Big BC Prep Weekend – RECAP – Super Screener
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Big BC Prep Weekend – RECAP

Photo By: Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire

American Pharoah (G1)

It came as no surprise that Bob Baffert’s Eight Rings would stamp his way firmly into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as “one of the ones”. After the “turning left out of the gate” incident at Del Mar in which he collided with Storm the Court, forcing both horses to lose their riders, he broke sharply here and never looked back while drawing away with ease conquering his overmatched rivals. He still has some learning to do as he was a bit green coming down the stretch, but there is no question about this horse’s talent. It was quite an effort considering it was his first around 2 turns. He earned the following impressive BRIS running line in this race:

First Call = 99; Second Call = 105; Late Pace = 83; Speed Rating = 95  

So, as expected, he unloaded a lot of energy early and then was throttling down in the late stages despite opening up on the field. It was a very useful final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and he will improve off that effort. However, can he rate?  Can he handle kickback? Will he need the lead in the Juvenile and will the pace be manageable? More to come.

Lastly, it appears that the stronger 2 year-olds may have been racing east of the Mississippi this summer which breaks from the West Coast dominance trend we have witnessed over the past several years. For example, Dennis’ Moment, the winner of the Iroquois, is a force to be reckoned with and the outcomes of both the G1 Champagne (Belmont Park) and G1 Breeder’s Futurity Stakes (Keeneland) will be closely watched for clues of other precocious 2 year-olds getting really good at the right time.

Vosburgh (G1)

This year’s Vosburgh Stakes came up as a big disappointment when it came to the final field comprised of just four contestants and only two contenders.  However, those two contenders put on a show as Imperial Hint and Firenze Fire engaged in their own personal match race. It appeared Imperial Hint was all but defeated as they were approaching the wire, pinned against the fence by Firenze Fire, but this game sprint veteran dug in, found more and prevailed in another stellar effort. It was just a slight regression off that huge top submitted last out in the G1 Vanderbilt. Here’s the BRIS running line for Imperial Hint coming out of this race:

First Call = 101; Second Call = 110; Late Pace = 95; Speed Rating= 107

A line like this is good enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and he is clearly the horse to beat come the first weekend in November. 

Firenze Fire was all out in trying to take down Imperial Hint and we probably saw his best on this day so a move forward next out in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint would not be likely.

The small field size of this year’s edition of the Vosburgh foreshadows that we are likely to encounter a smallish field when it comes time for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint… which only serves to aid Imperial Hint’s cause further.

Beldame (G2)

This year’s renewal of the Beldame Stakes came back rather anemic. Taking nothing away from Midnight Bisou’s victory here as she did what she was supposed to do, but her running line came back unimpressive and it was not as strong as her prior race. This amounted to nothing more than a public workout and she left plenty in the tank for the big dance. 

First Call = 84; Second Call = 93; Late Pace = 96; Speed Rating = 96

And, she was flattered by the very weak field comprised of just 4 other fillies and mares that showed up to this race.

The big question the Super Screener will be asking regarding her chances in the Distaff center around her ability to navigate a swifter pace against more rivals going longer. Then again, it’s not the strongest division so her excuses are few.

Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)

With the exception of Preservationist not showing up under what were ideal pace and race flow conditions for the 6 year-old, the results of this one were quite orderly. In this compact field, Vino Rosso went to the lead on a day when this track was favoring those in front. Tacitus tried to engage Vino Ross but was no match and finished 3rd as the horse tabbed by the Super Screener as vulnerable here.

The challenge with these 5-horse, G1 fields is that the pace is typically slow — as it will be here — which turns this 1 1/4 miles race into more of a two-furlong sprint at the end. So, it really favors horses that will be on or pressing the lead, coupled with the ability to quicken during that stretch run. This type of set up works against a true grinder like #1 Tacitus. While the additions of blinkers had him closer to the pace last out (as he will be here) he is still a one-paced type of horse, though he can certainly run all day long so a board hitting result here is highly probable… but he will be up against it for the win purely due to how this race will set up.

#1 Tacitus and #4 Vino Rosso rank on even terms according to the Super Screener.  Very tough to split those two rivals but the Screener gives #4 Vino Rosso the nod coming in as a very fresh horse and finally having those blinkers removed. Plus, he could not be working any better leading up to this. Has a great shot at a mild upset here as the Super Screener projects the submission of a new lifetime top from this horse.

Code of Honor was the next threat to Vino Rosso, as he gathered late momentum trying to close on a track that did not favor this type on Saturday. He easily distanced Tacitus down the stretch while engaging Vino Rosso and that pair battled to the wire with Vino Rosso hanging on by just a nose. However, in the end, he was disqualified for repeatedly bumping Code of Honor down the stretch as he was tiring and drifting away from the rail.

Code of Honor’s running line came back huge, as he basically paired his last-out top. It was a much better performance than what we witnessed in the G1 Awesome Again, especially considering it was earned going 1 ¼ miles.

First Call = 89; Second Call = 105; Late Pace =101; Speed Rating = 108

It was clear that Code of Honor ran the best race in here working against the pace set up and race flow while getting bumped around in the final yards. He is certainly emerging now as the best of the 3-year-old crop and getting good at the right time, while question marks remain around Maximum Security’s return and the Baffert pair of Improbable and Mucho Gusto’s ability to get the 1 ¼ miles distance.

Rodeo Drive (G1)

When it comes to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, the California based runners have performed as woefully as Chad Brown charges and European shippers have been superior. This year will be no exception as one of the weakest G1 fields in memory gathered for the G1 Rodeo Drive. There were just 6 runners, which means there is always a threat that a horse will steal it on the front end, and that is exactly what Mike Smith did in taking Mirth wire-to-wire in okay time. She will move forward off that race but will not get the same pace conditions while facing infinitely better in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. However, given home court advantage and a good move forward, if the pace set up actually comes up favorable, then she is a potential threat to complete the Trifecta or Superfecta at a big, big price.  Let’s see who shows up.

Awesome Again (G1)

Well how about that? McKinzie was defeated by the second longest shot on the board, Mongolian Groom, and it wasn’t even close. Keep in mind, McKinzie had already punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so all connections were looking for was a solid effort that kept him tuned up. No reason to push him hard here, though he definitely got something out of this race.

Mongolian Groom dueled throughout but got away with some pretty easy early fractions. The real running here didn’t start until there were just two furlongs left in the race as indicated by the winner’s running line:

First Call = 89; Second Call = 100; Late Pace = 105; Speed Rating= 105

It was a new lifetime top earned in his 8th race with no break. If he makes the BC Classic, he comes back on 5-weeks rest to run his 9th race without a layoff. Did we see his best here? Really difficult to see a move forward especially with the added ground.

Miss Grillo (G2)

Chalk up yet another win in this race for Chad Brown with Selflessly, who ranked higher than stablemate, Jazzique, while going off at longer odds. This is always a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Selflessly will be a key contender from the US constituency. She tracked a modest pace, enjoying a perfect trip, and quickened when challenged by the late closing Crystalle, who was the Super Screener Top Board Hitter pick.

A handicapping lesson emerges from this race… note that Chad Brown 2-year-olds making their 2nd start on turf move up big time when it comes to the pace and speed figures they produce. This is also the case for trainer Wesley Ward. For Chad Brown, his horses just get better as the distances get longer.

Ava K’s Girl acted up repeatedly prior to loading into the gate and when the gates opened she sprinted to the lead and was keyed up being difficult to restrain tossing her head about. She spit the bit shortly thereafter and drifted back in the field.

Zenyatta (G2)

As we witnessed all weekend long, the Zenyatta came up very compact with just 6 runners. You never know which Paradise Woods is going to show up: she often gets in her own way coming into most of her races way too keyed up. She behaved on this day and dueled throughout with the odds-on favorite, Secret Spice, but then showed some toughness by drawing away with authority and was clearly the better horse on this day. 

However, it was Ollie’s Candy’s trip that was far more interesting, and you can make the case that she ran best of anyone. Desormeaux took her well off the pace (which was not particularly swift) but then, as they progressed down the back stretch, he gently asked her and she made an eye-catching middle-race move. As they came down the stretch she then proceeded to unleash a nice second run nearly catching Secret Spice at the wire. Any time a horse makes two strong moves in a race, that is usually a signal of a big effort to come next out. It was a great way to prep her for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, especially since it will require more late-race stamina. Super Screener is preliminarily tabbing her as a logical long shot. 

Fasten your seat belts as the biggest Breeders’ Cup prep weekend happens this Friday through Sunday with a whopping 20 Graded Stakes taking place over that 3-day period. This coincides with Keeneland’s opening of their fall meet and that track accounts for a third of those graded stakes that will be run this weekend. We’ll focus on the “win and you’re in” stakes races that promise to be an action-packed weekend of Breeders’ Cup preps. 

Until next weekend… go fast and win!

Mike Shutty

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