ascot in England) could have a greater impact than usual on the Breeders’ Cup. It’s not uncommon for the grand finale of the British flat racing season to fall just two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, so the three-week gap between events in 2020 could inspire a few extra British Champions Day runners to make the trip to Keeneland.
But soft ground at Ascot produced a day of upsets, and you can argue the biggest winner of the day was a horse who didn’t compete. The 3-year-old Kameko skipped the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) to target the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) instead, avoiding a tiring run over unsuitable ground while setting the stage for a peak effort at Keeneland.
Winner of the 2000 Guineas (G1) during the spring and victorious against older rivals in the Sept. 25 Joel (G2), Kameko has repeatedly demonstrated his quality at a high level. He doesn’t stay much farther than a mile, but he’s beaten tough competition over his preferred trip. Even better, Kameko is a son of Kitten’s Joy, whose progeny have combined to win four Breeders’ Cup races.
Certainly Kameko will be fresher than horses who tackled the testing turf on British Champions Day, such as Queen Anne (G1) winner Circus Maximus, who weakened to finish tenth in the Queen Elizabeth II. The Aidan O’Brien-trained 4-year-old had been mentioned as a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll make the trip following his disappointing showing at Ascot.
On a related note, O’Brien has removed Epsom Oaks (G1) winner Love from consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), indicating the sensational 3-year-old is likely finished for 2020. Instead, O’Brien plans to send Grand Prix de Paris (G1) winner Mogul, an improving sophomore son of Galileo. Mogul could be joined at Keeneland by 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Magical, who endured a tricky trip when finishing third in the Champion Stakes (G1) on British Champions Day.
O’Brien will also be represented in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), a race he’s won four times previously. His primary hopeful is Battleground, a beautifully-bred son of War Front out of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Found. A clear-cut winner of the 7-furlong Vintage (G2) at Goodwood in July, Battleground missed a scheduled start in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) due to a cough and will enter the Breeders’ Cup off a lengthy layoff. Nevertheless, the bay colt clearly has talent and will warrant a long look at Keeneland.
Recent Breeders’ Cup prep race winners
A final round of potential Breeders’ Cup preps took place at Keeneland and Woodbine last week. Grade 1 winners were crowned over the Woodbine turf course when Say the Word rallied to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer Turf (G1) and Etoile scored a breakthrough win in the 1 1/4-mile E. P. Taylor (G1). Meanwhile, Silent Poet reiterated his dominance of turf sprints by posting a front-running score in the Nearctic (G2).
Juveniles were also in action at Woodbine, with the undefeated Mark Casse trainee Souper Sensational producing a particularly impressive four-length romp in the 7-furlong Glorious Song S., in the process emerging as a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) or Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Casse also struck stakes gold with Helium, who produced a sharp rally from mid-pack to win the 7-furlong Display S. by 4 1/4 lengths, throwing his hat in the ring for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
At Keeneland, Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) candidate Red Knight was the star of the week, rallying powerfully to win the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore (G3) in the stakes-record time of 2:28.81. Opposite tactics proved successful for Blame Debbie in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager (G3), as the 3-year-old daughter of Blame led all the way to beat older rivals by a head.
But the horse most likely to parlay a weekend stakes victory into Breeders’ Cup glory might be Venetian Harbor. After finishing second behind elite sophomores Swiss Skydiver, Speech, and Gamine during the spring and summer, Venetian Harbor caught an easier field in Keeneland’s Raven Run (G2) and promptly won by a neck, reiterating her status as a favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).