Racing Roundtable: Cave Rock, Kentucky Downs, and Europe

September 13th, 2022

In this week's Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson discuss a dynamite Del Mar two-year-old and an action-packed weekend at both Kentucky Downs and in Europe.

Do you have any concerns about Cave Rock stretching out successfully?

James Scully: Not yet; Cave Rock has yet to show any weaknesses. By Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Arrogate, the Bob Baffert-trained colt followed a runaway maiden tally at 6 1/2 furlongs with another display of brilliance in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1), saving plenty for the final furlong after establishing blistering early splits in :21.56 and :43.65, and he's earned 104 and 105 Brisnet Speed ratings for those efforts. I don't anticipate 1 1/16 miles being any issue this fall. And while Cave Rock is out of a graded-stakes-winning sprinter, his female bloodlines are geared toward longer distances.

Kellie Reilly: I do have a scruple about Cave Rock's potential for classic distances. A juvenile who can throw down a :43.65 half without blinking has a higher probability of being a sprinter/miler than a serious Triple Crown threat. Although his raw talent, and sire Arrogate's stamina, could carry him over a route this season, the influence of his dam is likely coming into play too. Cave Rock is out of the precocious sprinter Georgie's Angel, winner of her 4 1/2-furlong debut at Churchill Downs and the 2011 Schuylerville (G3).

Vance Hanson: Perhaps in the longer term, but in the short term his sheer brilliance figures to overcome any serious concerns of him getting 1 1/16 miles this season. While having Arrogate as a sire infuses some stamina, Cave Rock's dam was a one-turn performer and none of his half-siblings to date have been very useful beyond sprints, despite having some relatively long-winded sires.

Any takeaways from the graded stakes action at Kentucky Downs?

JS: I came away intrigued by the turf sprinters. Bran cut back to six furlongs with a nice win in the Turf Sprint (G2), his third graded triumph of the season. After being freshened for a couple of months this summer, Bran appears to be peaking at the right time for John Sadler. Campanelle rallied from just off the pace to record a gutsy nose tally in the Ladies Sprint (G3), and the four-year-old filly recorded a convincing stakes win over 5 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland earlier this season. One Timer switched back to turf with a smart wire-to-wire victory in the Franklin-Simpson (G2), and if he pursues the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1), the three-year-old would be eligible to be a pace factor for Larry Rivelli.

KR: Three notables who raced farther back than preferable in the sprints can be forgiven — and backed next time. The prime example is Big Invasion, a belated third as the odds-on favorite in the Franklin-Simpson. It was a surprise that the streaking sprinter (and his stamina-laden stablemate Gufo) even turned up at Kentucky Downs. After Big Invasion won twice at Saratoga, trainer Christophe Clement mused about training up to the Breeders' Cup. I'm viewing the expedition as an afterthought, and that's about how he ran when being left far too much to do on a course generally conducive to speed. Beaten Turf Sprint favorite Arrest Me Red is a slightly different case, since he was near eventual winner Bran early. Arrest Me Red normally sits in a handier position, though. Trying to rally wide out here might not have played as much to his strengths, and he flattened out in third. In the Ladies Sprint, Jouster was uncharacteristically last before closing well for fifth. If taking up better position early, Jouster likely gets a lot closer to the deservedly winning favorite, Campanelle.

VH: From the list of those that won on Saturday, I'd give Turf Sprint winner Bran the best chance to make an impact in a corresponding Breeders' Cup race. Although the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint distance of 5 1/2 furlongs might be a touch on the short side for him, his progression this season has been steady and notable, and there's little doubt he has the ability to snare a piece at Keeneland, all things being equal.

Who stood out from this weekend's action in Europe?

JS: An unbeaten juvenile Group 1 winner, Luxembourg was sidelined for 3 1/2 months after sustaining his first career setback during the spring, a third in the English 2000 Guineas (G1). He won his comeback over Group 3 foes in mid-August, and Luxembourg appears back on track for Coolmore/Aidan O'Brien following a fine win in Saturday's Irish Champion (G1). It will be interesting to see whether Luxembourg can continue to progress with a strong showing in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) on Oct. 2.

KR: The searing memory will be Tahiyra in the Moyglare Stud (G1), where she steamrolled the hitherto unbeaten Meditate, and supplanted her as the top two-year-old filly in Europe. Even allowing for Tahiyra's excellent profile — as a half-sister to 2020 Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) heroine Tarnawa who bolted up first time out at Galway — her performance on Irish Champions Weekend was still a revelation. Trainer Dermot Weld plans to put her away now with classic ambitions next year. From an immediate Breeders' Cup perspective, the key result was the Flying Five (G1) demolition job by Highfield Princess, a third straight Group 1 that underlines her credentials for the Turf Sprint (G1).

But the hard-fought win by Luxembourg in the Irish Champion could take on significance for the Turf (G1), pending how he fares in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Luxembourg is another case study in horsemanship on the part of Aidan O'Brien and the team at Ballydoyle. It was a feat to get the onetime classic fancy back in form for this race, after an injury ruled him out of the Epsom Derby (G1). Luxembourg did well to battle past French colt Onesto, the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) winner whose form was doubly boosted Sunday. Grand Prix runner-up Simca Mille took the Prix Niel (G2) at Longchamp, and fourth-placer Eldar Eldarov captured the final British classic, the St Leger (G1) at Doncaster.

VH: Although the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint has largely been the domain of U.S.-based runners, Highfield Princess stamped herself as a potentially serious player in that race after notching her third consecutive Group 1 win in Sunday's Flying Five at the Curragh, a race won two years ago by eventual Turf Sprint winner Glass Slippers. That edition was at Keeneland, too, and Highfield Princess has the look of an even more qualified candidate. Tahiyra enters into winter quarters as the ante post favorite for the 1000 Guineas (G1) after a sparkling win in the Moyglare Stud on Sunday, which to me was the most head-turning performance in Ireland at the weekend.