Thoughts as we reach the quarter pole of the thoroughbred racing season (and not for the NFL for those who think it is after Week 4)…..
- Frank Stronach continues to tinker with the Pegasus Invitational World Cup Day in January by adding a multi-million dollar turf race in addition to the dirt race. The addition of the turf race, which will be run at 1 3/16 miles, aims to attract and showcase twelve of the best older turf horses from around the world turning the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational into a Championship Invitational Series.
- The total purse for the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will sit at $7 million with $3 million awarded to the winner. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational, to be contested on the dirt at 1 1/8 miles, will offer a $9 million purse with a $4 million prize waiting for the winner of the twelve-horse field.
- I still think that a Pegasus-Dubai World Cup-Stephen Foster-Whitney-BC Classic series with bonuses for older horses, might keep a few horses in training. Or tying in the Awesome Again and Woodward in a FedEx Cup style series might drive some excitement. Just a thought.
- Another successful Woodbine Mile two weeks ago, the third straight year the race was held on a Saturday instead of going head-to-head with the NFL on Sunday. Having the four stakes races in a row was a marked improvement from prior years when an allowance or maiden was place within the Late Pick-4.
- Up the Thruway on Saturday, Finger Lakes will run its richest stake of the season. The $200,288 Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-old New York-breds drew seven rivals, two from the Todd Pletcher barn. Pletcher will send second choice La Fuerza to post at odds of 5-2. Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez will make a rare appearance at the Finger to ride Bourbon Mission (10-1) for Pletcher. Dugout was named the 8-5 favorite for trainer Larry Rivelli.
- Another year, another missed Presque Isle Mile and Masters.
- Fort Erie has eight race dates left on its calendar, wrapping up on Tuesday, Oct. 18 on Fan Appreciation Day. Free pocket programs will be available on track and lucky draw prizes will take place between races.
- This is a huge weekend when it comes to preps for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with races in New York, Kentucky and California all weighing in on who will be in the gate on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
- Belmont Park will serve up one of its best Jockey Club Gold Cup fields in recent memory. Whitney winner Diversify (4-5) is the odds-on favorite, but he’s not without competition. Sophomores Mendelssohn (7-2) and Gronkowski (4-1) will try older horses for the first time and Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow (6-1) makes his first U.S. appearance since last year’s Kentucky Derby.
- At Churchill, the sixth annual Lukas Classic will be run at 1 1/8-miles on Saturday night and Mind Your Biscuits will attempt to win going around two turns for the first time as the even-money favorite. His performance will ultimately determine which Breeders’ Cup race he will point towards (Classic, Sprint or Dirt Mile).
- At Santa Anita, Accelerate (3-5) and West Coast (7-5) will face off in the Awesome Again. Accelerate is currently the No. 1 ranked horse in the NTRA Top Ten and comes off an impressive victory at Del Mar. West Coast has been off since the Dubai World Cup and if you are reading Bob Baffert’s body language he probably needs a race before we see his best.
- Speaking of Baffert, he could start and end the season with the best 3-year-old in the land. Ironically it is with two different horses. After Justify’s retirement, his early season Derby hopeful McKinzie returned to the track last weekend to win the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby and could still be heard from in the Classic.
- Belmont will also host three other graded stakes on its Super Saturday card including the Grade 1 Vosburgh and the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.