Espoir City, Japan’s hope for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) to be run at Churchill Downs Nov. 6, drilled six furlongs over the Louisville track to lead a host of workouts on the morning of Oct. 23 from hopefuls for the two-day racing festival.
This was the first of two planned works beneath the Twin Spires for Espoir City, who covered the distance over a fast track in 1:18 1/5 under jockey Tetsuzo Sato.
Espoir City spent about 20 minutes loosening up in the mile chute before beginning his work. Fractions were :14 1/5, :28 2/5, :41 3/5, :54 1/5, 1:06 2/5, and out seven furlongs in 1:33 3/5. After the work, Espoir City walked around outside Barn 42 in the grassy area of the quarantine section for another 20 minutes.
“We are coming to this race with the image of a mile and a quarter race and today was a step in that direction,” Sato said through an interpreter. “The work this morning went as planned. We are not here to pursue speed, just conditioning.”
Espoir City switched leads several times in the stretch, but Sato was not concerned.
“He is up front in most of his races and sometimes he loses a little focus and fools around a bit because he knows he has no competition,” Sato said.
Espoir City arrived at Churchill Downs Oct. 19 and Sato was asked how he felt the 5-year-old horse handled the shipping.
“Much better than I had imagined,” Sato said. “He has shipped within Japan and become accustomed to it. He was a little tired when he got here, but he is over it now.”
Trainer Akio Adachi is scheduled to return to Louisville from Japan for Espoir City’s final work, the day of which has not been determined. Sato, who also has been getting on horses for trainers Dale Romans and Todd Pletcher, was scheduled to return to Japan Oct. 25 but would return for the final work.
Also at Churchill, Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park in his most recent start, worked six furlongs in company with Kensei after the renovation break in 1:13 3/5 under exercise rider Ceasar Garcia for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The two worked on even terms with Haynesfield on the outside through fractions of :12 3/5, :25, :37 1/5, :49 1/5 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5 with Haynesfield kicking clear of his workmate. It was the second Churchill Downs work for Haynesfield, who covered five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 a week earlier in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In other important workouts, Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma had her first drill since winning the Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 10, covering five furlongs in 1:01 3/5, the 11th fastest of 32 at the distance at Churchill.
Working on her own before the renovation break under jockey Tony Farina, Acoma carved out fractions of :12 3/5, :24 4/5, :37 1/5 and out six furlongs in 1:15 2/5.
“It was a nice work and she did it well within herself,” trainer David Carroll said. “I was going to work her a half, but she went five-eighths to get the edge off. Tony knows her and will give me good feedback.”
The Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) will be the final race for Acoma, who has spent the majority of her three-year career at Churchill Downs. She has raced over the track seven times, going two-for-two on the dirt and winning three graded stakes on the grass.
“It’s huge,” Carroll said of what amounts to Acoma’s home-field advantage in the Breeders’ Cup. “If it were anywhere else, we would not be running. She has trained here, had a lot of success here and is very happy here. She has never had a bad race here.”
Robby Albarado, who has ridden Acoma three times, will have the mount in the Ladies’ Classic. Carroll said Albarado may work Acoma in her next work, scheduled for Oct. 31.
“She had an extremely good week last week,” Carroll said. “I am confident she can run well. It is just a question of being good enough.”
Meanwhile, Switch, preparing for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I), worked a brisk five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 for trainer John Sadler.
The first time C R K Stable’s Switch ran against older fillies and mares, she turned in a performance that was nearly one for the record books. In Oak Tree's Lady’s Secret (gr. I) at Hollywood Park Oct. 2, the 3-year-old filly cut the corner at the top of the stretch, opening a daylight lead on a field of five that included the undefeated two-time champion Zenyatta.
“It is etched in my mind,” Sadler said with a laugh. “The thing about it was the place went quiet for a few seconds when Switch spurted clear. And then Zenyatta came on and the place erupted.”
Zenyatta is scheduled to come to Churchill Downs Nov. 2 in a bid to complete her career 20-for-20 with a run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race she won last year against males on a synthetic surface at Santa Anita.
Under exercise rider Lupillo Alferez, Switch worked on her own after the renovation break, recording fractions of :12 1/5, :23 4/5, :35 2/5, :47 2/5, and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 4/5. The five-furlong time was the second fastest of 32 at the distance and comes on the heels of a bullet half-mile move in :47 on Oct. 17.
“It was nice and smooth and she looked good doing it,” Sadler said. “I told him to go in a minute, so that was fine.”
The Lady’s Secret was run at 1 1/16 miles, but Sadler opted to cut back to the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint rather than 1 1/8-mile Ladies’ Classic.
“I am not sure she wants a mile and eighth as a 3-year-old,” Sadler said. “If the Sprint was six furlongs, she would not run but it is not really a ‘sprint’ sprint. Seven-eighths to a mile is her best distance. Next year we can come back in the (Ladies’) Classic at a mile and an eighth. She was fourth earlier in the year at a mile and eighth when she shipped to Gulfstream Park, but she didn’t get the right trip that day."
Team Valor International’s Pluck, winner of the Summer (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine in last time out, worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 in company with Hammock Beach before the renovation break in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT). The move under jockey Garrett Gomez for trainer Todd Pletcher was the fourth fastest of 32 at the distance.
Other Breeders’ Cup works across the nation Oct. 24 included Jessica Is Back (Filly & Mare Sprint) :50 3/5 for a half-mile at Calder; Gio Ponti (Classic) 1:03.55 for five furlongs on the turf at Belmont Park; Winchester (Turf) 1:03.86 for five furlongs on the turf at Belmont Park; Gayego (Dirt Mile) 1:00.18 for five furlongs at Belmont Park; Vineyard Haven (Dirt Mile) 1:02.48 for five furlongs at Belmont Park, and Air Support (Juvenile Turf) :48.42 for a half-mile on the main track at Belmont Park. At Keeneland, Moontune Missy (Filly & Mare Sprint) worked six furlongs in 1:11 3/5.
Others: Quality Road (Classic) 1:01.42 for five furlongs at Belmont Park; Uncle Mo (Juvenile) :49.97 for a half-mile at Belmont Park; Stay Thirsty (Juvenile) 1:01.38 for five-eighths at Belmont Park; Rose Catherine (Turf Sprint) 1:04.26 for five furlongs on the main track at Belmont Park; and Persistently(Ladies’ Classic) :49.62 for a half-mile at Belmont Park.