Racing Roundtable: Tuscan Sky, Bright Future impress on Haskell Preview Day

June 18th, 2024

This week, the Racing Roundtable discusses Tuscan Sky and Bright Future's performances on Haskell Preview Day, stakes results from Churchill Downs, and what else caught their eye from the weekend.

Following Haskell Preview Day, do you think Tuscan Sky and Bright Future can be major players in their respective divisions?

James Scully: I wouldn’t bet against Bright Future. The older male division lacks depth and Bright Future is one of the few proven at the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) distance. A late-blooming son of Curlin who made his stakes debut last summer, Bright Future has now won three of his last four starts and appears poised to keep advancing at age five. The Salvator Mile (G3) marked his first start since a sixth in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic and the chestnut horse finished well despite lacking focus at times, overcoming a brief stretch where he appeared to idle on the far turn to win going away by 1 3/4 lengths. Bright Future figures to appreciate longer distances at Saratoga this summer, winning a nine-furlong allowance and the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last year, and Todd Pletcher may target the $1 million Whitney (G1) on Aug. 3 and/or a title defense in the $1 million Gold Cup on Sept. 1.

Pegasus winner Tuscan Sky will enter the second half of the season on the upswing for Pletcher, winning for the third time from four starts and registering an encouraging 100 Brisnet Speed rating for the 6 3/4-length decision, and the three-year-old division is up for grabs after the three different winners of Triple Crown races all paid more than $20. Tuscan Sky will need to keep progressing and prove himself at longer distances, but Vino Rosso colt has something going for him following a sharp stakes win.

Ashley Anderson: While Tuscan Sky beat just five rivals, he did so in nearly gate-to-wire fashion to dominate by 6 3/4 lengths and earn a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed figure. The Vino Rosso colt is now 3-for-4 for his career, with his lone loss a disappointing seventh in the Wood Memorial (G2), his only start to date against graded stakes company. Returning off a two-month layoff and adding blinkers for the first time, the Todd Pletcher trainee looked more like the colt we saw earlier in the year, when Tuscan Sky broke his maiden on debut by 5 1/4 lengths and beat just two rivals in an allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds, but posted one of the highest BRIS figures on the day, with a 97. 

With a wide-open three-year-old division, he inserted himself into the mix on Saturday as the winner of the final local prep for the $1 million Haskell (G1) on July 20. He could also instead point toward the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga on July 27. Tuscan Sky will need to prove himself against larger fields — as of now, all of his victories have come against five or fewer rivals, and he was a distant seventh when facing 11 in the Wood. But he has the pedigree to mature with age, and I give him a stronger chance than Bright Future to be a major player in his respective division.

Tuscan Sky's stablemate won the Salvator Mile on Saturday, handing Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano victories in both main-track stakes. Bright Future rallied to win by 1 3/4 lengths and clocked a 98 BRIS figure in his first start in more than seven months. The Curlin five-year-old went 3-for-6 in 2023 and ended the season with a good sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). He may appear next in the $1 million Whitney (G1) on Aug. 3 or look to defend his title in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on Sept. 1. However, right now, I feel like National Treasure — with his win in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Met Mile (G1) — has solid footing atop the older dirt male division, while the three-year-old division could go to anyone at the moment.

What were your takeaways from Churchill's stakes action over the weekend?

JS: Webslinger closed determinedly to snap a seven-race losing streak in the 1 3/8-mile Chorleywood, outfinishing Sugoi by a half-length, but the competition figures to get more difficult in upcoming engagements. The gelding recorded a fine neck second in the Hollywood Derby (G1) last December, but Webslinger did not progress earlier this season like I expected. 

Our Pretty Woman rebounded from a disappointing 13th in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), but she was far from overwhelming winning by a diminishing three-quarters of a length. After closely stalking a dawdling pace, Our Pretty Woman came up a ride nearing the completion of the far turn, and she went on to earn only an 83 Brisnet Speed rating. Intricate did not run straight in the stretch while reducing the margin late, but the 2023 Golden Rod (G2) winner has not gone on at age three for Brendan Walsh.

AA: Both post-time favorites won the pair of black-type stakes on Churchill's Saturday card, with Our Pretty Woman securing her first stakes win in the Monomoy Girl Overnight S. and Webslinger rebounding off a third in the Turf Classic (G1) to get his third win from four starts at the Louisville racetrack.

Three-year-old filly Our Pretty Woman came home just three-quarters of a length in second to Tarifa in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) three back, in the Steve Asmussen pupil's stakes debut, before Our Pretty Woman weakened to finish 11th of 14 in the Kentucky Oaks. The Medaglia d'Oro daughter bounced back Saturday while facing four rivals, including Golden Rod (G2) winner Intricate, who hit the bench after her troubled fifth in the Fair Grounds Oaks but looked much better on Saturday off the more than two-month layoff. Both Intricate and Our Pretty Woman look poised to contend in major stakes later in the year.

As for Webslinger, he got the job done at a course that's provided him a ton of success. Now 3-for-4 at Churchill, the four-year-old gelding demonstrated his strong closing kick, with a 105 Late Pace rating when rallying to win by half a length in the Chorleywood. The son of Constitution is 17-5-4-4 lifetime and is still looking for a Grade 1 win. The Arlington Million (G1) and Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) could be targets later in the year, but Webslinger's done his best work at Churchill and may need to wait longer to celebrate that elusive Grade 1 victory.

What else caught your eye?

JS: Winner of the 2019 Blue Grass (G2) and 2020 Met Mile (G1), Vekoma has six winners from his first 10 starters at stud. The freshman sire stands at Spendthrift Farm, and Vekoma’s first four winners came at Delaware Park, Gulfstream Park, Horseshoe Indianapolis, and Woodbine. The son of Candy Ride had three starters at Churchill Downs last Friday, producing a pair of wins and a second, and I’ll mention a pair of offspring from last weekend.

Viggiedal flashed forward at the break and looked professional drawing off to a five-length decision at Churchill on Friday. The gray filly registered a 91 Brisnet Speed rating, and the Steve Asmussen trainee will look to carry her form forward against graded rivals at Saratoga.

Colloquial didn’t get away clean at Aqueduct on Saturday and didn’t appear comfortable behind traffic along the backstretch. Odds-on Mentee dominated the opening stages and Colloquial was making little progress through the far turn, but the chestnut colt leveled off in the stretch and closed boldly to miss by a nose to Mentee. George Weaver may head straight to stakes competition off the encouraging effort.

AA: Chad Brown trainee Accede scored her first stakes victory on Saturday in the seven-furlong Bed o' Roses (G2), beating runner-up Just Katherine by a quarter-length. The Juddmonte homebred has now won three straight after visiting the winner's circle in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Keeneland in October and a six-furlong allowance optional claimer at the same track in April. The Into Mischief four-year-old began her career with a debut victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream, then jumped to graded stakes company in the seven-furlong Eight Belles (G2) and came home a two-length third. She weakened to finish a distant fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Acorn (G1) last June, then cut back to a mile in a non-graded stakes and tried turf in the 6 1/2-furlong Music City (G3), where she finished ninth. The decision to keep Accede at sprint distances on the dirt has appeared to pay off now that she's built a three-win streak following her turf start in September.

The win on Saturday also delivered Brown his fourth win in the Bed o' Roses since 2018 and his second straight. Last year, Brown succeeded with Goodnight Olive, who was guided by Irad Ortiz Jr., the winning jockey aboard Accede on Saturday. Brown was dominant overall this weekend, with victories in the Eatontown S. (G3) with Tax Implications and the Monmouth S. (G3), which resulted in a dead-heat with Brown's Running Bee and Shug McGaughey's Fort Washington.