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Countdown to the Breeders' Cup World Championships Newsletter - August 22, 2017

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Advisory: This is the second of nine weekly news releases focusing on the horses and races leading to the 34th Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4 at Del Mar. For more information, please visit www.breederscup.com. The Breeders’ Cup will be televised live on NBC and NBCSN. You can follow all the contenders’ activity leading up to the Breeders’ Cup with Equibase’s free "Road to the Breeders’ Cup" Virtual Stable notification service.

Travers, Four Challenge Races Headline Loaded Saratoga Saturday

Highlighted by Saturday’s $1.25 million Travers (GI), and anchored by four Grade I “Win and You’re In” Challenge races, Saratoga’s biggest day of the meet is sure to have racing fans across the country buzzing, as several divisional leaders look to cement their status and earn automatic berths into the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. And while the “Midsummer Derby” rightfully takes center stage at the upstate New York track, the Sword Dancer (Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf), Personal Ensign (Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff), Forego (Las Vegas Dirt Mile) and Ballerina (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint) all rate as automatic qualifiers for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, and have lured some of the sport’s most recognizable stars, including dual-champion SONGBIRD.

The 1¼-mile Travers, along with the Sword Dancer, will air live 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 Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing” program.

Post Positions for the 148th running of the Travers will be drawn Tuesday evening.

This year’s “Mid-Summer Derby” should go a long way in determining a divisional leader that the 3-year-old ranks have lacked since MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds’ ALWAYS DREAMING, Klaravich Stable and Bill Lawrence’s CLOUD COMPUTING and Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Bob LaPenta’s TAPWRIT, took turns winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, respectively.

If all three Triple Crown race winners start on Saturday, it would be the first time that has happened since the 1982 Travers when Gato Del Sol (Derby), Aloma’s Ruler (Preakness) and Conquistador Cielo (Belmont) squared off.

Tapwrit, a son of Tapit, will likely start as a tepid favorite for Todd Pletcher, as his Belmont win in his last start June 10 rates him as the “now” horse in a division clearly lacking one. He could also go favored in large part because Pletcher’s Always Dreaming was a lackluster third after securing an easy lead in the local prep, the Jim Dandy (GII) July 29, which followed up a complete no-show in the Preakness, when the son of Bodemeister was a distant eighth. Cloud Computing, a son of Maclean’s Music, will also have to make amends after running even worse in the Jim Dandy, when he was fifth for trainer Chad Brown.

Should the public look another direction, they will surely focus on Gary and Mary West’s WEST COAST, a son of Flatter who invades for trainer Bob Baffert off consecutive easy wins in Belmont’s Easy Goer in June and the Los Alamitos Derby (GIII) July 15. Brad Gray’s GIRVIN, who earned an automatic starting berth into this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the “Win and You’re In” Betfair.com Haskell (GI) in his last start July 30 at Monmouth Park, will also garner plenty of support. The son of Tale of Ekati would forge to the divisional lead with a Travers win for trainer Joe Sharp, as he also won the Risen Star (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII) this winter at the Fair Grounds. WinStar Farm’s and Head of Plains Partners’ GOOD SAMARITAN made his dirt debut in the Jim Dandy for trainer Bill Mott and closed from last to win with ease, suggesting the 1 ¼ miles of the Travers is right up his alley. The son of Harlan’s Holiday was a troubled third as the favorite last year in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita and may have found a new home on the main track.

FAYEQ, a half-brother to Rachel Alexandra who won a local allowance here July 26, GUISEPPE THE GREAT, second in the Jim Dandy, Fountain of Youth (GII) winner GUNNEVERA, IRAP, who enters off consecutive grade III wins in the Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby, Derby runner-up LOOKIN AT LEE, MCCRAKEN, a multiple graded stakes winner who lost the Haskell by a nose, and OUTPLAY, who won the local Curlin July 28, are also expected for the Travers.

Songbird the Star of Stars in Quartet of Challenge Races on Travers Undercard

The Travers may be the main attraction Saturday at Saratoga, but Fox Hill Farm’s two-time Eclipse award winner and surefire future Hall of Famer SONGBIRD takes a backseat to no one and her greatness will be on display when she starts as a short-priced favorite in the $700,000 Personal Ensign at 1 1/8 miles. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland and 2015 and suffered the lone defeat of her career when she lost by a nose in a Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff for the ages last year at Santa Anita. Songbird, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, has won 13-of-14 careers starts and already earned a Distaff bid when she won Belmont Park’s “Win and You’re In” Ogden Phipps (GI) in her seasonal debut in June.

The presence of Songbird is expected to keep the Personal Ensign field short, with Charles Fipke’s homebred FOREVER UNBRIDLED the only other confirmed starter. The 5-year-old daughter of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song also earned a Distaff berth this year, when she won Churchill Downs’ “Win and You’re In” Fleur De Lis (GII) in her last start June 17 for trainer Dallas Stewart. ESKENFORMONEY, FLORA DORA and SMILE BIG are possible for the Personal Ensign.

The $1 million Sword Dancer, run at 1 ½ miles, could have some international flair, with Michael Tabor’s IDAHO (IRE) expected for trainer Aidan O’Brien. The 4-year-old son of Galileo (IRE) won the Hardwicke (GII) at Royal Ascot in June and enters off a third-place finish in Ascot’s “Win and You’re In” King George VI & Queen Elizabeth sponsored by QIPCO (GI) July 29. Idaho is 3-for-12 lifetime and looks to be rounding back into top form, which would make him tough to deny in a race lacking a true star.

The Americans figure to be led by Three Diamonds Farm’s BIGGER PICTURE, who won the United Nations (GI) at Monmouth Park in July for trainer Mike Maker and was 2nd, beaten a nose by HUNTER O’RILEY, in the local prep, the July 29 Bowling Green (GII). Graded stakes winners FRANK CONVERSATION, MONEY MULTIPLIER and SADLER’S JOY are also expected for the home team, while European group stakes winners ERUPT (IRE) and TALISMANTIC (GB) could also invade for the Sword Dancer.

The $600,000 Forego, run at seven furlongs, could offer an exciting rematch between Baoma Corporation’s DREFONG and J. Stable, Head of Plain Partners, M.E. Kisber and trainer Chad Summers’ MIND YOUR BISCUITS, the 1-3 finishers of last year’s TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. The former, a 4-year-old son of Gio Ponti trained by Bob Baffert, has started just once since his Sprint win and barely did that, as he tossed jockey Mike Smith soon after the start in the July 29 “Win and You’re In” Bing Crosby (GI) at Del Mar. The latter, a 4-year-old son of Posse, has done little wrong since the Sprint, winning the 3-of-4, and enters off dominant wins in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) at Meydan in March and Belmont Sprint Championship (GII) July 8 for trainer Chad Summers.

Live Oak Plantation’s AWESOME SLEW has knocked heads with the best of the division all year and was second to Mind Your Biscuits at Belmont in the Sprint Championship for trainer Mark Casse. Stakes winners DIVINING ROD, ROSS (IRE), TOM’S READY and TOMMY MACHO are also likely for the Forego.

The $500,000 Ballerina, run at seven furlongs, is shaping up as the most definitive one-turn race of the year in the female sprint ranks, with Juddmonte Farm’s PAULASSILVERLINING looking like a slight favorite for trainer Chad Brown, as she’s won four straight, including a close decision in the local prep, the July 26 Honorable Miss (GII). The 5-year-old daughter of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper sits atop the division with grade I wins this spring in the Madison at Keeneland and Humana Distaff at Churchill.

Alter Racing Stable’s CURLIN'S APPROVAL, who gained an automatic berth into the Filly & Mare Sprint by winning the Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream in July, Jay Em Ess Stable’s BY THE MOON , a close third in the Honorable Miss for trainer Michelle Nevin and was a close fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, and Grade I winner CARINA MIA are also pointing to the Ballerina, as are graded stakes winners, DEAREST, DISTINTA and HIGHWAY STAR.

York’s Ebor Festival to Offer Three ‘Cup Berths, Loaded with Star Power

This week’s “Win and You’re In” action kicks off Wednesday at York in the United Kingdom when the historic $1.23 million Juddmonte International (GI) headlines the prestigious Ebor Festival, which will host a trio of challenge races over three days. Run at about 1 ¼ miles on the turf, the International will offer an automatic starting berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and drew a field of seven, though it’s Coolmore’s 3-year-old superstar CHURCHILL (IRE) who will likely go favored while both stretching out past 1-mile and facing older horses for the first time.

Churchill, a son of Galileo trained by Aidan O’Brien, had his air of invincibility broken when he was fourth at odds-in in Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace (GI) when last seen June 20. He had won seven straight since losing his career debut, including the 2000 Guineas (GI) at Newmarket and Irish 2,000 Guineas (GI) at The Curragh. Churchill will look to rebound when he puts his 7-for-9 record on the line, while potentially opening a bevy of late-season opportunities should he successfully stretch out.

Flaxman Stable’s ULYSSES (IRE) and Godolphin’s BARNEY ROY (GB), the 1-2 finishers in Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse (GI) in July, are also entered and are attracting plenty of support among the European punters. The former, a 4-year-old son of Galileo (IRE), was fourth in last year’s Turf at Santa Anita for trainer Sir Michael Stoute but has developed into a dependable group I performer this year, while the latter, a 3-year-old son of Excelebration (IRE), won the St James’s Palace for trainer Richard Hannon and has the benefit of a run against older horses. CLIFFS OF MOHER (IRE), DECORATED KNIGHT (GB), MY DREAM BOAT (IRE) and SHUTTER SPEED (GB) are also entered for the Juddmonte International.

Thursday’s $430,500 “Win and You’re In” Darley Yorkshire Oaks (GI) will offer an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, though the 1 ½-mile race could possibly serve as more of a stepping-stone for the Turf, since Juddmonte’s superstar filly ENABLE (GB) decimated Ulysses in Ascot’s “Win and You’re In” King George VI & Queen Elizabeth sponsored by QIPCO (GI) July 29 and earned an automatic starting berth into the race. The homebred 3-year-old daughter of Nathaniel (IRE) has been unbeatable in her last four starts for trainer John Gosden, winning the Epsom Oaks (GI) in June and Irish Oaks (GI) at The Curragh in July before stepping up and dominating older males in a 4 ½-length tour de force at Ascot. Enable is 5-for-6 lifetime and figures a very short favorite in a Yorkshire Oaks field that also includes NEZWAAH (GB), who won the Pretty Polly (GI) at The Curragh in her last start for trainer Roger Varian, and QUEEN’S TRUST (GB), who won last year’s Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita but has yet to hit the board in three starts this year for Stoute.

An automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) will be on the line in Friday’s $430,500 “Win and You’re In” Coolmore Nunthorpe (GI). Run at five furlongs for 2yos and up, the Nunthorpe will have a familiar feel for Americans, as Stonestreet Stable’s LADY AURELIA, who seemingly has no equal in the turf sprint ranks, will showcase her talents for trainer Wesley Ward. The 3-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy is 5-for-6 lifetime and enters off a scintillating performance while winning Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand (GI) by 3 lengths June 20. Shadwell Stable’s BATTASSH (IRE) is attracting plenty of support overseas for trainer Charlie Hills, as he’s comfortably won all three starts this year, including King George (GII) at Glorious Goodwood August 4. Group I winner MARSHA (IRE), third in the King George, is the only other horse in the prospected field of 13 for the Nunthorpe to be trading under 10-1.

Pat O’Brien to Offer Dirt Mile Bid

Saturday’s $200,000 “Win and You’re In” Pat O’Brien (GII) at Del Mar will offer an automatic starting berth into the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the seven-furlong test could be led by Halo Farm’s DANZING CANDY, who has won three straight for trainer Bob Baffert. The 4-year-old son of Twirling Candy was 15th in last year’s Kentucky Derby when trained by Cliff Sise but has found his niche this year going shorter. Danzing Candy won the San Carlos (GII) at Santa Anita when last seen July 1 and is 6-for-11 lifetime.

C R K Stable’s KOBE’S BACK was third in the San Carlos and could run for trainer Peter Eurton, as could AMBITIOUS BREW, BLAMEITONTHELAW, CALCULATOR, GIANT EXPECTATIONS, MOE CANDY and MR. HINX.

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News and Notes

Senga Eyes Filly & Mare Turf

Flaxman Stable’s SENGA, who was third in Saturday’s Prix de la Nonette (GII) at Deauville, is set to embark on an ambitious schedule that trainer Pascal Bary hopes will culminate in a trip to Del Mar and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The 3-year-old daughter of Blame, who won the Prix de Diane (G1) (French Oaks) at Chantilly in June, and 3-for-8 lifetime, has her trainer looking forward to better efforts after the Nonette run.

“It looks like she might have needed it and she was also a bit wide throughout, so we will stick to the plan which is the (Prix de) l’Opéra followed by the Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mare Turf,” Bary said.

The October 1 “Win and You’re In” Longines Prix de l’Opéra, which is part of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe undercard October 1 at Chantilly, will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Skye Diamonds to Train Up to Filly & Mare Sprint

Tom Acker, John Lindo, Bloom Racing and Allen Racing’s SKYE DIAMONDS, undoubtedly California’s leading female dirt sprinter, will get a brief freshening and train up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), according to trainer John Sadler. The 4-year-old daughter of First Dude won the August 12 Rancho Bernando (GIII) at Del Mar and has gone 7-for-9 since being claimed by Sadler for $40,000 in August 2016. Overall, Skye Diamonds is 9-for-16 lifetime and has thrived not only at Del Mar and going seven furlongs, but with spacing between her races as well, all of which have Sadler eagerly awaiting the Filly & Mare Sprint.

“It’s a perfect distance, and she does well on this track,” Sadler said. “She’ll do well off that (break). If we give her six weeks between races, she’s done well. She’s so professional.”

Arlington Winners Oscar Performance, Dacita Pointing to Del Mar

Ammerman Racing’s OSCAR PERFORMANCE and Sheep Pond Partners and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ DACITA (CHI) exited their respective wins in Arlington Park’s Secretariat (GI) and “Win and You’re In” Beverly D. (GI) August 12 in good order and have their sights set on Del Mar and the Breeders’ Cup later this fall.

Oscar Performance, a 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita for trainer Brian Lynch, is on a three-race tear while showing no signs of slowing down while the distances have stretched out. He won the Belmont Derby (GI) at 1¼ miles in July before taking the Secretariat at the same distance, to move his lifetime record to 6-for-9. Lynch will use Oscar Performance’s projected next start in Belmont’s “Win and You’re In” 1½-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) to determine whether to run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) or Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on September 30.

“I think it will be a good test for him before the Breeders’ Cup, since we’ll have to decide if we want to try the Turf or Turf Mile,” said Lynch. “At Del Mar, with the tight turns, the Mile will be a jockey’s race, see who can get position early. From what he’s shown us, the longer distance shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve seen he doesn’t really need the lead.”

Dacita earned an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with her Beverly D. win, which was her first in four starts this year for trainer Chad Brown. The 6-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, who was ninth in the Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland in 2015, and won last year’s Diana (GI) at Saratoga, is 10-for-19 lifetime and co-owner Peter Bradley is clearly a fan of the automatic qualifiers.

“Now that we have the “Win and You’re In,” our sights are set on Breeders’ Cup,” said Bradley.

Winx Spectacular in Winning Again

Magic Bloodstock Racing’s WINX (AUS), No. 2 in the Longines World’s Best Race Horse rankings, spotted the field 4 lengths at the start after walking out of the gate yet was still up by a head over stablemate FOXPLAY (AUS) while winning her 18th straight in Saturday’s Warwick (GII) at Randwick Racecourse outside of Sydney, Australia. The 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry (IRE) has risen to the heights of greatness for trainer Chris Waller and has her sights set on her third Cox Plate (GI) October 28 at Moonee Valley. Overall, Winx is 22-for-28 lifetime and is line for a busy late summer and fall campaign before the Cox Plate, where she will try to equal the wildly popular Kingston Town’s (AUS) record three Cox Plate wins.

Waller said Winx is expected to run next in the Chelmsford Stakes (GII) at Royal Randwick September 2, followed by the ­September 16 George Main (GI), then the Hill Stakes (GII) and Craven Plate (GIII), all at Randwick and separated by two-week intervals, which would all serve as preps for the Cox Plate.

Foxplay secured a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf when she captured the Coolmore Legacy (G1) “Win and You’re In” event at Royal Randwick in April.

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