Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 4, 2023

September 4th, 2023

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

Arabian Knight, Bright Future qualify to Classic

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) picked up two new contenders when a pair of up-and-coming colts won “Win and You’re In” prizes on opposite coasts.

The first to strike was Bright Future in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga. Coming off a flashy allowance victory at Saratoga, the four-year-old son of Curlin tracked a slow pace before taking command and turning back 2022 Clark (G1) winner Proxy to prevail by a nose in 2:03.00.

A similar finish unfolded in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar. In a rematch between Haskell (G1) winner Geaux Rocket Ride and third-place finisher Arabian Knight, it was the latter colt who took home top honors, leading all the way to deny his Haskell conqueror by a neck in 2:03.19.

Gold Phoenix, Parnac, Motorious earn berths to Breeders’ Cup grass events

The undercards of the Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup featured a trio of Win and You’re In races awarding berths to three different Breeders’ Cup events.

At Saratoga, an extraordinarily slow pace helped frontrunner Parnac post an 8-1 upset in the 1 3/8-mile Flower Bowl (G2), stamping her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The French-bred four-year-old escaped with fractions of :25.19, :51.33, and 1:18.82 before turning back heavy favorite McKulick to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:18.60.

At Del Mar, two qualifiers took place. The first was the Green Flash H. (G3), a five-furlong turf sprint serving as a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). San Simeon (G3) winner Motorious started as the favorite and didn’t disappoint, finishing fast from seventh position to trounce a large field by 1 1/4 lengths in :56.07.

Similar tactics proved successful for Gold Phoenix in the Del Mar H. (G2), a 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) qualifier. Despite being positioned in 10th place with three furlongs remaining, the five-year-old gelding flew home to score by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:15.34. With previous victories in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and Eddie Read (G2) on his 2023 resume, Gold Phoenix has quietly become one of the most accomplished grass runners in North America.

Brightwork remains unbeaten in Spinaway

Although it wasn’t a Breeders’ Cup qualifier, Saratoga’s Spinaway (G1) could have a major impact on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The seven-furlong sprint saw Adirondack (G3) winner Brightwork bring her record to a perfect 4-for-4 with a tenacious half-length victory over flashy maiden winner Ways and Means.

The final time was a respectable 1:23.17, and the top two pulled 6 1/4 lengths clear of the rest, so both Brightwork and Ways and Means have to be viewed as key contenders for the Juvenile Fillies.