Breeders’ Cup Catch-Up: Happy Saver makes late run at division leadership
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
Oct. 7, 2020
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)
Oct. 10, 2020
Oct. 10, 2020
Flower Bowl (G1)
Oct. 10, 2020
Filly & Mare Turf
Oct. 10, 2020
Second of July
Oct. 11, 2020
Juvenile Turf Sprint
On the rise
Since she returned from a layoff in June, Civil Union has been an unstoppable force for trainer Shug McGaughey. The 5-year-old daughter of War Front has rattled off four straight victories, culminating with a gutsy triumph in the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl (G1) at Belmont Park.
After she saved ground behind a modest early pace, Civil Union bulled her way out of traffic at the top of the stretch and rallied resolutely to win by a head over the late-charging My Sister Nat.
Civil Union finished fast, with a final quarter-mile in :22 3/5, and her previous victory in the 1 3/8-mile Glens Falls (G2) at Saratoga proves she can compete consistently against quality competition.
This is a mare getting good at the right time, with the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) looming as a prize worth pursuing.
Four starts, four victories. The improving 3-year-old Happy Saver had no trouble with the step up in class and distance for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park, where he rallied professionally along the rail to defeat fellow sophomore Mystic Guide by three-quarters of a length.
The early pace wasn’t fast, which means Happy Saver showed significant talent to run down the pace-tracking Mystic Guide and frontrunning 4-year-old Tacitus.
With the win against older rivals over 1 1/4 miles, Happy Saver is an intriguing new face in the 3-year-old division. He finished fast, with a last half-mile in about :48 flat, and will warrant respect in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
A Jockey Club Gold Cup/Classic double would put Happy Saver in the conversation for a year-end division title, particularly if he can defeat Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tiz the Law and Kentucky Derby (G1) victor Authentic at Keeneland.
It’s safe to say Jackie’s Warrior has emerged not only as the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, as well.
The son of Maclean’s Music is undefeated in four starts and added a runaway victory in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont to previous successes in the Hopeful (G1) and Saratoga Special (G2) at Saratoga.
From start to finish, Jackie’s Warrior was dominant. Solid fractions of :23.12, :46.54, and 1:10.68 couldn’t begin to tire him out, and down the stretch, he opened up to win the 1-mile race by 5 1/2 lengths.
His final time of 1:35.42 was fast, which cements the Steve Asmussen trainee as a clear favorite to win the Juvenile.
The two-time Grade 1 winner was favored at 2-1 to win the Flower Bowl, but after she tracked a reasonable early pace, she faltered down the stretch to finish fourth, by 3 1/2 lengths.
Off the heels of a surprising, runner-up effort in the Canadian (G2) at Woodbine, it’s beginning to feel as though Cambier Parc has taken a step backward this season. She will need improvement to vie for victory in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Twice placed in the 2019 Triple Crown series, Tacitus was expected to prevail in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as the odds-on favorite.
Returning to the site of his runaway victory in the July 4 Suburban (G2), Tacitus enjoyed a comfortable early journey and secured an uncontested lead, through unremarkable fractions of :24.93, :49.68, and 1:13.61. But when the real running began, Tacitus weakened steadily to finish third, by two lengths, a setback for his chances in the Classic.
After she obliterated her rivals by 9 1/2 lengths in Saratoga’s Spinaway (G1), it appeared as though Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) contender Vequist could be any sort of filly, which is why bettors favored her at 9-10 to prevail in the Frizette (G1) at Belmont Park.
But tougher competition over a mile didn’t agree with Vequist. After she tracekd the pace, she had the length of the stretch to run down Adirondack (G3) winner Dayoutoftheoffice, but failed to do so and settled for second, by two lengths. It wasn’t a bad effort, but it did remove the aura of invincibility from Vequist’s résumé.