Turf racing took center stage last weekend with great action from Kentucky Downs and the opening weekend at Belmont Park. We got to see two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series events, as well as several other stakes races that produced solid winners. Check out who we felt were the three top stars of the weekend:
1. Zulu Alpha
Kentucky Downs gave us many great performances last weekend on their unique turf course. In the end, we felt that Zulu Alpha was the most impressive when he won the Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (G3) by 3 1/4 lengths over defending champion Arklow. After stalking the early pace in fifth, Zulu Alpha turned for home looking dangerous and made a huge move in the stretch. He took control of the race with a furlong to go before running away from his competition as they crossed the wire. This was not a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, but a performance like this could have his connections thinking about the Breeders’ Cup. At longer turf distances, he always shows up a solid effort.
2. Spanish Mission
European shippers dominated the turf action at Belmont Park last Saturday, where Spanish Mission earned his way to the Breeders’ Cup Turf with a win in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational by a determined nose over fellow shipper Pedro Cara. Spanish Mission raced in last up the backside before commencing a rally entering the stretch. At the top of the lane, he found himself in third and hile gaining on the leaders with every stride. In mid-stretch, he kicked clear of everyone but Pedro Cara, who battled him all the way to the wire. They hit the line together, with Spanish Mission ultimately winning the photo. Both horses seemed to handle the racing conditions in the United States well, which could lead to starts in the Breeders’ Cup next time out.
The absence of Concrete Rose, an easy winner in each of the first two legs of the Turf Tiara series, opened up an opportunity for several fillies to win the Jockey Club Oaks. That’s why Edisa shipped to the United States. The plan worked out well, even though she didn’t handle the new racing conditions perfectly. Her trip was eventful, and she encountered trouble on the final turn, but jockey Flavien Prat was able to get the filly going in the right direction down the stretch. She edged past Wonderment late to win the race by 3/4 of a length, and while plans for her next race are yet to be determined, if she runs back in the United States, she has a right to improve. This race gave her valuable experience moving forward.