Though the past weekend was quieter than what we’ve been accustomed to in 2020, several sophomore horses still shined from coast to coast as Breeders’ Cup weekend draws near. Here’s who made our Three Stars of the Week:
1. Venetian Harbor
Venetian Harbor’s speed was on full display in Saturday’s Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, where she wired a strong field of 3-year-old fillies. After setting the pace and straightening for home with a lengthy lead, the Richard Baltas trainee dug deep to hold off Finite’s rail bid and win by a neck. With the victory coming over the same course and distance as the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) in 3 weeks, expect to see the top two finishers return to face their elders with valuable local experience under their belts. There’s precedent for success: the 2018 race champion Shamrock Rose pulled a 25/1 upset at the World Championships off of just two weeks’ rest.
2. Smooth Like Strait
Trainer Michael McCarthy never lost faith in his star 3-year-old male’s abilities, and he was rewarded when the Midnight Lute colt stretched out to the longest distance in his career and impressively won Sunday’s 1 1/8-mile Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita Park. The victory, his fourth at the stakes level, has him primed to become one of the west coast’s top older turfers in 2021, though McCarthy hinted that a trip to this year’s Breeders’ Cup was not out of the question.
3. Warren’s Showtime
Trainer Craig Lewis had conditioned five graded stakes champions among his 999 total victories heading into Saturday, with such stars as Clubhouse Ride and Warren’s Veneda among his very best. As fate would have it, his 3-year-old California-bred filly Warren’s Showtime – a daughter by Clubhouse Ride (now California’s top active stallion) out of Warren’s Veneda – gave Lewis victory #1,000 in the Autumn Miss Stakes (G3). Warren’s Showtime became Lewis’ sixth graded stakes victor in a career that dates back to the mid-1970s, and the cherry on top of his truly family-affair milestone? Warren’s Veneda and her daughter are both owned and were bred by Lewis’ longtime clients Ben and Sally Warren.