Breeders’ Cup World Championships
Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3
Imperial Hint—TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint morning-line favorite Imperial Hint galloped 1¼m Wednesday morning under exercise rider Pedro Castillo. He looks to extend a three-race winning streak in which he has shown a marked ability to rate if needed. Swift enough to set the pace in virtually any scenario, including his one-length loss to Roy H in last year’s Sprint, the Luis Carvajal Jr.-trained son of Imperialism won this season’s True North Stakes and Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap with highly effective stalking tactics.
“Javier (Castellano, jockey) has been getting along very well in the last few races with him,” Carvajal said. “He has gotten to know the horse and got him to settle. The horse is more mature and more manageable than he was last year.”
Castellano has been aboard the 12-time winner in his last seven starts, including five stakes victories. During that time, his only losses were in the aforementioned 2017 Sprint and over a sloppy surface in the Churchill Downs Stakes in May.
Whitmore – The 5yo Whitmore went to the track during the special 7:30 a.m. time and his trainer Ron Moquett was happy with what he saw.
“We stood him in the gate and then he galloped one mile with Laura (Moquett),” Moquett said. “He looked really good. He’s happy.”
The Pleasantly Perfect gelding will be making his second straight appearance in the Sprint after finishing eighth last year at Del Mar. Moquett is hopeful Whitmore will have more of a “home court advantage” this year.
“He’s much more familiar with this track,” said Moquett, who is based at Churchill Downs. “We know he likes it. There’s a lot of confidence around the barn right now.”
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
Finley’sluckycharm – Carl Moore’s Finley’sluckycharm galloped on the main track early Wednesday morning with Sara Calhoun aboard for her husband, trainer Bret Calhoun.
Calhoun will be seeking a second victory in the race having enjoyed Dubai Majesty’s 2 ¼-length triumph here in 2010.
“We had to put up $100,000 to get in,” Calhoun said in response to a question about his confidence level that year. “I don’t think the field was that deep that year. The competition is deeper this year.”
Finley’sluckycharm has won four stakes at Churchill Downs and six of seven starts in her career.
“I am as confident as I can be going into a race like this,” Calhoun said. “She is doing well at a track she loves and she gets to run out of her own stall. That’s a big advantage.”
Marley’s Freedom – Cicero Farm’s daughter of Blame, the 2010 Classic winner, brings a four-race winning streak to her first start at Churchill Downs. She shipped from California to trainer Bob Baffert’s barn on Tuesday. Wednesday morning she galloped 1¼m under Jose Contreras.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride Marley’s Freedom, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, from post 13. He rode her in her most recent start, the Ballerina on Aug. 25 at Saratoga.
Chad Brown – Klaravich Stables’ Complexity was ponied to and from the main track on Wednesday morning by Chad Brown’s assistant trainer Jose Hernandez and jogged 1m. He seeks to become the first last-out Champagne winner to claim the Juvenile since Shanghai Bobby in 2012. Last year, the Brown-conditioned Good Magic was second in the Champagne before annexing the Juvenile.
“He’s one of the best 2-year-old dirt horses we’ve had, that’s for sure,” Brown said. “He’s an incredible talent. He’s got a lot of natural speed that I believe he can carry a distance of ground. How far, we’ll find out on Friday.”
Also under the Seth Klarman’s Klaravich banner in the Juvenile is Brown-trained late runner Standard Deviation, who exits a third in the Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 6 and galloped 1m. He won an off-the-turf 7f maiden at Saratoga over wet going to kick off his career on Aug. 19 and has yet to save much ground—going 5- and 7-wide in his two efforts—thus far in his career.
The $450,000 Keeneland September purchase is, like Good Magic, a son of Curlin. Of Brown’s 12 horses, he was the only one to breeze as late as Sunday, drilling a half-mile in 49 1/5 at Keeneland. Such was his second serious drill since the Breeders’ Futurity over the same course and came in blinkers, according to his conditioner.
“He’s a horse who’s a work in progress and he’s always acted that way since he was a baby when we first got him early on in the spring,” Brown said. “We thought that long term he was going to be OK. Just time and distance for him. He’s had some tough trips, but he’s shown ability in both starts and we’re going to add blinkers with him. It seems to sharpen him up a little bit. Hopefully it gives him a little better position in the race.”
Code of Honor – Thirty years after Shug McGaughey saddled Personal Ensign for her legendary victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the trainer is back at Churchill Downs with an entrant in the Juvenile. In one of the greatest races of all time, Personal Ensign caught Winning Colors in the final stride to close her career unbeaten in 13 starts and secure a place for herself and McGaughey in the Hall of Fame.
“What is interesting is that it was a long time before I ever watched it again,” McGaughey said. “I am not that big on reruns for some reason. But I did watch it yesterday and it is amazing that she won. I have always said it wasn’t anything I did or what (jockey) Randy Romero did. It was all her.”
Code of Honor arrived at Churchill on Monday and went to the track Wednesday for the second day.
“He jogged a good ways and galloped a mile and a quarter,” McGaughey said.
The son of Noble Mission stumbled badly at the start of the Champagne Stakes on Oct. 6 at Belmont Park but rallied to finish second. In his only other start, he won at Saratoga in August.
“He is coming into the race good,” McGaughey said. “In the Champagne, he had a lot of trouble for a young horse but he came out of it good and since then he is very good. If he gets a clean trip in the Juvenile, we will see what happens.”
A Churchill regular until the mid-1980s when he accepted a position to train for the Phipps family, McGaughey feels at home in his former barn.
“I spent a lot of time at Churchill Downs in Barn 43 before I moved my operation to New York,” he said. “I spent many an hour there so I am pretty comfortable there.”
Game Winner – A perfect 3-for-3 to start his career in California, Game Winner made his first visit to the Churchill Downs oval Wednesday morning for a 1m gallop under Humberto Gomez.
By the time the Candy Ride colt arrived from the West Coast Tuesday morning, he had already been listed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Juvenile, a race Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won three times. Game Winner and jockey Joel Rosario will start from post nine in the field of 14.
“He’s pretty good out of the gate,” Baffert said. “He has a lot of speed, tactical speed.
“I’m excited about him. He’s been working up a storm. We’ve been working him with an older horse and he’s been handling it pretty well. I’m excited about him. I always get excited about my young ones. We know what the other ones can do already. You’re just hoping for him to take the next step to the next level. There might be something in there that’s getting ready to explode, too. That’s what the Breeders’ Cup is all about. You hope that you’re the guy that’s exploding.”
Mr. Money – Allied Racing Stable’s Mr. Money galloped on the main track under exercise rider Tony Quinones early Wednesday morning.
A recent two-turn maiden winner at Churchill Downs, Mr. Money will represent trainer Bret Calhoun’s seventh Breeders’ Cup starter and first in the Juvenile.
“I would like him to sit behind the speed; that would be ideal,” Calhoun said of the colt, who will break from post position two under Gabriel Saez. “That and navigating the first turn without any trouble with horses dropping down to the inside.”
Tight Ten – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred 2yo colt Tight Ten enters what is an extremely competitive edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a fighting chance, trainer Steve Asmussen believes. The bay colt has started three times, including a June 28 maiden win over this Churchill Downs surface, and given a strong account of himself on each occasion. The son of Tapit’s last two efforts were graded stakes-placed runs in the Saratoga Special over 6½f on Aug. 12 and Iroquois over this course and distance on Sept. 15.
“A huge comfort about training a lot of these Tapits is that they come from families we know and the similarities we’re familiar with,” Asmussen said. “Thank goodness for their ability.”
The full-brother to stakes-placed All In Fun and grandson of Winchell’s Grade I-winning beaten Kentucky Oaks favorite Fleet Renee schooled at the gate Wednesday morning and galloped a lap on the Churchill Downs main track.
“I feel Tight Ten’s progression has been excellent,” Asmussen said. “He has two runs here at Churchill and has trained beautifully. Nothing but respect for the field; a great group of 2yos that appears talented and deep. There are multiple contenders in the race who can win. He is going to run the best race to date. Whether that’s good enough, we’ll find out on Friday.”
Tight Ten wil break from post four on Friday with Asmussen’s go-to man Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle.
Topper T – After galloping 1 1/4m Tuesday, the Bill Mott-trained 2yo Topper T did the same Wednesday for the Hall of Fame conditioner. Previously trained in Iowa, where he was bred, by Ray Tracy Jr., he will make his first start for Mott in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Mott has 10 Breeders’ Cup victories, but has never won a Juvenile from four tries. Take Me Out was his best result when a game second to Fly So Free in 1990.
“Adam Wachtel picked him out and bought him and got the horse partnered up,” Mott explained. “After that, he sent him to me. We really like him. He’s a handsome horse who trains well. He looks like a two-turn horse.”
Topper T, who is a son of Bellamy Road out of an Evansville Slew mare, drew post 13 of 14 and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. He is owned by Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and Pantofel Stable.
“He got shoved to the outside a little bit, but maybe it’ll be one of those cases where if the field strings out, he can drop in and be OK,” Mott said. “Sometimes it’s better than having a perfect post and then getting bottled up down on the inside.”
Well Defined– The 2yo son of With Distinction has galloped with good energy at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Friday’s Juvenile.
“He’s doing well. He loves the colder weather,” said trainer Kathleen O’Connell, whose South Florida-based gelding enters the Juvenile off a front-running triumph in the $400,000 Florida Sire Stakes In Reality at Gulfstream Park last time out.
Bred and owned by Gil Campbell’s Stonehedge LLC, Well Defined won at first asking in a 4 ½f sprint June 2 at Gulfstream in front-running fashion.
“His first race, the most impressive part of it was the way he was galloping out,” O’Connell said.
Following a third-place finish in 5 ½f optional claiming allowance and a second-place finish in the 7f Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed, Well Defined won his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16m in the In Reality.
“He’s come along fine. He’s matured at the right time, because he was very, very playful when he came in. He’s still playful, but now it seems like he’s channeling it more and more in the right direction,” O’Connell said. “Physical-wise, he’s matured at the right time too.”
Hall of Famer Mike Smith will ride Well Defined for the first time in the Juvenile.
“I have all the faith in the world in Mike,” O’Connell said. “Mr. Campbell wanted Mike Smith if we could get him, and you certainly can’t argue that point.”
Well Defined, who is rated at 20-1 in the morning line and will break from the No. 5 post position in the 14-horse field, has impressed his trainer with the manner in which he goes about his business.
“He does it with ease,” O’Connell said. “To me, he’s one of the special ones.”
Bellafina – Kaleen Shah’s three-time stakes winner has been a model student for trainer Simon Callaghan since arriving from California on Oct. 26.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite has already schooled in the gate and in the paddock and has been going to the track at Churchill Downs daily under exercise rider Serafin Carmona.
“She just galloped a mile and a half, her regular gallop, like always,” Callaghan said Wednesday morning. “She looked really good.”
Bellafina was second in her first career start on July 4 at Los Alamitos and has won the Sorrento, Del Mar Debutante and Chandelier by open lengths since. Callaghan said the loss in the 5f maiden race was at a distance that was probably a little too short for her. She has won the three stakes by a total of 15 lengths.
Since the 6½-length win in the Chandelier on Sept. 29 at Santa Anita, Bellafina has worked three times. The most recent was 4f in :47.40 Oct. 25.
“She’s in a good place,” Callaghan said. “She’s happy.”
Regular rider Flavien Prat and Bellafina will leave from the outside post in the field of 10.
Cassies Dreamer – Turf Stable Racing and Hayward Pressman’s 2yo filly joined trainer Barclay Tagg’s stable in a somewhat unconventional way – via the claiming route.
“The owners are new people to me. Carl Domino trained for them for a long while. He wanted to retire and he sent them to me because we’re good friends. They wanted to claim this horse. I said, ‘I haven’t claimed a horse in 40 years,” said Tagg with a chuckle. “I said, ‘I’d like to see her first.’ I went down to the paddock and she was just gorgeous.”
Cassies Dreamer was claimed for $50,000 out of a 2 ¼-length debut victory at Saratoga Aug. 3. The daughter of Flatter closed from last to finish third in the 11-horse Spinaway at Saratoga after hitting the starting gate before bobbling at the start and finishing third most recently in the Frizette at Belmont Park.
“She’s run very well. She had trouble coming out of the gate each time. The way she closed last time, she probably could have won that race if she came out of the gate good,” Tagg said.
Cassies Dreamer stood in the gate and galloped a mile at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning in preparation for a start in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies that Tagg hopes will be a lot cleaner than her last two starts.
Manny Franco will ride Cassies Dreamer for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies.
Jaywalk– The 2yo daughter of Cross Traffic galloped 5f at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning in preparation for a start in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies.
The John Servis-trained filly is coming off a Grade 1 victory in the 1m Frizette, in which she led throughout on her way to a 5 ¾-length victory under Joel Rosario at Belmont.
“I was impressed with it. Actually, I didn’t expect her to be in front. I expected her to sit a little off the pace. There were quite a few horses coming off sprints, including her, and the last thing I wanted to do was get into a speed duel. I told Joel, ‘She’s got speed if you need it to get position, but she’ll settle too. Her last race she settled nice,” Servis said. “When she went to the lead and I saw the fractions, I wasn’t happy early on. They were rolling right along, and she kept going. She really jumped out, and I said, ‘Man, this filly is really good.”
Cash is King LLC and Leonard Green’s Jaywalk was bought for $190,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale.
“I didn’t know she was going to be this special, but we liked her from Day One,” Servis said. “When I was at the sale, the guy who did the shortlist for me and I split up barns, and it just so happened that she was at the barn that I was on. As soon as they brought her out, I said, ‘Oh, man.’ She just jumped right out at you. She’s not a big robust filly, but she’s so feminine, very attractive.”
Jaywalk debuted with a second-place finish in a 5f maiden race at Monmouth June 23 before going on to win three straight races, a 5f maiden victory at Parx, a stakes score in the 5 1/2f White Creek County at Delaware Park, and the comfortable win in the Frizette.
“From the first day she got to the racetrack, she’s acted like a good horse and trained like a good horse,” said Servis, who expressed confidence that the two turns in the Juvenile Fillies won’t post a problem.
Serengeti Empress – Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress, visited the starting gate and then galloped on the main track under exercise rider Chico Herrera for trainer Tom Amoss.
A winner of three of four starts, Serengeti Empress was picked out of the 2017 Keeneland September Sale by Amoss for $70,000.
“She was very athletic,” Amoss said. “Her pedigree was obscure (by Alternation) but it is more fashionable now.”
In her most recent start, she won the Pocahontas at Churchill Downs by 19 ½ lengths under Corey Lanerie, who will be aboard again Friday.
“On the turn, she went in the blink of an eye from four to eight lengths on top,” said Amoss, who has won more than 3,500 races in his career. “I thought ‘my gosh.’ I have won a lot of races but that was the first time I got really nervous because I haven’t had a horse that breathes that kind of air. I didn’t get to really enjoy it.”
Catalina Cruiser – The undefeated John Sadler-trained 4yo who spends most of his time in the shadow of multiple graded stakes-winning Accelerate, may get first run on his more illustrious stablemate if he can win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile a couple of hours ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Accelerate’s destination.
Both carry morning-line favoritism in their respective races.
Catalina Cruiser took a turn in the gate Wednesday morning before setting off on his usual 1 1/4m gallop as his preparation moved one day closer to his Saturday date in the 10-horse Dirt Mile.
The lightly raced son of Union Rags has been super impressive in his four lifetime starts, winning by a combined total of 20 1/2 lengths. The chestnut colt brought $370,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling sale from Hronis Racing, the owner, also, of Accelerate.
Henley’s Joy/Somelikeithotbrown – Trainer Mike Maker will saddle three horses in the Breeders’ Cup this year, with his duo of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf colts lining up side-by-side in the starting gate Friday. Henley’s Joy will break from post six with Tyler Gaffalione, and Somelikeithotbrown leaves from post seven with Jose Ortiz to ride.
Maker, who is stabled at nearby Trackside Training Center in Louisville, won the 2011 Juvenile with Hansen.
Henley’s Joy is just a nose short of being a perfect three-for-three. The son of Kitten’s Joy broke his maiden first out at Ellis Park; won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile; then barley missed in the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland.
A $50,000 purchase from the Ocala Sale Two-Year-Old In-Training sale, he’s earned $308,320 for owner Bloom Stables.
Somelikeithotbrown, a son of Big Brown whose name gives homage to the famous artery-busting dish that originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, has a win and two seconds from four starts. Those seconds came in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga and the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont. He is owned by Skychai Racing LLC and Sand Dollar Stable LLC.
“Both are doing excellent,” Maker said. “They galloped and walked today.”
The reasoning for the different map to the Breeders’ Cup for each was a logical one. “Somelikeithotbrown is a New York-bred, and we elected to keep him in New York,” he said. “Henley’s Joy is Kentucky-bred, and we were looking at Kentucky Downs for him. It was pretty simple.”
As far as strategy for the Juvenile Turf, Maker said: “I think there are some quicker horses in there. I don’t want to handcuff the jockeys or anything, but I think both will be stalking the pace.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher –All six of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Breeders’ Cup entrants are in turf races.
“No explanation for it,” he said. “Just the way it played out.”
Current and Opry are both in the Juvenile Turf. The former rallied from far back to earn a nose triumph in the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7. Prior to that the Curlin colt with a distinctive blond mane was third in his career debut at Saratoga on Aug. 13 before winning at Belmont on Sept. 8.
“He is training very well and seems to improve with each start,” Pletcher said. “We see that in the mornings, too. He is very professional. He is high spirited but in a good way. He seems to get a little better all the time.”
Opry earned his first career victory in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29 after finishing third in his career debut at Saratoga on Aug. 1. He was fourth in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 29 in his only other race.
“My biggest concern is what condition we will have on the turf course,” Pletcher said. “He didn’t seem to handle the softer turf in the Pilgrim as well as he did in the With Anticipation. We will just have to see what the weather does. In a perfect world we would have firm ground but that is looking unlikely.”
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
Concrete Rose – Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing’s undefeated Concrete Rose galloped early on the main track under Karine Cotinaud Lhuillier and later in the morning had a paddock schooling session for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Concrete Rose won at first asking going 5 1/2f at Saratoga on Aug. 20 and then seven weeks later won the Jessamine at Keeneland by three lengths going 1 1/16m.
“When they come into the barn, you don’t have any expectations. You just hope they can run,” Arnold said. “After her first race, the expectations got bigger and we pointed to the Jessamine. We never thought about anything else.”
Concrete Rose is the 6-1 co-second choice for the Juvenile Fillies Turf and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
My Gal Betty – Canadian-based My Gal Betty stretched her legs on the Churchill Downs turf course Wednesday in advance of her start in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“She jogged around the turf course to the wire and then galloped one and a half times around there, very nicely and very happy,” said trainer Roger Attfield.
My Gal Betty drew post 13 with Javier Castellano named to ride in the big dance.
“(An outside post position) is always an issue isn’t it. It’s always an issue on those inside turf courses,” said Attfield, who is based at Woodbine in Toronto, where the turf course is outside the dirt track and has much wider, sweeping turns. “But, what are you going to do? She also drew that position in the Jessamine at Keeneland and that concerned me. We had some shipping problems also and I thought that’s telling me not to go, so then I come here and draw the 13 hole. Bottom line, it’s going to come down to the jockey I think. See how the break goes and then he’s going to have to work it.”
The Oct. 12 Jessamine Stakes was to be her last prep race for the Breeders’ Cup.
“I would have like to have (been able to run) in the Jessamine,” Attfield said. “But, maybe that’s advantageous, who knows?”
Owned by William K. Werner, the two-time winner ran second behind La Pelosa in the Natalma at Woodbine Sept. 16 in what ended up being her final prep race before Churchill. She was three wide down the backside in the Natalma, then had to swing even wider coming into the stretch.
“She ran very well,” Attfield said. “She lost a bit of ground in the stretch or she would have been a little bit closer, but it was a very good race. She improves every race, that filly.”
Attfield had to sub workouts for a final prep race and said, “She’s training very well, she’s worked super. She had a nice maintenance work with an older filly then had a good five-eighths work also last weekend so I think she’s in good shape.”
Her last work, 1:00 4/5 for 5f on the all-weather track at Woodbine, was Saturday and she shipped to Churchill the next day.
Hall-of-Famer Attfield, who is an eight-time Sovereign Award winner for Outstanding Trainer in Canada, has saddled one previous Breeders’ Cup winner, Perfect Shirl in the 2011 Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
“It rained like hell the night before that race. I remember it well,” he said. “Obviously I was a bit worried, but it didn’t bother my filly (Perfect Shirl) at all, so that was OK.”
Newspaperofrecord – Of the 12 Chad Brown trainees running in the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, the two-time defending champion trainer arguably seems most confident in the chances of Juvenile Fillies Turf morning-line favorite Newspaperofrecord. Owned by Klaravich Stables, the daughter of dual French classic winner Lope de Vega is undefeated and untested in two starts—winning by a combined 13 lengths and dismantling graded stakes company last out in Belmont’s Miss Grillo. Like her dam, Group I-placed juvenile Sunday Times, she has shown a wicked turn-of-foot in her two runs, despite racing over yielding going.
“She kind of makes her own trip,” Brown said. “As long as she breaks clean, she is very difficult to beat.”
On Wednesday at just past 8a.m., she was accompanied by pony (assistant trainer Jose Hernandez aboard) to and from the Churchill Downs main track for an easy mile gallop.
Pakhet – In her most recent start, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ daughter of Cairo Prince went wide in her late run to be runner-up in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 10. Prior to that she won at Belmont Park on Sept. 15 and was placed fifth in her career debut at Saratoga Aug. 10 in her only other race.
“She ran very well at Keeneland and hopefully we can improve on that a little bit and maybe have a little smoother trip,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT
Bulletin – In his only start, the City Zip colt led throughout to win the Hollywood Beach at Gulfstream Park on Sept. 29.
“He is excellent,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I was very impressed with his first start. He is training well and shipped in good order. He is giving up a little bit in terms of experience but hopefully not in terms of talent.”
Wesley Ward –The past decade, trainer Wesley Ward has made an international name for himself shipping swift turf sprinting juveniles to Europe to compete in Group 1 company; making history along the way multiple Royal Ascot and Deauville Group 1 wins. This year, while he had his fair share of success abroad, he also has the added bonus of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in his homeland. The cherry on top is it taking place in Kentucky at Churchill Downs, just 76 miles from his base of operations at Keeneland.
“I think it’s great to have a place for these horses to run,” Ward said. “We had horses like No Nay Never and Lady Aurelia in the past and now those types of horses have somewhere to point to at the end of the season.”
Ward has taken advantage of such and trains one-third of the 12-horse field—all fillies taking on the boys—in the 5½f, Grade 1, $1 million affair. All four, not surprisingly, were part of his team taken to Royal Ascot in June, but only one of them was successful—Breeze Easy LLC’s Shang Shang Shang, who defeated the males in the Norfolk Stakes. Unraced since, the Shanghai Bobby daughter is a perfect 2-for-2.
“We had a few minor foot issues that held us back from our starts after Royal Ascot,” Ward said. “We had her in at Saratoga and had a bruising of a foot. Then she had an abscess pop out that was bruising. She’s trained really well since, but unfortunately couldn’t fit in a prep. She’s certainly very talented and very fit now. She had a really sharp gate work (on Oct. 4) and came back with multiple turf breezes. She’s vulnerable on soft going, like I said before Ascot, but she has an outstanding rider in John Velazquez (post seven). She should be forwardly placed.”
The race that Shang Shang Shang missed was the Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 15, which Ward filled out the top-two slots with Marcus Stables’ Stillwater Cove and Hat Creek Racing’s Chelsea Cloisters. Stillwater Cove was dominant that day, finishing strongly to win by 1¾ lengths under Irad Ortiz Jr., who rides again from post four. One effort prior, she a troubled 13th in Royal Ascot’s Albany Stakes, which included two subsequent Group 1 winners, (Juvenile Fillies Turf runner) La Pelosa and Fairyland. The daughter of Quality Road exits a fifth in the Natalma Stakes behind La Pelosa in which she failed to stay the 1m trip.
“She handles the soft turf well,” Ward said. “She has one of the fastest figures in the race when she won with authority at Saratoga. If she repeats that race, she’ll be very tough.”
Chelsea Cloisters was considered by many to be Ward’s best chance at victory before Royal Ascot and was sent to post as the 3-1 favorite. It was not meant to be for the daughter of First Samurai, as she finished 11th (beaten only 2¾ lengths). She returned two weeks later in France to finish second in the Prix du Bois; her first of three consecutive runner-up efforts leading into Friday. Last out, against the boys in the Indian Summer at Keeneland, she lost by a neck to Strike Silver, whom she meets again. Tyler Gaffalione picks up the mount from post nine.
“At Ascot, she unfortunately did not get away well and was stuck and intimidated behind horses,” Ward explained. “She did not lose by much and that spurred me to run her at Deauville, where she ran a beautiful race on short rest. She came back home and ran a valiant second to Stillwater Cove at Saratoga and then came back to just be beaten by Strike Silver last time. After the race, she thought she won. She’s done everything right and the best thing about this filly is that she relishes the soft turf. That’s a big factor coming to a big race like this.”
Another who garnered some buzz before Royal Ascot, but disappointed, was Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Moonlight Romance, who checked in 13th at a well-fancied 7-1 in the Windsor Castle Stakes. She returned on Sept. 8 to dominate the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint by three lengths.
“She came back to validate her favoritism at Royal Ascot when she won at Kentucky Downs,” Ward said. “What happened to her in England is a horse lost a shoe at the gate and she was stuck behind the gate and got really hot and excited. We gave her ample time to get over that mentally and physically and she won with authority at Kentucky Downs, running a beautiful race. She prefers the firm ground, but she has some decent works over soft turf.”
The daughter of Liaison once again has Jose Ortiz in the saddle and breaks from post six.
“All the draws for all four were just fine,” Ward concluded. “They all have good tactical speed and can send or sit off the pace.”