Breeders' Cup Notes
Nov 1, 2017
Arrogate, Collected, Mubtaahij and West Coast – All four of trainer Bob Baffert’s runners for the $6 million Classic went to the track at Del Mar for the first time Wednesday morning. They shipped from Santa Anita Park early Tuesday morning and walked after arriving. Defending Classic champion Arrogate and Awesome Again winner Mubtaahij both jogged because they had timed works Monday. Colllected and West Coast galloped.
Baffert spent the morning on the front side of the track grounds watching all 11 of his Breeders’ Cup horses during their time on the track and then scooted off for a scheduled video shoot that will be part of NBC’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who is recovering from injuries suffered in an accident on the track during training hours Sept. 17, handled the logistics back at the barn and stayed on contact with Baffert by radio.
“Everything’s fine. It’s all good,” Baffert said. “No surprises. Everything is smooth. Nothing has changed. They shipped well. They got here and they all looked happy on the track. That’s all that matters.”
Barnes said that Arrogate and Mubtaahij galloped 1m. Collected galloped 1 ½ m with exercise rider Augustine Laura and West Coast galloped 1 1/4 m with Dana Barnes.
Churchill – Churchill, one of 13 total Breeders’ Cup starters for powerhouse trainer Aidan O’Brien, but one of only two dirt runners for the stable, is expected to clear quarantine Wednesday night and will make his first appearance on the Del Mar track Thursday.
Gunnevera – Margoth’s Gunnevera’s preparation for Saturday’s Classic got a little more serious Wednesday morning at Del Mar.
The Antonio Sano-trained 3yo colt galloped 1 ½ m, the last 3/8ths of a mile in an open gallop under exercise rider Victor O’Farrel.
“He did it very easy. He was really striding out,” Sano said. “My horse is a very fresh horse. I really like my horse.”
Gunnevera finished second behind West Coast in his most recent start in the 1 ¼ m Travers Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 26.
“My horse is better now than at Saratoga. He has gained weight and is in the best condition,” Sano said.
Gun Runner – Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner went to the track Tuesday morning, leaving Del Mar’s Barn DD at 6:30 under exercise rider Angel Garcia. The 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic stretched his legs with an easy gallop on the main track while assistant trainer Scott Blasi observed on pony. Trainer Steve Asmussen was in attendance for the first time week.
“We’re just blessed to have a horse like him, obviously,” Asmussen said. “He’s very confident. He’s a popcorn right now; ready to run. We’ll school him later today in the paddock and we’ll see how that goes. He’ll school at the gate tomorrow and gallop and then gallop again on Friday.”
“I’m feeling good about it,” added Ron Winchell, principal of Winchell Thoroughbreds. “He’s doing great and is improving. I feel like you must look at Arrogate (as a major contender). He’s a mile and a quarter specialist and at that distance he ran down California Chrome last year. That being said, Del Mar being the shortest stretch run might be a difference maker, as well, and be to our advantage. You have to respect horses like Collected, who hasn’t done anything wrong. I’m not too concerned about a mile and a quarter and I think he proved that in Dubai. If Arrogate was not in that race, Gun Runner wins by five. He’s gotten stronger as he’s aged and is training great.
“I think if he were to be fortunate enough to win, we’ll map out what happens next,” Winchell continued. “He’s probably 50-50 to run next year. Obviously I’m more of a racing guy and my partners (Three Chimneys Farm) are more about breeding. We’ll look at the Pegasus, but this race is our first focus. If he runs in both, he can still go to stud next year, but likely not if he went to Dubai again.”
Being denied a shot to run in this year’s inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational because of a restriction on horses shipping in from EHV1-marred Fair Grounds appears, in hindsight, to be a bit of a turning point for the team surrounding Gun Runner and leaves the racing world with no shortage of “what might have been” in its collective mind. Had Gun Runner raced in the Pegasus, an event in which Arrogate romped, he may not have faced said foe in March’s Dubai World Cup, thus not setting up the remainder of what has become an astoundingly successful season in the same fashion.
“I like to look forward and not backwards, but obviously we couldn’t run in the Pegasus, which was frustrating at the time,” Winchell said. “Did that play a part? No one can tell. We have had a great year thus far and now we are here. Getting into the Breeders’ Cup is always about one hurdle after the next. He seems to like the track: check. My first choice in post positions was post five: check. Is he training well: check. It usually doesn’t happen like this in horse racing, but it has with Gun Runner and hopefully it keeps happening. Now we are in the Breeders’ Cup with a chance at Horse of the Year.”
The Winchell name has had a storied history in racing and its fair share of Breeders’ Cup success, including Southern California victories in the past five years with Tapizar (2012 Dirt Mile) and Untapable (2014 Distaff) and owning and developing America’s perennial top stallion, Tapit, who stands at Gainesway. In tandem with Three Chimneys, they finished second in the 2016 Dirt Mile with Gun Runner, but return in the 2017 Classic with a noticeably improved horse, having reeled off four Grade 1 wins in the past 11 months and three consecutive leading into Saturday’s $6 million affair.
“I kind of look at horses and dream big in the beginning with big hopes for their talent and then taper it back when they start running,” Winchell said. “With Gun Runner, we haven’t had to do that. Last year we had a choice for the Classic or Dirt Mile and we went for the latter thinking he would improve when he got older. He has done that and that is one of those situations where he’s always been thought of highly since day one and that has never changed.
“You just want him to keep going, but at some point they have to stop racing,” Winchell said. “Obviously we are overjoyed with having had Tapit (as a stallion) and Untapable, but winning the Classic would be something different. To win the Classic and be crowned Horse of the Year would be two huge things. You hope to get those bronze (Eclipse Award) statues, but to get that gold one… that puts it into context. Those are things you chase.”
Pavel – With a record of two wins in four tries, in on-and-off fashion, Pavel is giving trainer Doug O’Neill the hope that this will be another “on” moment as the lightly raced son of Creative Cause heads for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday.
“He’s doing super-great and we’re hoping that he’ll come up with another great effort on Saturday,” O’Neill said. “It’s a very tough race but we believe he deserves to be in there.”
O’Neill sent Pavel out for a 1 ½m gallop as he progressed toward Saturday.
War Decree – War Decree, the second half of the Aidan O’Brien Classic entry, was expected to clear quarantine Wednesday night along with his 12 other stablemates and make his first trip to the Del Mar track Thursday.
War Story – In his 23 starts at tracks across the country, Loooch Racing Stable and Glenn Ellis’ War Story has been saddled by nine trainers. Now, he’s found home in the barn of Jorge Navarro.
“He’s doing really good and he likes this track. But, I know we are asking a lot of him,” Navarro said of the 5yo gelding. “We were going to try the Marathon (on Friday), but then Ron (Paolucci, the owner) said, ‘Why not?’ I love the way he’s training on this track and he’s going to run a big race.”
The Classic is loaded with speed and the pace should be hot, and although the son of Northern Afleet has run some of his best races on or near the lead, he’s proved he can come from behind as well.
“I’m going to sit down today or tomorrow and go over the plans, but I think that’s the best way, to sit back and see what develops and then come running home at the end,” said Navarro, who will lead him over for the sixth time Saturday and also runs Sharp Azteca in Friday’s Las Vegas Dirt Mile.
The 30-1 longshot in the 11-horse field will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, Jr., who was aboard when they finished a well-beaten fourth to Classic favorite Gun Runner in the Woodward at Saratoga.
War Story might need a pep talk before getting in the gate.
“We’ve already had that talk,” laughed Navarro. “He can be a little crabby, but today he went excellent out there. He really was amazing. He’s been in so many big dances and they take a toll. But, he’s getting right at exactly the right time.”
Competing for two previous trainers, War Story finished eighth in the 2016 Classic and eighth in the 2015 Dirt Mile.
Paolucci, who won the Juvenile Fillies with adjudged winner Ria Antonia, privately purchased War Story for $275,000 after the horse won his first race at Churchill Downs in 2014. The owner will also be represented at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup by Tell Your Mama, trained by Bob Hess Jr., in the Juvenile Fillies and the Phil D’Amato-train ed Proper Discretion in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
War Story jogged 1m and galloped 1m under Carlos Ortiz at 6 a.m., and they will go out again tomorrow at the same time.
Win The Space – The 5yo son of Pulpit, making his second appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, jogged 1m over the Del Mar main track the second day after he put in his final workout Monday.
The roan showed a laid-back attitude as he walked during warm-ups before heading to the track. That brought a bit of a chuckle and a small smile from trainer George Papaprodromou.
“He wakes up when he gets to the track,” the native of Cyprus said. “He’s pretty aggressive then.”
Abel Tasman – Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman galloped 1 ¼ m under Dana Barnes. Trainer Bob Baffert watched the filly train from the front side and said everything was going fine with her preparations for the race.
Champagne Room – Sharon Alesia, Ciaglia Racing, Exline-Border Racing, Gulliver Racing and Robin Christensen’s Champagne Room galloped a mile early on the main track at Del Mar Wednesday morning under exercise rider Eddie Inda.
Winner of the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year, Champagne Room started 2017 with a third-place finish in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita before going on the shelf in March with an ankle chip.
“We were thinking about a campaign at the end of the year for her,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “It turned out to be a question of what race can I make (leading up to the Breeders’ Cup).”
Eurton chose the Remington Park Oaks at 1 1/16m on Sept. 24 as the comeback race and Champagne Room responded with a front-running 3 3/4-length victory.
“We were thinking about the Cotillion (at Parx Racing on Sept. 23) but that looked a little tough and we thought about races at Charles Town and Churchill Downs,” Eurton said. “The Remington race really fit well. It was six weeks and she has had three works. It was ideal.”
Champagne Room is scheduled to have a paddock schooling session Wednesday afternoon.
Elate – At around 8:30 a.m., as part of the second post-break set, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s standout sophomore filly Elate left Barn DD on Thursday morning and went through the paddock en route to an easy mile gallop over the Del Mar main track. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was led by assistant trainer Riley Mott, whose father and Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott was also on foot.
“She just had an easy morning,” the younger Mott said. “She went through the paddock and galloped and came back. She’s happy. She covers a lot of ground with that big stride and likes the track. She’s a laid-back filly, but she can be stubborn sometimes. She’s smart. She recognizes people and decides who she does and doesn’t like.”
Elate enters with an Eclipse Award on the line for the 3yo filly division and must defeat the last horse to beat her, four-time Grade I winner Abel Tasman, to do so. She will be looking for her third consecutive Grade 1 victory, having taken Saratoga’s Alabama in August and Belmont’s Beldame Invitational in September.
Forever Unbridled – Charles E. Fipke’s homebred multiple Grade 1 winner Forever Unbridled had a similar morning on Wednesday as Tuesday, heading to the track at 6 a.m. with assistant trainer Bentley Combs leading her on pony. She galloped and an easy 1 1/4m under a snug hold from exercise rider Emerson Chavez. The 5yo daughter of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Unbridled’s Song and
Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever will be looking to improve upon a solid third-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff behind champions Beholder and Songbird.
Trainer Dallas Stewart expressed satisfaction in the condition of his seven-time winner and earner of more than $2 million.
“She’s undefeated this year,” Stewart said. “I’m very happy with her. She’s in great shape and couldn’t be doing any better. She appears to be a little stronger and bigger and I feel like she’s very healthy.”
Last out, in the Personal Ensign, Forever Unbridled defeated Songbird at equal weights at Saratoga. A victory by her on Friday at the expense of fellow divisional heavyweight Stellar Wind would likely make her champion older mare.
Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled have faced off twice in their careers. In the 2015 Kentucky Oaks, Stellar Wind was fourth, while Forever Unbridled was 11th — one of only two off-the-board efforts in 16 career races. In last year’s Distaff, Forever Unbridled bested Stellar Wind by 2 1/2 lengths as her John Sadler-trained rival finished directly astern in fourth.
Mopotism – Though winless since February, Mopotism is set to take on the best of her class again in spite of her light regard from Del Mar’s morning-line maker. She is listed at odds of 30-1.
Mopotism’s regular rider Mario Gutierrez will ride 2016 Juvenile Fillies champion Champagne Room, so international star Frankie Dettori has the call.
Mopotism was sent out Wednesday for a 1 ½m gallop.
Paradise Woods – A walk through the paddock and a standing invitation at the Del Mar gate preceded a 1 ½m gallop for trainer Richard Mandella’s Union Rags filly as her preparation for Friday’s Distaff moved forward.
In a field deep in talent and experience, Paradise Woods carries a morning line of 9-2, fifth best among the eight females. The 3yo filly has three wins and a second in her six starts and comes to Friday’s showdown from a scintillating victory in Santa Anita’s Zenyatta Stakes.
Longtime Mandella exercise rider Janeen Painter was up for the morning exercise and Flavien Prat, the only jockey the filly has known, will ride for the seventh time.
Romantic Vision – The connections of Romantic Vision – owner/breeder G. Watts Humphrey and trainer Rusty Arnold – are playing with house money after having their travel and entry fees paid via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” program. The 5yo mare will make her final start Friday and any additional black type or earnings she picks up will be icing on the cake.
“My expectation is for her to run her race and if she does that I’ll be happy,” Arnold said. “I’m just hoping she makes a good showing. A placing would be great and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Humphrey is a third-generation horseman with a broodmare band that has bloodlines he personally has cultivated for as many as seven generations. The Humphrey family has owned every mare on Romantic Vision’s female side going back at least six decades to those owned by G. Watts Humphrey’s grandfather, George M. Humphrey, a prominent horse owner who served as Secretary of Treasury under Dwight Eisenhower.
Arnold confirmed this week that the Distaff will be Romantic Vision’s last run before she heads to Shawnee Farm to add another generation to that line.
“She will be retired after this race and be bred in the spring,” Arnold said.
The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid was out at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday for a 1 1/2m gallop that Arnold deemed “excellent.” She can be seen schooling in the paddock during Wednesday’s sixth race.
Stellar Wind – The morning line favorite for the Distaff hit the track at 5:30 a.m. per her normal routine, galloping 1 1/2m in advance of her final start Friday.
“It was a strong gallop that looked very good,” trainer John Sadler said.
On Tuesday she schooled in the paddock without incident and will repeat the routine this afternoon during the second race.
The six-time Grade 1 winner drew post two for her career finale, which Sadler was fine with.
“I think at a mile and an eighth, with eight horses, everyone should be able to work out the trip that they want,” Sadler said. “I’d always prefer to be outside of the speed horses and we’re inside of the real speed but I think it’ll be OK for her.”
Stellar Wind was pulled from Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale last year, which was always the hope if she was still sound and game for another year of racing after the Breeders’ Cup. This time, though, there is no thought that she might come back to run at six.
“We’re down here with a small group of horses so we’re just enjoying every minute that we still have with her,” Sadler said. “She loves her peppermints so we’re going to put some in her travel bag when she goes back. I actually have to go to Kentucky for the sale so I’ll be over there with her a couple days. We’re just enjoying her and it’ll be sad when she walks out of here.”
There was a buzz around the European barn this morning as some of Europe’s leading trainers were trackside to watch their charges go through their exercise routines out on the Del Mar track.
Sir Michael Stoute, Hugo Palmer and Charlie Hills all flew in to California last night and watched Ulysees (Longines Turf), Queen’s Trust (Filly & Mare Turf), Home of The Brave (Mile) and Cotai Glory (Turf Sprint) all stretch their legs.
Ulysees, with Kevin Richardson in the saddle cantered a lap and a half of the turf with Queen’s Trust following closely behind. When asked about the condition of the turf track Richardson said “It is really good, there is absolutely no firm in it whatsoever.”
Cotai Glory and Home of the Brave both did a steady canter before returning to the barn.
Hugo Palmer, who will actually leave California for Australia to saddle his Melbourne Cup runner before the weekend, said of his Mile challenger Home of the Brave, “This race has been his target all season, we always wanted to bring him here. He should love the track and the going, and hopefully they will help him perform to his very best. I have never had him better than he is now.”
Also out on the turf were Juvenile Turf hopefuls James Garfield, Masar, Rajasinghe and Sands of Mali. All got a good feel of the surface with steady canters with the exception of James Garfield who did a stronger piece of work around a circuit of the track.
George Scott looked on as James Garfield rolled in the sand ring three times back at the Quarantine Barn after his morning workout, and said “He’s in great form, he had a spin round the bend this morning, and he handled it well. He’s a handy horse, so you’d expect him to. He’s a happy horse right now, and let’s hope everything keeps going to plan.”
Once again Charlie Appleby was on hand to witness his two charges Masar (Juvenile Turf) and Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf)
Wuheida looked well at ease on the turf and went a nice steady pace with Kirsty Milczarek in the saddle.
“I’m very happy right now with both Wuheida and Masar,” Appleby said. “They are both doing well, working well, and seem in good form, so I’m hoping they’ll both give a good account of themselves come the weekend.”
The Irish duo of Now You’re Talking (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Beckford (Juvenile Turf) both did slightly stronger canters than the ones they did Tuesday. Both seemed happy in their new surroundings and there appears to be an air of confidence growing around Beckford’s chances in Saturday’s race.
Marsha (Turf Sprint), who will be locking horns again with Lady Aurelia after their showdown in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August had race rider Luke Morris on board and they went for a school around the paddock before jogging around a couple of circuits of the main track behind a pony before doing hack canter and returning home.
“That is just what was wanted” Morris said. “She needed that to keep the lid on her. She felt really good and it was reasonably quiet out there this morning. But when a horse went passed her she was ready to go.
“This is my first Breeders’ Cup and I am really excited about being here. There is a real vibe about the place and you can feel the atmosphere building up.”
Andre Fabre’s Talismanic (Turf) followed a similar procedure to yesterday and jogged half a lap of the track before turning around at the top of the home stretch and cantering around one lap of the main track.
The remaining three French challengers, Senga (Filly & Mare Turf), Karar and Zelzal (both Mile) all went out on to the main track and did a gentle canter.
Francis-Henri Graffard was at track side to see Karar do his morning routine and was pleased with what he saw.
“We did a gentle canter this morning out on the dirt and tomorrow we will go out on to the turf,” Graffard said.
Ribchester (Mile) was the final European horse to go out on to the track this morning. Looking really well in his coat the son of Iffraaj went around two circuits of the turf and both Sean Huggan and Billy Garrity who are looking after the horse whilst at Del Mar were very pleased with how the horse handled the track.
The 13-strong contingent from Ballydoyle is expected to clear quarantine tonight and should be out on the track tomorrow morning.
Chad Brown (Beach Patrol and Fanciful Angel) – Both of Chad Brown’s entrants for the $4 million Longines Turf went to the track with good energy Wednesday morning. Three-time Grade I winner Beach Patrol and multiple Grade I-placed Fanciful Angel each had a routine gallop and quickly returned to Barn DD.
While Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners and Madaket Stables’ et al.’s Fanciful Angel is a recent private acquisition who has made a return that investment quickly – especially when finishing second to his stablemate last out in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational – James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners’ Beach Patrol has risen sharply to the top of the American turf division. The compact dark bay son of Lemon Drop Kid is 2-for-2 since teaming up with Joel Rosario, including consecutive Grade I victories in the Arlington Million and aforementioned Joe Hirsch. A win on Saturday in the 12f turf event would likely mean an Eclipse Award for champion older turf male.
“We had (2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up) Testa Rossi, who I believe had a great shot a couple years ago, but this is as good as it gets,” Covello said. “When we first bought Beach Patrol as a 3-year-old, I thought he would be this good and he projected on numbers to get as good as he is right now, but it obviously it took time and he didn’t seem to get any better last year. It took until this year for him to do it, but he’s really been running well.
“I’m not super-confident because it’s a great race and the post (12) is a little outside what I would have wanted,” Covello continued. “I don’t know how pressured he’s going to be and you have to beat Highland Reel and Ulysses, whom I have a lot of respect for, not to mention all the good U.S. horses. It’s supposed to be tough because it’s the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but I know he will run his race. That is what I am confident in. He always does.”
Oscar Performance – Amerman Racing’s Oscar Performance galloped 1 3/8m before the morning renovation break with exercise rider Arnoldo Orellana aboard for trainer Brian Lynch.
Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year at Santa Anita, Oscar Performance will be piloted for the 10th consecutive time Saturday by Jose Ortiz.
“Jose has always had a lot of confidence in him and he rides him with a lot of confidence,” Lynch said of the young rider who got his initial Breeders’ Cup victory with Oscar Performance last year and has been aboard for all six of his victories. “Each time ‘Oscar’ has lost, Jose has learned from it.”
Ballagh Rocks – Donegal Racing’s Ballagh Rocks has continued to train forwardly for the toughest test of his career in the Breeders’ Cup Mile for trainer Bill Mott. The son of Stormy Atlantic went to the track Wednesday morning, two days after his final breeze, a 4f turf drill in 49.60, with an easy gallop.
Ballagh Rocks will have to improve to compete against the world’s best turf milers, but has held his own against American Grade I company. Last out, he was a gaining third — beaten a half-length — in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 7. A race prior he was third in the Fourstardave at Saratoga on Aug. 12. The winners of both of those events, Suedois and World Approval, return in the Mile.
“I’m hopeful that there’s a good honest pace in there,” Mott said. “He’s run well against good horses but never blown by any of those horses. He needs a strong one to run into. I think that’ll help him out a little bit.”
Heart to Heart – Terry Hamilton’s $1.5 million earner Heart to Heart galloped 1 3/8m on the main track before the morning renovation break under exercise rider Arnoldo Orellana for trainer Brian Lynch.
A nine-time graded-stakes winner, Heart to Heart is seeking his first Grade 1 score in Saturday’s Mile and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
“I had a lot of options for riders, but Julien fits him best,” Lynch said of the rider who has been aboard for six of those graded-stakes scores. “Plus Julien knows this track better than some of the other riders.”
This will be the seventh time Heart to Heart has started in a Grade 1 race. He has finished second three times, most recently being caught late in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland by fellow Mile rival Suedois.
Were Heart to Heart break through Saturday, Lynch has a pretty good idea of what he will do.
“I will probably rip the roof right off the grandstand,” Lynch said with a laugh.
FILLY & MARE TURF
Chad Brown (Lady Eli, Dacita, Grand Jete) — Trainer Chad Brown expressed satisfaction in the form of his trio of horses for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, led by the barn darling, Sheep Pond Partners’ Lady Eli. All three went through routine gallops Wednesday morning and returned promptly to Barn DD with their reigning Eclipse Award-winning conditioner following attentively.
Each charge enters the 9f grass event in good form. Sheep Pond Partners and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ Dacita, a multiple Grade 1 winner, and Juddmonte Farms’ highly regarded homebred Grand Jete enter their third consecutive race together. In August, Dacita won the Beverly D. by a half-length, while a traffic-riddled Grand Jete flew home for the place after breaking free. Four weeks ago, Grand Jete finished third by a length after setting the pace as the even-money choice in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont, with Dacita finishing a hard-charging head second to War Flag.
“Both (Dacita and Grand Jete) are training well,” Brown said. “Dacita is very accomplished in her own right. She’s won some really big races for us and always shows up. Grand Jete is a horse who really keeps improving. She’s had two really bad trips in a row and if she works out a trip this time, she could be right there. I think she’s a top-quality horse and just needs a clean trip.”
Champion Lady Eli, on the other hand, will likely be running her last race Saturday, as she is slated to go in the Fasig-Tipton November Sale days after. The daughter of Divine Park enters with a record of 10-3-0 from 13 starts, including Grade I wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Belmont Oaks Invitational, Flower Bowl Invitational, Gamely and Diana. She gained the adoration and admiration of the racing world when she overcame laminitis, further adding to her reputation as a determined superstar. Second by a nose in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, she returns as the favorite and on the strength of two stellar Saratoga performances against the best of her division.
“Lady Eli is an amazing horse,” Brown said. “After all she’s been through at her age and after all the races to see her on top of her game is amazing. She’s just as much on point as last year and ran a great race last year. Queen’s Trust just found a little bit more under a great ride by Frankie Dettori. Hopefully we can work out a good trip from that post and she’ll bring her best. A mile and an eighth is fine. It’s a good distance for her. There are others in there who like a mile and an eighth as well, so she will just have to try her best.”
Birdie Gold – This lightly raced 3yo daughter of Birdstone will be making her first start in the United States leaving trainer Gary Mandella at something of a loss for words except for what he's been able to glean from her training and her record.
“She stood in the gate and then galloped a mile and a half,” Mandella said. “I'm hoping to get her to the paddock so she can experience that. It’s much different than in her native Peru where they saddle in a much quieter atmosphere.
“I've only had her about four months. This will be her first start here. We didn’t show up for an easy spot, but I'm very happy with my filly.”
Kitten’s Roar – Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey have had a successful history in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, having annexed 2015’s edition with Stephanie’s Kitten, but they are on the outside looking in in 2017 with Kitten’s Roar, the first also-eligible.
Trained by Mike Maker, the daughter of Kitten’s Joy has been a beacon of longevity and consistency this season and exits a tough loss over soft ground in the Grade I E. P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 15. In the money in 15 of 18 races, she has two stakes wins this year.
“She’s sharp as always and has shown no signs of being tired or anything,” Maker said. “Hopefully she gets in. She had a rough go of it in the last race and she ran well. She’s a tough filly, but she’s had a good season and she always tries. She’ll go right from here to the (Fasig Tipton November) sale.”
Zipessa – Empyrean Stables’ Zipessa, winner of the First Lady at Keeneland in her most recent start, galloped 1 1/4m early Wednesday morning under exercise rider Jose Alvarado.
Trained by Mike Stidham, Zipessa will be partnered Saturday by Joe Bravo, who was aboard for the Keeneland victory as well as last year when Zipessa finished fifth in the race beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Queen’s Trust as the longest shot in the race at 53-1.
Stidham is scheduled to arrive in San Diego this afternoon and be at the barn Thursday morning.