Keeneland, Longchamp Bookend Biggest Challenge Weekend Ever

Bigger will certainly be better this weekend, as a record 20 Breeders’ Cup Challenge races will serve as final auditions for Santa Anita, including the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) and eight others over the three-day Opening Weekend at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., and five on Sunday at ParisLongchamp in France, highlighted by ENABLE’S (GB) quest to make history as the first three-time winner of the historic Arc de Triomphe (G1). Add in four more automatic qualifiers at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York and a pair at Santa Anita, in Arcadia, California, and the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series undoubtedly hits an apex.

Keeneland’s “Fall Stars” weekend surely won’t disappoint, as all nine Challenge races figure to have a major impact next month at Santa Anita. Saturday’s “Win and You’re In” action is led by the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile (GI), which will award an automatic starting berth into the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile, though the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (GI, TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), First Lady (GI, Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf) and Thoroughbred Club of America (GII, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint) are all “Win and You’re In” qualifiers that are expected to lure deep and competitive fields and could serve as showcase races in their own right.

The Shadwell Turf Mile, along with the Breeders’ Futurity will be shown on a one-hour telecast on NBCSN from 5:30-6:30 p.m. ET as a part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In’ – Presented by America’s Best Racing.”

The Shadwell Turf Mile drew an overflow field of 16, 14 of which can start, including a handful of Europeans, and sees Calumet Farm’s BANDUA as one of the leading contenders in a race where the favorite could be as high as 5-1. The 4-year-old son of The Factor was third in the Aug. 10 Arlington Million (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, for trainer Jack Sisterson and will cut back. Bandua is 3-for-13 lifetime, which includes a win in the Arlington Handicap (G3) two-back.

VALID POINT, for e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, was a late addition and will try older horses for the first time for trainer Chad Brown, and the 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy is undefeated in three starts, including the Secretariat (G1) at Arlington Park Aug.10, while Gunpowder Farm and Brereton Jones’ veteran DIVISIDERO is still flashing graded stakes form at 7 for trainer Kathy Rubley, and Agave Racing Stable and Madaket Stable’s BOWIES HERO won Del Mar’s Eddie Read (G2) in July for trainer Phil D’Amato.

The Euros are led by Godolphin’s VINTAGER (GB), who won the Rennen (G2) at Baden-Baden Sept.1 for trainer Charley Appleby, while ROBIN OF NAVAN (FR), SUEDOIS (IRE), and VAN BEETHOVAN all have group stakes form oversees. ADMISSION OFFICE, DIAMOND OPS, FIRST PREMIO, MARCH TO THE ARCH, NEXT SHARES, and REAL STORY are also entered for the “Win and You’re In” Shadwell Turf Mile, while GET WESTERN and EMARAATY (GB) are on the also-eligible list.

Breeders’ Futurity, First Lady Anchor Shadwell Undercard 

While the Shadwell Turf Mile is the centerpiece of the meet, Saturday’s trio of other “Win and You’re In” races are led by the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at 1 1/16 miles. Team Valor International and WinStar Farm’s GOUVEREUR MORRIS was rumored to be a good thing on debut Sept. 2 at Saratoga and didn’t disappoint, winning by 9 lengths. The son of Constitution steps up and stretches out for trainer Todd Pletcher but appears to have a bright future, is bred to relish two turns, and catches a field without a lot of proven commodities.

Shadwell Stable’s homebred AJAAWEED impressed winning his second start at Belmont Park on Sept. 11 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and the son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin should love the added turn he gets, while Anderson Stable’s BY YOUR SIDE won Saratoga’s Sanford (G3) two-back for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and Live Oak Plantation’s homebred TAP IT TO WIN was an impressive Saratoga maiden winner in his second start Aug. 24, and first on dirt, for trainer Mark Casse. AMERICAN BUTTERFLY, ENFORCEABLE, JANUARY WON, KING THEO, LIFE ON THE ROAD, and MAXFIELD are also entered for the “Win and You’re In” Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity.

The First Lady, at one mile, is shaping up as a duel between E Five Thoroughbreds’ RUSHING FALL and All Schlaich Stables, Gatto Racing, George Todaro’s, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s VASILIKA, who combined have won 19-of-24 starts over the past two seasons. The former, a 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar in 2017 for trainer Chad Brown and is 4-for-4 locally, including the Jenny Wiley (G1) in April. The latter, a 5-year-old daughter of Skipshot, has won 13-of-16 since being claimed for $40,000 in February 2018, including eight graded stakes. Vasilika is 18-for-34 lifetime and won Santa Anita’s Gamely (G1) in May.

The Coolmore team of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith’s JUST WONDERFUL was third for trainer Aidan O’Brien in a star-studded renewal of Leopardstown’s Sept. 14 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron (G1), another “Win and You’re In” for the Filly & Mare Turf, while Juddmonte Farm’s homebred JULIET FOXTROT (GB) was a nose behind Vasilika in Del Mar’s John C. Mabee (G2) Aug. 3 for trainer Brad Cox, and Michael Dubb, and Robert LaPenta’s UNI (GB) won the Matriarch (G1) last December at Del Mar for Brown. AWESOMETANK (GB), CONQUEST HARDCANDY, HANALEI MOON, INDIAN BLESSING (GB), MARINA’S LEGACY, MITCHELL ROAD, MS BAD BEHAVIOR, SIMPLY BREATHLESS, and STORM THE HILL are entered for the “Win and You’re In” First Lady.

The Thoroughbred Club of America, at six and a half furlongs, will led by Lael Stable’s CHALON, who was second in the race last year and also the Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs for trainer Arnaud Delacour. The 5-year-old daughter of Dialed In 7-for-17 lifetime and enters off a win in the Roamin Rachel at Parx Racing Sept. 2.

Bad Boy Racing’s DANUSKA’S MY GIRL brings some California speed for Hollendorfer, as the 5-year-old daughter of Shackleford has wired a trio of graded stakes, including the Rancho Bernardo (G3) at Del Mar Aug.11, while Bill and Corrine Heilligbrodt’s MIA MISCHIEF won the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill in May for Asmussen. DAWN THE DESTROYER, OURS TO RUN, PRETTY GREELEY, RAZORBACK LADY, SPICED PERFECTION, and TALK VEUVE TO ME are also entered for the “Win and You’re In” Thoroughbred Club of America.

 Alcibiades, Phoenix Open Meet

 Keeneland opens Friday with a pair of “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup qualifiers, with the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1) offering a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, while the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The Alcibiades, at 1 1/16 miles, could have a strong favorite in Tracy Farmer’s PERFECT ALIBI, who rates as the East Coast’s best 2-year-old filly off her win in Saratoga’s Adirondack (G2) in August and Spinaway (G1) Sept. 1 for trainer Mark Casse. The daughter of Sky Mesa is 3-for-4 lifetime and has a pedigree and stalking gear that suggest two turns could improve her form even more.

Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ homebred ALANDRA was a game debut winner Sept. 1 at Saratoga for trainer Shug McGaughey and the daughter of 2010 Breeders’ Classic winner Blame appears long on talent, while The Elkstone Group, Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable, and Madaket Stable’s BRITISH IDIOM did the same for trainer Brad Cox, as the daughter of Flashback won on debut at Saratoga Aug. 15 by 3 ½ lengths, while. HEIR OF LIGHT, HOW IRONIC, GONE GLIMMERING, MICHELINE, SEQUIN, SPITEFULNESS, THREE D FLAG, and WESTERN TAFFY are also pointing to the “Win and You’re In” Darley Alcibiades.

The Phoenix lured a strong field, led by Robert Barons’ defending champion PROMISES FULFILLED, who was fourth in the Sprint last year at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans. The 4-year-old son of Shackleford won Belmont Park’s John Nerud (G2) in July and is 7-for-16 lifetime.

Something Special Racing’s HOG CREEK HUSTLE has really turned the corner since cutting back to sprints in his last two, as the 3-year-old son of Overanalyze won Belmont’s Woody Stephens (G1) in June and was second, beaten just a nose, in Saratoga’s Allen Jerkens (G1) Aug. 24 for trainer Vickey Foley.

Robert LaPenta’s WHITMORE won the Phoenix in 2017 and was second last year, before running second in the Sprint, for trainer Ron Moquett. AMERICAN PASTIME, COVE BLUE, DIAMOND OPS, ENGAGE, HEARTWOOD, LEXITONIAN, RECRUTING READY, and ZIPP ON BY are also expected for the “Win and You’re In” Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix.

Spinster Closes Opening Weekend

 Opening Weekend’s traditional Sunday closer, the $500,000 “Win and You’re In” Juddmonte Spinster (G1), will once again offer an automatic starting berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, though Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s homebred and heavy favorite ELATE may actually be using the race as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro earned a Distaff berth when she won Churchill Downs’ “Win and You’re In” Fleur de Lis (G2) in June but is 3-for-3 at 1 ¼ miles, which includes a win in the Delaware Handicap (G2) in July, and that record has trainer Bill Mott possibly considering the Classic. Elate, who is 7-for-17 lifetime, was fourth as the favorite for the Distaff at Del Mar in 2017.

Peter Brant’s DUNBAR ROAD could vault to the top of the 3-year-old filly division with a win for trainer Chad Brown. The daughter of Quality Road won Belmont Park’s Mother Goose (G2) in June and Saratoga’s Alabama (G1) Aug. 17 and is 4-for-5 lifetime, while Merribelle Stable’s BLUE PRIZE (ARG) won the Spinster last year for trainer Nacho Correas and was a close fourth in the Distaff at Churchill. Grade 1 winner SHE’S A JULIE and stakes winner VEXATIOUS are also entered for the “Win and You’re In” Juddmonte Sprinter.

The $250,000 “Win and You’re In” Bourbon (G2), at 1 1/16 miles, will offer an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is led by Walking Thoroughbreds’ FIGHTING SEABEE, who is 2-for-2 for trainer Kenny McPeek, including Saratoga’s With Anticipation (G3) Aug. 28, while JSM Equine’s PEACE ACHIEVED won the Gainesway Farm Juvenile at Kentucky Downs Aug. 31 for trainer Mark Casse,  ART COLLECTOR, DEVIANT, DOC BOY, ETE INDIEN, FIELD PASS, GEAR JOCKEY, KID MERCURY, NETTLETON, PEACE ACHIEVED, PRINCE OF THIEVES, THE THIRD SECRET, and VITALOGY (GB).

The Spinster, along with the Bourbon, will be shown as part of a 90-minute broadcast on NBC from 4:30-6:00 p.m. ET as a part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Win and You’re In – Presented by America’s Best Racing.”

The $200,000 “Win and You’re In” Indian Summer, at five and a half furlongs, will offer an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and Live Oak Plantation’s homebred OLD CHESTNUT could go favored for Casse off his win in Woodbine’s Ontario Racing Sept. 15. Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ MYSTIC LANCEALOT impressed on debut at Saratoga for trainer Todd Pletcher and should like the return to a sprint after he didn’t fire when ninth in Woodbine’s Sept. 15 “Win and You’re In” Summer (G1), an automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. AXIOMO, CHIMNEY ROCK, FAST SCENE, JOHNNY UNLEASHED, KIMARI, OLD CHESTNUT, ROCKCREST and SHIPPINGPORT are also entered.

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