Breeders' Cup Roundup: Aug. 29, 2022

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 29th, 2022

Racing at Del Mar and Saratoga is reaching its peak as we march toward the end of summer, which means qualifiers for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland are taking place with increasing frequency.

Let’s catch up on the latest news and notes pertaining to U.S. racing’s year-end championship:

Goodnight Olive, Gufo, Laurel River nab Breeders’ Cup qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continued last weekend with a trio of qualifiers from coast to coast.

At Saratoga, Gufo kicked things off by scoring his second consecutive victory in the Sword Dancer S. (G1), a 1 1/2-mile steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). A powerful rally from seventh place carried Gufo to a half-length triumph over longshot Mira Mission.

Victorious three times against Grade 1 company, Gufo presumably heads to Keeneland with the goal of improving upon his 10th-place finish from the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf. It’s possible he’ll tackle a prep race before then, with the Oct. 8 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park a logical option.

Also at Saratoga, the rapidly improving four-year-old filly Goodnight Olive made her stakes debut a winning one in the Ballerina H. (G1), a qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The Chad Brown trainee brought a four-race win streak into the Ballerina and kept her momentum rolling with a pace-tracking 2 3/4-length victory.

Goodnight Olive stopped the clock for seven furlongs in a quick 1:21.40 and trounced a deep field in the process. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ce Ce, Grade 1 winners Obligatory and Bella Sofia, and graded stakes winners Caramel Swirl, Travel Column, and Lady Rocket comprised Goodnight Olive’s beaten rivals, so the winner has to be viewed as an early favorite to prevail at the Breeders’ Cup.

Meanwhile, across the country at Del Mar, Laurel River was busy posting a blowout victory in the Pat O’Brien S. (G2). The four-year-old son of Into Mischief was always prominent tracking a hot pace before pouncing between rivals to draw off and win by 3 3/4 lengths, in the process recording his third straight victory at Del Mar.

The seven-furlong Pat O’Brien serves as a qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), and Laurel River—twice victorious racing one mile in the past—appears well-suited to stretching out another furlong (or farther) in distance. According to Del Mar, the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again S. (G1) on Oct 1 at Santa Anita is next for Laurel River, while Pat O’Brien runner-up American Theorem will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) after securing “Win and You’re In” qualification in Del Mar’s six-furlong Bing Crosby S. (G1) last month.

Cody’s Wish, Epicenter, Malathaat, Jack Christopher secure Grade 1 wins

In addition to the Sword Dancer and Ballerina, Saratoga hosted four other Grade 1 stakes last weekend, and all could have serious Breeders’ Cup implications.

The highlight was the $1.25 million Travers S. (G1) for three-year-olds racing 1 1/4 miles. A deep field including Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Rich Strike and Preakness S. (G1) hero Early Voting assembled, but in the end it was Derby and Preakness runner-up Epicenter who trounced his pursuers by 5 1/4 lengths. The improving Steve Asmussen trainee stopped the clock in 2:00.72 (the fourth-fastest Travers ever contested over 1 1/4 miles) and looks ready to challenge older rivals Flightline, Life Is Good, and Olympiad in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

An elite group of Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) contenders took center stage in the Personal Ensign S. (G1), including reigning champion older dirt female Letruska. But Letruska weakened after setting the pace, and stretch-running favorite Clairiere failed to fire after falling far off the pace, allowing last year’s champion three-year-old filly Malathaat to pick up her first Grade 1 win of the year. The consistent daughter of Curlin rallied just in time to beat 2021 Acorn S. (G1) winner Search Results by half a length, so Malathaat heads to Keeneland with a shot to improve upon her third-place finish from the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The seven-furlong Forego S. (G1) can serve as a suitable prep for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and in 2022 it may send horses to both races. Cody’s Wish successfully cut back in distance to rally and catch reigning champion male sprinter Jackie’s Warrior for a 1 1/4-length upset, but the two colts figure to go their separate ways from here. Cody’s Wish has won a couple of stakes racing one mile and is a perfect fit for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, while Jackie’s Warrior is a tried-and-true sprinter who won’t mind shortening up for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Future assignments are less obvious for Jack Christopher, the 1 1/4-length winner of the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) for three-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs. Jack Christopher has nabbed three Grade 1 wins over distance from seven furlongs to a one-turn mile, but the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile takes place over a two-turn mile, and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is a mere six furlongs. Either option could be suitable for Jack Christopher, but neither is perfect based off his accomplishments to date.

Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues with five more qualifiers at Del Mar and Saratoga this weekend. Here’s how the schedule is shaping up:

  • Saturday: Del Mar H. (G2) at Del Mar: The field is still coming together for this 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf qualifier. The long-winded Tizamagician has won multiple graded stakes on dirt, but he’s expected to give turf a try at Del Mar, where he could encounter recent Eddie Read S. (G2) winner Master Piece.
  • Saturday: Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar: Can the brilliant sprinter/miler Flightline stretch out over 1 1/4 miles? We’ll find out when the sensationally talented colt tackles a deep field in this rich Breeders’ Cup Classic qualifier. Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer, Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Express Train, and San Diego H. (G2) winner Royal Ship are among Flightline’s possible rivals.
  • Saturday: Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga: This 1 1/4-mile steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be headlined by Stephen Foster S. (G2) winner Olympiad and 2021 Cigar Mile H. (G1) winner Americanrevolution, with Suburban S. (G2) 1-2 finishers Dynamic One and First Captain among the other notable contenders.
  • Saturday: Flower Bowl S. (G2) at Saratoga: War Like Goddess won this 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) qualifier in 2021 and will return to defend her title in 2022.
  • Sunday: Green Flash H. (G3) at Del Mar: The Green Flash is serving as a Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) qualifier for the first time this year, but the potential field has yet to take shape. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Lieutenant Dan has been nominated, but it’s unclear whether he’ll start.

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