Racing Roundtable: Breeders' Cup analysis of two-year-olds, turf preps, and a stand against

October 10th, 2023

Ashley Anderson and James Scully discuss impressive two-year-old performances and the best Breeders' Cup prep on turf, as well as prep winners the panel will take a stand against. Churchill Downs racing analyst Scott Shapiro joins the weekly Racing Roundtable video series and provides his input above in our on-camera portion.

Which 2yo colt and filly impressed most?

Ashley Anderson: Booth, a debut winner for Steve Asmussen who romped to a 5 1/4-length victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Keeneland on Saturday. The son of champion sprinter Mitole broke well and raced to the lead before extending his advantage down the stretch to dominate against 10 rivals. His final time of 1:10.23 was nearly two seconds faster than the 1:11.98 clocked by Bergen to win a similar maiden special weight the same day. Booth earned a 98 Brisnet Speed figure for the effort, which is one of the highest Brisnet Speed figures by a two-year-old on debut this season.

As for the fillies, Buchu, a Justify daughter, won the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine (G2) at Keeneland just two weeks after breaking her maiden in her fourth career start. The well-bred juvenile was far back early on, then rallied quickly turning into the stretch and cleared the field inside the sixteenth pole to triumph by 3 3/4 lengths against 10 rivals. She earned a berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) with the win. Buchu initially ran on dirt in her first two career tries, though her second start was originally scheduled for the turf. She raced on Saratoga's lawn on Aug. 20 in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight and was bumped hard at the start, ultimately finishing sixth.

Last month at Churchill, she rebounded in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight and romped by 4 3/4 lengths. She'll now represent one of a potential handful of Justify fillies in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Hard to Justify, recent winner of the Miss Grillo S. (G2), and Opera Singer, hero of the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) at Longchamp in Paris, are also likely to enter.

James Scully:  Timberlake was too keyed up from the break of the Hopeful (G1), forced to steady along the backstretch, and didn’t have a clean trip in the stretch before winding up second in the Hopeful (G1). Brad Cox removed blinkers for the Champagne (G1), and the equipment made a world of difference for the talented colt. The son of Into Mischief settled off the speed and responded when called upon by Florent Geroux in the stretch, overtaking runner-up General Partner and brilliantly drawing clear late in the one-mile event. He still has to prove it, but Timberlake features stamina-heavy bloodlines and appears built to relish the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

After rating off the pace in her first two starts, Chatalas changed tactics and dominated the Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita on the lead. The new dimension may serve the Mark Glatt-trained filly well, as there does not appear to be an abundance of speed lining up for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and it was no surprise to see a daughter of Gun Runner appreciate the stretch-out to two turns. Del Mar Debutante (G1) winner Tamara remains the one beat, but Chatalas improved her profile and may have a tactical advantage over her main rival in the Juvenile Fillies.

Who turned in the best Breeders' Cup prep on turf?

AA: Didia (ARG) in the 1 1/4-mile Rodeo Drive (G2) at Santa Anita. The Nacho Correas pupil bounced back from a three-quarter-length loss to Marketsegmentation in the New York (G1) with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Rodeo Drive on Saturday. She finished with a time of 1:59.79, beating up-and-coming filly Anisette. Prior to her loss in the New York, Didia had won all four starts since shipping to the U.S. She'll be a strong contender for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and Correas recently won the 2019 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) with another Argentinian import in Blue Prize.

JS: Up to the Mark, who returned from a four-month layoff to win the Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland. After stretching out to 1 1/4 miles to capture the Manhattan (G1) in mid-June, the classy four-year-old overcame a troubled trip to courageously defeat Woodbine Mile (G1) winner and favored Master of The Seas by a nose. Owner Mike Repole indicated a preference for stretching out to 1 1/2 miles for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), but connections probably will keep options open by cross-entering to the Mile (G1) and Turf. The international representation for the Mile may not be as deep as recent years, but the overseas contingent for the Turf is guaranteed to be extremely formidable. I don’t know why Up to the Mark would want to take on Auguste Rodin (arguably Europe’s top long-distance horse) and other foreign heavy hitters at an unproven distance when they know Up to the Mark loves a mile.

Which prep winner are you taking a stand against in the Breeders' Cup?

AA: Up to the Mark, whether he races in the Breeders’ Cup Turf or Breeders’ Cup Mile. Based off historical trends, the Kentucky-bred will face a tall task at Santa Anita. When it comes to the Breeders' Cup Turf, eight of the last 10 winners were European-bred and likewise shipped from overseas, and Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby won the last two iterations with Yibir and Rebel’s Romance. Ballydoyle star Aidan O’Brien has also claimed three of the last 10 editions, and he owns the record for most victories by a trainer, with six.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Up to the Mark, did win the Breeders' Cup Turf once, but it was back in 2007 with English Channel when the Breeders' Cup was at Monmouth. O'Brien's Auguste Rodin will likely be the horse to beat, and there are a number of other European shippers who will provide stiff competition.

The Breeders' Cup Mile will be equally tough from a historical perspective, as European shippers tend to dominate as well, and all of the last five winners were European-breds.

JS: Three important preps for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff have been offered over the last two weekends – the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland, Beldame (G2) at Aqueduct, and Zenyatta (G2) at Santa Anita – and I rate Spinster winner Idiomatic as the definitive horse to beat exiting these races. That makes the answer to this question Beldame winner Randomized and Zenyatta winner Adare Manor, they’ve been able to dominant on the lead against suspect rivals but that won’t be the case next time. Unbeaten from four two-turn dirt starts (all graded stakes), Idiomatic’s progression this season for Brad Cox reminds me of how Monomoy Girl rounded into form following a year layoff in 2020, the four-year-old filly looks set for a peak performance on the front end at Santa Anita.