After the excitement of Friday, the Breeders’ Cup turns up the heat on Saturday at Santa Anita with nine championship races on a stunning evening of high octane drama.
The action gets underway with the Grade 1 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies over one mile and 110 yards, on the dirt.
Colorful Charades was a winner on debut, defeating Tequilita by ½ a length in a Saratoga maiden in mid-August. In early October she headed to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes, coming home 9 ½ lengths third of 6 to Yellow Agate.
With Honors recorded back to back victories on her first two starts at Del Mar, beating You Missed It by ½ a length on both occasions. The Keith Desormeaux filly lost her unbeaten record in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita in early October, coming home ½ a length second of 11 to Noted And Quoted.
Valadorna put up a nice performance on debut when a length second of 10 to Queen Bernadina at Churchill Downs in mid-September. The Mark Casse filly landed a Keeneland maiden in early October by an impressive 6 lengths from Clever Serve and now takes a huge step up in class.
Yellow Agate comes here with an unblemished record. The Christophe Clement filly won a Belmont Park maiden in September by ½ a length from Amapola. She then took a big step up in class and landed the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at the same track, beating Libby’s Tail by a head.
Sweet Loretta comes here with a perfect three from three record. The Todd Pletcher filly landed a Monmouth Park maiden in June by 7 lengths, before adding a Saratoga Grade 3 contest the following month by 4 ¼ lengths from Fun. She was then involved in a thrilling finish to the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga in early September, dead-heating with Pretty City Dancer.
After running second on debut, Champagne Room beat Miss Southern Miss by 1 ¼ lengths in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar in early August. The Peter Eurton trained filly was then 2 ¼ lengths third of 7 to Union Strike in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes in early September. In early October she ran 5 ½ lengths fourth of 11 to Noted And Quoted in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita and she needs more here.
Jamyson ‘N Ginger was well beaten on her first two starts but routed her rivals last time out, beating Pray For Bourbon by 15 ¼ lengths in a Belmont Park maiden in early October. This is a vastly tougher assignment.
Dancing Rags shaped with promise to run third on debut and has not stopped improving since then. The Graham Motion filly beat Tequilita by 1 ¾ lengths at Laurel Park in September before winning the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in early October, beating Daddys Lil Darling by a length.
Union Strike showed plenty of promise on her racecourse debut to finish 2 lengths second of 8 to American Cleopatra. In early September she gained her revenge with a 2 ¼ lengths defeat of that same rival in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes.
Noted And Quoted ran fourth on debut before landing a Del Mar maiden by 9 ½ lengths in August. The Bob Baffert filly finished 5 ¾ lengths fourth of 7 to Union Strike in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes in early September and a month later landed the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita by ½ a length from With Honors.
After running fourth in her first race, Daddys Lil Darling landed back to back victories, including a ½ a length defeat of Ever So Clever in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs in September. In early October she ran well in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes, coming home a length second of 14 to Dancing Rags.
Bob Baffert’s American Gal is unbeaten in two runs. She beat Partyinthepaddock by 2 ¼ lengths on her debut at Del Mar in mid-August. A couple of weeks ago she followed-up at Santa Anita with a 6 ½ lengths defeat of Woot Woot. This is a big step up in class.
Next up comes the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf over 1 ¼ miles.
Sea Calisi was a smart filly in Europe last year and has kicked on since arriving in North America. The Chad Brown trained 4 year old won a Belmont Park Grade 2 on her first start in early May, before finishing ¾ of a length second of 7 to Dacita in another Grade 2 at the New York track a month later. Her big breakthrough came with a ½ length success over Al’s Gal in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in mid-August. However, in early October she could only manage 2 lengths third of 6 to Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes back at Belmont Park, suggesting she needs a little more.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Catch A Glimpse, comes here bidding to restore her reputation. The Mark Casse trained 3 year old won eight consecutive races, culminating in her ½ a length victory over Time And Motion in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks in early July. However, that same foe has since beaten her twice, ending her run of victories with a ¼ length defeat in the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga in August. The margin was far greater as Catch A Glimpse trailed in 11 lengths 7th of 8 to Time And Motion in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in mid-October and that run has to be of concern.
Seventh Heaven has proved one of the most improved fillies in Europe this season. The Aidan O’Brien daughter of Galileo returned to action at Dundalk in April and landed a maiden by 3 ¼ lengths from Heartful, suggesting she had improved. She confirmed that promise when beating Architecture by a neck in the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial in early May. A month later Seventh Heaven took her chance in the Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom Downs, but she finished a well beaten 33 lengths 6th of 9 to stable mate Minding. She showed that run to be all wrong with Classic victory in the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh in mid-July, beating Architecture by 2 ¾ lengths. The following month she was most authoritative in beating stable mate and subsequent Arc winner Found by 2 ¾ lengths in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. She disappointed on a track renowned for odd results which don’t uphold form, where luck in running is a constant issue last time out, and that run is best forgotten.
Avenge comes into this contest having won her last three starts. The Richard Mandella trained 4 year old won a Del Mar Grade 2 in early September by a head from Finest City, before recording the biggest win of her career to date, the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita, in early October, where she defeated Zipessa by ¾ of a length.
Al’s Gal has shown tremendous improvement this season and comes here seeking a hat-trick. The Michael Maker trained 5 year old was ½ a length second to Sea Calisi in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August and a month later landed a Listed contest at Kentucky Downs. She made it back to back victories with a nose defeat of Suffused in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in mid-October.
Zipessa continues to progress and has shown good, consistent form as she has climbed through the ranks this year. The Michael Stidham trained 4 year old landed a Parx Grade 3 contest in early July by 2 lengths from Tuttipaesi and then stepped up to Grade 1 level, running 1 ¾ lengths third of 14 to Sea Calisi in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park, in mid-August. She again ran with great credit at the highest level on her latest start, coming home ¾ of a length second of 12 to Avenge in the Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita, in early October.
Sentiero Italia had a good 2015 campaign including four victories and she ran 3 ¾ lengths fourth of 10 to Stephanie’s Kitten in this corresponding race. She returned to action in a minor contest at Saratoga in late July winning easily, before running 1 ¼ lengths third of 7 to Strike Charmer in a Grade 2 at the same track in late August. In early October she ran well in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park, finishing ¾ of a length second of 6 to Lady Eli.
Lady Eli appeared to have the world before her in 2015, before being struck down with colic. The Chad Brown trained 4 year old was a superstar, winning her first eight races, including the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf of 2014 and the 2015 Belmont Oaks by 2 ¾ lengths from Itsonlyactingdad. Then came her illness and she was off the track until August of this year, making a pleasing return to finish ¾ of a length second of 7 to Strike Charmer in a Saratoga Grade 2. She got back to somewhere near her best next time out, landing the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park by ¾ of a length from Sentiero Italia in early October.
There is a Peruvian challenger in the shape of Ryans Charm, who comes here in fine form, having won her last five starts. Last time out the 6 year old landed a Grade 1 contest in late June by 1 ½ lengths from Antonina. It is hard to know how her ability equates to North American and European form.
Kitcat represents Chile in this race and was a prolific winner over there, including landing a Grade 1 contest by ½ a length from El Bromista in late May. She then headed to Santa Anita in early October and ran a most encouraging race to finish 1 ½ lengths second of 9 to Curlin’s Fox in a minor contest.
Queen’s Trust stamped herself a potentially very exciting filly when making a spectacular debut at Kempton Park in September. The Sir Michael Stoute trained daughter of Dansili slammed the more experienced Gravity Flow by 3 ¼ lengths, and was far from disgraced the following month, when stepping up in class for the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket, finishing 4 lengths fifth of 12 to First Victory. She returned to action in a Listed contest at Newbury in mid-May, coming home 1 ½ lengths fourth of 10 to We Are Ninety. The following moth she did not get the clearest of runs when 2 ¾ lengths fourth of 14 to Even Song in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. In late July she stepped up to Group 1 company for the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and gave Minding something of a race until the final furlong, before the superstar filly pulled away. Queen’s Trust stuck to her guns tenaciously and came home 1 ¼ lengths second of 5. The following month she ran in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, finishing 4 lengths third of 12 to Seventh Heaven. She has had one run since then and was third again.
Pretty Perfect built on the promise of her juvenile campaign and looked a pretty smart individual on her seasonal return. The Aidan O’Brien trained daughter of Galileo ran fifth on debut behind Rayisa at Gowran Park last September, and a month later landed a Leopardstown maiden by 2 ¼ lengths from Crafted Jewel. She returned to action in the 1 ¼ mile Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan in mid-April, putting up a smashing performance to beat Glamorous Approach by 3 ½ lengths. She then contested the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at Naas earlier in May, finishing 7 ½ lengths second of 6 to the smart Zhukova. Towards the end of May she dropped in trip for the Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas, but was never a factor, coming 25 lengths 9th of 10 to Jet Setting. Three weeks later she stepped up to 1 ½ miles for the Group 3 Munster Oaks at Cork, putting up a terrific performance to beat Shamreen by 4 lengths. That booked her place in the Group 1 Irish Oaks in mid-July, but she was a disappointment, coming home a remote 10th of 11 behind stable mate Seventh Heaven. She again bumped into that stable mate in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks at York in late August, running prominently and keeping on well to finish 9 lengths fourth of 12. That effort suggested she had stamina and she ran well in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September, when just edged out by ¼ of a length by last year’s St Leger winner Simple Verse.
Japanese runner Nuovo Record put up some fair efforts last year when second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Kyoto (beaten ¼ of a length by Marialite) and when a length second of 13 to A Shin Hikari in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin in December. However, she has struggled this season and disappointed on all three starts, most recently coming home 3 ¾ lengths fourth of 16 to Neorealism in a Grade 2 contest in August.
The speedsters are out next in the Twinspires Breeders’ Cup Sprint over six furlongs, on the dirt.
Mind Your Biscuits has run well this year but looks to face a tough task in this company. The 3 year old had his biggest success when landing the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in late July, beating Maniacal by 1 ¾ lengths. However, stepped up to Grade 1 class in the King’s Bishop Stakes at the same track, he was no match for Drefong, finishing 4 lengths fifth of 12 in late August. Last time out, in late September, he ran in a Grade 3 contest at Parx, finishing 1 ¼ lengths second of 11 to Noholdingback Bear.
Drefong comes into this race having won his last four starts and is unbeaten in 2016. The Bob Baffert trained 3 year old had his biggest success when landing the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in late August, beating Economic Model by 3 ¼ lengths.
Delta Bluesman has been in good form this season and had his biggest success when beating Limousine Liberal by 3 ¾ lengths in a Grade 2 at Gulfstream Park in early July. However, towards the end of that month he was no match for A.P. Indian in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga, coming home 4 ¼ lengths fourth of 8. He has won a minor contest since but needs big improvement.
Joking has won four straight and last time out recorded his best result when winning the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park in early October, beating Stallwalkin’ Dude by a length.
A.P. Indian has been spectacular this season, winning his last five starts. The 6 year old won at Parx and Belmont Park before landing the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga by 1 ¼ lengths from Holy Boss in late July. A month later he put up an awesome display in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes to beat Tamarkuz by 2 ½ lengths at the same track. He warmed up for this contest with a nose victory from Limousine Liberal in a Keeneland Grade 2 contest in early October.
Lord Nelson has won all four starts this season and perhaps crucially has Santa Anita track form. Bob Baffert 4 year old landed the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes by ½ a length from Subtle Indian in late June in Santa Anita. At the beginning of August he added the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar by 4 lengths from Indexical. He made it a hat-trick of Grade 1 successes with a 2 ½ lengths victory over All Run in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes in early October.
Masochistic ran last in this corresponding race last year, but is a perfect two from two so far in 2016. The 6 year old won a claimer at Santa Anita in early July and towards the end of the following month added a Grade 2 at Del Mar by 3 ¾ lengths from Vyjack.
Noholdingback Bear has won four times this season but has yet to succeed at the highest level. The 3 year old finished 3 ¾ lengths third of 12 to Drefong in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in late August. A month later he won a Grade 3 contest at Parx by 1 ¼ lengths from Mind Your Biscuits.
Limousine Liberal has been involved in plenty of wars and on the whole has acquitted himself well this year albeit he finds it hard to win. The four year old was second in Graded contests at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park in early June and early July, before running poorly in the grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga in August, coming home 7 lengths 7th of 10 to A.P. Indian. However, in early October he got within a nose of that rival in a Keeneland Grade 2 contest.
The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is next up over six furlongs and 110 yards.
Pure Sensation has won his last three starts but is heading West and has yet to win at the highest level. The 5 year old has landed two Group 3 contests this season at Belmont Park and Parx and has twice beaten Power Alert.
Obviously has attempted to blaze a trail in the last two Breeders’ Cup Mile contests and now drops in trip. The 8 year old has again contested mile races this year and twice finished second at Santa Anita in the early months of 2016. In June he landed a Belmont Park Grade 3 by 3 ¾ lengths from Force The Pass. He warmed up for this contest by running a length third of 10 to Vyjack in another Santa Anita Grade 2 mile race in early October.
Mongolian Saturday caused a sensation in this race last year, beating Lady Shipman by ¼ of a length. The 6 year old then embarked on somewhat of a world tour, finishing unplaced twice in Sha Tin, at Royal Ascot and in the July Cup at Newmarket. However, he came back to form on his return to Keeneland in a Grade 3 contest in early October, beating Hogy by ½ a length.
Home Of The Brave is a fascinating runner who drops down to sprint distances after a relatively light campaign in Europe. Hugo Palmer’s 4 year old has seemed most effective over seven furlongs, winning a Listed race at Leicester in April, before landing a Haydock Park Group 3 by a neck from Convey the following month. In late July he ran 1 ¾ lengths second of 8 to Dutch Connection in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood and most recently, in mid-August, he was a length second of 6 to Richard Pankhurst in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
Karar landed back to back victories in minor contests at Maisons-Laffitte and Deauville in July and August, beating Skaters Waltz by a nose on the latter occasion. The 4 year old dropped to six furlongs for a Deauville Group 3 in late August, finishing 1 ¾ lengths 7th of 9 behind Finsbury Square. He then returned to seven furlongs in the Group 3 Prix du Pin at Chantilly in early September, running 2 ½ lengths third of 14 behind Jallota. He ran perhaps his best race of the year in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs, finishing 3 lengths second of 11 to Limato at Chantilly in early October.
Popular Canadian old-timer Calgary Cat appeared to have lost a little speed for most of this year until springing back to form last time out. The Kevin Attard trained 6 year old reversed previous form to beat Stacked Deck by a head in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine in mid-October.
Washington DC has been on the go since April, when he won a minor contest at Dundalk, but has held his form well. The Aidan O’Brien 3 year old won a Listed race at Navan in mid-May, beating Diamond Fields by 2 ¼ lengths. A fortnight later he was put in his place by the filly Only Mine, running 2 ¾ lengths second of 7 in the Group 3 Lacken Stakes at Naas. He ran well and probably to the best of his form in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, finishing 1 ½ lengths third of 10 to Quiet Reflection and that suggests he has a bit to find here. He again ran a belter in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket, finishing 3 ¾ lengths fifth of 18 to Limato. Later that month he arguably put up his best performance of the season so far as he got to within a neck of Take Cover in the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood. However, he ran an absolute stinker in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August, finishing 11 ½ lengths 17th of 19 to Mecca’s Angel. He ran much better in the Group 2 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh in September, coming home ½ a length second of 13 to Ardhoomey. The following month he stayed on strongly to finish ¾ of a length second of 17 to Marsha in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly, over five furlongs.
A Lot has predominately run over longer distances in his career and has it all to prove over this shorter trip. The Chad Brown trained 4 year old won a minor contest at Belmont Park over seven furlongs in April, before finishing 1 ¼ lengths fourth of 13 to Pure Sensation in a Grade 3 contest over six furlongs in June, at the same venue. In late August he ran well to finish 1 ¼ lengths second of 6 to Tourist in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap over a mile at Saratoga.
Ambitious Brew missed over a year of activity but comes here with a very good record at Santa Anita. The 6 year old has won at the track five times, including a victory in late May. He then ran 3 lengths 6th of 8 to Lord Nelson in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at the venue in late June, before finishing fourth of 5 to Midnight Storm in a Del Mar Grade 2 in August. Last time out he got back to winning ways at Santa Anita in late September, beating Richard’s Boy by 1 ¾ lengths.
Undrafted ran 3 ½ lengths fifth to Mongolian Saturday in last year’s race, having won at Royal Ascot in June 2015. The Wes Ward trained 6 year old made a winning return in a Keeneland Grade 2 contest in April, beating Something Extra by ½ a length, but has struggled since. In early October he ran 2 ¾ lengths 6th of 12 to Mongolian Saturday in a Keeneland Grade 3 and he will need more.
Om had a good 2015 but has yet to win in the present year. The 4 year old ran last of 6 to What A View in a mile Grade 1 contest at Santa Anita in March but has since finished second in two Grade 2 contests over the same trip. Last time out he was ½ a length second of 10 to Vyjack at Santa Anita in early October.
Holy Lute struggled in his first three starts of the year but is seeking a hat-trick of victories here. The six year old landed a Santa Anita Grade 3 contest in early October by 1 ¼ lengths from Boozer, but will need more again now.
Celestine travels over from the East Coast and has enjoyed a fine campaign during 2016. The Bill Mott 4 year old won a Grade 2 at Gulfstream Park in April by 3 ¼ lengths from Mississippi Delta and added the Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes at Belmont Park in June by 3 ¾ lengths from Recepta. Last time out she was a little disappointing when 6 ¼ lengths third of 10 behind Photo Call in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in October. She now drops down in trip from a mile.
Lady Shipman is back for a rematch with Mongolian Saturday, having succumbed to a ¼ length defeat in this race a year ago. The 4 year old has won four of her last six starts, albeit at a lower grade than she faces here. Her highlight was a 1 ¾ lengths defeat of She’s Explosive in a Woodbine Grade 3 in late July. Last time out she was a disappointing 6 ¼ lengths 6th of 10 behind Ambitious Brew in a Santa Anita Grade 3 contest in late September.
Green Mask completes the field and has run consistently, but is another who probably needs to raise his game for success here. The 5 year old ran ¾ of a length third to Mongolian Saturday in last year’s race but has had mixed form since. His best run probably came when he finished ¼ of a length second of 6 to Passion For Action in a Woodbine Grade 2 contest in early July. Last time out he finished a length third of 9 to Pure Sensation at Santa Anita in early October.
Last year the Grade 1 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile went the way of subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. It will be fascinating to see if any horse can emulate his feats this time around over this one mile, 110 yard contest.
After running fourth on debut, Klimt turned into a smart performer with victory in his next three starts, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in early September, when he beat Straight Fire by a comprehensive 4 ¼ lengths. The Bob Baffert youngster ran 3 lengths second of 6 to Gormley on his latest start in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita in early October.
Todd Pletcher’s Syndergaard made a big impression in his first two races, including a 10 ¼ lengths victory at Saratoga in August. He then took a big step up for the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in early October, running well to go down by just a nose to Practical Joke.
Term Of Art ran third on his debut and was then second to Plum Daddy at Del Mar. The Doug O’Neill youngster got off the mark last time out but is taking a huge leap in class now.
Theory is another East Coast raider and comes here unbeaten in two starts. The Todd Pletcher horse won a Saratoga maiden by 5 ½ lengths in late July and after quite a break added a Grade 3 contest at Belmont Park in mid-October, beating Star Empire by 3 ½ lengths. This is much tougher.
Classic Empire runs in the familiar colours of American Pharoah and so far is unblemished in his four race career, save for unseating his rider on his third start. The Mark Casse trained colt enjoyed his biggest success when landing the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes at Keeneland in early October by 3 lengths from Lookin At Lee.
Three Rules comes into this race unbeaten in five starts, but is taking a big step up in class. Perhaps his best performance to date came at Gulfstream Park when he won the valuable Birdonthewire Stakes by five lengths.
Gormley comes into this race a perfect two out of two. The John Shirreffs trained colt won easily at Del Mar on debut in early September, before landing the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita by 3 lengths from Klimt in early October.
Star Empire won his first two starts but has failed to add to that tally since stepping up into Graded company and looks to have plenty on his plate. The Wes Ward colt ran 8 lengths third of 10 to Wellabled in an Arlington Park Grade 3 contest in September, off a near-four month break. In mid-October he contested a Belmont Park Grade 3 and finished 3 ½ lengths second of 5 to Theory. He will need more here.
Practical Joke makes the journey from the East Coast with a perfect three wins from as many starts. The Chad Brown youngster was a five length winner of a Saratoga maiden in early August, before landing the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at the same track a month later, beating Royal Copy by a neck. He was a narrow winner once again in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in early October, defeating Syndergaard by a nose.
Not This Time was fifth on debut before improving to win his second start. However, the Dale Romans runner made his biggest impact when landing a Churchill Downs Grade 3 in September by 8 ¾ lengths from Lookin At Lee. This is still a big step up in grade.
Having run fifth on debut Lookin At Lee landed his next two starts before stepping up in class. The Steve Asmussen juvenile ran a distant second to Not This Time in a Churchill Downs Grade 3 contest in mid-September, before finishing 3 lengths second of 12 to the impressive Classic Empire in the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes at Keeneland in early October.
One of Europe’s biggest targets is always the Grade 1 LONGINE’S Breeders’ Cup Turf over 1 ½ miles.
Ralis in truth looks to be out of his depth here. The Doug O’Neill trained 3 year old won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes as a juvenile but has failed to make a big impact his year. He ran his best race when ½ a length second of 14 behind Free Rose in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby in early September. Last time out he finished 2 ¼ lengths 6th of 10 to Ashleyluvssugar in the Grade 2 John Henry at Santa Anita.
Da Big Hoss has won five of his six starts this year, including the two mile Listed Belmont Gold Cup in June, when he beat Now We Can by 1 ½ lengths. In mid-August he added the Grade 3 American St Leger at Arlington Park by 1 ¾ lengths from Clondaw Warrior and last time out added a Kentucky Downs Grade 3 in September by 1 ¼ lengths from Bullards Alley.
Ectot was a smart horse at his best in France, where he won the 2014 Group 2 Prix Niel with an awesome display. Now in the care of Todd Pletcher, the 5 year old took time to find his way in America, but last time out, in the rain, beat Flintshire by 5 lengths in the Group 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park in early October.
Flintshire was already an international superstar before joining Chad Brown for 2016. The ex-Andre Fabre trained 6 year old won a string of Group 1 contests in France, Hong Kong and the United States and was twice second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He ambled to three facile victories in his first three starts for Brown, including a 1 ¾ lengths defeat of Money Multiplier to land back to back victories in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga. However, his run of wins came to an abrupt end in rain-softened ground at Belmont Park in early October, as Ectot cut him down to inflict a 5 lengths defeat. Fast ground will suit Flintshire.
Ashleyluvssugar has appeared an improved performer this year and is seeking a hat-trick of wins here, although taking a step up in grade. The Peter Eurton 5 year old was ½ a length second of 9 to Midnight Storm in a Del Mar Grade 2 in July and then landed the Grade 2 Del Mar handicap by a nose from Metaboss a month later. In early October he won the John Henry at Santa Anita by ½ a length from Texas Ryano.
Mondialiste comes here as one of the most improved horses of last year. David O’Meara’s 6 year old started the year running in handicaps but in September landed the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile by ½ a length from Lea. He backed up that effort by closing to finish an excellent 2 ¼ lengths second to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile. He then headed to Sha Tin in December for the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile, but ran a rare disappointing race, coming home 9 lengths 12th of 14 to the superstar Maurice. He returned to action in the 9-furlong, Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan, at Chantilly in late May, but ran down the field, finishing a well-beaten 17 ½ lengths 7th of 9 to A Shin Hikari. He was again disappointing on his latest start in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, finishing 12 lengths 11th of 13 to Tepin. He then stepped up in trip and ran his best race of the year to finish ¾ of a length second of 5 to Time Test in the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes at York in late July. The following month he headed Stateside again for the Grade 1 Arlington Million, beating Kasaqui by a neck. In October he dropped down in trip for the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, finishing well as he came home 1 ¾ lengths fourth of 11 to Miss Temple City.
Ulysses is certainly bred for the job, being a son of Derby winner Galileo, out of Oaks winner Light Shift. The Sir Michael Stoute colt ran well on his only start at two, when finishing 2 ¾ lengths 6th of 15 to Algometer in a Newbury maiden last October. He returned to action in a Leicester maiden in late April, finishing ½ a length second of 10 to Imperial Aviator, who subsequently routed his rivals in the valuable London Gold Cup at Newbury. Ulysses meanwhile got off the mark with an 8 lengths demolition of New World Power in a maiden at the same meeting in mid-May. That saw him have a crack at the Investec Derby at Epsom in early June, but he proved one of the race’s disappointments, coming home 23 lengths 12th of 16 to Harzand. He was not seen out again until Glorious Goodwood in late July, when he roared back to form with a ½ a length victory over The Major General in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes. However, a month later he was a shade disappointing as he came home a short head second of 6 to Chain Of Daisies in a Windsor Group 3. This is a massive step up.
Twilight Eclipse landed a Belmont Park contest in July but has been well beaten by Flintshire and Ectot since and appears fully held on the formbook. Last time out the 7 year old finished 6 ¾ lengths third of 4 to Ectot in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in early October.
Money Multiplier is another who appears well held by Flintshire and Ectot. The 4 year old finished ¾ of a length second of 9 to Wake Forest in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park in May and in early July was second again, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by World Approval in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. In early August he landed a minor contest at Saratoga and he returned there towards the end of the month to finish 1 ¾ lengths second of 7 to Flintshire in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes. In early October he was 8 ¼ lengths last of 4 to Ectot in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.
Found memorably won this corresponding race a year ago, beating the great Golden Horn by ½ a length at Keeneland. The Aidan O’Brien trained 4 year old has her tenth run of 2016 here, with connections opting for a repeat bid rather than the Classic. After a run of five second place finishes, including when ¾ of a length behind Almanzor in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, Found struck gold in a big way in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, where she beat Highland Reel by 1 ¾ lengths. Arc winners do not have a good record at the Breeders’ Cup however.
Texas Ryano looks to be out of his depth here and has failed to register a victory in 2016 so far. The 5 year old has improved as the year has progressed however, finishing a length third of 12 to Ashleyluvssugar in a Del Mar Grade 2 in August, and finishing ½ a length second of 10 to the same horse in a Santa Anita Grade 2 in early October.
Highland Reel had a good 2015 campaign which saw him run second to New Bay in the Prix du Jockey Club, before making his mark on three different continents. The Aidan O’Brien trained 4 year old landed the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in July and the following month beat Closing Bell by an emphatic 5 ¼ lengths in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. After finishing 3 ¾ lengths fifth to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes, Highland Reel headed to Australia and was far from disgraced in finished 5 ½ lengths third of 14 to the superstar filly Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate last October. He rounded his year off with a trip to Hong Kong where he landed the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase by 1 ½ lengths from Flintshire. After disappointing in the spring of this year overseas, he returned to European action in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and was embroiled in a thrilling battle down the home straight with Dartmouth. Despite carrying an awkward head carriage, Highland Reel fought on bravely before finally succumbing to a head defeat with a Stewards’ Enquiry upholding the result. However, at the end of July and on faster ground, form was reversed as Highland Reel held off the persistent challenge of Wings Of Desire by 1 ¼ lengths, with Dartmouth well held in third place, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. He dropped in trip in August, for the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, giving Postponed a real run for his money before finishing 1 ¼ lengths second of 12. In September he took part in that epic Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, finishing 6 ½ lengths 7th of 12 to Almanzor. He then ran an absolute blinder in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, in October, sweating up badly beforehand, he still came home 1 ¾ lengths second of 16 to stable mate Found. He seems to be at his best on a fast surface.
Metaboss looks to be up against it in this company. The 4 year old landed a minor race at Del Mar in July but has since twice been beaten by Ashleyluvssugar in Grade 2 contests. Last time out he was a length fourth of 10 to that horse in a Santa Anita Grade 2 in early October.
It is then the turn of the fillies in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint over seven furlongs on the dirt.
Paola Queen has been somewhat inconsistent but landed her biggest success in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga in early August, beating Lightstream by ¾ of a length. However, she then ran 11 lengths last of 7 to Forever Unbridled in Belmont Park’s Beldame Stakes in early October. She drops back down in trip now.
Haveyougoneaway had consistent form and has stepped up a notch as she seeks a four-timer here. The Thomas Morley trained 5 year old heads West with victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga, her latest success, when she beat By The Moon by ½ a length.
Tara’s Tango has enjoyed a terrific 2016 campaign and looks to command plenty of respect in California. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained 4 year old won back to back contests at Santa Anita in February and March, taking a Grade 2 on the first occasion and then following-up with a length victory over Taris in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes. In April she ran 3 ½ lengths third of 6 to Forever Unbridled in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. After a break, Tara’s Tango returned to action with a Grade 3 victory at Del Mar in August, beating Enchanting Lady by ½ a length. However, over 8 ½ furlongs she ran poorly on her latest start, coming home a disappointing 12 ½ lengths fourth of 5 to Stellar Wind in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita in early October. She now drops in trip.
Gomo has developed into a reliable filly who is rarely out of the money but perhaps needs to step up a little more in this contest. The Doug O/Neill trained 3 year old was a Grade 1 winner at Keeneland as a juvenile, but has failed to reach those heights this season. She ran 8 ¼ lengths fourth of 7 to Go Maggie Go in a Gulfstream Park Grade 2 in early April and has a long break to overcome.
Wonder Gal looks to be up against it here and needs a big personal best. She was well beaten by Dancing House in a Grade 2 contest at Laurel Park in February, before landing a minor race. The 4 year old was last seen finishing 5 ½ lengths fifth of 6 behind Paulassilverlining in a Belmont Park Grade 2 in early October.
By The Moon was a smart juvenile and Grade 1 winner as a juvenile in 2014 and ran well although not winning often last year. The 4 year old was returning from a lengthy absence when 5 ¾ lengths fourth of 7 to Paulassilverlining in an Aqueduct Grade 3 contest in April. In late June she landed a Belmont Park Grade 3 by 1 ¾ lengths from Wavell Avenue. Two months later she ran a belter in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga, coming home ½ a length second of 10 to Haveyougoneaway.
Gloryzapper comes here probably needing big improvement to figure. The 4 year old has run well at Santa Anita however, running 1 ¾ lengths second of 7 to Divina Comedia in early July. She later landed a minor contest before finishing 3 lengths 8th of 12 to Avenge in a Del Mar Grade 2 in early September. However, returning to Santa Anita, she won a Grade 3 in early October by ½ a length from Wild At Heart. This is tougher.
Carina Mia has proved a good, solid three year old, but has twice come up well short against the outstanding Songbird. The Bill Mott filly landed the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths from Off The Tracks at Belmont Park in June, but a month later was 5 ¼ lengths second of 5 to Songbird in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Saratoga. She returned there in late August for the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes and came home 1 ½ lengths third of 10 to Haveyougoneaway. A month later she again came off second best to Songbird, beaten 5 ¾ lengths in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx.
Paulassilverlining has certainly made her mark in the East and now heads to California with solid credentials. The Michelle Nevin trained 4 year old won back to back Grade 3 contests at Aqueduct (beating Cavorting by 3 ¾ lengths) in April, and at Belmont Park the following month (defeating West Coast Chick by 3 ¼ lengths). In late July she ran well in defeat when beaten ¼ of a length into second by Haveyougoneaway in a Saratoga Grade 2. That gap widened to 2 ½ lengths as she ran a disappointing fifth of 10 in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes in late August. However, she warmed up for this race with victory in a Belmont Park Grade 2 in early October, defeating Quezon by ¾ of a length.
Wavell Avenue bids for back to back wins in this race, having defeated La Verdad by 1 ¾ lengths a year ago at Keeneland. She took time to find her best form this year, coming home 2 ¼ lengths third of 11 to Sheer Drama on her return in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April. She then finished a well beaten fourth to Taris in the Grade 1 Distaff Stakes at Churchill Downs in May and ran 1 ¾ lengths second of 6 to By The Moon in a Belmont Park Grade 3 in late June. In early August she dropped in class and won a minor race at Saratoga but later that month disappointed there when only 5 ¼ lengths 6th of 10 to Haveyougoneaway in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes. She showed a little improvement on her latest start in a Grade 3 contest at Belmont Park in early October, finishing 2 ¼ lengths third of 6 to Paulassilverlining.
Irish Jasper appears to be on the upgrade but needs further improvement here. The Chad Brown 4 year old was fourth on her return before landing a minor contest. Last time out she won a Keeneland Grade 2 contest in early October by 1 ¾ lengths from Stonetastic. This is a lot harder.
Finest City takes a big drop in distance after some respectable, if unspectacular performances over further. The Ian Kruljac trained 4 year old won a Grade 2 contest at Los Alamitos in April by 1 ¼ lengths from Fantastic Style, but has failed to add to that victory. She was 2 ¼ lengths third of 5 to Beholder in the Grade 1 Vanity Mile Stakes at Santa Anita in early June, before running 1 ¾ lengths fourth of 8 to She’s Not Here in a Grade 2 at Del Mar in mid-July. Last time out Finest City finished a head second of 12 to Avenge in a nine-furlong Grade 2 at Del Mar in early September.
Spelling Again’s last three runs suggest she has plenty on her plate here. The Brad Cox trained 5 year old won a Gulfstream Park Grade 2 in July by a neck from Cali Star, but has been comprehensively beaten on her three subsequent starts. Last time out she was 3 ½ lengths 6th of 8 to Irish Jasper in a Keeneland Grade 2 in early October.
The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile is another race keenly coveted by the Europeans, but they have to pass last year’s winning Tepin here.
What A View won four on the bounce before suffering a recent defeat at Keeneland. The Kenneth Black trained 5 year old landed the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes at Santa Anita in March, beating Bolo by 3 ¾ lengths. The following month he made it a hat-trick of Santa Anita victories with a length defeat of Twentytwentyvision in a Grade 3. His run came to an end in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October, when he finished 3 ½ lengths 8th of 11 to Miss Temple City.
Alice Springs has been in magnificent form since mid-summer and comes here having won three Group 1 races this season. The Aidan O’Brien trained 3 year old was beaten just ¼ of a length by Catch A Glimpse at the Breeders’ Cup last year and ran third to Minding in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas in May but really struck form when landing the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket two months later, beating Very Special by 2 ¼ lengths. She disappointed at Deauville later in July, but was back on her best form in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown over Irish Champions Weekend in September, defeating Persuasive by 3 ¼ lengths. In early October she returned to Newmarket and added the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes with a ¾ of a length victory over Always Smile.
The German trained filly Spectre has already made her mark this spring. The Markus Munch trained daughter of Siyouni was fourth on debut last year, before landing a minor contest at Strasbourg in September. Her juvenile campaign rounded off when she finished a length second of 6 to Magnolea in a conditions race at Saint-Cloud in October. However, she sprang a real surprise when landing the Group 3 Prix Imprudence on heavy ground at Maisons-Laffitte in early April, beating Midweek by ¾ of a length. She then headed to the Group 1 Poule d’Esai des Pouliches at Deauville in mid-May, coming home a respectable 2 lengths fifth of 14 to La Cressonniere. She then took on the colts in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in early July, running 2 ¼ lengths third of 9 to Zelzal. The following month she put up another solid effort in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, coming home 2 ¼ lengths fourth of 11 to Ribchester. She ran well again in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin at Chantilly in mid-September, finishing 1 ¼ lengths second of 6 to Vadamos.
Miss Temple City won the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland in April on her seasonal debut, but lost her way thereafter, until returning to form last time out. The Wes Ward trained 4 year old beat Heart To Heart by 1 ¼ lengths in that contest but managed a 3 ¼ lengths fourth of 14 to Usherette in the Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. The following month she was narrowly beaten in a thriller for the Grade 1 Diana Stakes, finishing ¼ of a length fourth of 10 to Dacita at Saratoga. In late August she disappointed in a Grade 2 race at the same track when 2 ¾ lengths fifth of 7 to Strike Charmer. In early October though, she put those runs in the shade as she landed the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland by a head from Ironicus.
Bill Mott’s Tourist was a well beaten 8th to Tepin a year ago and whilst his form is consistent, there is little to suggest he can reverse that form significantly. The 5 year old finished 2 ½ lengths third of 9 to Miss Temple City in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland in April. A month on and he ran 3 lengths fourth of 12 to Divisidero in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. He showed improved form in early June when finishing ½ a length second of 6 to Midnight Storm in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Santa Anita and after a break, landed the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga by 1 ¼ lengths from A Lot in August. He ran well in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in early October, finishing ¾ of a length third of 11 to Miss Temple City.
Photo Call won the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita last autumn, but had fairly average form this year until causing a huge shock last time out. The Todd Pletcher trained 5 year old was allowed a huge uncontested lead in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in early October – and kept up the gallop in determined fashion to end Tepin’s long unbeaten stretch by 2 ¾ lengths.
Dutch Connection proved a very classy individual last season but has so far come up short at the highest level. The Charlie Hills trained 4 year old colt made a fine return to action when a battling ¼ length second of 7 to old rival Toormore in the Group 2 bet365 Mile at Sandown Park in late April. The following month he took his chance in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, but was a disappointing 21 lengths 9th of 12 to Belardo. In early July he ran much better in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot, finishing 2 ¼ lengths second of 10 to Mutakayyef and at the end of that month he confirmed his improvement when beating Home Of The Brave by 1 ¾ lengths in the 7 furlong, Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Less than a fortnight later he dropped in trip for the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, finishing well to come home 2 lengths fifth of 15 to Signs Of Blessing. He returned to France and Chantilly more specifically, for the Group 1 Prix du Moulin in early September, but was a disappointing 8 lengths last of 6 to Vadamos.
Last year’s winner Tepin very much sets the standard here, despite suffering a shock defeat to Photo Call last time out. The Mark Casse trained 5 year old beat Mondialiste by 2 ¼ lengths last year and continued serenely on a run of eight unbeaten runs this year. A 5 lengths defeat of Wekeela in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in mid-April was followed by a 3 ½ lengths victory over Rainha Da Bateria in a Churchill Downs Grade 2 in early May. The following month Tepin shipped to England for the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot taking on most of Europe’s leading older milers. The rain-softened ground and opposition couldn’t stop her, as she beat Belardo by ½ a length. After a three month break, she returned with a workmanlike performance to beat Tower Of Teas by ½ a length in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in mid-September. She was expected to extend her sequence to nine in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in October, but was out-foxed by the bold front-running tactics of Photo Call and could never quite reel in her rival succumbing to a shock 2 ¾ lengths defeat.
Ironicus continues to run with great credit in the first two places, but has still yet to land a Grade 1 victory. The 5 year old won a Belmont Park Grade 3 in May by 1 ½ lengths from Smooth Daddy, but the following month was outclassed by Flintshire and flattered by a 1 ¾ lengths defeat in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park. He ran a belter on his return from a break, coming home a head second of 11 to Miss Temple City in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in early October.
Limato remains an exciting and at times brilliant horse who just might get his optimum fast ground conditions as he steps back up to a mile. The Henry Candy trained 4 year old made his 2016 return on perhaps not ideal ground, in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May. His first attempt at a mile was respectable, particularly given the stable form at the time, as he came home 2 ½ lengths fourth of 12 behind Belardo. He was not seen out again until the Group 1 July Cup, when he showed a terrific burst of speed to draw clear quickly on the rising ground – and even though he veered dramatically right in the latter stages, he still beat Suedois by 2 lengths. He was supplemented for the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August, but the drop to five furlongs saw him finish 2 lengths second of 19 to Mecca’s Angel. He then showed brilliant speed in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs, at Chantilly in October, beating Karar by 3 lengths in a race which he dominated in the final quarter of a mile. Cornering the bends is going to be crucial to his chances but Candy has opted for the Mile rather than the Sprint.
Ring Weekend was a Grade 1 winner over this track in March 2015, but has been inconsistent this year. The Graham Motion trained 5 year old ran ¼ of a length second of 8 to Takeover Target in a Pimlico Grade 2 contest in late May, but after a break, was a disappointing last of 6 behind Tourist in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga in August. He returned there in early September and ws back to winning ways in a Grade 2, defeating Jay Gatsby by a neck. In early October he was another to contest the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, finishing 2 ½ lengths 7th of 11 to Miss Temple City.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It A Bomb returns to this meeting after a disappointing and frustrating 2016 so far. The Aidan O’Brien trained War Front colt won all three starts last year, with a late finish and narrow margin wins being his trade mark and never better exemplified than in his victory at Keeneland last October, when he came from an improbable position on the home turn to beat Airoforce by a neck. He was not seen out again until early August, when a little ring-rust, he lost his unbeaten record when finishing 2 lengths third of 8 to Tribal Beat in the Group 3 Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown. It was not a bad run and he again put up a decent effort in the Group 2 Boomerang Stakes at the same track when 2 lengths third of 7 to Awtaad in early September. He ran badly on one subsequent start and has something to prove at present.
Midnight Storm was twice a Grade 2 winner coming into 2016 but has stepped up a level this term and is in the form of his life as he bids for a four-timer. The Philip D’Amato trained 5 year old struggled in the spring in two starts before beating Tourist by ½ a length in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Santa Anita in early June. The following month he added a Grade 2 at Del Mar by ½ a length from Ashleyluvssugar and he completed his hat-trick with a ½ a length defeat of Om in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in August.
Cougar Mountain has been in fine form this year but is taking a massive leap in class, having never really shined at this level before. The Aidan O’Brien trained 5 year old returned from a lay-off to make a disappointing return in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh in April, coming home 9 ¼ lengths 7th of 8 to Onenightidreamed. The following month he ran much better when beaten just a short head by Steip Amach in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown. He was then far from disgraced in finishing 7 ½ lengths 8th of 13 behind Tepin in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and he then came home 5 lengths fifth of 10 to Sruthan in a Listed contest at the Curragh in late June. After a break, Cougar Mountain ran well in the Group 3 Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown in early August, finishing 1 ¾ lengths second of 8 to Tribal Beat. A month later he was 3 ¾ lengths 6th of 8 behind Breton Rock in the Group 2 Park Stakes at Doncaster. However, just under a fortnight later he was most impressive in winning the Group 2 Joel Stakes at Newmarket beating Gifted Master by 3 ¼ lengths in the manner of a horse very much in the zone. He returned to Newmarket in early October for the Group 2 Challenge Stakes but this time could only manage 3 lengths fifth of 12 to Aclaim.
The action ends as always with the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic over 1 ¼ miles.
Effinex heads the field and remains a really interesting runner here. Last year he ran best of the rest, when 6 ½ lengths second of 8 to American Pharoah in this very race. A month later he won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs by ¾ of a length from Hoppertunity. The James Jerkins 5 year old returned by finishing 4 ¾ lengths third of 9 to Melatonin in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March. He reversed that form with a length victory over that foe in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April, before running a disappointing race to come home 6 ¼ lengths 6th of 7 to Bradester in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June. The following month Effinex beat Samraat by a neck in a Belmont Park Grade 2, but in early August he finished 2 ½ lengths fourth of 6 to Frosted in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. He warmed up for this race in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in early October, running ½ a length second of 5 to old rival Hoppertunity.
Frosted was only seventh of 8 to American Pharoah in last year’s race but has enjoyed a good 2016 and at times has looked much improved. The Kiaran McLaughlin trained 4 year old was a brilliant Group 2 winner in Dubai in February, but was blown away by California Chrome in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, finishing 5 ½ lengths fifth of 12 in Meydan in late March. Frosted returned to action Stateside in June with an astonishing performance in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, beating Anchor Down by a stunning 14 lengths. He was less spectacular when adding the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes by a mere 2 lengths from Comfort at Saratoga in early August. A month later though he failed to meet expectations in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes when only ½ a length third of 9 to Shaman Ghost.
Keen Ice will forever be remembered as the horse who lowered American Pharoah’s colours in the 2015 Travers Stakes, but his form since then has not been sufficient to suggest he can win this race. The Todd Pletcher trained 4 year old ran 12 ½ lengths fourth to the Pharoah in this corresponding race last year and was then beaten 1 ¼ lengths into fourth place by Effinex in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last November. He ran a poor 6th of 8 to Mshawish in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February and was twice well out of the reckoning in Meydan, coming home 7 lengths 8th of 12 to California Chrome in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup in late March. After a long break, Keen Ice returned to action in a minor contest at Belmont Park in early October, but could only manage 4 lengths third of 8 to Wake Up In Malibu.
California Chrome has roared back to health and form from a subdued 2015 and has been the standout superstar of 2016 so far. The Art Sherman trained 5 year old won the first two legs of the American Triple Crown in 2014, but was ¼ of a length third to Bayern in this corresponding race two years ago. He ran 2 ¾ lengths second to Prince Bishop in the 2015 Dubai World Cup in Dubai and shipped over to the UK where injury sadly prevented him from running at Royal Ascot. He eventually returned to the US having not raced in Europe, but was not seen out again last year. 2016 has been a campaign that has gathered momentum, from a glorious homecoming win at Santa Anita in January, through to his current status as the highest rated racehorse in the world currently. Victory in Meydan in February was followed by success in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup where he beat Mubtaahij by an emphatic 3 ¾ lengths. After a four month break he beat Dortmund by ½ a length in a Del Mar Grade 2 contest in late July, but it was his blitzing of the brilliant Beholder, whom he beat by 5 lengths in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic at the same track, that caught the imagination. He made it six straight wins hard held in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in early October, beating Dortmund by 2 ¼ lengths.
Win The Space has performed admirably but looks to be up against it on the formbook with California Chrome. The 4 year old won a minor contest at Santa Anita in mid-May before running 1 ½ lengths second of 8 to Melatonin in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes in June. In late July he finished 7 ¾ lengths third of 5 to California Chrome in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, before pulling up in the TVG Pacific Classic, also won by the Chrome. Last time out Win The Space finished 6 ¾ lengths third of 5 to California Chrome in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in early October. He has lots to find.
Melatonin has improved enormously during 2016 and is three from four. The David Hofmans trained 5 year old began the year with a claimer victory at Santa Anita in February, before landing the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap the following month by 4 ¼ lengths from Hard Aces. His sole defeat this year came in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April, when he finished a length second of 8 to Effinex. He got back to winning ways with a second Grade 1 victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes in June, beating Win The Space by 1 ½ lengths.
War Story looks to be out of his depth. He landed a minor claimer at Thistledown in late July but was 23 lengths behind California Chrome in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic. He ran well in a minor contest at Parx in late September when a head second of 7 to Cyrus Alexander, but this is much tougher opposition.
Shaman Ghost is much improved this year and recorded a career high when landing a shock Grade 1 win last time out. The James Jerkens trained 4 year old won a Belmont Park Grade 2 contest in June by 4 ¼ lengths from Turko Bravo, but the following month was well beaten at the same track in another Grade 2, finishing 6 ¾ lengths fifth of 7 to Effinex. Two months later he caused a real upset when landing the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, beating Mubtaahij by a neck, with Frosted further back in third.
Hoppertunity began this year with a fine effort to finish 2 ¼ lengths second to California Chrome in a Santa Anita Grade 2 contest in January. That proved a good platform for the Bob Baffert trained 5 year old who has enjoyed an excellent 2016. In February he gained a nose verdict over Imperative in a Santa Anita Grade 2, before running 4 lengths third of 12 to California Chrome in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in late March. Three months later he was back in action at Santa Anita, running 2 ¼ lengths fourth of 8 to Melatonin in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes. In August he was no match for an imperious California Chrome in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar, finishing 8 ¼ lengths fourth of 9. Hoppertunity then ran his best race of the year to date, beating Effinex by ½ a length in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in early October.
Arrogate is the only three year old to make the line-up and his latest performance was as spectacular as many people had seen. The Bob Baffert colt was unraced at two and after running third on debut, landed back to back victories in minor contests at Santa Anita in June. He added a Del Mar claimer in early August, beating Kristo by 1 ¾ lengths, but even so, was taking a massive step up to Grade 1 level in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August. What followed was sensational, as Arrogate took up the running and simply powered away from a strong field of proven Grade 1 three year olds. At the line his margin of victory was 13 ½ lengths from American Freedom, with the Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator and the Belmont Stakes winner Creator, trailing in his wake. The big question is whether he can replicate that performance against this quality line-up of older horses.