All of the horses have now arrived at the track for the 36th Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita, California.
The Europeans are settling in, the east coast and midwest challengers likewise. Final preparations are underway and the talk is everywhere. Soon it will be talking for the horses to do their own talking but, for now, here are the latest soundbites from the training track, courtesy of the excellent Breeders’ Cup notes team.
The first international horses to leave the quarantine barn yesterday morning were three English contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. David O’Meara’s duo of Lord Glitters and Suedois led Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller onto the training track with all three doing a steady canter.
Charlie Appleby was once again trackside to see Old Persian (Turf) have a canter on the main track. On Saturday the son of Dubawi will be racing in his fifth country this year having already raced in Dubai, England, Germany and Canada. “All is fine, he had a nice leg stretch and he seems to be taking everything in his stride,” Appleby said.
James Tate’s duo of Dream Shot (Juvenile Turf Sprint) and Hey Gaman (Mile) went out with Old Persian and did two laps of the main track at a steady canter. Dream Shot was slightly awkward coming into the stretch on the first occasion but was much better second time round as he got to know the track.
Japanese representatives Full Flat (Juvenile) and Matera Sky (Sprint) both went on the main track with Matera Sky breezing 4f in 49 2/5. Both horses returned to the quarantine barn via the paddock. Matera Sky’s connections reported “He seems in great form, we did a nice breeze up the stretch and he looked good.”
The turf track was used for the first time and six European challengers went out at 7.30. First on was Fanny Logan (Filly & Mare Turf) wearing a hood.
John Gosden was trackside to watch the daughter of Sea The Stars do a strong canter on the turf with race rider Frankie Dettori in the saddle. “It’s great to be here and Fanny Logan did a nice canter there. Frankie was happy with her,” Gosden said.
When asked by one of the outriders how many horses he had for this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Gosden replied, “Just the one this year, I’m running out of ammunition!”
Castle Lady (Filly & Mare Turf), one of only two French challengers for this year’s Breeders’ Cup, did her strongest piece of work at Santa Anita yesterday morning going 3f on the dirt in 36 seconds.
Andrew Balding’s Shadn (Juvenile Fillies Turf) followed Fanny Logan onto the turf and did a similar piece of work before returning back to the barn through the paddock.
Roger Varian was on hand to watch Daahyeh (Juvenile Fillies Turf) also do a steady canter on the turf. “I am really happy with her at the moment she’s in great shape and she comes into this race as a real live contender,” Varian said.
Living In The Past (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Dr Simpson (Juvenile Turf Sprint) also cantered on the turf and both seemed happy with the Santa Anita surface.
A’Ali (Juvenile Turf Sprint) also did a canter on the grass and seemed well at ease in his new environment. Simon Crisford’s son Edward was once again trackside and said, “All is fine, really happy.”
Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Albigna (Juvenile Fillies Turf) went out onto the main track shortly after 8 o’clock and seemed very well in herself. Before traveling to Santa Anita, Jessica Harrington said of her filly, “She has come out of the ParisLongchamp race in great form so we are going to strike while the iron is hot. The owners [Niarchos family] are huge fans of the Breeders’ Cup and it will be my first runner at the meeting so it is very exciting.”
The one European horse who was slightly uneasy on the turf was the Ken Condon-trained Trais Fluors (Mile) who was reluctant to go it alone. The son of Dansili was accompanied by a pony and did two circuits of the track before returning to the quarantine barn.
English 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (Filly & Mare Turf), with regular work rider Luke Catton in the saddle, seemed extremely happy on the main track and did a steady canter for three quarters of a circuit.
Band Practice (Juvenile Turf Sprint) pleased her trainer Archie Watson and went a lap of the main track at a steady canter. Watson, who arrived here late Tuesday night said, “I am really happy with my filly, she is really well, but that will be it now, we will keep her wrapped up until race day.”
Joseph O’Brien (pictured above right) was trackside for the first time to see his Breeders’ Cup contenders Alligator Alley (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Unforgetable (Juvenile Filles Turf) and Iridessa (Filly & Mare Turf) on the main track who all did a steady canter. O’Brien, who was riding a pony on track said, “I got into L.A. last night and it is great to be here with runners. My grooms are delighted with how the horses travelled and have settled in really well so we couldn’t be happier. They all did a little canter to stretch their legs and all seems good.”
Last out onto the track after the second renovation break was the Jane Chapple-trained Ambassadorial (Dirt Mile) who trotted half a lap of the track before turning and cantering down the stretch with regular work rider Abi Harrison in the saddle.
SELECTED OTHER TURF RUNNERS
Bricks and Mortar –Turf favourite Bricks and Mortar continues to impress as he prepares to stretch out to 12f in the weekend’s top grass affair for trainer Chad Brown and owners Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. On Wednesday morning, he left Barn 48 along with stablemates Sistercharlie and Dunbar Road and galloped 1¼m on the Santa Anita main track.
The son of Giant’s Causeway, who is slated to go to stud in Japan after this final test, has yet to race beyond 10f, but has proven dominant up to that trip, including a rousing victory last out in the Arlington Million in Chicago. Brown believes his charge has every right to get the job done against a field that includes Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and Longines Dubai Sheema Classic winner Old Persian.
“Occasionally he can be a little bit of a headstrong horse with a touch of a light mouth, but he’s been really settling nicely in his works,” Brown said. “If he runs in this race the way he’s been settling, he’s going to run quite well. It’s a solid field and there’s several horses in there who if they run their best race, they’re going to be equally as tough.”
Got Stormy – Exercise rider Kim Carroll has had her arm strength tested this week as Got Stormy has been a handful – in a good way – each time the duo hits the track.
As has been the norm for her since arriving in California, the Grade I-winning daughter of Get Stormy bounced her way onto the main track and then flaunted all kinds of energy in her gallop while tracked by stablemate War of Will. The two barn companions each stood in the gate Wednesday with Carroll joking that if that Got Stormy had gone out the front “we’d be in Pasadena in a heartbeat.”
“She’s good right now. I’m sure Kim will be happy when she gets to run,” trainer Mark Casse said.
Uni – Mile runner Uni continues to train well as she prepares for her first clash with the boys on Saturday. Owned by Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Bob LaPenta and Bethlehem Stables, the daughter of More Than Ready won the 1m First Lady n flying style at Keeneland last out. In 2012, Brown used the First Lady as a springboard to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf success with Dayatthespa. This time, he decided on a different plan with Uni.
“With her running style, I’m not sure it would be a good idea,” Brown said. “At a mile, I think she’s better, especially with pace in front of her.”
On Wednesday morning, at 9:05, Uni was joined by Barn 48-based Brown-trained stablemates Thais and Wow Cat and galloped 1 ¼m on the Santa Anita main track.
Sistercharlie – Peter Brant’s heavily favoured Filly & Mare Turf defending champ Sistercharlie galloped 1¼m on Wednesday morning. Based in Barn 48, the Chad Brown trainee left (at 8:05 a.m.) and returned with stablemates Dunbar Road and Bricks and Mortar.
“She’s really training great,” Brown said.
A four-time winner, Brown will attempt to win back-to-back editions with the same horse for the first time. The lone mare to win the race twice, legendary champ Ouija Board, won it in 2004 and 2006. Sandwiched between those was a second to Bobby Frankel-trained Intercontinental in 2005. Brown happened to be Frankel’s assistant at the time.
Eddie Haskell – Eddie Haskell was first to the track today following the 7:45 a.m. renovation break ahead of a parade of Breeders’ Cup entrants for his continued training ahead of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. His trainer, Mark Glatt, kept watch as the consistent gelding galloped 1m and jogged another 1 1/2m.
“He’s ready to run, so we’ll be doing less with him in advance of the race now,” Glatt said.
Eddie Haskell has been installed as the morning-line favorite over his 11 rivals in the 5f turf race.
Andesite – Kent Spellman and Madaket Stables LLC.’s Andesite hasn’t let his connections down yet in three career starts and trainer Brad Cox is expecting more of the same from his consistent, hard trying colt in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf presented by Coolmore America. The son of The Factor has a record of 1-1-1.
“He’s doing well,” Cox said. “He’s a horse that tries every time. We’ve led him over there three times and he’s given us big efforts every time. He had a tough trip at Saratoga (when third in the With Anticipation Stakes) and came back to run a big race in the Pilgrim (when second by a head). I think if he hadn’t been a green 2-year-old that day, he could have gotten there. He’s a solid horse, not a big horse, but he gives you a big effort every time. He’s a very honest, solid horse.”
Eddie Kenneally (trainer of Abscond, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Scabbard, Juvenile) – Trainer Eddie Kenneally was happy to have some cool temperatures greet him during his first morning at Santa Anita Park to oversee his Breeders’ Cup contenders. He was more pleased to see that his young runners appear to be enjoying the conditions as much as he is.
Kenneally got to see for himself how his horses are getting over the track Wednesday, monitoring Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Scabbard and Juvenile Fillies Turf entrant Abscond as they galloped under Leandro Contreras.
Scabbard was first of the duo to hit the track, coming out shortly after 6:30 a.m. and going through his paces. The son of More Than Ready was second behind Juvenile morning-line favorite Dennis’ Moment last time out in the Sept. 14 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, putting in a sneaky good run after having to steady near the half-mile pole.
“He’s taking everything in stride and seems to get over the track really nicely here,” Kenneally said. “I’ve been happy enough with what I’ve seen here this morning. I think he had a good performance last time out where he didn’t have the best trip. He kind of got stopped at a bad time in the race and had to check and get going again. He did well to kick it back in and keep running and didn’t give it up. He was beaten less than two lengths that day.”
Abscond had far better luck than her barnmate in her most recent start, a top-level victory in the 1m Natalma Stakes at Woodbine that earned her a fees-paid berth into the Juvenile Fillies Turf. That outing marked the second win for the daughter of Blame in her third career start and was her first try beyond sprint distances.
“She’s gained weight and she’s just been training really well,” Kenneally said. “She keeps moving forward and I think the mile race here will suit her fine. I think the firm turf here will suit her, I think she’ll love it. I think we’re ready.”
Crystalle – Tobey Morton and her husband Mike bought a daughter of Palice Malice in April that they thought was headed to a career on dirt. Six months later they will watch Crystalle run Friday in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The Mortons sold a stake in her to Chuck Hovitz before she debuted at Saratoga this summer and she has brought the partners to the Breeders’ Cup. It has been an unusual ride that began with her being disqualified from first to third in her first start. She broke her maiden in a stake, beating another Breeders’ Cup-bound subsequent stakes winner (Sweet Melania) and just missed in the Miss Grillo in her third race.
Trainer John Kimmel said the move to the grass was an experiment.
“She was training with some colts that were outworking her,” Kimmel said. “Even though she was finishing pretty well she didn’t really seem to have much early speed. In the summer, if you didn’t want to get facialed in a 2-year-old sprint race, the option was to stretch her out and put her on the grass.
“Not knowingwhat the outcome would be – I had worked her one time on the grass – we ran her a mile and a sixteenth on the grass. True to form, she kind of broke, fell back to trail the field by seven, eight, 10 lengths, then started picking up horses. When she reached the second turn she started to cruise, got to the top of the lane, switched leads and she took off.”
Though Crystalle won easily by 2 ¼ lengths, the stewards ruled she had bothered other horses and dropped her to third.
Rather than try again in a maiden race, Kimmel and the owners opted to jump to a stake. Fearing that she might not get into the field of the Natalma at Woodbine, they ran her in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga. She missed the break because the assistant starter was holding her head in the gate, roared from behind and caught eventual Jessamine stakes winner Sweet Melania at the wire. In the Miss Grillo at Belmont under Joel Rosario on Sept. 29, she turned in another big performance behind a slow pace.
“He just left her a very lot to do,” Kimmel said. “She came flying and just didn’t get there in time, even though she ran her last quarter in 22.17 seconds, which is extremely fast for a 2-year-old filly.”
Crystalle, though just one for three in her career, showed her connections enough to try to the one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf with their “dirt” horse
“Hopefully this race will be a much more pace-orientated race,” Kimmel said. “The takeaway is that it’s going to be a sixteenth shorter, so it’s going to be a tough task. You can’t have an encumbered run. Basically, she is going to have to make her run and not stop. There is no room for error in this race with 14 horses. She’s a very happy girl and hopefully she’s going to come out and have a fighting chance to have this thing done.”
Fair Maiden – Trainer Eoin Harty, who won his only Breeders’ Cup for owner Godolphin Stable, is hoping to add another to their trophy case Friday with its homebred Fair Maiden in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. The chestnut daughter of Street Boss had a starting gate session before galloping 1 1/2m with exercise rider Humberto Delgadillo up.
“We always thought highly of her, but felt she was something special after her first work,” Harty said. “That’s when you can usually tell with the really good ones. I took her to Woodbine because I couldn’t find a race for her in Chicago. She won her first grass race easily, then zig-zagged a bit when losing by a neck in the next one, so we added a small blinker with a cutout at the back.”
On assessing the race strategy, he added, “She has some strategic speed, so maybe that will help us get first run on those European horses, because you don’t want to run toe-to-toe with those closers.”
Selflessly – Klaravich Stables’ Chad Brown-trained Selflessly went out in a group with stablemates Structor and Without Parole at approximately 6:45 a.m., leaving Barn 48 and proceeding to gallop 1 1/4m over the Santa Anita main track.
The daughter of More Than Ready, one of the more successful sires at the Breeders’ Cup in recent history, last out won the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park as a maiden. She had finished second in her debut at Saratoga one month prior. She will break from post 13 in the 1m Juvenile Fillies Turf and is the 8-1 co-fourth choice on the morning line. Javier Castellano rides.
“That’s not a good draw for her, but she’s training well,” Brown said. “With 2-year-olds, as they’re rapidly developing earlier on in their careers, you want to see them coming around at the right time and she seems to be doing that.”
Brown has dominated this race, with a record of 23-5-2-0, including the past three editions with Newspaperofrecord, Rushing Fall and Newmoneyhoney. He also won with Lady Eli in 2014 and Maram, his first Breeders’ Cup starter, in 2008.
More Than Ready has a record of 21-6-2-2 with progeny at the Breeders’ Cup, including two winners of the Juvenile Fillies Turf: More Than Real (2010) and Rushing Fall (2017). Eighteen of his 21 starters have finished in the top six, earning purse money.
Vitalogy – With trainer Brendan Walsh leading him to the track himself, the son of No Nay Never put in another gallop Wednesday under Paul Madden.
Wesley Ward (Cambria, Four Wheel Drive and Kimari) – All three of trainer Wesley Ward’s horses arrived at Santa Anita Tuesday shortly after lunchtime and were bedded down in the stable of trainer and longtime friend Blake Heap. The trio—Cambria, Four Wheel Drive and Kimari—are all entered in the same race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and collectively, they sport an impressive eight wins from nine starts. Four Wheel Drive, the lone colt among the three, is the morning-line choice in the 5f dash.
Wednesday, the threesome had the chance to stretch their legs, jogging around the 1m oval, then walking back through the paddock under the watchful eye of Heap. Speaking to their relationship, Heap said.
“We’ve know one another since we were teenagers,” Heap said. “My father (longtime Midwest trainer Lamont Heap) employed Wesley when he was 14 to walk horses. When Wesley first started riding, I was working around the shedrow and we became buddies. He’s been shipping his horses out to me for years. We go back about 50 years together.”
BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC RUNNERS
Code of Honor – William Farish’s homebred colt jogged for a while Wednesday morning, then galloped 1 1/2m for exercise rider Lexi Pradun.
Rider and horse returned to the barn area through the paddock at Santa Anita and returned to the paddock in mid-morning for more schooling in preparation for Saturday’s $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Code of Honor drew the outside post in the field of 11 and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. He will be ridden for the eighth consecutive time by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was happy with the way the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner moved on the track.
“It looks like to me that he gets over it fine,” McGaughey said. “I asked Lexi too and she said fine. She took hold of him the whole way. I can’t worry about the track.”
McGaughey has nine victories in the Breeders’ Cup, but is winless in eight starts in the Classic. His best finishes have been seconds by Seeking the Gold in 1988 and Easy Goer in 1989. McGaughey said he feels good about his chances of finally getting his Classic with Code of Honor.
“There are two really major races in the United States that I haven’t won, the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” he said. “I’ve been close in both of them, so they’re both on my list. I hope that maybe this year we can get the one behind us.”
After Code of Honor was moved up from third to second in the Kentucky Derby, McGaughey decided to skip the last two Triple Crown races and ran the Noble Mission colt back in the 1m Dwyer on July 6 at Belmont Park. He won by 3¼ lengths then won the Travers and the Gold Cup, on the disqualification of Vino Rosso.
“I think the key to him is that after the Derby he got a little bit of time until the Dwyer and then he got a little bit of time until the Travers,” McGaughey said. “For me to see his development, not only mentally but physically too, has been something I’ve seen in very few horses. As much as he’s grown up, as much as he likes doing what he’s doing, is something.
“A lot of that was the Dwyer when he was kind of back there going a mile and Johnny kind of made of a move and he had to bully his way through a hole. I think the horse learned a lot that day and maybe we learned a lot about how he wants to run and how he wants to be ridden. We kind of laugh and say we wish we had this horse today on Derby Day, but we didn’t. It’s an entirely different horse now than it was then.”
Elate/Yoshida (Bill Mott) – Elate and stablemate Yoshida both galloped Wednesday and went through the paddock with exercise rider Juan Quintero aboard each.
With this being the 10-year anniversary of champion Zenyatta becoming the first and – to date – only female runner to win the Classic, more than one observer has mentioned how fitting it would be should Elate match that feat Saturday. That Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is even putting such a challenge before the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro speaks volumes about his confidence in the multiple Grade I winner.
“We’re throwing her in deep water. We seldom run the fillies against the colts unless we think we’ve got a top class horse and one that would fit the race,” Mott said. “I think she fits the conditions of the race very well and she’s proven it. Of course we’re running against good competition so she still has to run her very best race to compete.”
Yoshida is winless in five starts this year but, with Grade I triumphs on dirt and turf, is one of the most versatile runners on the entire Breeders’ Cup card.
“It’s very rare. Generally, with most horses they are either clearly one or the other,” Mott said of Yoshida’s dual surface top-level ability. “I mean it’s just interesting how sometimes you can have a horse who is so good on the dirt. I mean you can have a champion horse and run them on the turf and they just don’t do that well. It should make him an interesting stallion prospect just the fact that he’s done both.”
Higher Power – Hronis Racing’s Higher Power galloped and stood in the gate Wednesday, coming to the track around 6:30 a.m. along with stablemate Ollie’s Candy.
This year’s Classic field is widely considered one of the more wide open editions of the race, as evidenced by the tepid 3-1 favoritism for McKinzie on the morning line. Higher Power has been worse than third just once in his past seven starts and scored a victory in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 17. Though trainer John Sadler said the son of Medaglia d’Oro still needs to prove he can duplicate that form, the bay colt is far from the only one with questions hanging over them heading into Saturday.
“It’s an interesting field, it’s probably a great gambling race this year because you could take a lot of horses and say they have a pretty good chance,” Sadler said. “There are a lot question marks on all of them. With Higher Power, can he repeat that performance that he had at Del Mar and do it again? Because he’s got that one. But he has to do it again. Can McKinzie go a mile and a quarter? That’s another one. Then, how do the 3-year-olds stack up against the olders? So there are a lot angles you can look at. (Elate), she looks like she wants that distance, she’s also a Medaglia d’Oro. That’s another fascinating look at that race.”
Math Wizard – Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard jogged once around the Santa Anita track under assistant trainer Sabine Langvad Wednesday on the morning after arriving from South Florida to prepare for the Classic.
“He got in late last night. He got in around 10 [p.m.]. His flight was delayed because of weather,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He ate well. He traveled well. He likes to travel. Whenever he travels, he wakes up when he gets there.”
Math Wizard, who woke up at Parx to post a 31-1 upset victory in the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby from the rail post position, will break from post one again Saturday.
“I like the one. We actually wanted the one. A lot of people don’t like the one but in Pennsylvania he was one and in Ohio he was one, and those were his two best races,” said Joseph, whose trainee finished second in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown in June. “We were actually rooting for the one. He’s not a front-runner, but he can sit off them and save some ground.”
Math Wizard is owned by John Fanelli, Khalid Mischref, Cash Is King LLC, LC Racing LLC, Collarmele Vitelli Racing Stables LLC, Ioannis Zoumas and Bassett Stables.
McKinzie –What’s in a name? For Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, there is a significant emotional attachment for McKinzie, his morning-line favorite for the Classic.
The chestnut son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense was named for the late racing executive Brad McKinzie, a Baffert pal since their college days at the University of Arizona and a friend of the co-owners, Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Purchased for $170,000, he is 7-5-0 in 13 career starts and has earned more than $2.2 million. More important, he has more than delivered as a tribute to Brad McKinzie, who died of cancer at 62 in August 2017.
Baffert typically has a cool approach, but he was visibly moved after McKinzie won the Whitney on Aug. 3 at Saratoga Race Course.
“A lot of people don’t think I have a heart, but I do,” Baffert said. “I’m a softy and Brad was the biggest softy of all. I remember when I won my first Kentucky Derby I was up on the podium and I looked down and see Brad and he’s in tears, he’s just crying. We have known him forever and that’s just the kind of guy he was. My No.1 fan. He’d show up for all the Triple Crown races. When he got sick, that last year it was tough watching him go through what he went through. And, the things he sacrificed in life to take care of his family. And he would never complain. Until the last day. I would always say ‘Brad, how are you feeling?’ ‘Great.’ That was him. He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him. He was tough. I wish I could be that tough.
“To me, I think we’re all living through this horse, thinking about Brad. He’s got a lot of friends. You’d be surprised of the inner circle that he had of people. I feel a little extra pressure on me when this horse runs because I know we’re all thinking about him. I’m just glad that we named a really good horse after him because it would have been horrible if I had to geld this horse.
“Brad was probably one of the funniest guys I’ve ever been around. We just loved him. We still tell stories when my family gets together. There was no one more fun to be with when you went to a football game because he was just hysterical. But a great human being. He’s still very missed.”
On Wednesday morning McKinzie jogged a mile under exercise rider Humberto Gomez.
Mongolian Groom – Trainer Enebish Ganbat said he is using the same recipe for success with Mongolian Groom as he approaches the biggest test of his career.
Ganbat sent the 4yo gelding for his morning exercise Wednesday and morning and had rider Jesse Cardenas jog him a mile then gallop a half-mile.
“I want to do exactly what I did before the Awesome Again,” Ganbat said.
It proved to be a winning approach when Mongolian Groom led from gate to wire to win the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at odds of 25-1.
Abel Cedillo, who worked out the Awesome Again victory, will ride Mongolian Groom in the Classic.
Owendale – Rupp Racing’s Owendale made his presence felt Wednesday, his first morning to gallop at Santa Anita since arriving Tuesday from Kentucky and the confidence he was exuding carried over to his trainer Brad Cox.
“He’s moving as well as he can move, looks as well as he can look,” Cox said. “It’s a step up from the Oklahoma Derby, but’s a nice horse going the right way at the right time.
“He hasn’t run a bad race all year. Once he took off this spring, when he won the Lexington, that was his coming out party. It showed he can run with the big horses. His training has been the exact same all year. He’s a very consistent horse and keeps getting better. He galloped a mile and a half this morning and was putting off 16s for every eighth (of a mile). He couldn’t be doing any better.”
Seeking the Soul – Charles Fipke’s Stephen Foster Handicap winner Seeking the Soul followed his usual routine of galloping 1 ½m before daylight and continues to “train beautifully,” according to his trainer Dallas Stewart.
Vino Rosso – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso galloped 1 3/8m and stood in the starting gate at Santa Anita Wednesday morning in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Classic.
“He’s doing great,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He showed a lot of energy going on and off the track.”
Vino Rosso already has a 1 1/4m GI victory at Santa Anita on his resume. The 4yo son of Curlin captured the May 27 Gold Cup, seven weeks after finishing fourth in the 7f Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.
“The Carter was a Grade 1 opportunity and he’s always run well at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, it was probably the slowest half-mile pace in the history of the Carter and it didn’t set up well for him,” Pletcher said. “If we could do it all over again, we’d probably put a pacesetter in there to insure that there’s decent fractions. But you’d never expect a Grade 1 sprint to go almost :47 to the half.”
The Carter experience did, however, move Vino Rosso forward.
“He was training super and it seemed like the Santa Anita Gold Cup was coming up at the right time,” Pletcher said. “He was doing well and we felt getting a race over the track would let us see where we are as far as the Breeders’ Cup.”
Vino Rosso stalked the early pace in the Gold Cup before moving to the lead on the turn into the homestretch and edging away to victory by three-quarters of a length.
“It gives us encouragement. He has a good race over the track at the distance,” Pletcher said. “It’s good to know that.”
War of Will – Trainer Mark Casse is always encouraged whenever the son of War Front gets to bucking on the track, and War of Will threw in one of playful jumps while galloping along with stablemate and Breeders’ Cup Mile contender Got Stormy Wednesday morning.
With Shane Tripp in the irons, War of Will visited the gate after his routine exercise.
It would be unfair to frame a campaign that includes a Preakness Stakes triumph and two other graded-stakes wins as a disappointment but War of Will has stumped his connections with some less than stellar runs that didn’t have obvious excuses. The bay colt trained in superior fashion leading up the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, but could only manage a fifth-place run that day. His third-place effort in the Pennsylvania Derby was an improvement but trainer Mark Casse felt the colt lost focus in the lane, hence the decision to add blinkers to War of Will for Saturday’s Classic.
One of the many reasons why War of Will’s Kentucky Derby outcome – in which he was elevated to seventh via disqualification after being interfered with by Maximum Security – stung so deeply for Casse was because he felt his charge was coming into that race in peak form.
“In all honesty, he’s thrown some clunkers at us that I don’t really know why. So that’s a bit disappointing,” Casse said. “He needs to come with his Derby race (on Saturday). Everything we’ve kind of done up to this now has been looking at how we did the Kentucky Derby. I think he came with his ‘A’ game in the Kentucky Derby. Probably a B-plus game in the Preakness. Our feeling is he’s older, he’s more mature now and why not. If he comes with his big race, then everyone will know he’s there.”