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The inaugural Turf Triple Series comes to an end this Saturday at Belmont Park with the Jockey Club Derby Invitational. Nine quality 3-year-olds will contest the race that concludes the Turf Trinity and will be televised on NBC at 4:30 PM ET, along with the Jockey Club Oaks.
A Thread of Blue comes into the event fresh off of a victory in the second leg of the Turf Trinity, the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has won three of five starts this season, all against stakes company. He drew the rail for this race, while Henley’s Joy, the winner of leg one of the Turf Trinity, drew the 3 post. After his upset win in the Belmont Derby (G1), Henley’s Joy could do no better than fifth last time out in the Saratoga Derby. Henley’s Joy and the Chad Brown-trained Digital Age are the only two horses that will have entered all three legs of the series.
The winner of the Jockey Club Derby will receive an automatic position in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Jockey Club Derby serves as one of two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events this weekend. The other race will be Saturday’s Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). This is the first year that each of these contests will serve as “Win and You’re In” events. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on September 14 at Churchill Downs with the Pocahontas Stakes (Juvenile Fillies) and the Iroquois Stakes (TVG Juvenile), as well as the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (TVG Mile) at Woodbine. There will also be Sunday action at Woodbine with the Natalma Stakes (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and the Summer Stakes (Juvenile Turf).
The full field from the rail out: A Thread of Blue, Current, Henley’s Joy, Pedro Cara, San Huberto, Tone Broke, Kadar, Digital Age, and Spanish Mission.
#8 Digital Age – Two straight tough-luck losses in the Turf Trinity Triple have to be frustrating for his connections. In the Belmont Derby, he got too far behind early in the race but still made a solid run to get up for fourth. Last time out in the Saratoga Derby, he was positioned a little closer to the leaders, but A Thread of Blue stole the race while setting a slow pace, forcing Digital Age to settle for second. This consistent runner will give it more shot, and if the pace develops up front, then he should be tough to hold off at this distance.
#9 Spanish Mission – This looks to be the strongest of the European shippers. Two races back, he was able to secure Group 3 victory at Newmarket, then finished third by a neck in the Qatar Gordan Stakes (G3) at Goodwood. Both of those races contained strong fields, so he should be prepared to face this solid group. Jockey Jamie Spencer will come in for the ride, which is another good sign.
#5 San Huberto – Two impressive wins in France earned him a shot at a big purse in the United States. After breaking his maiden at Lyonparilly, San Huberto was then able to capture the Prix Club Hipico Concepcion at Deauville by 3/4 of a length. Those victories indicate that he has a high level of talent; his only question mark is how he will handle the different racing conditions in the United States.
#4 Pedro Cara – From a breeding standpoint, he seems to want to go this distance, which has also been proven in his previous races. He has won three times going this long, including two straight victories heading into this spot. This will be a jump up in class, though, while you never know how a horse will run when making their United States debut.
#1 A Thread of Blue –Last time out, he took the field wire-to-wire in the Saratoga Derby at odds of 13/1. That was his third stakes win of the season and stamped him as one of the top 3-year-old turf horses in the country. The biggest question mark for him will be the added distance; going 1 1/2 miles is as a major challenge.
#6 Tone Broke – Last time out, he made his turf debut a winning one, coming home strongly to win the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine. That race was restricted to only Canadian-bred horses, but the speed figure that he earned is competitive with anyone in this field. Even though it took him a while to run on the turf, it could be his best surface after that last performance.
#7 Kadar – After running twice overseas, Kadar came to the United States to run in allowance race two starts back at Saratoga, where he finished a fast-closing third. His turn of foot was impressive enough to give the Saratoga Derby a try next, but it didn’t go his way: a terrible start saw him get bumped and cut off. This horse can rebound with a cleaner break and trip, and his breeding suggests that this distance will suit him well.
#2 Current – Last year, this horse finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) after winning the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. He has struggled this year, hitting the board twice in six starts. However, his second-place effort last time out in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park was a solid effort. He could be sitting on a big race, and the added distance should be to his liking.
#3 Henley’s Joy – He returns to Belmont Park after pulling off a huge upset the Belmont Derby at odds of 20/1. As a 2-year-old, he won three of five starts, but the Belmont Derby has been his only victory this season. He has faced the best horses in the crop all year long, though, and he has remained been competitive. He will be one of two horses to have competed in all three legs of the Trinity Turf Triple.
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