Breeders' Cup roundup: Aug. 30, 2021

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August 30th, 2021

Summer might be winding down, but the road to the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar is just heating up.

The final weekend in August brought a bevy of Breeders’ Cup qualifiers to the table, at Del Mar and Saratoga. Let’s look back and recount all the action on a busy weekend of racing:

Letruska, Gamine, Gufo shine at Saratoga

A trio of Breeders' Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers were contested at Saratoga on Saturday and featured some of the most high-profile Breeders’ Cup contenders in the country.

  • In the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign S. (G1), a steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Horse of the Year candidate Letruska led all the way to pick up her third Grade 1 win of the season. After she ran all her pace rivals off their feet through fractions of :23.01, :46.74, and 1:10.76, Letruska could have faltered when challenged by a trio of deep closers down the homestretch. Instead, she dug deep to win by a half-length in 1:49.15.
  • In the seven-furlong Ballerina H. (G1), reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner Gamine earned an automatic berth for her title defense. After she waltzed to the lead through an opening quarter-mile in :23.20, Gamine had little difficulty edging away from her rivals to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:21.61. She is undefeated in seven sprint starts.
  • In the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer S. (G1), last year’s Belmont Derby (G1) winner Gufo picked up the second Grade 1 win of his career, as he steadily rallied from last place to defeat European raider Japan by a half-length in 2:28.30. Never out of the trifecta in a dozen starts, Gufo now owns a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Ginobili dominates at Del Mar

The seven-furlong Pat O’Brien S. (G2) is a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), but can also serve as a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), and either race could be an option for impressive Pat O’Brien winner Ginobili.

It’s safe to say Ginobili loves the Del Mar dirt. He boasts three wins from four starts over the main track and is winless in nine starts over all other tracks and surfaces.

He has also turned into a beast since the addition of blinkers, with his demolition of the Pat O’Brien a prime example. After he pressed fast fractions of :22.05 and :44.38, the four-year-old gelding pounced to a 3 1/2-length lead in midstretch, then cruised home to beat last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up, C Z Rocket, by 1 3/4 lengths.

Essential Quality, Jackie’s Warrior, Yaupon nab Grade 1 wins

In addition to the "Win and You’re In" qualifiers, three other Grade 1 races took place Saturday at Saratoga.

  • In the Travers S. (G1) for three-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles, Belmont S. (G1) winner Essential Quality displayed grit and tenacity to run down Preakness S. (G1) runner-up Midnight Bourbon and score by a neck in 2:01.96. With his final quarter-mile in just more than :23 flat, Essential Quality cemented his status as a key contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
  • In the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) for sophomores, Jackie’s Warrior battled up the inside to beat pacesetting favorite Life Is Good by a neck in the blazing time of 1:21.39. A three-time Grade 1 winner, Jackie’s Warrior has developed into a top-class speedster with Breeders’ Cup Sprint aspirations.
  • In the Forego S. (G1) for older horses at seven furlongs, Yaupon led all the way to beat Firenze Fire in 1:21.74, even though Firenze Fire attempted to savage Yaupon in the final furlong. A three-time graded stakes winner, Yaupon appears destined for another shot at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He finished eighth in the race as the favorite in 2020.

Medina Spirit returns a winner

In his first start since a third in the Preakness, Medina Spirit returned victorious in Sunday’s Shared Belief S. at Del Mar.

Although the status of his Kentucky Derby (G1) is in question, because of a positive post-race drug test, Medina Spirit remains among the division leaders and looked as good as ever in the Shared Belief, where he led all the way to beat Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Rock Your World by 1 1/4 lengths.

Medina Spirit has reemerged as a viable contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with the Sept. 25 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) the in-between target.

Upcoming "Win and You’re In" qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues with two more qualifiers on closing weekend at Saratoga.

The main attraction is Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), which awards a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 1 1/4-mile fixture is normally contested in late September or early October at Belmont Park, but the New York Racing Association elected to shift its date and location for the 2021.

The field for the Jockey Club Gold Cup is still coming into focus, though Suburban S. (G2) winner Max Player and reigning Jockey Club Gold Cup victor Happy Saver are among the possible starters.

Also on the Saturday card at Saratoga is the Flower Bowl S. (G1), a 1 3/8-mile turf test for fillies and mares to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). War Like Goddess, a sensational winner of Saratoga’s Glens Fall S. (G2) earlier in the meet, figures to start as the favorite, over last year’s Flower Bowl runner-up, My Sister Nat.

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