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Stars Gearing Up for Upcoming Breeders' Cup

by Jon White

October 21, 2020

This year’s coronavirus-related revamped Triple Crown series that stretched from June to October turned out to be quite entertaining and could have a big say in year’s Breeders’ Cup.

In a sparkling performance, Tiz the Law won the Grade I Belmont Stakes at 1 1/8 miles by 3 3/4 lengths on June 20 at Belmont Park for trainer Barclay Tagg.

Next, Authentic defeated Tiz the Law in the Grade I Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs. Authentic won by 1 1/4 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

And then the filly Swiss Skydiver defeated Authentic in the Grade I Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course. Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenny McPeek, prevailed by a neck at the end of a fierce stretch battle with Authentic.

All three of these talented 3-year-olds recently recorded workouts in preparation for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup, which this year will be held on Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland.

In Tiz the Law’s final New York workout prior to the $6 million BC Classic, he was timed in 1:12.26 for six furlongs on the Belmont Park main track last Friday.

This was what Friday’s Belmont Park notes reported regarding Tiz the Law’s drill:

“Tiz the Law, who will ship to Keeneland by van on Sunday to continue his Breeders’ Cup preparations, stepped foot onto the track just after 6:30 a.m. under overcast skies and a sliver of daylight, accompanied by stablemate and three-time winning filly Niko’s Dream [five furlongs in 1:01.05] with Barclay Tagg looking on from his pony.

“Under exercise rider Heather Smullen, Tiz the Law went in company with Niko’s Dream before drawing away at the top of the lane. He recorded splits of :13.07, :24.84, :36.43 and :47.63 before galloping out seven furlongs in 1:25.46 and one mile in 1:40.05.”

This was Tiz the Law’s fourth recorded workout since the Kentucky Derby.

“He went really well,” Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch quoted Tagg as saying of Tiz the Law’s workout last Friday. “This was probably his most important work leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Tagg went on to say he wants Tiz the Law to have a couple of workouts at Keeneland. Tagg told Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee that Tiz the Law probably will have his first Keeneland workout this Friday or Saturday.

According to Welsch, the veteran horseman loves the way Tiz the Law has progressed in recent weeks following his only 2020 loss.

“I wanted to just take it easy with him for the first 30 days after the Kentucky Derby,” Tagg said, “and fortunately we had enough time to be able to do that. Now he’s coming around really, really well and I feel like we did the right thing by him.”

Tiz the Law has won four of five starts this year. He kicked off his 2020 campaign with a three-length win in Gulfstream Park’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 1. The Constitution colt then won Gulfstream’s Grade I Florida Derby by 4 1/4 lengths on March 28.

After the Florida Derby, Tiz the Law became the first New York-bred to win the Belmont Stakes in 138 years. That was followed by a dominant 5 1/2-length triumph in the Grade I Travers Stakes on Aug. 8.

Authentic worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 at Santa Anita Park last Saturday in preparation for the BC Classic. It was the 11th-fastest of 62 works at the distance that morning. This workout can be viewed on HRTV.

“He went nice,” Baffert said in a BloodHorse story written by Claire Crosby. “He was well within himself and galloped out nice. It was a good work, nothing major for him. He’s holding his conditioning well, and he came out of the Preakness really well. He hung around Pimlico for three days before he came back to California, and when he got off the plane he was full of himself.”

Thus far in 2020, Authentic has registered four wins and two seconds. The Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt this year has won Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes on Jan. 4, Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 7, plus Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational on July 18 prior to capturing the Kentucky Derby.

Authentic provided Baffert with his record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby victory. Prior to this year, Baffert won the Run for the Roses with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. American Pharoah and Justify swept the Triple Crown.

Ben Jones is the only other trainer to have won the Kentucky Derby six times: Lawrin in 1938, Whirlaway in 1941, Pensive in 1944, Citation in 1948, Ponder in 1949 and Hill Gail in 1952.

Baffert’s 16 wins in Triple Crown races is the record for a trainer. D. Wayne Lukas ranks second with 14.

Last Saturday at Churchill Downs, Swiss Skydiver was timed in :49.00 for four furlongs in her first workout since becoming the sixth filly to win the Preakness. Her work ranked as the 23rd-fastest of 82 at the distance that morning.

Swiss Skydiver’s connections have not yet announced whether they plan to run her in the $2 million BC Distaff or the BC Classic.

Two other Baffert-trained runners headed to the BC Classic are 4-year-old stars Improbable and Maximum Security.

Improbable is the No. 1-ranked horse in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, followed by Maximum Security at No. 2. They both had workouts at Santa Anita last weekend.

Last Saturday, Improbable worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.40. It was the fastest of 14 works at the distance that morning. This workout can be viewed on XBTV.

Improbable will take a three-race winning streak into the BC Classic. The Kentucky-bred City Zip colt won Santa Anita’s Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup by 3 1/4 lengths on June 6. He then ventured to New York to take Saratoga’s Grade I Whitney Stakes by two lengths on Aug. 1. Improbable then won Santa Anita’s Grade I Awesome Again Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths on Sept. 26.

By his standards, Maximum Security had an excellent workout last Sunday.

“Maximum Security is most often, at best, an indifferent work horse, but he was a willing and eager worker Sunday, putting away his company with ease while completing a five-furlong drill in :59.80, after which he galloped-out an additional furlong,” Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman wrote.

The :59.80 workout by Maximum Security ranked as the third-fastest of 40 at the distance that morning. His workmate, the two-start maiden Tapitution, was clocked in 1:00.40.

Maximum Security finished second in the Awesome Again. It was his first loss this year and ended an overall six-race winning streak.

Voted a 2019 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male, Maximum Security won the world’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, in his 2020 debut on Feb. 29. That was followed by wins in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap and Grade I Pacific Classic before his Awesome Again defeat.


Southern California trainer Craig Lewis achieved his milestone 1,000th victory as a trainer when he won last Saturday’s Grade III Autumn Days Stakes with Warren’s Showtime, a daughter of Clubhouse Ride and Warren’s Veneda.

Warren’s Showtime, ridden by Flavien Prat, was hammered down to 7-10 favoritism in the one-mile Autumn Days. With a furlong to go, many of those who had bet on the 3-year-old California-bred filly to win probably had sweaty palms. That’s because Warren’s Showtime seemed to be languishing while fourth, 2 1/2 lengths off the lead. But she generated a powerful late kick to get up in time.

This was Santa Anita track announcer Frank Mirahmadi call as the finish line loomed:

“Warren’s Showtime surging to victory! And what a fitting win for number 1,000 for Craig Lewis! He trained the sire and the dam. Congratulations.”

The sire, Clubhouse Ride, was a multiple Grade II winner and earner of $1,341,132. The dam, Warren’s Veneda, was a Grade I winner.

The Autumn Miss also was an important win for Warren’s Showtime. This was her first graded stakes victory. She previously had won four ungraded stakes races.

It did not take the 73-year-old Lewis long to get career win No. 1,001. He did so the next day when Lucia’s Design won Sunday’s third race at Santa Anita.

Lewis also has trained such multiple graded stakes winners as Cutlass Reality, Music Merci and Larry the Legend.

Prior to being trained by Lewis, Cutlass Reality ran well enough on the East Coast to finished second or third in the Laurel Futurity, Dwyer Stakes, Peter Pan Stakes and Vosburgh Stakes. Those were all Grade I events back then. He finished fifth in the Preakness Stakes won by Tank’s Prospect and sixth in the Belmont Stakes won by Creme Fraiche.

Lewis took over as Cutlass Reality’s trainer when the Florida-bred son of Cutlass was sent to the West Coast in the spring of 1988. For Lewis, Cutlass Reality at age 6 in 1988 became a late-bloomer extraordinaire.

When Cutlass Reality pulled off a Grade I victory in the June 12 Californian at Hollywood Park, it was a harbinger of big wins to come.

Only four started in the 1988 Californian. Cutlass Reality was by far the longest shot in the race at 13-1. Ferdinand was the 7-10 favorite. Judge Angelucci was sent off at 9-5, while Gulch started at 4-1. Gulch was coming off a win in the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont Park.

Cutlass Reality, ridden by Chris McCarron, won going away by 2 3/4 lengths. Gulch, with Gary Stevens aboard, finished second, followed in order by Judge Angelucci and Ferdinand.

Proving his Californian win was not a fluke, Cutlass Reality came right back and trounced a pair of Kentucky Derby winners when he won Hollywood Park’s Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup by 6 1/2 lengths on June 26. Alysheba finished second. Ferdinand came in third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Alysheba. Ferdinand won the 1986 Kentucky Derby, then Alysheba won it the following year.

Sent away at odds of 9-2 in the Gold Cup, Cutlass Reality was ridden by Gary Stevens, who gained the mount when McCarron stuck with even-money favorite Alysheba. Ferdinand, piloted by the legendary Bill Shoemaker, was the 5-2 second choice in the betting.

Cutlass Reality’s 6 1/2-length victory was the largest in the storied history of the Hollywood Gold Cup up to that point. Cutlass Reality’s record was broken when Lava Man won the 2005 Gold Cup in isolated splendor by 8 1/2 lengths.

I called the official Daily Racing Form chart of Cutlass Reality’s win in the 1988 Hollywood Gold Cup. This is what I wrote for that chart:

“CUTLASS REALITY, never far back, advanced along the inner rail to take over approaching the far turn, led around the far turn without being set down, responded when set down in the upper stretch to draw away while under right-handed pressure and extended his advantage in the final sixth under a brisk hand ride. ALYSHEBA, patiently handled while being outrun early, moved over to the inside rail before reaching the clubhouse turn to save ground, moved back to the outside early in the run down the backstretch to be wide and in the clear, could not keep close to CUTLASS REALITY in the drive but had enough of a response to prove clearly second best. FERDINAND, unhurried while being outrun early, moved up to look dangerous at the top of the stretch, then lacked the necessary further response. MASTERFUL ADVOCATE prompted the early pace, forced the issue around the far turn, then gave way in the drive. LEMON JUICE lagged far behind while trailing early after breaking slowly and failed to ever get close. SIMPLY MAJESTIC established the early lead and faltered.”

As an indication of what that Hollywood Gold Cup win by Cutlass Reality meant to Lewis, he had the race chart substantially enlarged and displayed it on a wall in his stable office.

After the Hollywood Gold Cup, Cutlass Reality won Hollywood Park’s Grade I>I Bel Air Handicap and Del Mar’s Grade III San Diego Handicap before finishing second to Cryptoclearance in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Cutlass Reality then won the Grade III Goodwood Handicap during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita before going to the Breeders’ Cup, which was held at Churchill Downs that year. He was supplemented to the Breeders’ Cup at a cost of $360,000. Cutlass Reality finished seventh in the BC Classic won by Alysheba on a muddy track.

“It’s a real shame the track was muddy that day,” Lewis told me years later. “Cutlass Reality did not like that track one bit.”

Following Alysheba’s BC Classic triumph, he was voted 1988 Eclipse Awards as champion older male and Horse of the Year to go along with his 1987 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

In Cutlass Reality’s only 1988 start after the BC Classic, he rebounded to win Hollywood Park’s Native Diver Handicap when back on dry land. This suggested that Lewis’ explanation that Cutlass Reality did not run better in the BC Classic because of the muddy track was a valid one.

Music Merci at 2 won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity. As a 3-year-old, he won the Grade II San Rafael Stakes in February, the Grade II Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park in May and Grade II Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in December.

Larry the Legend put together a four-race winning streak at Santa Anita early in 1995. He won a maiden race, the Santa Catalina Stakes, Grade II San Rafael Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Derby. But the Illinois-bred Local Talent colt had to miss the Kentucky Derby due to a left knee chip.

Having to miss the Kentucky Derby with Larry the Legend was a huge disappointment for Lewis. In the winner’s circle last Saturday after his 1,000th win, he touched on the many setbacks a trainer of racehorses must deal with.

“There are plenty of bumps in the road,” Lewis said. “A trainer’s life is not all pie and ice cream.”


The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 335 Improbable (29)
2. 246 Maximum Security (2)
3. 206 Vekoma (1)
4. 204 Tom’s d’Etat (2)
5. 192 Monomoy Girl (1)
6. 130 By My Standards
7. 107 Authentic
8. 104 Tiz the Law
9. 89 Swiss Skydiver
10. 82 Rushing Fall

The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 312 Authentic (14)
2. 303 Swiss Skydiver (12)
3. 301 Tiz the Law (8)
4. 185 Art Collector
5. 173 Happy Saver
6. 113 Honor A.P.
7. 97 Gamine
8. 72 Shedaresthedevil
8. 72 Max Player
10. 60 Mystic Guide