Breeders' Cup Catch-Up: Four horses on the rise

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September 28th, 2020

Who’s on the rise heading into the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland? And whose form is slipping as the year-end event approaches?

Each week, we’ll review the latest “Win and You’re In” qualifiers from the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series and explore who’s hot and who’s not heading into the Breeders’ Cup.

Latest Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Qualifiers

Isabella Giles
Rockfel (G2)
Sept. 25, 2020
Juvenile Fillies Turf
New Mandate
Royal Lodge (G2)
Sept. 26, 2020
Juvenile Turf
Amanzi Yimpilo
Speakeasy S.
Sept. 26, 2020
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Firenze Fire
Vosburgh (G2)
Sept. 26, 2020
Mucho Unusual
Rodeo Drive (G1)
Sept. 26, 2020
Filly & Mare Turf
Get Her Number
American Pharoah (G1)
Sept. 26, 2020
Princess Noor
Chandelier (G2)
Sept. 26, 2020
Juvenile Fillies
Awesome Again (G1)
Sept. 26, 2020
Pimper's Paradise
Grande Premio Brasil (G1)
Sept. 27, 2020
C Z Rocket
Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2)
Sept. 27, 2020
Harvest Moon
Zenyatta (G2)
Sept. 27, 2020

On the rise

Big Runnuer

Unbeaten in three starts this season, Big Runnuer cemented his credentials for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) with a powerful performance in Friday’s Eddie D. (G2) at Santa Anita.

Favored at 3-2, the fleet 5-year-old roared to the front through blazing fractions of :21.96 and :43.98, then kept going through a fifth furlong in :11.25 and a final sixteenth in :05.92 to win by a length in 1:01.15.

Big Runnuer stayed on strongly despite the intensity of the early pace and missed the course record by just 0.15 seconds. His combination of blinding speed and impressive resilience will make him dangerous at Keeneland.

Harvest Moon

She might not be the most heralded 3-year-old filly in training, but Harvest Moon has quietly compiled a strong résumé.

Undefeated in four starts on dirt, the Torrey Pines (G3) winner ran a gutsy race against older rivals in Sunday’s Zenyatta (G2) at Santa Anita.

After she applied pressure to heavy favorite Fighting Mad early, Harvest Moon dug deep down the lane to stem off Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Love and and emerge as a dark-horse contender to upset the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).


A fast pace may have helped his chances, but there is no doubt Improbable was the best horse in Saturday’s Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita.

Fresh off victories in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and Whitney (G1), Improbable trailed his four rivals early, then swept to the front around the far turn and powered clear down the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths.

With three straight Grade 1 wins under his belt, Improbable has thrown his hat in the ring for Horse of the Year honors, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) looming as the ultimate showdown stage.

Princess Noor

There’s no way to tell how fast Princess Noor is capable of running, because no one has been able to challenge this abundantly talented 2-year-old.

She recorded her third victory from as many starts in Saturday’s Chandelier (G2) at Santa Anita, where she tracked the pace, seized command, and drew away to crush her rivals by 8 1/4 lengths.

Her final time wasn’t fast, but Princess Noor never got out of an easy gallop and looms as a clear favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).


Collusion Illusion

After he capitalized on a destructive speed duel to rally and win the Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar, Collusion Illusion found the circumstances less favorable in Saturday’s Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2).

A modest early tempo saw Collusion Illusion switch to pace-tracking tactics, and although he had plenty of room to rally down the lane, he weakened in the drive to finish third by 1 1/4 lengths.

As a lightly raced 3-year-old, Collusion Illusion is still a work in progress, but he’ll need improvement to challenge against tougher competition in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Fighting Mad

After she dominated the Santa Maria (G2) and Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in frontrunning fashion, Fighting Mad was favored at 2-5 to win the 1 1/16-mile Zenyatta.

But, with more pace pressure than usual on the front end, Fighting Mad faltered down the lane to finish third by 1 1/2 lengths, which suggests the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Distaff might be longer than she can handle.

Maximum Security

The Saudi Cup and Pacific Classic (G1) winner entered the weekend with a 3-for-3 record in 2020, but he failed to bring his "A" game in the Awesome Again.

Favored at 1-2, Maximum Security never seemed engaged and had no response when passed by Improbable coming off the far turn.

Perhaps the quick early pace took a toll on Maximum Security, but he had to work hard to secure the runner-up spot and will need much better if he’s going to fight for victory — and Horse of the Year honors — in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


The stretch out around two turns didn’t seem to agree with Spielberg in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita.

Though favored at 11-10, the $1 million yearling purchase failed to kick on, after he tracked the early pace, and weakened to finish third by 5 1/2 lengths.

The class and distance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) might be more than Spielberg is up to at this point.