Comebacks, break-outs and step-ups sum up the weekend as we begin the season of final preps for the Breeders’ Cup.
To Honor and Serve reminded us of what all the fuss was about in the beginning of the year when he easily won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. The winner of Grade 2 Nashua (replay) and Grade 2 Remsen (replay) was widely considered one of the top triple crown prospects until an injury took him out of contention. His connections decided to take it slow rather than push him towards the Triple Crown, and now he’s made a solid come back, building on an allowance win with a easy victory in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. While there doesn’t seem to be a solid plan yet, trainer Bill Mott was quoted as saying that the Breeders’ Cup Classic was a consideration.
The Grade 3 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf had to be taken off the turf, prompting Wilcox Inn and several others to scratch. The race went to I’m Steppin’ It Up, who gave trainer Tony Pecoraro his 1,000th victory. It’s the time of the year when 3-year-olds start to take on older horses and Pomeroy’s Pistol didn’t have any trouble steppin’ it up against older fillies and mares in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park. Her next target will be the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint where she’s likely to meet Turbulent Descent, who she ran second to in the Test at Saratoga in August (replay). Pomeroy’s Pistol was one of five victories for jockey Javier Castellano at Belmont Park on Saturday.
At Turfway Park the Kentucky Cup made a comeback after taking a one year hiatus. Juvenile winner Hansen seemed to make the biggest splash with a 13 length victory. He also romped by just over 12 lengths in his maiden (pdf results chart). It will be interesting to see how the son of Tapit fares against more accomplished company. His owner gave an enthusiastic “Hell yeah” when asked about the Breeders’ Cup but noted that he would leave it up to trainer Mike Maker. Like Castellano, Maker won five races on the KY Cup card at Turfway Park, including Hansen and La Gran Bailadora, who was all heart running down Bella Medaglia in the stretch of the Distaff. No word on what’s next for the daughter of Afleet Alex (profile) other than she’s likely to stay on polytrack according to Maker.
7-year-old Kentucky Cup Classic winner Future Prospect has turned out to be aptly named. He ran once as a 2-year-old, did not race as a 3-year-old or a 6-year-old, but is undefeated as a 7-year-old, bring his 2011 record to 5-5. He won the ungraded Funny Cide and Jazzing Around Stakes at Saratoga in 2009 but the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic was his first graded attempt (Equibase profile). While there are no definitive plans for what’s next, trainer Dodson Skaggs noted that they might consider the Breeders’ Cup given how well he’s doing.
Next weekend is Super Saturday, featuring a whopping nine Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup qualifying races. NYRA has created a Super Saturday site for their six stakes races (five of them Grade 1). One of the interesting aspects is that plenty of 3-year-olds will face older horses, including Zazu in the Lady’s Secret (who’s training fabulously!) and who already made a great showing against older in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar in August (replay). Other 3-year-olds making their first starts against older include Uncle Mo in the Kelso, Travers winner Stay Thirsty in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Ten Things), and Alabama winner Royal Delta in the Beldame.
There have been plenty of reports of final preps for Super Saturday, such as: Drill, who’s prepping for the Norfolk Stakes, Jackson Bend who’s prepping from the Kelso, Big Drama who’s prepping for the Vosburgh, Stacelita who’s prepping for the Flower Bowl, Uncle Mo for the Kelso and Stay Thirsty for the Jockey Club and Weemissfrankie, who’s prepping for Sunday’s Grade 1 Oak Leaf.
You may have noticed that we quietly rolled out a new feature entitled Trip Notes. Stay tuned throughout the week for updates on preparations, next moves and other things we think you might find interesting. We already have a Ten Things for the Jockey Club Gold Cup and will be publishing a new one for the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita Park, which opens this Friday.
In addition to Banned, Better Talk Now, winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf, is recovering from an illness and seems to be on the mend. Bearpath, who was injured in the John’s Call at Saratoga in early August was euthanized last week as was 26-year-old sire Rahy.
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Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!