Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 11, 2023

September 11th, 2023

Each week, J. Keeler Johnson reviews the latest news and results on the road to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

Get Smokin, Gear Jockey shine at Kentucky Downs

A pair of rich Saturday stakes at Kentucky Downs awarded “Win and You’re In” berths to the Breeders’ Cup as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.

Both races ended in upsets. The $1.7 million Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) saw six-year-old gelding Get Smokin spring a 19-1 surprise, leading all the way to win the 1 1/2-mile contest by 1 3/4 lengths in 2:28.66. Now a three-time graded stakes winner, Get Smokin has earned a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

The $1 million Turf Sprint (G2) produced a less decisive outcome, with 23-1 longshot Gear Jockey tracking the pace on his way to winning the six-furlong dash by a head in 1:10.59. It was Gear Jockey’s first victory since taking the 2021 Turf Sprint, and it earned him a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

Auguste Rodin leads a bevy of qualifiers from Ireland

No fewer than five Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races took place in Ireland last weekend:

  • At Leopardstown, the feature event was the Irish Champion (G1), a 1 1/4-mile qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Derby (G1) and Irish Derby (G1) winner Auguste Rodin sounds likely to accept the invitation after beating accomplished older rivals Luxembourg and Nashwa by half a length for six-time Breeders’ Cup Turf-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.
  • The Matron (G1) for fillies and mares racing one mile awarded a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) berth to Tahiyra. The standout three-year-old filly faced older rivals for the first time but had no trouble picking up her fourth Group 1 prize, prevailing by 1 1/4 lengths while counting 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine Meditate among her beaten rivals.
  • The KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2), a steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), went to Aidan O’Brien’s Diego Velazquez. The son of Frankel brought his record to a perfect 2-for-2 with a half-length victory over stablemate Capulet.
  • Not far away at the Curragh, Moss Tucker sprang an upset in the five-furlong Flying Five (G1), earning a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). The improving five-year-old gelding prevailed by half a length against a quality field led by multiple Group 1 winner Highfield Princess.
  • Also at the Curragh, Fallen Angel emerged victorious in the seven-furlong Moyglare Stud (G1), qualifying to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Previously a decisive winner of the Sweet Solera (G3), Fallen Angel brought her career tally to 4-3-1-0 with a 1 1/4-length triumph.

Tamara, Prince of Monaco enhance credentials at Del Mar

A pair of Grade 1 stakes with possible Breeders’ Cup implications turned up impressive winners on closing weekend at Del Mar.

The Del Mar Debutante (G1) for two-year-old fillies saw Tamara bring her record to a perfect 2-for-2 with a 6 3/4-length romp. Produced by three-time Breeders’ Cup winner Beholder, Tamara is shaping up as one of the early favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

The Del Mar Futurity (G1) produced a similarly notable outcome as Best Pal (G3) winner Prince of Monaco employed pace-tracking tactics to win by three-quarters of a length, boosting his career tally to 3-for-3. He’s looking like a key contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).