Breeders' Cup Roundup: Aug. 22, 2022
With less than 75 days remaining until the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, qualifying action continues to heat up around the globe.
Let’s look back on a busy weekend on both sides of the Atlantic, then preview the massive stateside action on tap for next week:
Baaeed, Alpinista, Highfield Princess, Blackbeard win Breeders’ Cup qualifiers
A quartet of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races took place in Europe last week, although their ultimate impact on the Breeders’ Cup figures to vary from race to race.
The highlight was the Juddmonte International (G1) at York, in which standout miler Baaeed successfully stretched out over 1 5/16 miles to record a dominant victory. Defending winner Mishriff seemed ready to put up a fight with a quarter-mile remaining, but Baaeed unleashed a powerful burst of acceleration to seize command and win by 6 1/2 lengths.
With 10 victories from as many starts and six consecutive Group 1 victories under his belt, Baaeed has emerged as a superstar four-year-old for trainer William Haggas. But although Baaeed earned a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), he’s not expected to pursue a Breeders’ Cup start, with the Champion S. (G1) at Ascot looming as a much more likely year-end target.
Something similar may be the case for Alpinista, who picked up her seventh consecutive victory and her fifth straight Group 1 triumph when battling to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Yorkshire Oaks (G1) at York, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The five-year-old daughter of Frankel tenaciously defeated Cazoo Oaks (G1) winner Tuesday by one length in a driving finish, cementing her status as a key contender for the coveted Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) in France.
The Arc often supersedes the Breeders’ Cup as the primary autumn target for Europe’s best middle-distance runners, though Alpinista has only run twice this season, so an Arc/Breeders’ Cup double (successfully orchestrated by Enable in 2018) might not be out of the question. If Alpinista does make the trip to Keeneland, the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) would seem like a more suitable target distance-wise than the 1 3/16-mile Filly & Mare Turf.
In any case, U.S. racing fans can expect to see one of the major York winners turn up at the Breeders’ Cup. Highfield Princess picked up her second Group 1 win in less than two weeks when forging to a 2 1/4-length victory in the five-furlong Nunthorpe S. (G1), stamping her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Previously victorious in the 6 1/2-furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1), Highfield Princess has won over a variety of sprint trips and is improving by leaps and bounds this year, so keep an eye on this talented five-year-old mare.
Rounding out the Breeders’ Cup qualifying action was the Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville, a six-furlong steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1). The heavily raced Blackbeard showed no sign of slowing down in his seventh run of the season, dueling for the lead before turning back a bid from the Group 1-placed Persian Force to prevail by half a length. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won 13 Breeders’ Cup races, and rumblings from across the pond suggest Blackbeard will make the trip to Keeneland this fall.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning Juddmonte International runner-up Mishriff could be on course for the Breeders’ Cup. The Prince Faisal colorbearer won the 2021 Saudi Cup on dirt, and Ted Voute (racing manager for Prince Faisal) indicated in a recent interview with Racing TV that either the Breeders’ Cup Turf or the Classic could be on the agenda for Mishriff.
Nest romps in Alabama, Spendarella cruises in Del Mar Oaks
Although they weren’t part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, a pair of stateside Grade 1 races at opposite ends of the country last weekend could have serious Breeders’ Cup implications.
In the Alabama S. (G1) for three-year-old fillies racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt, Nest picked up her third Grade 1 win of the year. Fresh off a runaway triumph in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), the daughter of Curlin overcame an awkward start to surge away and win eased-up by 4 1/4 lengths over Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Secret Oath. At this point, Nest is a frontrunner to be named champion three-year-old filly at the Eclipse Awards, and her Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) credentials are increasingly formidable.
A similarly flashy performance came courtesy of Spendarella in the Del Mar Oaks (G1). Exiting a game runner-up finish in the Coronation S. (G1) at Royal Ascot in England, Spendarella tracked a steady early tempo before drawing clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths, completing 1 1/8 miles on turf in a snappy 1:47.09. Spendarella defeated a dozen other three-year-old fillies and might be good enough to challenge older rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series comes back home this week for three important prizes across the United States. Here’s how the schedule is coming together:
- Saturday: Sword Dancer S. (G1) at Saratoga: This 1 1/2-mile qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf is expected to draw a quality field. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir will unfortunately miss the Sword Dancer with an injury, but 2021 Turf runner-up Broome is expected to start, along with champion and 2020 Sword Dancer winner Channel Maker.
- Saturday: Pat O’Brien S. (G2) at Del Mar: This seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) qualifier is the target for East Coast raider Speaker’s Corner, winner of the Carter H. (G1), Gulfstream Park Mile S. (G2), and Fred W. Hooper S. (G3) this season.
- Sunday: Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga: Reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Sprint (G1) winner Ce Ce won the Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter last year, and she’ll seek to boost her credentials for a 2022 championship in the Ballerina. Others targeting this Filly & Mare Sprint qualifier include Derby City Distaff (G1) winner Obligatory and Saratoga’s 2021 Test S. (G1) heroine Bella Sofia.
In addition to the Sword Dancer, the Saturday card at Saratoga features three other Grade 1 races. The Travers S. (G1) is expected to draw some of the best three-year-old males in the country, including Kentucky Derby (G1) 1-2-3 finishers Rich Strike, Epicenter, and Zandon, Preakness (G1) winner Early Voting, and Haskell (G1) hero Cyberknife.
The Personal Ensign S. (G1) for fillies and mares is shaping up as a battle between multiple Grade 1 winner Clairiere and established champions Letruska and Malathaat, while the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) for three-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs should feature Grade 1 winners Jack Christopher and Gunite.
Stay tuned to TwinSpires Edge for more coverage and analysis as the road to the Breeders’ Cup continues.