by Jeremy Plonk
September 30, 2019
As the horses prepare for the Nov. 1-2 Breeders’ Cup championships across 14 divisions, horseplayers also should be putting in their paces. A second massive weekend of prep races looms, starting with Friday’s opening day card at Keeneland.
But with such a flurry of activity past, present and very near future, which races should attract your attention most? The answer to that can be varied, though a look at history can often help guide your eyeballs and study hours in the right direction.
Three prep races all-time have produced double-digit winners in the Breeders’ Cup divisions. The Frizette tops all with 12 winners in the Juvenile Fillies; the Arc de Triomphe has led to 11 winners (10 Turf, 1 Filly & Mare Turf); and the Spinster also has 11 winners (10 Distaff, 1 Filly & Mare Sprint). All three of these races have proven to be time-tested and recent as well. The Frizette spring-boarded the past 2 winners of the Juvenile Fillies (Caladonia Road and Jaywalk). The Arc has produced Turf winners in 2016 (Highland Reel) and 2018 (Enable). The Spinster hasn’t had a Distaff winner since 2005 (Pleasant Home), but did turn-back a F&M Sprint winner in 2017 (Bar of Gold).
The leading three projectors of Breeders’ Cup winners all will be contested this Sunday, October 6. Enable bids for a historic third Arc title, while fields for the Frizette and Spinster will come together officially on Thursday. With Spinaway winner Perfect Alibi headed to Keeneland for Friday’s Alcibiades, Belmont Park’s Frizette will be seeking a new leader in the New York regional. As for the Spinster, expect Blue Prize, Dunbar Road and Elate among the heavyweight probable contenders. This promises to be one of the strongest Spinster editions in years.
Five preps have accounted for 9 Breeders’ Cup titles: the Awesome Again (7 Classic, 2 Dirt Mile), Beldame (Distaff), Zenyatta (Distaff), Champagne (Juvenile) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (7 Sprint, 2 Dirt Mile). Of those races, we’re already in the books for 2019 in the Awesome Again (where 25-1 Mongolian Groom upset heavily favored McKinzie), Beldame (favorite Midnight Bisou punched her ticket easily) and the Zenyatta (Paradise Woods re-emerged on the west coast). Mark your calendars for Saturday’s renewals of the Champagne and Santa Anita Sprint Championship. The latter is expected to include the long-awaited return of Omaha Beach, who scratched as the morning line favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
The third tier of leading Breeders’ Cup preps all-time includes a trio of 8-win preliminaries. The American Pharoah (Juvenile) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (7 Classic, 1 Turf) were contested last weekend, while the Alcibiades (Juvenile Fillies) will be Friday at Keeneland. The American Pharoah, which produced last year’s Juvenile winner Game Winner, launched another potential star freshman named Eight Rings. The Jockey Club Gold Cup’s controversial finish saw Vino Rosso disqualified for interference and Code of Honor placed first. Expect a Classic rematch among that pair. Official entries for the Alcibiades will close Tuesday morning.
There have been 106 Breeders’ Cup championship races contested at Santa Anita all-time. Horses prepped at Santa Anita own 31 of those wins, easily surpassing the 17 via Belmont Park and 13 from Keeneland. The only other track to propel double-digit win totals at Santa Anita is France’s Longchamp with 10.