The preps are over and the journey to Jersey begins. This past weekend's stakes orgy did not measure up to the stirring stretch battles and top-class performances we saw the previous week. While there were some big efforts and exciting finishes, it was not a good weekend for favorites, with several big-name stars and division leaders going down to defeat.
Idiot Proof blazed his way into the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) picture with an eye-catching victory in Oak Tree's $300,000 Ancient Title (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Oct. 7.
The Brazilian-bred Out of Control stole the spotlight from Lava Man and Surf Cat in Oak Tree's $252,000 Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT) with a heart-pounding nose victory over Zann at Santa Anita Park Oct. 7.
Glencrest Farm's Panty Raid ran a disappointing fifth the last time she met rival Lady Joanne. But in the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 7 at Keeneland, the 3-year-old daughter of Include exacted her revenge in convincing fashion, launching an impressive four-wide move in the stretch to defeat Lady Joanne by a half-length.
Kiaran McLaughlin talked all week about how blinkers had made the difference in Daaher's Aug. 26 allowance victory at Saratoga. Apparently, the trainer was right on the money, as the 3-year-old Awesome Again colt was much the best in the $160,100 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) Oct. 7.
Tough Tiz's Sis never let the front-running Hystericalady out of her sight, running down the prohibitive favorite in the final couple of strides to win Oak Tree's $196,500 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup (gr. I) by a head at Santa Anita Park Oct. 7.
A victory in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) last month was not enough to convince bettors that Wicked Style was for real. Going off at odds of 11-1, the 2-year-old son of Macho Uno broke sharply from post 12 and never looked back, taking the $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Cup Futurity (gr. I) by 3 1/4-lengths in front-running fashion Oct. 6.
Artiste Royal, making just his second start of 2007 for trainer Neil Drysdale, drew alongside prohibitive favorite The Tin Man approaching the eighth pole and edged away to a one-length victory in Oak Tree's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Oct. 6.
Shipping cross-country for Southern California trainer Mike Mitchell, favored Sindy with an S took command mid-stretch en route to a 3 1/4-length win in the $200,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup (gr. III) on the Laurel Park main track Oct. 6.
Jamie Theriot, aboard Purim, had no idea if he'd get there. Julien Leparoux, on Cosmonaut, was doing his best to power under the wire. In the stands, 24,480 racegoers strained to see the photo. They saw Purim prevail by a neck in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland Oct. 6.
Nobiz Like Shobiz turned in his most impressive performance on the grass in the Oct. 6 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park. The $300,000 race for 3-year-olds was Nobiz Like Shobiz's toughest assignment so far on the turf.
After flashing brilliant speed in her debut, Indian Blessing showed she's got some stamina as well with a commanding 4 1/2-length victory in the $400,000 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 6 at Belmont Park.
War Pass put in a tremendous performance Oct. 6 to win the $400,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park by 1 1/2 lengths and will now head to the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27 undefeated in three starts.
She was second in her last start, the Aug. 23 Baslton Spa Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, but Vacare would not be denied victory Oct. 6, when she wore down Precious Kitten in the $400,000 First Lady Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland.
In his last two efforts, at Arlington and Turfway Park, 4-year-old colt Off Duty proved an affinity for synthetic surfaces. In the 155th running of the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (gr. III), the son of Yes It's True used that footing to his benefit again, taking the six-furlong event by a half-length over Keeneland's Polytrack.
Swinging wide on the outside as part of a cavalry charge at the head of the stretch, 3-1 shot Wild Gams made a huge move under jockey Ramon Dominguez to win the $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland Oct. 6.
Based on the company he had been keeping, it was going to be difficult to deny favored Diamond Stripes in the $500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup (gr. II). Magna Graduate did everything he could in a stretch-long duel with the 11-10 choice, but came up a half-length short the night of Oct. 5 in New Jersey.
Stonerside Stable's Country Star entered the $500,000 Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) as one of only two juveniles without a win to her credit. It did not matter, as the Empire Maker filly showed a finishing kick that was plenty good enough to earn a one-length victory on Keeneland's Polytrack in the opening day feature Oct. 5.
Trainer Pat Parente saw big improvement from his 2-year-old Storm Code in the gelding's second start when a game second in his stakes debut three weeks ago. The son of High Yield can take another step forward with his first try around two turns in the $250,000 Grey Breeders' Cup (Can-III) at Woodbine Oct. 8.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is high on the "new" Daaher, who won an allowance race in a romp at Saratoga with the addition of blinkers. Daaher looks to repeat his Aug. 26 performance in the Oct. 7 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park. He will meet seven other 3-year-olds in the one-mile dirt race, which has a purse of $150,000.
Multiple grade II winner Surf Cat makes his turf racing debut Oct. 7 for trainer Bruce Headley when he tackles Lava Man and four others in the $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita.
The $300,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 7 carries with it an automatic spot in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) for the winner, but just five trainers opted to run in Oak Tree's six-furlong test over the new Santa Anita Cushion Track.
Three-time graded stakes winner Hystericalady will try to beat four rivals Oct. 7 in the $250,000 Lady's Secret Handicap (gr. I) at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, in what should be a springboard to the $2-million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff later this month at Monmouth Park.
The grade I Lane's End Breeders' Futurity is one of several "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup preps. Unlike many of these Challenge Races, the Lane's End might truly be described as "Lose and You're Out."
The classy 9-year-old The Tin Man will attempt to join another remarkable old-timer, John Henry, as the only three-time winner of Oak Tree's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) Oct. 6 at Santa Anita.
In a race like the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland, it is only fitting that the likely favorite is bred and owned by Shadwell Stable, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and coming off an impressive victory in a major stakes race.
After futilely chasing Lawyer Ron in his past two starts at Saratoga, Diamond Stripes lands in a softer spot when he takes on six rivals as the expected favorite in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) on the night of Oct. 5 in New Jersey.
Although never having officially raced at Keeneland, Wicked Style has done the majority of his training on the Lexington Polytrack. Trainer Rusty Arnold is hoping that will give the talented Macho Uno colt an edge on his 11 contenders in the $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Cup Futurity (gr. I) Oct. 6.
Teuflesberg is only three, but he does not lack experience, having started 20 times in his young career. He will try older horses for the first time Oct. 6.
He may not have a Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner or a Horse of the Year in his barn at this point, but Kiaran McLaughlin has secured the position every trainer would like to hold leading up to the Oct. 26-27 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Monmouth Park.
Now, that was a super weekend of racing. Whether it was Turfway Park's Polytrack, Santa Anita's Cushion track, or the dirt track at Belmont, this was racing at its best. The races were thrilling, formful, and showcased a good number of the sport's top stars.
Rosinka, a game runner-up to Lahudood in the Sept. 30 Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, is under serious consideration for the Breeders' Cup Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Friday's grade I Darley Alcibiades looks to be a solid prep for the Breeders' Cup Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Doug O'Neill, who's shipped in Grace Anatomy from California to face a dozen other 2-year-old fillies, might even say it's "fantastic".
Peter Land, former global managing director of the international public relations firm Edelman, has been named chief marketing officer of Breeders' Cup, officials announced Oct. 1.
Monmouth Park will offer 12 stakes in addition to 11 Breeders' Cup World Championships events during its four-day Breeders' Cup meet Oct. 24-27.
Dixie Chatter, slowed this season by treatment for a throat ulcer, produced the strongest effort of his career in winning the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) on the Santa Anita Cushion Track for trainer Richard Mandella.
English Channel won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) on Sept. 30 at Belmont Park.
The $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) was billed as the return of multiple graded stakes winner Discreet Cat. Instead, it became Fabulous Strike's coming out party.
Undefeated Smarty Deb could be headed to the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) after she defeated her male rivals in the $90,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs Sept. 29 for her fourth consecutive victory.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin enjoyed a big upset in winning the Sept. 29 Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park against a stellar field with Lahudood. McLaughlin's less surprising winner earlier on the card, Etched, could be bound for the $2-million Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Favored Cry and Catch Me gave trainer Bob Baffert his seventh win in the $244,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) in the past 11 years with a game nose victory over Izarra at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet Sept. 29.
Apparently, Student Council's victory over Lava Man last month was not a fluke after all. A decisive win in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) Sept. 29 proved that without a shadow of a doubt.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin told the family to stay home, so he had to celebrate by himself in the winner's circle after winning the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Sept. 29 with Lahudood.
Though just a $25,000 2-year-old purchase, Piratesonthelake has proven himself a consistent sprinter at both Hawthorne and Arlington Park, winning four races during the year. Now the bay gelding might get a chance to show his talent on a national stage, as an electrifying victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) at Turfway Park Sept. 29 may have paved his way to the Breeders' Cup next month.
She's the queen of the California breds. Nashoba's Key takes an unblemished record into the Breeders' Cup next month after she turned back odds-on choice Citronnade in the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) on the turf during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita Sept. 29.
Todd Pletcher was not overly impressed with The Leopard's first three races, so he decided to change things up for the $2.5-million son of Storm Cat, and the Leopard went gate-to-wire in the $75,000 Pilgrim Stakes over the Belmont Park turf Sept. 29
Saturday's Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at Belmont drew nine fillies and mares, almost all of which have a good chance to win the race.
One month from now, English Channel's connections will be taking dead aim at the elusive $3-million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) for a third time. But first, owner James Scatuorchio and trainer Todd Pletcher have to get the 5-year-old son of Smart Strike back on the winning track, as they must tackle six challengers in the one-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Sept. 30.
The spectacular Sept. 30 card at Belmont Park includes four Grade I events, each with Breeders' Cup implications. One of the more anticipated is the $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I), which includes the return of 4-year-old superstar Discreet Cat, who will be making his first start in nearly six months.
A few horses making their final Breeders' Cup preps this weekend have landed in rather soft fields. That cannot be said for the nine fillies and mares entered in the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Sept. 29, as an all-star cast has been assembled for the 10-furlong test on the turf.
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