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Lucky connections hoping to start in the early November Breeders’ Cup World Championships saw their horses take steps forward as six official (and several more unofficial) prep events across the country and beyond the border gave us a closer glimpse of the potential contenders.
Between the action at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Woodbine, here’s who we felt was deserving of being our Three Stars of the Week:
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The European invasion that occurred this past weekend showed beyond a shadow of doubt that the American turf horses this year are clearly a step below their international counterparts. No race was a bigger example of the chasm between the continents than Saturday’s Jockey Club Derby, where the Charlie Appleby-trained Yibir roared past a strong field of 3-year-olds – a group that included several other tough Europeans – to win the $1 million event and stamp his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Good luck representing us, Domestic Spending – you’re going to need it.
While it’s not uncommon for a juvenile horse to run away with impressive flourish on debut, it’s an entirely different story when they back it up against proven winners in a new scenario. Hidden Connection showed that her unveiling at Colonial Downs – a sprint she won by daylight – was no joke when she romped by 9 1/4 lengths while tackling two turns at Churchill Downs in Saturday’s Pocahontas Stakes (G3). The Bret Calhoun trainee was just an $85,000 purchase earlier in the year, but she’s now heading to the World Championships looking like a prime contender.
It wasn’t the flashiest win of her impressive career, but Shedaresthedevil was all class in Saturday’s Locust Grove Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. Regular rider Florent Geroux put the 4-year-old filly in front, where she set a consistent tempo before holding off a tough rival the length of the stretch to remain perfect in 5 starts under the Twin Spires. The Brad Cox trainee used the 1 1/16-mile dirt route as a final tune-up for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), where she’ll attempt to turn the tables on the dominant Letruska, the only horse to defeat Shedaresthedevil in 5 starts this year.
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