Racing Round Table: Thoughts on Tamara and turf racing
Following a busy weekend in Kentucky, Virginia, California, and Europe, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson reflect on it all in this week's Racing Roundtable.
Which is the better Breeders' Cup prospect, Prince of Monaco or Tamara?
James Scully: Tamara proved sensational winning the Del Mar Debutante (G1); she appears to be a top-class talent like her momma, Hall of Famer and four-time champion Beholder. Granted, the competition is steeper in the two-year-old filly dirt division presently, with Brightwork and Ways and Means waiting in the wings from the East Coast, but I rate Tamara as the one to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Prince of Monaco got the job done in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), determinedly overhauling maiden Mirahmadi in deep stretch, but he was more impressive capturing the Best Pal (G2) in his previous outing. The two-year-old male dirt division lacks any standouts on the East Coast, but some promising maiden winners may emerge in the final round of preps and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) picture appears fluid.
Kellie Reilly: Tamara strikes me as a formidable Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies threat, and indeed a better routing proposition overall, than Prince of Monaco, who looks opposable in the Juvenile. Beholder’s daughter exuded an effortless vibe while racking up a 100 Brisnet Speed rating in the Del Mar Debutante, and on pedigree, she should be just as effective around two turns. Prince of Monaco was a lot less convincing in the Del Mar Futurity. Even if Flavien Prat didn’t look overly urgent aboard the long odds-on favorite, you wouldn’t have expected him to cut it that close against his maiden stablemate Mirahmadi. His 95 Brisnet Speed figure reinforces my suspicions. Prince of Monaco’s pedigree hints that he could be a one-turn specialist; he’s a Speightstown colt out of a half-sister to sprinters, so I’m not sure how far his dam’s sire, Medaglia d’Oro, will carry him. Indeed, that profile fits a lot of Baffert’s Del Mar Futurity winners, especially those who doubled up from the Best Pal (G3) as Prince of Monaco did. For whatever it’s worth, remember that Baffert’s highly-regarded Justify colt Heartland was supposed to be in the Del Mar Futurity, but he hasn’t worked since Aug. 26, and didn’t enter. I’m tempted to think that Heartland would have won.
Vance Hanson: Both look superior to their divisional peers at this point, but Tamara, being a daughter of four-time champion and three-time Breeders' Cup winner Beholder, has the real star power going for her ahead of the Juvenile Fillies (G1). Tamara actually built on and improved off her debut, while Prince of Monaco, who had been highly impressive in the Best Pal, turned in a more workmanlike effort to defeat maiden stablemate Mirahmadi in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), which appeared on paper as if it would produce a more lopsided result. Knock wood that the path to the Breeders' Cup remains clear of obstacles on and off the track for Tamara.
#9 Integration goes from winning on debut last time out to winning the G2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs and sets a new track record! 🏆💪— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) September 9, 2023
The 3-year-old colt was well prepared by trainer Shug McGaughey and piloted by @KendrickCarmou1!
🎥 #TwinSpiresReplay pic.twitter.com/wEpdkj1Ekz
Thoughts from the turf action at Colonial and Kentucky Downs?
JS: After receiving some rain during the week, Kentucky Downs’ turf favored speed over the weekend. I’m never seen frontrunners enjoy such an advantage at the Franklin, Kentucky course, which will be important to remember when the horses run back next time.
I will upgrade the performances of late runners who ran well but were unable to overcome the bias. Some examples to note include Wakanaka, who rallied from last to miss by a neck in the Ladies Turf Sprint (G2); One Timer and Olympic Runner, who closed for second and fourth in the Turf Sprint (G2); Ladies Turf (G3) runner-up Sparkle Blue; Ladies Marathon (G3) runner-up Transient; and Juvenile Mile third-placer Mozlzil.
At Colonial Downs, Integration stepped up with a superb performance in the Virginia Derby (G3), and I won’t count the up-and-coming three-year-old out of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) discussion. He looked that special blowing past unbeaten Grade 1 winner Program Trading in the stretch. Granted, the Breeders’ Cup may be too aggressive a strategy for trainer Shug McGaughey – Integration debuted with a romping two-turn debut on Aug. 12 – but the colt is bred to relish 1 1/2-mile distances and packs a powerful turn of foot.
All options should be on the table if Integration comes back with another impressive win in the $500,000 Jockey Club Derby (G3) at Aqueduct on Oct. 7.
KR: The Colonial Downs features could prove to be more informative in the long run than the Kentucky Downs stakes, which might not hold up as well elsewhere. In the Virginia Derby (G3), Integration stamped himself as a rising turf star by simply blowing past Saratoga Derby (G1) winner Program Trading, and breaking the Colonial Downs course record to boot. The Shug McGaughey pupil had looked pretty smart in his debut score here on Arlington Million Day, but this was another level of magnitude. The other eye-popping performance came from first-time starter Triple Espresso, albeit in defeat, in the Kitten’s Joy S. Slowly away and apparently out of it behind a dawdling pace, the Todd Pletcher juvenile exploded down the stretch to finish a hard-charging second. Watch him wherever he turns up next. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) contender No Nay Mets kept rolling in the Rosie’s S., and Turf Sprint (G1) candidate Nobals just got up in time in the Da Hoss.
Nobals underscored the merit of the colt who beat him last time in the Troy (G3), Cogburn, who was a close fifth in an inscrutable Turf Sprint (G2) at Kentucky Downs on Saturday. I wouldn’t hold that against Cogburn, and a slight cutback in the Breeders’ Cup could suit him very well. The exception to my generally cautious policy about Kentucky Downs form is Austere, a dynamic, three-length winner of Sunday’s Juvenile Fillies S., in a time more than two seconds faster than the boys in the open-company stakes. Trainer Brendan Walsh spoke very highly of the undefeated Mendelssohn filly.
VH: The standout performance at either track for me was the one turned in by second-time starter Integration in the Virginia Derby at Colonial. Trainer Shug McGaughey rolled the dice on the relatively inexperienced colt, and the son of Quality Road entirely justified the Hall of Famer's confidence by comfortably beating Saratoga Derby (G1) winner Program Trading while setting a new course record for 1 1/8 miles. I'm excited to see how he'll do this fall, with the Jockey Club Derby (G3), Hill Prince (G2), and Hollywood Derby (G1) some of his potential targets.
The Kentucky Downs stakes were largely dominated by speed and/or course specialists, and I doubt many will have much in the way of a long-term impact on the Breeders' Cup.
What other performances are worth highlighting?
JS: Kentucky Downs is trying to attract serious Breeders’ Cup contenders for their lucrative stakes, and the timing for the first Saturday of the meet (Sept. 2 this year) works better for than the second (Sept. 9). No race illustrates that better than the Mint Millions (G3), which was moved from the second weekend to the first in 2023.
The last three Mint Millions winners – Somelikeithotbrown, Pixelate, and Flavius – were never considered for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), but Ancient Rome will have the Mile as a target after winning this year. The Group 3 scorer and multiple Group 1-placed runner appears to be rounding back into top form and the timing of this year’s Mint Millions worked perfectly for the Breeders’ Cup.
Angophile and Far Bridge, the 1-2 finishers in the Dueling Grounds Derby, are a couple of other runners from the first weekend of the Kentucky Downs meet with possible Breeders’ Cup aspirations.
With the exception of Juvenile Fillies winner Austere, an unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) contender for Brendan Walsh, the second weekend of the Kentucky Downs meet appears unlikely to have much impact on the Breeders’ Cup. Moving some big events like the Kentucky Turf Cup (G2), Turf Sprint (G2), and Ladies Turf Sprint (G2) to the first weekend may make those races more attractive for serious Breeders’ Cup hopefuls in 2024.
KR: My in-depth recaps of the Irish Champions Festival can be found over on Brisnet.com, so I won’t rehash the points about Auguste Rodin, Tahiyra, Henry Longfellow et al. Breeders’ Cup clues could also be found on Arc Trials Day at ParisLongchamp. Warm Heart, already in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) via her Yorkshire Oaks (G1) victory, reiterated her status as a serious contender with a gutsy score in Sunday’s Prix Vermeille (G1) for Aidan O’Brien. Andre Fabre’s four-year-old filly Place du Carrousel warmed up for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) by defeating males in the Prix Foy (G2), and German Derby (G1) star Fantastic Moon captured the Prix Niel (G2) handsomely over Feed the Flame, whose pacemaker didn’t appear to play his role all that effectively. Fantastic Moon, previously runner-up to Godolphin’s globetrotting Nations Pride in a Munich Group 1, has the Breeders’ Cup Turf among his fall options.
Sunday was a big day of racing in Seoul as well, and Japanese stablemates swept the features in grand style. Crown Pride, the 2022 UAE Derby (G2) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) also-ran, romped by 10 lengths in the Korea Cup (G3). Fellow Koichi Shintani trainee Remake dominated the Korea Sprint (G3) in track-record time. Back in third was compatriot Bathrat Leon, who is expected to stretch back out to a mile in his Breeders’ Cup bid for Yoshito Yahagi.
VH: If there was any doubt about the impending European dominance in the marquee Breeders' Cup turf races, fans got a sneak preview of what is likely to come in both Ireland and France over the weekend. The firm, dry conditions at Santa Anita in November will be major draws for the likes of dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin, who rebounded nicely in the Irish Champion (G1), while filly stable companion Warm Heart notched her second Group 1 win in a row by taking the Prix Vermeille (G1). Also, Tahiyra returned from her summer break with a dazzling win in the Matron (G1) at Leopardstown, and a tilt at the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) might be on her agenda. This will be star power not to be missed for those able to make the trek to Southern California.