Thoughts from the eighth pole…
Thoroughbred racing is working towards a climactic Breeders’ Cup (BC) in three weeks, where some monster match-ups are looming in several of the most important divisions in racing. The Win and You’re In (WAYI) races are complete and the fields will start coming together over the next two weeks with pre-entries due by Monday Oct. 24.
The fields for the 13 BC races, with purses totaling $26.5 million, are limited to a maximum of 14 starters. All of the races will be drawn one week later on Oct. 31.
On Friday Nov. 4 Santa Anita Park will host the first four BC races, with nine to follow on Saturday, culminating in the $6 million BC Classic, scheduled for 5:35 p.m. PT (8:35 p.m. in prime time on the East Coast).
The News will once again be onsite in Arcadia, Calif. covering the Classic with undercard coverage online of the 12 other BC races. With several stars such as Tepin (Mile) and Flintshire (Turf) falling in their prep races prior to the Cup, it should once again be one of the best betting days of the year.
Majestic Bonnie tried to qualify for the Juvenile Fillies Turf with a strong showing in the Jessamine Stakes on Wednesday at Keeneland for Bona Venture Stables. She finished fifth in a quality field behind La Coronel, who finished first in the WAYI for trainer Mark Casse. In back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012, the stable based out of Corning, N.Y. produced Royal Bonnie (2011) and Summer of Fun (2012, third place) in the same race.
Frosted’s connections still remain undecided between the Dirt Mile and the Classic for the Met Mile and Whitney winner. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has already said he favors the Classic, but the decision lies with Godolphin. He really has nothing to lose going for the big bucks in the Classic against the heavily-favored California Chrome. He can always go for the Cigar Mile (ala Tonalist) later in November.
The Distaff is shaping up to be quite the race, one that should be an interesting one to keep an eye on the tote board. Songbird figures to be the post time favorite, but big back-to-back wins by Stellar Wind on the West Coast and a group of top contenders loom to challenge the 3-year-old sensation. The top two contenders are expected to be joined by multiple Eclipse champion Beholder, Forever Unbridled, I’m a Chatterbox and Curalina to challenge the undefeated sophomore.
Woodbine will be hosting a big weekend with three graded races on Sunday afternoon, highlighted by the $1 million Grade 1 Canadian International. The $300,000 Nearctic (G2) and $500,000 E.P. Taylor (G1) will be the two graded undercard races leading up to the International.
The International has nine entries, including several from overseas. Dartmouth (GB), Erupt (IRE), Idaho (IRE) and Protectionist (GER) all have arrived from over the pond to contend in the 1 ½-mile race on the E.P. Taylor turf course. Of the four internationals, Dartmouth looks to be the toughest, winning at Royal Ascot in June. William Buick will ride the son of Dubawi, out of a Galileo for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
More familiar names in the race include the G1 Northern Dancer winner The Pizza Man and the second and third place finishers from that race on Woodbine Mile day in Wake Forest and World Approval. They will be joined by hometown favorite Danish Dynaformer, who finished fifth on the course labeled as good on Woodbine Mile day.
Keep an eye out for the #WoIntl hashtag for news and tweets on the big Woodbine weekend.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.