Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 26, 2022

September 26th, 2022

Last weekend was relatively quiet on the road to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. Consider it the calm before the storm of important preps taking place on the first weekend in October.

Let’s take a quick look back at last week’s action before previewing the gigantic upcoming slate:

Commissioning, The Foxes win Newmarket qualifiers

Only two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers took place over the final weekend in September, and both were held at Newmarket in England.

First up was Friday’s Rockfel S. (G2), a seven-furlong steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). A large field of 14 fillies faced the starter, but in the end Commissioning left no doubt about her superiority, pulling clear in the final furlong to dominate by 2 3/4 lengths.

Trained by John and Thady Gosden, Commissioning is unbeaten and unchallenged in two starts, having previously won her debut traveling seven furlongs at Newmarket. She’s been mentioned as a Breeders’ Cup contender, so stay tuned for news on whether she’ll travel to Keeneland.

On Saturday, four colts and geldings faced off in the one-mile Royal Lodge S. (G2), which awarded a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Flying Honors was the heavy favorite off a listed stakes win at Salisbury, but in a driving finish that saw all four starters finish 1 1/4 lengths apart, Flying Honors settled for third place as The Foxes tenaciously rallied up the rail to score by half a length over Dubai Mile.

Previously victorious in a maiden race at Goodwood, The Foxes has improved by leaps and bounds in recent starts, but it sounds like a Breeders’ Cup trip is unlikely for the Andrew Balding trainee.

Taiba, Society shine in million-dollar stakes

The biggest stateside racing action last weekend took place at Parx Racing, where the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and the $1 million Cotillion S. (G1) served as unofficial steppingstones toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), respectively.

The Cotillion featured Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath vying for her second top-level prize of the season, but after launching a rally around the far turn, Secret Oath flattened out to finish a distant third. Instead, it was the 7-1 longshot Society who claimed top honors in impression fashion. The Charles Town Oaks (G3) winner was quick into stride and led all the way in a dominant performance, drawing off to win the 1 1/16-mile heat by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:42.94 seconds.

A similarly impressive performance came courtesy of Taiba in the Pennsylvania Derby. Winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) during the spring, Taiba started as the 7-5 favorite against a deep field and lived up to expectations, stalking the early pace before pulling clear to beat Blue Grass S. (G1) winner Zandon and Haskell S. (G1) hero Cyberknife by three lengths. Taiba stopped the clock for 1 1/8 miles in a solid 1:48.67 and appears poised to take on older horses for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Kimari takes aim at the Filly & Mare Sprint

The five-year-old mare Kimari has enjoyed quite a career under the tutelage of Wesley Ward.

A stakes winner in each of the last four seasons and a competitor in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and 2021 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1), Kimari staked her credentials as a 2022 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) contender with a cozy victory in Sunday's Gallant Bloom S. (G2) at Belmont at the Big A.

Kimari was sharp as could be in the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom, rallying from behind a modest pace to defeat frontrunning Lady Rocket by 1 1/4 lengths. Kimari reached the finish line in a solid 1:16.58 and figures to be formidable in the Filly & Mare Sprint, which is slated to take place over the same track and seven-furlong distance as Kimari's signature victory in the 2021 Madison S. (G1).

Life Is Good, Rich Strike tackle Breeders’ Cup Classic preps

Two upcoming Saturday stakes figure to produce starters for the Breeders’ Cup Classic… or perhaps the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), depending on how things unfold.

The 1 1/8-mile Woodward S. (G1) at Belmont at the Big A marks the final pre-Breeders’ Cup start for reigning Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good. A brilliant winner of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Whitney S. (G1) this season, Life Is Good has a couple of Breeders’ Cup options: he could take on Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or he could shorten up for a defense of his Dirt Mile title. The Woodward should help clarify which option is most suitable for Life Is Good.

At Churchill Downs, the feature event is the Lukas Classic (G2) over 1 1/8 miles. Last year’s Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner Hot Rod Charlie is shaping up as the favorite, but he’ll have to reckon with Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Rich Strike, who boasts a 2-for-2 record at Churchill Downs.

Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series expands dramatically this weekend with a dozen qualifiers on the agenda around the globe. Let’s dive in and explore the schedule:

  • Saturday: Ack Ack S. (G3) at Churchill Downs: The field is still coming into focus for this Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile qualifier, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Forego S. (G1) winner Cody’s Wish turn up in the entries, considering he’s 4-for-4 racing one mile at Churchill.
  • Saturday: Awesome Again S. (G1) at Santa Anita: Impressive Pat O’Brien S. (G2) winner Laurel River has been mentioned as a candidate for this 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic qualifier. Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer and Santa Anita H. (G1) hero Express Train are others who would seemingly fit the Awesome Again field.
  • Saturday: Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont at the Big A: Forte and Gulfport, the top two finishers from the Hopeful S. (G1) at Saratoga, are among the potential entrants in this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) steppingstone.
  • Saturday: Miss Grillo S. (G2) at Belmont at the Big A: Trainer Chad Brown has won this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf qualifier eight times, so Brown’s Saratoga debut winner Pink Hue will warrant respect if she starts.
  • Sunday: Frizette S. (G1) at Belmont at the Big A: New York’s signature race for two-year-old fillies has long ranked as an important prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Spinaway S. (G1) winner Leave No Trace is shaping up as the most accomplished contender for this year’s renewal.
  • Sunday: Pilgrim S. (G2) at Belmont at the Big A: The field is still in flux for this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf steppingstone, but Saratoga’s With Anticipation S. (G3) winner Boppy O would be a logical fit if he enters.
  • Sunday: Speakeasy S. at Santa Anita: Speedy juveniles will sprint five furlongs on grass in this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) qualifier, but potential entries are still unclear.
  • Sunday: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp: Europe’s premier autumn prize awards a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Recent Irish Champion S. (G1) winner Luxembourg is a key win threat, but the mare Alpinista has won five straight Group 1 prizes and can’t be underestimated.
  • Sunday: Prix de l’Opera (G1) at Longchamp: The improving three-year-old filly Nashwa enters off victories in the Prix de Diane (G1) and Nassau S. (G1) and has been mentioned as a Breeders’ Cup contender, so the Opera’s “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) is likely enticing.
  • Sunday: Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) at Longchamp: Blue Rose Cen won Longchamp’s Prix d’Aumale (G3) and looms as a logical fit for this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf qualifier. But she may have to reckon with Kelina, who has won both of her starts in convincing fashion.
  • Sunday: Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at Longchamp: Al Riffa has already secured a top-level victory in the Vincent O’Brien National S. (G1) and figures to factor again in this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf steppingstone.
  • Sunday: Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1) at Longchamp: The talented two-year-old filly The Platinum Queen ran second against older rivals in the Nunthorpe S. (G1) during the summer, and she’s slated to challenge her elders again in this Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) qualifier. But since the Turf Sprint isn’t open to juveniles, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint would be the goal for The Platinum Queen if she makes a trip to Keeneland.

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