Breeders' Cup roundup: Aug. 2, 2021

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August 2nd, 2021

It’s August, and the summer race meets at Del Mar and Saratoga are in full swing. Key contenders for the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar are taking center stage every weekend, and more than a dozen Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races remain to be run this month.

Let’s take a deep breath and catch up on the latest Breeder’s Cup news and notes.

Shedaresthedevil, Dr. Schivel shine at Del Mar

A pair of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races took place at Del Mar over the weekend, and the results unfolded more or less as expected.

First up was Saturday’s Bing Crosby S. (G1), a six-furlong qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The early fractions (:21.83 and :44.67) were quick, which helped last year’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner, Dr. Schivel, produce a bold rally to defeat longshot Eight Rings by a neck, in 1:10.47. Last year's Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up, C Z Rocket, closed ground gamely but came up another head short, in third place.

With four straight victories, including two wins from two starts in 2021, Dr. Schivel has emerged as a key name to follow on the Breeders’ Cup Sprint scene. The three-year-old colt has three wins from three starts at Del Mar, which bodes well for his chances for glory at the Breeders’ Cup.

On Sunday, 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil had little difficulty during a stroll to victory in the Clement L. Hirsch S. (G1), a 1 1/16-mile steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Shedaresthedevil tracked splits of :23.30, :47.21, and 1:11.77, took command, and edged away to beat multiple graded stakes winner Venetian Harbor by 3 1/4 lengths, in 1:45.38.

Shedaresthedevil has quietly compiled a strong résumé this season. Her three wins from four starts in 2021 include triumphs in the La Troienne S. (G1) and the Azeri S. (G2). In the latter, Shedaresthedevil handed Horse of the Year contender Letruska a narrow defeat, so don’t count Shedaresthedevil out of the mix for year-end honors.

Alcohol Free grabs Breeders’ Cup Mile berth

Some of Europe’s best milers squared off in the Sussex S. (G1) over soft ground at Goodwood on Wednesday, and youth prevailed. The field’s three sophomores — Alcohol Free, Poetic Flare, and Snow Lantern — swept the trifecta in that order, as the filly Alcohol Free kicked clear to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order of Australia set the early pace, but weakened to finish fifth.

A daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up No Nay Never, Alcohol Free is now a three-time Group 1 winner. She previously won the Coronation S. (G1) at Royal Ascot and the Cheveley Park S. (G1) at Newmarket last fall. The Andrew Balding trainee just keeps getting better, though it appears soft ground is her preferred footing, and firm turf — like the kind typically found at Del Mar — might not be ideal.

Essential Quality takes Jim Dandy, Lexitonian upsets Vanderbilt

Although they weren’t part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, the Jim Dandy S. (G2) and Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday are worth highlighting.

In the Jim Dandy, a 1 1/8-mile test for three-year-olds, Belmont S. (G1) winner Essential Quality found just enough speed and stamina to defeat Keepmeinmind by a half-length. The victory reiterated Essential Quality’s leadership among 3-year-old colts and sets him up well for the Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga later this month.

The Vanderbilt produced a much more surprising outcome, as 34-1 longshot Lexintonian­­ — twice placed at the Grade 1 level — finally secured a top-level win. The five-year-old son of Speightstown dueled for the lead, through splits of :22.04 and :44.45, then edged clear of pace rival Special Reserve to win the six-furlong sprint by a half-length, in 1:09.38. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Whitmore rallied mildly to secure third.

Lexitonian has to be viewed as a viable contender for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a race his sire won in 2004.

Upcoming “Win and You’re In” qualifiers

There is only one Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race on the agenda this week, but it’s a big one. Saturday will feature the $1 million Whitney S. (G1) at Saratoga, a prestigious “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

A deep field is expected to turn out for the 1 1/8-mile race, which has been contested by five of the last 11 Classic winners. Stephen Foster S. (G2) victor Maxfield, who has already qualified to the Classic, looms as the probable favorite. But he’ll be joined by Metropolitan H. (G1) winner Silver State, reigning Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Knicks Go, and last year’s champion three-year-old filly, Swiss Skydiver. It might be the best race of the summer.

Stay tuned to TwinSpires Edge for more coverage and analysis as the road to the Breeders’ Cup continues!