Thanksgiving Weekend always gives us something to look forward to after the Breeders’ Cup. All four days of the extended weekend gave us stakes action from coast to coast. Churchill Downs was the main focus with stellar cards on Friday and Saturday, but Aqueduct and Del Mar were not far behind. Let’s check out who made our latest Three Stars of the Week:
Coming into 2018, trainer Brad Cox had never won a Grade 1 event. Now, he has seven of them under his belt, with the latest being the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last Friday evening with Leofric. Slowly but surely, Leofric has gotten better with each race this season, with it culminating in his first Grade 1 score. The Candy Ride son stalked the early pace before taking the lead when turning for home. The hard-knocking Bravazo made a big run down the stretch at him; however, he was not able to get past, as Leofric held on by a neck. This win could catapult the Cox trainee into a variety of races heading into 2019.
2. Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway continues to make the most of his “second chance” at a racing career. After being deemed infertile as a sire, he returned to the track this summer, and he has now won two races in a row. It took a little while to get back the fitness that he had lost, but he seems to have it back. On Sunday, he battled Dabster for most of the stretch in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes before holding on to win by a neck. Much like Leofric, this win opens the door for several opportunities in 2019 for a horse with every right to continue improving.
With the Breeders’ Cup behind us, it’s on to the Kentucky Derby trail, which took us to Churchill Downs on Saturday for the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. This race featured a loaded field of 14 horses while also giving us what might be a couple of decent Kentucky Derby contenders. None are to be taken more seriously than the winner, Signalman, who rallied up the rail to win the race by a neck over the late-charging Plus Que Parfait. The race had to be satisfying for his connections, who had seen the horse finish second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. After the race, trainer Kenny McPeek said that the horse would get some time off before coming back and possibly targeting the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April.