Racing Roundtable: Turf takeaways and two-year-olds

August 16th, 2022

The Racing Roundtable — James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson — reconvenes to talk Breeders' Cup implications from last weekend's big turf races and thoughts on some rising two-year-olds.

Will either the Arlington Million (G1) or Beverly D. (G1) have an impact on the Breeders' Cup?

James Scully: Santin is one to watch for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1). Runner-up when making his stakes debut in November's Hollywood Derby (G1), Santin has come on as a four-year-old, registering his second Grade 1 win when driving to a 1 3/4-length decision over Smooth Like Strait in Saturday's Arlington Million. His Million and Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) tallies came at 1 1/8 miles, and the bay colt defeated notable rivals in both spots, and Santin doesn't appear to want any part of longer distances, coming up empty in the final furlong of the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan (G1) two back. He showed an affinity for a mile distance last fall, convincingly winning his first two starts over maiden special weight and entry-level allowance foes, and Santin has potential if he continues to progress over the next couple of months for Brendan Walsh.

Kellie Reilly: If the Arlington Million and Beverly D. have any meaningful impact on the Breeders' Cup, chances are it wouldn't come from the respective winners. One obvious caveat is how the course was playing. Unless you had a forward running style and a taste for the still-maturing Churchill turf, you didn't stand much of a chance. But even aside from that point, both winners have other concerns. Million hero Santin has earned all of his stakes credits (wins or placings) at 1 1/8 miles, and it's at least arguable that the Mile versus international competition will be a bit sharp for him. Brendan Walsh is right to pinpoint that as the logical race to try, as opposed to the Turf. Yet Santin could be one of those who don't find a perfect Breeders' Cup match. Beverly D. heroine Dalika was long exposed as a cut below the top rank, and her win was a product of the unique circumstances. The German-bred is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, and I wouldn't be surprised if her level-headed connections pass on the engagement.

Vance Hanson: Trainer Brendan Walsh has effectively ruled out a step up in trip to 1 1/2 miles for Million winner Santin, but I have some doubts whether the Godolphin homebred will be as suited to a mile as he is at nine furlongs against top class company. He did win his first two starts over a mile, including a Keeneland allowance, but it's not a distance he's come to specialize running over. Million runner-up Smooth Like Strait, who finished a strong second in the Mile last year, is perhaps the horse to take out of the Million, though his general win-shyness of late won't necessarily make him a leading Breeders' Cup win candidate. And in my estimation, none of the principals from the Beverly D. appear strong candidates to surprise the Filly and Mare Turf (G1).

Were Regal Glory's Breeders' Cup Mile prospects exposed in the Fourstardave (G1)?

JS: No, Regal Glory was outfinished by a rival on the upswing, Casa Creed, who notched his second consecutive Grade 1 win and has never been better for Bill Mott. Regal Glory ran well for second and remains in the mix of top American contenders for the Mile. Casa Creed notched his first two-turn win since the 2019 Hall of Fame (G2), and he looks better prepared for the Mile distance at Keeneland than ever before. It seems like any Breeders' Cup decision is a no-brainer — Casa Creed has no chance to thrive over 5 1/2 furlongs, the distance of this year's Turf Sprint (G1).

KR: The Fourstardave doesn't dent Regal Glory's chances in the Breeders' Cup Mile, given their different scenarios. The modest pace on a firm inner turf at Saratoga was right in Casa Creed's wheelhouse, turning it into a sprint for home. Regal Glory would have preferred having more pace at a flat mile, especially at that level versus males. The Breeders' Cup Mile, however, figures to have a much stronger tempo, and the prospect of a rain-affected course at Keeneland would only add to the stamina test. That set-up likely favors Regal Glory, if she gets a rematch with Casa Creed. But Casa Creed has another Breeders' Cup option, having earlier captured a "Win and You're In" for the Turf Sprint. That's not to say that he would find the 5 1/2-furlong Turf Sprint an ideal fit, but he'd have a world of pace to set him up, and a slightly slower surface might play more like six furlongs. Note that he won the 2021 Jaipur (G1) on a good course. I hope that Casa Creed's connections cross-enter to both the Mile and Turf Sprint, and leave the decision as late as possible depending upon the conditions at Keeneland.

VH: I am far less bullish on Regal Glory in the wake of her second-place finish in the Fourstardave. It was a prime opportunity for her to not only secure a place in the Mile, but also enhance her Eclipse Award credentials against a field of beatable males. Casa Creed is a good horse, and apparently at the peak of his powers now off two consecutive Grade 1 wins, but he's seemingly not up to the standard of runners Regal Glory would expect to face in the Mile if she still winds up going there. She'll need to show more in her next prep or two to regain my support.

Which two-year-old(s) caught your eye over the weekend?

JS: Michelle Lovell has a powder keg named Damon's Mound, and the exciting juvenile makes it look easy while still learning. From the first crop of Girvin, the Florida-bred broke slowly before winning his debut by 12 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs, and the bay colt didn't change leads smoothly in Saturday's Saratoga Special (G2), drawing off by 3 1/4 lengths after racing erratically in upper stretch. Damon's Mound possesses freakish ability.

At Del Mar, Cave Rock looks like a colt with a bright future, romping wire-to-wire at first asking for Bob Baffert on Saturday, and the Arrogate colt earned a whopping 104 Brisnet Speed rating for the six-length decision. Havnameltdown, who improved to 2-for-2 for Baffert, also netted a triple-digit figure (102), leading all the way in Sunday's Best Pal (G2). Top Recruit dueled through hot fractions before turning back a strong challenge from favored Curly Jack in Sunday's Ellis Park Juvenile, prevailing by a head, and the Mike Maker-trained colt rebounded nicely from an odds-on loss in his stakes debut previously. Out of a mare by Belmont S. (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Afleet Alex, the son of champion Midshipman received an encouraging 93 Speed rating.

KR: There were several key performances on dirt, most notably how Damon's Mound traveled through the Saratoga Special (G2), and Cave Rock's stamping himself the latest Baffert prodigy at Del Mar. But my "what was that?" moment came on the turf at Saratoga Sunday, when Moma looked like she was shot out of a cannon in her debut. While the Spa has no shortage of flashy turf juveniles, Moma stood out because of the way she scythed between foes like a seasoned pro. One second she was still winding up, and in the blink of an eye, she was already gone.

Interestingly, the Wertheimer et Frere homebred has a dirt-oriented pedigree — by Uncle Mo and out of a Malibu Moon half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Awesome Maria. In the post-race interview with Acacia Clement, trainer Todd Pletcher said that Moma "sort of bottomed out a little bit" in her training on dirt once reaching the five-furlong stage, then showed more in her turf work. I wonder if she might strengthen with maturity (Clement described her as a "leggy, tall drink of water") and take to the dirt better down the road.

VH: Besides the aforementioned Cave Rock, the two maiden winners from Saratoga this weekend, Bourbon Bash and Chocolate Gelato, both looked highly promising. Bourbon Bash, by City of Light and out of a stakes-winning full sister to Grade 1-winning sprinter Volatile, might prove to be the best two-year-old D. Wayne Lukas has had in several years, though his pedigree suggests a mile might be his effective limit. Chocolate Gelato looked very smart winning by daylight second out on Sunday and is one of several potentially high-class juvenile fillies Todd Pletcher has to work with.