Racing Roundtable: Reflections on the final round of Breeders' Cup preps
In the second of two special Racing Roundtables, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson look back on the final weekend of major Breeders' Cup preps 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: Slammed in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). A five-time restricted stakes winner over New Mexico-bred rivals, the four-year-old filly has really stepped forward since shipping to Del Mar this summer, recording an eye-catching allowance tally over open rivals and a half-length second to Edgeway in the Rancho Bernardo (G2) after a stumbling start. Slammed continued to progress in Saturday's Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) at Keeneland, netting a 102 Brisnet Speed rating after dominating wire to wire by a 6 1/2-length margin, and she will take some beating in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Kellie Reilly: Amid several big winners who advertised their already high-profile claims, I'd like to highlight the effort of one who lost — Loggins in the Breeders' Futurity (G1). The Brad Cox colt did everything right but win, and he forced Hopeful (G1) winner Forte to pull out all the stops (and survive a claim of foul). Although both were stretching out to two turns for the first time, the battle-tested Forte had more experience to draw upon as they dueled to the wire. Loggins had just his debut romp to set him up, not the kind of race that would have taught him a lot. In this first real struggle, Loggins was the only early pace factor to stick around to the end, while Forte closed from seventh. The top two pulled 6 3/4 lengths clear of the rest. Forte's Hopeful form had looked rock-solid, with the third-placer Blazing Sevens coming back to win the Champagne (G1), and that only underscores the merit of Loggins at Keeneland. He has a right to improve back over the same track and trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), at a better price.
Vance Hanson: Although she's benefited twice from un-pressured trips when taking the Diana (G1) and last weekend's First Lady (G1), In Italian is heading into the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) with arguably the most momentum of any U.S.-based candidate. Keep in mind, too, that she set a very rapid pace in the Diana and yet still was able to turn back a number of capable stablemates, a sign she'll potentially be a challenge to reel in next month.
Whose Breeders' Cup stock are you selling after this weekend's preps?
JS: Casa Creed, who can't carry his form outside of New York. A sharp winner of the Jaipur (G1) at Belmont three back, Casa Creed was one to consider for at least a minor award in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) following an outstanding 1 1/2-length victory over Regal Glory in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga in mid-August. He did not run back to those efforts, recording a non-threatening fifth in Saturday's Coolmore Turf Mile (G1), his 15th consecutive defeat outside the friendly confines of the Empire State, and the stout closer is now unplaced from three career attempts on Keeneland's turf.
KR: Wonder Wheel didn't exactly finish off the Alcibiades (G1) like a Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner. Maybe trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione are right about her losing focus in front in her two-turn debut. Still, after opening up on the far turn, she slowed appreciably and needed the wire to rescue her. Chop Chop just missed by a nose, and if she hadn't started so slowly, the result might well have been reversed. The others in the superfecta also had cause for what-ifs; Raging Sea got demoted for colliding with Xigera, in a transgression that cost them both. Wonder Wheel had previously looked like a work in progress when runner-up in the Spinaway (G1), a race that didn't stand up too well when the winner came back to run a well-beaten third in the Frizette (G1).
VH: I'd echo the concerns about Wonder Wheel and also add in the winner of the Chandelier (G2), And Tell Me Nolies. The latter ran her 1 1/16 miles three seconds slower than the ace colt Cave Rock did later on Saturday's Santa Anita card in the American Pharoah (G1), so there is obviously a huge gap between the West Coast's two-year-old male and female representatives heading into this Breeders' Cup. At this point, I'd be looking elsewhere for the winner of the Juvenile Fillies.
What else caught your eye over the weekend?
JS: Friday's Alcibiades at Keeneland produced a thrilling finish, as Wonder Wheel determinedly held by a nose over rallying Chop Chop, and Xigera (elevated to third via disqualification) appeared to have a big chance before being forced to check in deep stretch by a tiring rival. All three rate serious consideration for the Juvenile Fillies, which is shaping up to be a terrific betting race on the Nov. 4 "Future Stars Friday" program.
KR: Annapolis captured Keeneland's Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) in his first start versus older horses, but the biggest winner was arguably Godolphin. The result was a form boost for two of Charlie Appleby's Breeders' Cup contenders, first and foremost Mile (G1) favorite Modern Games. In the Coolmore Turf Mile, Annapolis beat runner-up Ivar by 1 1/2 lengths. Modern Games had left Ivar 5 1/4 lengths behind in second in the Woodbine Mile (G1). Annapolis himself paid a compliment to one of Appleby's premier candidates for the Turf (G1), Nations Pride. The two met in the Saratoga Derby (G1), where Nations Pride outkicked Annapolis going 1 3/16 miles, and then went on to conquer the Jockey Club Derby (G3) in course-record time at Aqueduct. At that time, Appleby sounded like calling it a season for Nations Pride, but a recent report suggests he's bullish about pressing on to the Turf.
VH: War Like Goddess' manhandling (pardon the pun) of the boys in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) suggests this will be yet another year without a serious contender among American-based males targeting the Turf. This is certainly not unusual — it has actually been more common than not for much of the last decade and a half — but the Turf is generally a more exciting race when the domestic contingent and the European one are more evenly matched.