Racing Roundtable: Reflections on first round of final Breeders' Cup preps

October 4th, 2022

In the first of two special Racing Roundtables, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson look back on the first weekend of final Breeders' Cup prep and offer thoughts on whose stock is on the rise and on decline.

Whose Breeders' Cup stock are you buying after this weekend's preps?

James Scully: Senor Buscador in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). A four-year-old son of Mineshaft, Senor Buscador displayed a dazzling turn of foot to win his first two career appearances going away, including the Springboard Mile, but he made only one more start before heading the sidelines for a 17-month rest. Needless to say, the inexperienced colt needed a few starts back this summer before offering his best at the graded level. And after an encouraging third in the Pat O'Brien (G2) at Del Mar, Senor Buscador earned a free berth to the Dirt Mile by winning Saturday's Ack Ack (G3). The competition will get tougher, but Senor Buscador will bring solid Brisnet numbers and progressing form to the championship race.

Kellie Reilly: Nashwa in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Although upset by longshot Place du Carrousel in Sunday's Prix de l'Opera (G1), her loss was the very definition of a tough beat. The tactically versatile daughter of Frankel had to go forward from her terrible post 13, put away Aidan O'Brien's Oaks (G1) winner Tuesday, and just got mugged by an Andre Fabre trainee who reveled in the very soft going. Nashwa had soundly beaten Place du Carrousel in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1), reinforcing the idea that this result was a product of circumstances. The Breeders' Cup has long been on the agenda for Nashwa, so if she exits the Opera in good order, she has every right to show up as a major contender. Indeed, the Opera tends to be informative for the Filly & Mare Turf.

Vance Hanson: The two most interesting freshman prospects that competed at Aqueduct over the weekend were Be Your Best, who failed to gain much traction over the wet turf when third as the favorite in the Miss Grillo (G2), and Chocolate Gelato, who did not need to reproduce her very best to take the Frizette (G1) over a sloppy main track. Both can be forgiven for not running to their potential in the conditions, and if they encounter more ideal circumstances at Keeneland a month from now, they will figure tough in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Juvenile Fillies (G1), respectively.

Whose Breeders' Cup stock are you selling after this weekend's preps?

JS: New York-based juveniles on the main track. Two weeks after Echo Again, arguably the most impressive two-year-old winner at Saratoga, faltered badly in the Iroquois (G3) at 3-5, the projected top contenders in Saturday's Champagne (G1) proved underwhelming. Blazing Sevens netted only an 86 Brisnet Speed rating for his 8-1 upset, and his figures are also low on fast tracks. Sunday's Frizette winner, Chocolate Gelato, was exiting an eye-catching maiden win, but she needed nearly 52 seconds to complete the final half-mile, registering an 84 rating for the hard-fought win.

KR: Saffron Beach's Filly & Mare Turf hopes were dented twice over. Her uncharacteristic clunker as the defending champion in Saturday's Sun Chariot (G1) at Newmarket cast a doubt over her form. Then a post-race scope revealed the gunk of a respiratory infection, a "dirty lung," as trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam summed it up. While the mystery behind her no-show was solved, it still puts a cloud over her Breeders' Cup preparation. Saffron Beach is being treated with antibiotics, and her Keeneland venture is "on hold" pending how she rebounds in the coming weeks. If she appears ship-shape to travel, I'd have a scruple about whether we'd see her at her peak.

VH: Although he was not allowed to wing it on the front end in the Woodward (G1), you can count me among the unimpressed with Life Is Good's performance against a less-than-stellar field. Not that I believed Life Is Good had run a race this season good enough to make me think he could depose Flightline in the Classic (G1), but his current trajectory does make me wary that he'd be the most likely second-place finisher. At this moment, I'd probably favor the three-year-olds Epicenter and Taiba to cap a Classic exacta behind Flightline, rather than Life Is Good.

What else caught your eye over the weekend?

JS: Rich Strike in the Lukas Classic (G2). His outstanding head second to Hot Rod Charlie gives credence to the 80-1 Kentucky Derby (G1) upset, and considering the competition in the Lukas Classic (three Grade 1-winning older rivals), Rich Strike arguably turned in a career-best performance Saturday. Along with leaving Art Collector and Happy Saver in his wake, the Eric Reed-trained colt gave last year's Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up all he could handle. It's easy to envision Rich Strike being no match for Flightline next time, but the improving sophomore will be one to consider underneath for vertical exotics.

KR: To continue with the buy/sell theme, I will hold onto my imaginary stock in Turf Sprint (G1) contender Highfield Princess and Juvenile Fillies Turf hopeful Be Your Best. British-based Highfield Princess didn't race this past weekend, but she had previously dispatched The Platinum Queen, who became the first two-year-old filly in 44 years to beat elders in Sunday's Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp (G1). Be Your Best's first loss in the Miss Grillo is not a true reflection of her ability. The yielding Aqueduct course blunted her turn of foot, and she could not make up ground off a crawl. She also circumnavigated with the widest trip of all (43 feet farther than pace-controlling Pleasant Passage, according to Trakus). Be Your Best should have the chance to do herself justice at Keeneland, where she can emerge as the best of the Americans.

VH: The performance turned in by Europe's leading stayer, Kyprios, in Sunday's Prix du Cadran (G1) at Longchamp was incredible. To still win by 20 lengths despite drifting badly towards the stands in the final 300 meters or so makes one wonder how much larger the margin might have been if he had maintained a straight line. Barring ill health or injury, look for Kyprios to dominate this division for some time to come, just as the recently-retired Stradivarius did for years.