Welcome back to the second part of this week’s Breeders’ Cup Skinny. If you missed it, here is my article on the upcoming “Win and You’re In” (WAYI) events for the Breeders’ Cup TVG Juvenile (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

The goal of this column is to address each of the 15 Breeders’ Cup races over the next five weeks so that you can start formulating your opinions for the big day. Preparing for the Breeders’ Cup is a grind, but you want to feel confident that you’ve done your homework before we get to the big day, since you will undoubtedly feel like you’ve run out of time between now and then.

In that vein, let’s take a look at this weekend’s WAYI races for dirt males, starting with the Classic (G1) before previewing the Sprint (G1).

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Breeders’ Cup Classic: Two Huge Races This Weekend

In last week’s Breeders’ Cup Skinny, we did a deep dive on the Classic, so check out that article for in-depth analysis of the how the Classic may unfold. Since that article posted, though, the division has seen a lot of attrition.

A pair of Grade 1 winners – Maximum Security and Catholic Boy – both missed expected starts last weekend and are doubtful to make the Breeders’ Cup. Additionally, last year’s third-place Classic finisher Thunder Snow will bypass this year’s event altogether. That leaves a lot of intrigue in this weekend’s two Classic WAYI races.

The likely Classic favorite McKinzie will look to add to his resume in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) on Saturday. Though it will be run at 1 1/8 miles, we may be able to gauge if McKinzie is fully fit to stretch out to the 1 1/4-mile Classic distance this weekend. We’ll definitely see if his class exceeds the rest of the field.

The expected Awesome Again field includes Grade 1 winner Seeking the Soul (Dallas Stewart), the Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) winner Higher Power (John Sadler), the Pacific Classic runner-up Draft Pick (Peter Eurton), the Woodward Stakes (G1) fifth-place finisher Mongolian Groom (Enebesh Ganbat), and recent Del Mar winner Fawree (Sadler).

Seeking the Soul working on September 21 at Santa Anita Park (Photo: Ernie Belmonte)

The Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) field at Belmont Park this Saturday will likely be small in quantity but large on quality. A bevy of graded stakes winners will go the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles over Big Sandy, led by the Woodward Stakes (G1) winner Preservationist. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee will look to repeat over the same track and distance as his Suburban Stakes (G2) victory.

Hall of Fame conditioners Shug McGaughey and Bill Mott will enter Code of Honor and Tacitus, the one-two finishers from the Travers Stakes (G1). Tacitus looked like a bull when I checked him out at Saratoga last Sunday. Here he is on the gallop out after drawing away from his Grade 1-winning stablemate Channel Maker:

Yoshida, who was originally going to train up to the Classic, will now ship down from Saratoga with Tacitus to contest the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Remember: Yoshida was moving late for a fourth-place Classic finish last year and can be a board-hitter this year.

The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) winner Vino Rosso will look to punch a return ticket to Santa Anita for Todd Pletcher after finishing a late-running third in the Whitney Stakes (G1) behind McKinzie in his last start. Also exected is the Pimlico Special Stakes (G3) winner Tenfold, who will look to right the ship after non-stellar performances in his last two starts for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.

The entries in these two races will make up the majority of the Classic field, so scrutinize them to the utmost extent leading up to the last race on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

Once again, for my thoughts on the Classic, check out my debut edition of the Breeders’ Cup Skinny last week. 

For betting tips on the Jockey Club Gold Cup card, check out the Inside Track Wagering Guide available for purchase or with a subscription to Racing Dudes’ Premium picks.

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Breeders’ Cup Sprint: Mitole Waits for his Prey

It’s finally time for Imperial Hint‘s encore when he returns in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) this Saturday at Belmont Park. He was last seen giving a track record-breaking 6-furlong performance in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

The fan favorite is small in stature but huge on talent. He’ll make his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in the same fashion as last year, when he won the Vosburgh before finishing third in the Sprint. Imperial Hint was the runner-up behind two-time Sprint winner Roy H at Del Mar in 2017, so perhaps the third time will be the charm for “The Little Rocket.”

“We’ll ship up to Belmont the day of the race (from Monmouth),” trainer Luis Carvajal said. “Of course, we’d like to get to the Breeders’ Cup from there, but it all starts with the Vosburgh, so we’re preparing him and confident he can run well as he has in the past over the track.”

Imperial Hint is unbeaten in two starts at Belmont Park, having captured both the Vosburgh and the True North Stakes (G2) last year.

His main competition will come from Firenze Fire, whose best races have come at Belmont Park, including winning the Runhappy Stakes back in May. He also won the Dwyer Stakes (G3) as a 3-year old and the Champagne Stakes (G1) as a juvenile.

Brown Buckeye (trainer Anthony Quartarolo) is probable for the Vosburgh, while Bon Raison (Peter Tournas) and Wonderful Light (Michelle Nevin) are considered possible.

“The Little Rocket” Imperial Hint before his historical Vanderbilt win (Photo: Michael Spector)

There will be two WAYI races next weekend for the 6-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), run over the same track and distance as the Breeders’ Cup, will feature the scintillating 3-year-old Shancelot. He’ll look to get back on track following his first defeat in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1). Before that, he set the horse racing world on fire with his Amsterdam Stakes (G2) win, which earned him a whopping 121 Beyer Speed Figure. The Jorge Navarro trainee will likely be on the lead and get experience over the local strip in his first attempt against older males.

Another hyped 3-year-old, the Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach, will also contest the Santa Anita Sprint Championship after changing plans several times recently. An entrapped epiglottis forced the morning line favorite to miss the Kentucky Derby (G1), and he hasn’t raced since the Arkansas Derby. This race is likely a sharpener for trainer Richard Mandela to get him into the Breeders’ Cup, possibly the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1).

At Keeneland, Promises Fulfilled will try to repeat in the Phoenix Stakes (G2), which he won as a 3-year-old in his first time facing elders. Promises Fulfilled already has his ticket stamped to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint by virtue of his win in the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, but who knows if trainer Dale Romans will opt to run in the Dirt Mile instead. Romans had contemplated doing so last year before running in the Sprint and finishing fourth.

Promises Fulfilled cruising to win the Nerud (Credit: NYRA / Janet Garaguso)

The Sprint division has two monsters training up to the race who must be discussed. The aforementioned Roy H just had his first work since March last Saturday, going 3 furlongs in 38.40 seconds at the San Luis Rey Training Center for trainer Peter Miller. The defending two-time Sprint champ hasn’t raced since January 19, though, and has battled foot issues all year. Miller recently told BloodHorse.com, “He has to breeze every six or seven days and not have any hiccups (to be ready for the Sprint).”

The other big name training up to the Sprint is the multiple Grade 1 winner Mitole. After winning the one-turn Met Mile (G1) over top older male McKinzie in possibly the race of the year, Mitole was tired and stuck on a dead rail when he lost to Imperial Hint’s freak-out performance in the Vanderbilt.

Mitole looked no worse for the wear when he easily manhandled an over-matched crew in the Forego Stakes (G1) and set a new race record. He has remained at The Spa ever since, galloping over the Oklahoma Training Track and enjoying the brisk upstate New York fall weather.

The Sprint is always a throwdown, but Mitole will be tough to beat if he’s able to sit off of Shancelot and Promises Fulfilled’s hot pace. Imperial Hint will be right there, too, and if Roy H is ready, then we may have quite the finish in the biggest sprint race of the year.

Mitole before the Forego (Photo: Michael Spector)

The Best is Yet to Come

So much more is coming in the next two weeks to get ready for the Breeders’ Cup. As I said in part one of this week’s Skinny, it’s important to not get overwhelmed by the massive amount of races and horses to follow as we build towards the big day.

Next week, we’ll highlight where we stand with the fields for the Longines Distaff (G1), the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), and the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. Once we get more information about which Europeans may show up, we’ll start dissecting the turf races, too.

Good luck betting the big cards at Santa Anita Park and Belmont Park this weekend. Keep following me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim for my thoughts and updates along the way!