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We continue down the road to the 34th Breeders’ Cup with less than 5 weeks to go and the biggest week of “Win & You’re In” (W&YI) races are upon us.
With a total of 13 races spread over Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Santa Anita Park, each awarding free entry into the Breeders’ Cup, how can the Skinny possibly cover it all?
Well, in an effort to be concise and informative, we’ll highlight a few key horses in each race that can advance to the Breeders’ Cup (BC) and make noise in Del Mar the first weekend of November.
We’ll cover all of Keeneland’s Friday and Saturday races here in Part 2a. Later this week, we’ll post Part 2b to preview Sunday at Keeneland, the weekend at Belmont, and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Without further delay, we present Part 2a of this six-week “Breeders’ Cup Skinny.”
The Keeneland Fall Stars stakes action kicks off Friday with the Grade 2 Phoenix featuring two key sprinters to watch coming into the BC Sprint.
Back in May, Whitmore was flying high as one of the top sprinters in the country, riding a five-win streak punctuated by a late-charging triumph in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day. The former route runner looked like he had found his niche for trainer Ron Moquett after a long layoff and cutting back off of his 2016 Kentucky Derby run. As a prime example of the difficulty to keep a horse in form for an extended period of time, Whitmore has thrown in two third-place finishes since his impressive run to start the year and will need to find his prior strong form in order to win the Phoenix and advance into the BC Sprint. Whitmore drew the far outside 11 post in a field of 11 in the Phoenix.
Limousine Liberal personally owes me nothing. His biggest win of the year in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs was also my biggest hit of the year when I used him in a Pick-3 on Kentucky Derby day at 13/1 odds. He dug down deep in the driving rain over a sloppy strip to beat a good horse in Awesome Slew by a head. He subsequently won two more stakes at Churchill and ran a decent third in his last race, the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga, to end July. In this race last year, he lost by a dirty nose to A. P. Indian, one of that year’s top sprinters. He finished eleventh and fifth in the 2015 and 2016 BC Sprints, respectively, so trainer Ben Colebrook likely has an eye on running the 5-year-old gelding for a third straight year in the BC. Limousine Liberal will leave from the middle 5 post in the Phoenix.
Others entered in the Phoenix include Awesome Banner (Kenneth Decker), Favorite Tale (Guadalupe Preciado), It’s the Journey (Michael Trombetta), Loose On the Town (Brian Lynch), Mr. Manning (McBride), Richard the Great (Stanley Gold), Seventh Sense (TUR) (Murat Sancal), Threefiveindia (Chad Brown), and Uncontested (Wayne Catalano).
With many of the juvenile fillies in the Alcibiades routing for the first time in their careers, Kelly’s Humor may have an upper hand having already run a strong second at 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2 Pocahontas at Churchill in mid-September. The Brad Cox trainee showed late kick to get up in the Pocahontas much like the same charge that put her in the winners’ circle in the non-graded Ellis Park Debutante back in August.
Dancing is a late entry in this field for trainer Mark Casse and was one that caught my eye during morning workouts at Saratoga over the summer. She worked in company with highly regarded Snowfire out of the Casse barn and ran a distant second to top filly Separationofpowers at Saratoga. She is still a maiden after running fourth at Churchill by only 1 3/4 lengths and it speaks volumes that Casse brings her back in a Grade 1 looking for her first career win.
In a wide-open affair, others entered in the Alcibiades include Arabella Bella (Yanakov), Bet She Wins (Chris Block), Caroline the Great (Tracey Glover), Heavenly Love (Mark Casse), Over Thinking (Vicki Oliver), Princess Warrior (Kenny McPeek), Pacific Gale (John Kimmel) and Sassy Sienna (Cox).
The headliner on the Saturday Keeneland card is the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile. This year’s edition may bring together a full gate of 14 entries.
Miss Temple City won the 2016 Shadwell Turf Mile and a recent report from trainer Graham Motion is that they are leaning to defend her title against males in this race, instead of an appearance in the Grade 1 First Lady versus her own gender. She has an affinity for Keeneland with two Grade 1 wins over males and two second-place finishes in her four lifetime starts at the track. She needs to find that old magic, though, because lately, she’s shown signs of losing a step. She had a confidence-building win in the Grade 3 Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs last out, but her third-place finish in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth to end July was not pretty after her unsuccessful trip to Royal Ascot.
International flavor gets sprinkled into the Shadwell with Mondialiste and Suedois (both trained by David O’Meara), Dimension (Conor Murphy), and South American Group 1 winner Le Ken (Ignacio Correas IV).
Other entries include American Patriot (Todd Pletcher), Applicator (Mikhail Yanakov), Ballagh Rocks (Bill Mott), Christian C (Wayne Catalano), Divisidero (Buff Bradley), Flatlined (Scooter Dickey), Heart to Heart (Brian Lynch), and Tyler U (Troy Wismer).
The New York-bred Offering Plan will need to make a big class jump in order to be competitive for trainer Chad Brown.
Without Miss Temple City in the First Lady, Dickinson, Dona Bruja, and Roca Rojo will headline this race.
In her last start at Keeneland in mid-April, Dickinson won the the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, beating Lady Eli, the division’s top horse.
Dona Bruja has been hot since shipping in from Argentina for trainer Ignacio Correas IV. In her three U.S. starts, she has two Grade 3 wins and a strong second-place, dead-heat finish in the Grade 1 Beverly D last out in August.
Roca Rojo was third behind Lady Eli and Dickinson in her last race, the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga, and can be dangerous here.
Other entries include Delectation (Andreas Wohler), Hawksmoor (Arnaud Delacour), One Liz (Wayne Catalano), and Zipessa (Mike Stidham).
Finley’sluckycharm will be the strong favorite for trainer Bret Calhoun in the TCA, but there are reasons to be doubtful of her here. She was unstoppable at Churchill Downs in the spring, winning three stakes races over two months. Her second-place finish in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga behind top female sprinter Paulassilverlining was intense, as she fought back gamely in deep stretch. That race may have taken something out of her, though, because Calhoun decided to skip a planned start in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, which raised suspicion that she didn’t come out of the Honorable Miss in top form. She makes the first start of her career at Keeneland in this spot.
The TCA probables that may challenge Finley’sluckycharm include Grade 2 Prioress winner Vertical Oak, for trainer Steve Asmussen, and Bendable, shipping in for west coast trainer Richard Mandella.
Other entries include Grace’s Treasure (Michael Ewing), I’m a Looker (Brad Cox), Ivy Bell (William Denzik), Chalon (Peter Miller) and True Romance (Tim Hills).
Ten City finished third in the Grade 2 Iroquois for trainer Ken McPeek last out and will look to take a step forward in the Futurity. After winning the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill to end June as one of the top juvenile prospects, he was flattered when the second-place finisher in that race, Copper Bullet, came back to win the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. With subsequent third-place finishes in the non-graded Ellis Park Juvenile and the Iroquois, though, Ten City will need to fire big in the Futurity to regain his place atop the crop.
Dale Romans’ multiple graded stakes-placed Free Drop Billy brings his top form from strong races in the Grade 3 Sanford and Grade 1 Hopeful both at Saratoga into the Futurity.
Other entries include Bourbon Resolution (Ian Wilkes), Bravazo (D. Wayne Lukas), Crea’s Bklyn Law (Michael Dilger), Ezmosh (Cox), Givemeaminit (Dallas Stewart), Lionite (Steve Asmussen), Lone Rock (Will VanMeter), Lone Sailor (Tom Amoss), Ready Prospector (Oscar Modica), and Captivating Moon (Chris Block).
Enticed for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is entered both here and the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont on Saturday.
We’ll continue to hit the books prepping for BC and provide you previews of the Belmont, Santa Anita, and Sunday Keeneland action in edition 2b of the “Breeders Cup Skinny” later this week. To keep up to date on all of the BC news and views, please follow me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim.
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