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Weekend Takeaways Contrast Starkly

by Jeremy Plonk

October 8, 2018

As we did last week, let’s see what we learned from the second of two Breeders’ Cup prep barrages this past weekend. 

Wanted: Juvenile Closers

After witnessing 70-1 stretch-out sprinter Knicks Go wire Saturday’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, and Complexity romp while leading every step in the same-day G1 Champagne at Belmont, there’s no shortage of speed in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Add in west coast speed from Bob Baffert’s Game Winner, the likely solid favorite in the lineup. I’ll be scouring the BRIS late pace figures to find someone who wants to come knocking late, if not for the win, surely the exacta.

Brown’s Gals are Green

The unmatched quality of trainer Chad Brown’s shedrow in the Filly & Mare Turf division may be unprecedented in history. A day after A Raving Beauty scored the G1 First Lady at Keeneland, his brigade ran 1-2 in the G1 Flower Bowl at Belmont with Fourstar Crook and Onthemoonagain. Consider that Fourstar Crook could very well be 5-for-5 this year if not for 2 runner-ups to Sistercharlie, another Brown stablemate, and perhaps the strongest of his F&M Turf contenders who wasn’t even in action this weekend.

First State, First Rate?

They call Delaware the First State, ratifying the constitution before any of the other colonies. But this summer, Delaware seems to be doing another thing for the first time – dominating the NYRA juvenile ranks. Sure, we’ve seen an occasional Afleet Alex pop up. But this is different. When Call Paul won the G2 Saratoga Special in mid-August, perhaps it was a shooting star from DelPark. But then Mind Control wrapped the Saratoga meet on Labor Day with a victory in the G1 Hopeful from the same port. On Sunday, Jaywalk romped wire-to-wire in the G1 Frizette, based at Parx and prepped at Delaware Park. That’s three major graded stakes from an off-Broadway locale on the NYRA circuit and raises concerns about the quality of what’s in the Big Apple in this 2YO crop.

Low-Watt Distaff

Sunday’s G1 Spinster adventure for Blue Prize proved two things. Nacho Correas’ 5-year-old remains in career form with her fourth win in her last 5 starts. And, there’s simply not a superstar on the division’s horizon. Sophomores Eskimo Kisses and Talk Veuve to Me failed to step forward whatsoever vs. elders after impressing within their division. Blue Prize ducked out badly twice in the stretch at Keeneland and simply no one was good enough to take advantage. Wow Cat won Saturday’s G1 Beldame at Belmont against a field of G3 runners, to be blunt. With Elate going to the sidelines and Abel Tasman looking rather askew out west, we’re back to separating perhaps Monomoy Girl and Midnight Bisou again, and neither has tackled older horses. Not often is the Distaff won by a name that’s kind of common, consider a One Dreamer or Stopchargingmaria or Life Is Sweet. It could be that kind of year.

Second-Quarter Signal

When favorite War of Will threw up a second-quarter split of 25.23 in Sunday’s G3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, the fate should have been sealed. He was able to back up the fraction 8-9 lengths slower than the opening quarter and that most often signals a wire job. That the Todd Pletcher-trained Current was able to rally from 10th of 13 and make up more than 7 lengths is a testament to how strong he was in Lexington. The horses who finished in the next 5 spots beneath Current all were among the top 6 going down the backstretch, staying on as expected. This was a big-time effort and Current rates the American with a chance to challenge whatever Aidan O’Brien brings over in a Juvenile Turf division he dominates.

He Did What?

Strike Silver closed 11 ¼ lengths in just over a quarter-mile Sunday at Keeneland to win a dazzling debut of the Indian Summer Stakes. The freshly minted Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint prep featured a wild finish with 5 runners within 2 lengths at the wire, but it was the Mark Casse-trained Strike Silver who left all jaws dropped. Julien Leparoux timed it perfectly as the son of Violence passed all 11 rivals in about 300 yards. Who knows what will show up in this division, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive prep. According to the handicapping database at Keeneland.com that goes back to 2006, the closing margin distance is the second-largest in a local turf sprint and only the second to win from double-digits back after a half-mile.

Where’s the Beef?

Del Mar’s Rancho Bernardo featured a field of 4, and Sunday’s L.A. Woman ‘boasted’ just 5 starters. So pardon a handicapper for not knowing what the west has to offer in the F&M Sprint division. Add to it that the L.A. Woman completely flipped the result of the Rancho Bernardo. Skye Diamonds snapped a 6–race losing streak in a spread-eagled field. Miss Sunset shipped east to Keeneland and ran a stinker in the Thoroughbred Club of America, a race won by Golden Mischief via Prairie Meadows and Mountaineer. You’d expect the west coast F&M Sprint division to be elite every year given the need for speed in the area and that the distaffers stick around longer than the top colts. But a year after east coast router Bar of Gold upset this BC division, the west still doesn’t seem to have a deep answer.

Sprint Tilts West, But For One

Roy H and Distinctive B gave Peter Miller a 1-2 sweep of the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Saturday. The former, defending BC Sprint champion, looks as strong as ever. After watching Friday’s Phoenix at Keeneland, where 3-year-old Promises Fulfilled got a super-easy trip and barely held off Whitmore and Limousine Liberal, it’s hard to imagine those runners handling western heat and surviving. In fact, I’d like any of them better in the Dirt Mile than the Sprint. Imperial Hint is the lone horse outside of California that I’ll be considering for the Sprint, and he’s awfully fast from Parx.