by Jeremy Plonk
October 1, 2018
So what did we learn from the first of two Breeders’ Cup prep barrages this past weekend?
Both Accelerate and West Coast appeared to get a strong prep in the Awesome Again Saturday at Santa Anita based on the results. But the final 3 furlongs took more than 40 seconds, and maybe sounds some alarm? Over 1-1/8 miles, West Coast showed more speed than expected, likely due to his freshness since the Dubai World Cup layoff. Accelerate proved best while in career form. Both should be respected into the Classic, but Accelerate trainer John Sadler will have the weight of a lifetime BC 0-fer as extra pressure.
The breakfast of champions matchup between Mind Your Biscuits and Toast of New York in Saturday’s Lukas Classic at Churchill turned out to be a one-course affair. Mind Your Biscuits dominated over 1-1/8 miles and now a most interesting decision looms. Runner-up Toast of New York no doubt earned his way back to the Classic. But Mind Your Biscuits could go Sprint, Dirt Mile or Classic. I’m never a fan of jerking horses back and forth between 1 and 2 turns, and I see no compelling reason to avoid the Classic and its lucrative lure…especially after what happened in New York ….
When 45-1 shot Discreet Lover upset Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, you could almost hear the pens of handicappers already scratching off the names of BC Classic contenders from the field. Defeated players Thunder Snow, Mendelssohn and Diversify already had some questions about their affinity for Churchill Downs based on past performances. Discreet Lover was put on the vet’s list after the race, so his status is murky. I’m not so sure I wouldn’t prefer Diversify in the Dirt Mile, but he’s earned the right to try the Classic.
Freshman Favorites from Santa Anita
There’s little doubt that the Juvenile (Game Winner) and Juvenile Fillies (Bellafina) found their favorites on Saturday. Game Winner took the American Pharoah around 2 turns, while Bellafina did the same in the Chandelier, adding to their G1 sprint scores at Del Mar. Both look highly legit and will carry a big stick to the spires as potential singles already forming.
Threes Company Lines
The 3-year-old colt crop gets its best benchmark when it branches out to take on elders. Mendelssohn and Gronkowski did not produce plaudits for the sophomore class in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Secretariat winner Carrick was lambasted in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
The Turf division saw Channel Maker wire a paceless Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and thwart Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce. That Channel Maker was 0-7 in prior G1 bids ought to roll out the welcome mat for Europeans to continue their stronghold on this division. Liam the Charmer won Sunday’s John Henry at Santa Anita and no one mistakes him for a powerhouse having been 0-5 in graded stakes prior.
Defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Stormy Liberal won Friday’s Eddie D down the hill at Santa Anita and heads east off of three consecutive, gut-wrenching victories by a nose, nose and head. Compare that with a year ago when he had not raced since June’s Jaipur before scoring his 30-1 upset at Del Mar on championship Saturday. Churchill Downs will be no home game, and it’s fair to wonder what’s left in the tank after a trio of toughies.
Abel Tasman’s fifth-place effort in Sunday’s Zenyatta Stakes was eerily reminiscent of Life at Ten from Distaffs past. Couple that with Elate’s withdrawal from consideration last week by trainer Bill Mott. The Distaff division looks up for grabs – or at least in the absolute hands of the 3-year-olds. Those with future bets on Monomoy Girl or Midnight Bisou have to feel better now.
Imperial Hint found the softest Vosburgh bunch in memory and marched toward a return bid in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint unchallenged. Runner-up in the main event a year ago, he heads back to Churchill in as good of form as he was at Del Mar. He stopped in the slop going 7 furlongs at CD on Derby Day after dueling up top, so I wouldn’t hold a horse-for-course strike against him. Still, you’d like to see him work well over the track.
West’s Best, But Now What?
The Californians have been shut out of the Filly & Mare Turf all-time, so it’s not the place you go hunting for your divisional leader. But Vasilika proved she’s tops on the left coast for Jerry Hollendorfer in adding the Rodeo Drive to her resume on Saturday and notching a seventh straight win. But that 3-year-old Paved was second-best, and she wasn’t very competitive within her own division this year, tells you that this Rodeo Drive edition was a bit more Wal-Mart as Cambodia appears to have tapered off form a bit.
The More Things Change…
Chad Brown won the Miss Grillo on Sunday at Belmont, putting him front and center again for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Newspaperofrecord rolled by more than 6 lengths and likely just starts the Brown brigade for this race. You know he’ll be loaded for Keeneland’s Jessamine, too.
Sunday’s Oklahoma Derby 3-way thriller at Remington Park gave Lone Sailor his first major Derby score. But it’s third-place finisher Diamond King who really impressed on the front end. If he were to cut back to the Dirt Mile like Battle of Midway did a year ago, be on the lookout for a huge price bomb at Churchill Downs.