Catching My Eye: Bauer and Walsh's strong weekends at Churchill Downs
Trainer Philip Bauer had a huge weekend, scoring with three of his four entries on Saturday and Sunday. Two of the barn's wins came from juveniles going long on the turf, and the other came from Xigera, whose success had come on the lawn but a move to the main track produced her most dominating effort to date in the Seneca Overnight S.
Bauer Bats .750, including the Seneca Stakes
No effort impressed me more over the weekend than Xigera's run in the $175,000 Seneca. She's Lookin Lucky was a live entry ready to run her best race to date, and though she was able to get the loose and lonely lead, it was Xigera who set up immediately behind her to the outside, tracking with intent. The three most likely winners by win odds joined her coming into the far turn, but at the top of the stretch, Julien Leparoux cut Xigera loose.
What had the makings of a thrilling finish turned on a dime to be an absolute romp, as the Nyquist filly scored by over six lengths. Though geared down late, she earned a 101 Brisnet Speed figure.
After a disappointing finish in the 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Xigera has had quite the sophomore campaign. She's won three of her four races, including two stakes (one on turf and one dirt). In every race to date she has run faster early fractions than late, but on Saturday she ran Brisnet early pace figures of 87 and 92, up-lining to a 107 late pace. That's the type of transition you look for ahead of taking on graded stakes company.
Earlier on Saturday's card, the Justify filly Buchu made her fourth start count, earning an 89 Brisnet speed figure going 1 1/16 miles across the grass.
On Sunday, Gorilla Trek debuted going long on the lawn and came from near the back of 12 colts to first, earning an 82 Brisnet Speed figure. He was a touch green in the stretch, so he is likely to improve off this effort. In terms of earnings, Bauer is on track to have his best season in an 11-year career, and the barn certainly has the firepower to eclipse that number in the remaining three months.
Brendan Walsh's continued success at first asking
In a year where he won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with Pretty Mischievous and had one of the more promising three-year-old colts in training with Banishing, Brendan Walsh could have more Kentucky Derby (G1) and Oaks hopefuls in store for us in 2024. Over the past four months, Walsh has saddled six debut maiden breakers from 28 starts, five of those being two-year-olds. Two of those wins came on Saturday at Churchill.
Let go at 8-1, juvenile filly Take Charge Babe broke well but was quickly joined by a few others, including Brad Cox's second-time starter Sweet Mimi, who ended up on the lead and was game to the wire. Under Declan Cannon, Take Charge Babe showed her willingness for the wire, producing a nice surge in the final strides to move past Sweet Mimi by nearly one length after being held at bay throughout the stretch. The Take Charge Indy filly is the first foal by the Bodemeister dam Bodebabe.
Three races later, Walsh scored with another first-time starter. The three-year-old You Ain't Poppn debuted with promise, as many Bolt d'Oros do. Stalking three-wide for most of the six-furlong affair, You Ain't Poppn had to run down two game leaders with one start under their belt in Shortstop and Furious Anger. Proving his ability to chase down a target, You Ain't Poppn earned a solid 90 Brisnet Speed figure for his effort. His siblings have proved best routing, but his sire has done best with his sprinters and his grandsire, Take Me Out, did his damage at shorter distances.
Thursday, Sept. 21
Last out Mo Fight got nailed at the wire by Highland Falls, who came back on Sunday and ran a strong third against first-level allowance company. On Thursday, the Uncle Mo colt tracked along the rail tending to a pace that collapsed but was still able to kick away by over six lengths going the one-turn mile. A $435,000 yearling purchase trained by Norm Casse, Mo Fight has taken a strong step forward in each of his three starts, resulting in a 99 Brisnet Speed figure in his maiden-breaker.
Wednesday, Sept. 20
There's no arguing that he got a perfect setup, but facing a salty field of fellow three-year-olds Giant Mischief did everything right in his return after seven months. The front-runners had drawn to his outside and each broke running. Giant Mischief hustled to not lose touch with them, finding a pocket on the rail. In the turn, he circled those while meeting Two Eagles River's bid, but he soon pulled away from him and cruised home ahead by 2 3/4 lengths.
Formerly a top Derby contender from the Cox cadre, Giant Mischief only had one start as a three-year-old, finishing sixth in the Rebel (G2) back in February. Returning to the worktab in mid-July, the son of Into Mischief kept to task for nine breezes ahead of returning on Wednesday to face second-level allowance foes going six furlongs. He earned a 94 Brisnet Speed under Tyler Gaffalione.