Countdown to the Cup, Part 2

Continued from part 1

Saviors of the Turf

We're jumping the gun a bit, but it looks as if Champion Stakes winner Kalanisi will be pre-entered, and space has been reserved on the plane for Montjeu, who will try to go out on a high note after his defeats in the Arc and Champion Stakes. If both these classy colts run, the Turf will go from one of the weakest of the Breeders' Cup races to one of the strongest. Even the presence of just Kalanisi will help a lot. And if he should win, watch the price on Giant's Causeway plummet in the Classic. Remember, it was Giant's Causeway that out-gutted Kalanisi in the Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte International, both at 1 1/4 miles.

Right now, there are 19 horses considering the Turf, and we do have a solid, if not spectacular, nucleus of American horses to attempt to stave off the Europeans. The question is, who are the Americans and who are the Europeans? Technically, Ciro, with two starts in this country, is an American. But Fantastic Light and Ela Athena, also with two starts in this country, are Europeans. Then there are the good old-fashioned Americans, such as the Peter Pan pair of John's Call and Val's Prince, neither of whom have any inclination they are 9-years-old and 7-years-old, respectively. John's Call is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, so we really don't know yet if he'll be supplemented.

Other hard-knocking Americans include Honor Glide, Down the Aisle, and Aly's Alley. Manndar came here from France, but he's now considered American citizen. In addition to Kalanisi and Montjeu, and Fantastic Light and Ela Athena, the European forces will be made up of Canadian International winner Mutafaweq, Fruits of Love, and Mutamam. Fruits of Love, winner of the last two Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot, finished second in last year's Canadian International, and could be a longshot special to keep an eye on. This guy's really been around, having run in England, Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, and Dubai.

Distaff Features Riboletta-Beautiful Pleasure Rematch

Although it makes no sense for Aaron Jones to supplement Riboletta to the Distaff, the owner has apparently decided to bypass the Classic in favor of the filly and mare race. Jones' decision is quite a gutsy move, considering she already has the championship locked up and could lose it should Beautiful Pleasure turn the tables and whip her convincingly. If you have this kind of money to throw around, which Jones surely does, for another $400,000, you can supplement to the Classic and try to stamp your mare's name in the history books as one of the all-time greats. Sounds like a better investment than paying $3 million for a yearling. Even if she gets beat, but runs well, she still could get most of that money back and not diminish her reputation any. All that is easy for us to say.

The Distaff also has the defending champ and last year's Distaff winner Beautiful Pleasure; the sensational 3-year-old Jostle, along with other top-class 3-year-olds Plenty of Light, Spain, and Surfside; and, let's not pack Heritage of Gold away in storage just yet. If Tom Amoss can find out a reason for her dull effort in the Spinster and correct it, she'll still be very much in the picture. And then there is the classy European invader Crimplene, winner of three group I stakes this year, including the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes. Although her bottom line is geared strongly toward grass, her male line has plenty of dirt influences.

We're not sure Elliott Walden is too thrilled about running the front-running Plenty of Light against Beautiful Pleasure, but we can't see Jones, who owns both her and Riboletta, letting this race go by without running someone.

The main question is whether Beautiful Pleasure will move forward or backward off the Beldame, in which she ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:46 2/5. But she is such a big, strong mare, we can only see her turning in another huge effort. If you're looking for a little more value, don't underestimate Jostle. We have no idea just good this filly is right now.

A Juvenile jamboree

All we can say is "Wow." This is going to be one heck of a slugfest, and what makes this year's Juvenile so different from past runnings is that most of the top choices all look like classic prospects who should be even better when the distances stretch out.

When they turn for home, and you have Flame Thrower, A P Valentine, Street Cry, Point Given, and possibly Arabian Light all locking horns, it's going to be quite a sight seeing who's going to emerge victorious from that group. And there's still plenty more. Not far behind are Dollar Bill, Holiday Thunder, Burning Roma, City Zip, Yonaguska, Macho Uno, and Hero's Tribute, any one of which has a legitimate shot to win. City Zip came out of the Champagne with mucus in his lungs, while another promising colt, Scorpion, bled in that race.

We've all witnessed the unwavering courage of Flame Thrower and his never-say-die nemesis Street Cry. We've all witnessed the devastating moves on the turn by Arabian Light and Point Given. And we all recently witnessed the brilliance and professionalism of A P Valentine, who never flinched storming through an opening on the rail in the Champagne. Even over an extremely quick surface, his 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 2/5 was sensational. Point Given, taken out of his normal style of running, pressed a wicked pace and held on determinedly for second, while Yonaguska was taken back off the pace for the first time and responded by closing strongly on the outside to finish a solid third.

Hero's Tribute rebounded from a dismal effort in the Belmont Futurity to win a seven-furlong allowance at Keeneland in 1:22 4/5 to put himself right back in the picture. And remember Dollar Bill, Holiday Thunder, and Burning Roma, all of whom overcame adversity to run big races in the Breeders' Futurity.

Then we have none other than Arazi's half-brother Noverre, coming from France. The Godolphin colt won the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster before finishing second in the group I Dewhurst Stakes. Also coming from Europe is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Turnberry Isle, who scored an easy victory in the one-mile Beresford Stakes at the Curragh.

Whoever wins this race certainly will deserve it. We won't even begin to try to predict the winner until we see these colts in the flesh and watch them train. Even then, it's going to be a challenge. Just sit back and enjoy. This should be one to remember.

Continued. . . .