Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 19, 2022

September 19th, 2022

Seven weeks out from the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, top-notch turf horses took center stage in a series of lucrative prep races at Woodbine and Belmont at the Big A (Aqueduct).

Let’s catch up on the results, then look ahead to next week’s exciting slate:

Modern Games romps in Woodbine Mile

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend came from Modern Games in the Woodbine Mile (G1) at Woodbine, a rich “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

Winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Modern Games arrived at Woodbine off a productive European campaign highlighted by a classic victory in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (G1) and a runner-up effort in the Sussex S. (G1) behind the undefeated Baaeed.

These efforts stamped Modern Games as a 3-4 favorite to win the Woodbine Mile, and the three-year-old Godolphin homebred did not disappoint. Content to race near the back of the pack while saving ground off a quick pace, Modern Games steered outside for the homestretch drive and blew past his rivals to score by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:32.77.

Modern Games got the better of a quality field at Woodbine, counting 2021 Breeders’ Cup Mile third-place finish Ivar and defending Woodbine Mile winner Town Cruise among his beaten rivals. Conditioned by six-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Charlie Appleby, Modern Games is shaping up as an early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Mysterious Night, Cast Call earn Breeders’ Cup berths at Woodbine

Modern Games wasn’t the only horse to earn a Breeders’ Cup berth at Woodbine. Two other Grade 1 qualifiers took place on Saturday.

First up was the Summer S. (G1), a one-mile steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Appleby’s Godolphin homebred Mysterious Night was favored off a victory in the Prix Francois Boutin (G3) in France and didn’t disappoint in his first North American foray, exploding from midfield to beat half a dozen rivals by 5 3/4 lengths.

Mysterious Night was full of run down the homestretch, sprinting the final quarter-mile in approximately :23.05 to record a solid final time of 1:34.98. If Mysterious Night returns to North America for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he’s bound to draw plenty of wagering support.

Later in the afternoon, Last Call sprung a surprise in the Natalma S. (G1), a one-mile qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). The 21-1 longshot finished second and fourth in her first two starts sprinting at Woodbine, but stretching out in distance triggered a turnaround as Last Call outkicked heavy favorite Cairo Consort down the lane to win by one length in 1:36.49.

Trained by Kevin Attard, Last Call is a daughter of long-winded 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner English Channel, so she’s bred to run long and improve with maturity. Last Call is already progressing in a positive direction and still has upside.

Nations Pride, McKulick win rich grass stakes at Belmont at the Big A

Although they weren’t part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Derby (G3) and $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks (G3) could have Breeders’ Cup implications.

The Jockey Club Derby went the way of Saratoga Derby (G1) winner Nations Pride, a Godolphin homebred conditioned by Charlie Appleby. An odds-on favorite against five rivals, Nations Pride tracked a respectable pace for 1 1/4 miles before finishing fast to win by 6 1/4 lengths. His final clocking of 2:24.14 broke the course record for 1 1/2 miles at Aqueduct (currently racing under the name “Belmont at the Big A”) and stamped Nations Pride as a possible Breeders’ Cup Turf contender.

The Jockey Club Oaks also produced a course-record time as Belmont Oaks (G1) winner McKulick charged home from midfield to defeat the pace-tracking Toskana Belle by half a length, completing 1 3/8 miles in 2:12.38. A daughter of Frankel conditioned by Chad Brown, McKulick has come to hand impressively this summer and is shaping up as a threat for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Fields taking shape for Pennsylvania Derby, Cotillion

A giant afternoon of racing is coming up at Parx Racing this Saturday. The Pennsylvania racetrack plans to offer 10 stakes worth a combined $3.8 million, led by the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and the $1 million Cotillion S. (G1).

The Pennsylvania Derby is a 1 1/8-mile steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and the potential field is coming up strong. Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Taiba, Haskell S. (G1) hero Cyberknife, Florida Derby (G1) winner White Abarrio, and Blue Grass S. (G1) victor Zandon are among the possible starters.

The 1 1/16-mile Cotillion for three-year-old fillies is also coming up strong. Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath could start as the favorite in this Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) prep, though there are many graded stakes winners among the nominees, including runaway Las Virgenes S. (G3) winner Adare Manor.

Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers

Only two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races are on the agenda this week, and both are taking place across the pond in England. Here’s what to anticipate:

  • Friday: Rockfel S. (G2) at Newmarket: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf contenders will square off in this seven-furlong grass test. Early betting has established impressive Newmarket maiden winner Commissioning as the favorite for trainers John and Thady Gosden, but U.S. racing fans are advised to watch Prix Six Perfections (G3) winner Sydneyarms Chelsea, who has been mentioned on the Nick Luck Daily Podcast as a Breeders’ Cup candidate by trainer Charlie Hills.
  • Saturday: Royal Lodge S. (G2) at Newmarket: The field is still coming into focus for this one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) qualifier, but one of the key early entrants is Charlie Appleby’s Naval Power, a Godolphin homebred whose four victories from four starts include a pair of listed stakes.

Stay tuned to TwinSpires Edge for more coverage and analysis as the road to the Breeders’ Cup continues.