Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Pingxiang

December 31st, 2020

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

A 2020 Triple Crown nominee, Pingxiang shipped for the 2020 Dirt Mile but didn’t draw in as an also-eligible. While the four-year-old brings more experience into his second Breeders’ Cup trip, it remains at a less informative class level, and still going shorter than a mile.

The $100,000 Keeneland September yearling is related to multiple Grade 2 star and successful sire Munnings. Both are by Speightstown and from the same female line. Pingxiang’s dam is an Unbridled’s Song half-sister to Group 2-placed Snowboarder.

After failing to break his maiden as a juvenile on turf, a switch to dirt in his sophomore bow made the difference as he scored at Kyoto in January 2020. Pingxiang was sidelined following a couple of unplaced efforts (on dirt and turf), but returned triumphant in an allowance romp at Nagoya last fall. That wasn’t enough, however, to make the main body of the Dirt Mile field.

Pingxiang’s Dec. 26 homecoming was anticlimactic. The 6-1 fourth choice in a Hanshin allowance, he was off a beat slow, never factored, and wound up 14th.

Rebounding at Chukyo Jan. 23, Pinxgiang hustled to the early lead and enjoyed being back in his front-running comfort zone. But the 7-1 shot didn’t exactly outclass them in a 1 1/2-length decision.

Thus Pinxgiang went off at 12-1 a week later in a higher-level allowance at Tokyo, where he blasted to the lead from post 16 and nearly sprang the upset. Favorite Tagano Beauty just nailed him at the wire of the about seven-fur long test in 1:22.7. Tagano Beauty, who was runner-up in the 2020 Hyacinth S. to Japanese dirt star Cafe Pharoah, has since won a listed stakes.

Pingxiang had to work harder to get to the front next time at Hanshin Mar. 6, and the 7-1 chance paid the price when fading to 10th.

Favored in his Apr. 25 return to Tokyo, Pinxgiang smoothly advanced to the lead for new rider Yuga Kawada, and just lasted in a three-way photo. The blaze-faced chestnut justified lukewarm favoritism again at Hanshin June 26, winning two straight for the first time in his career. With Kawada back aboard, Pingxiang readily took charge from post 16 and held sway by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths.

In addition to the searing class test off the layoff, Pingxiang will be racing beyond seven furlongs for the first time in the 2021 Dirt Mile. His running style doesn’t suggest he’s looking for two turns, especially at Breeders' Cup level.

Once Matera Sky was ruled out of another try at the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), I thought his apparent traveling companions would stay home in Japan too. But trainer Hideyuki Mori presses on with a couple of entries, Jasper Prince making the cut for his first preference in the Sprint, while stablemate Pingxiang is the also-eligible in the Dirt Mile.

For whatever it’s worth, Matera Sky’s understudy at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup ran a lot better than he did – Full Flat was fifth in the Juvenile (G1).

Kentucky-bred Pingxiang, a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling, is related to successful sire Munnings. Both are by Speightstown and from the same female line. Pingxiang is the first foal from the Unbridled’s Song mare Beauty and Light, a half-sister to Group 2-placed Snowboarder, who is in turn out of a half to Munnings. This is the extended family of the great Allez France, which is also represented by Circus Maximus (Mile).

A 2020 Triple Crown nominee, Pingxiang is 2-for-3 on dirt but untested in stakes company on this surface, or beyond about 7 furlongs. He’s spent more time, unsuccessfully, on turf.

Pingxiang placed in his first three starts on turf, all at about 6 furlongs as a juvenile. A slow-starting third in his unveiling last summer at Kokura, the blaze-faced chestnut was a rallying second at Fukushima Nov. 16. Pingxiang came close on the Dec. 1 Champions Cup undercard at left-handed Chukyo, where he set the pace and was just run down late. At Hanshin Dec. 22, he appeared hard to handle early from the far outside post 16 and wound up 12th.

Prospering on a switch to dirt, while remaining at about 6 furlongs, Pingxiang broke his maiden Jan. 18 at Kyoto. He showed speed to chase the pace and stayed on strongly. That made him the 3-2 favorite in a Feb. 9 allowance at the same track and trip, but he didn’t break well, found himself last, over-raced on the outside, and tired to sixth.

Pingxiang reverted to turf for his only listed stakes try, the Feb. 29 Marguerite at Hanshin, but didn’t make an impact from off the pace. He was trying to improve position when meeting trouble and checked in 10th of 11.

Not seen again until Sept. 30, Pingxiang returned with a vengeance back on dirt, at an NAR venue (rather than the more prestigious JRA). In an about 7-furlong event at Nagoya, he went straight to the early lead and pummeled older horses in an absolute rout.

Pingxiang shapes up as a promising type who’s been figuring out the game. His last effort was a step forward, albeit in a spot where he was the best by a pole, and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile is a whole different ballgame.