Breeders' Cup Roundup: Aug. 9, 2021

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August 9th, 2021

Last weekend was a big one at Saratoga, where Breeders’ Cup contenders took center stage on a high-class Saturday of racing.

Did you miss any of the action? Never fear! We’ll get you back up to speed with a roundup of the latest news and notes:

Knicks Go cements Classic credentials with Whitney win

In 2020, Knicks Go was a miler of the highest caliber, wrapping up the season with a tour-de-force triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). But it turns out one mile isn’t the limit of Knicks Go’s stamina.

To the contrary, Knicks Go has won three times over 1 1/8 miles this year, with his latest demonstration of dominance coming in the Whitney S. (G1) at Saratoga. The prestigious “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) drew a small but elite field of five, with Knicks Go squaring off against Grade 1 winners Maxfield, Silver State, and Swiss Skydiver.

But gaining ground into a :23.56 opening quarter isn’t easy, so by the top of the stretch, Knicks Go was the only runner with any gas left in the tank. Despite drifting out off the turn, Knicks Go edged away readily through a fourth quarter in :24.52 and a final furlong in :12.86 to win by 4 1/2 lengths in a snappy 1:47.70.

Speed, when combined with the stamina to carry it around two turns, is a deadly combination. And if Knicks Go proves capable of carrying his speed over 1 1/4 miles—which seems like an increasingly likely possible—victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic could be well within reach.

Bella Sofia, State of Rest snatch Grade 1 wins at Saratoga

Two other Grade 1 races with potential Breeders’ Cup implications took place at Saratoga on Saturday.

First up was the Test S. (G1), a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies. The last two Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winners (Gamine and Covfefe) used the Test as a springboard to glory at the year-end championships, a Grade 1 double Bella Sofia will hope to emulate. The flashy filly was much the best in the 2021 Test, pressing the pace before drawing off a bit greenly to win by 4 1/4 lengths.

Bella Sofia’s final time of 1:21.54 was excellent, as was the caliber of competition she defeated. If Bella Sofia keeps progressing in a positive direction, she’ll be a major player in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

Shortly afterward came the Saratoga Derby (G1), 1 3/16-mile turf test for three-year-olds. Ireland’s Bolshoi Ballet was favored off a win in the Belmont Derby (G1), but in the end, he finished fourth as two other European shippers stole the show. State of Rest, fresh off a third-place finish in the Celebration S. to kick off 2021, settled in mid-pack before outkicking Soldier Rising to prevail by a length in 1:53.35.

We’ll have to wait and see whether any of the international raiders return to the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), but they appear to rank a cut above North America’s best turf sophomores and are well worth watching as the season progresses.

Upcoming “Win and You’re In” qualifiers

Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) contenders will take center stage around the globe in a pair of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series qualifiers next weekend.

First up is Saturday’s Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga, a one-mile turf test that has produced five of the last nine winners of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Key contenders for the 2021 renewal include Grade 1 winners Got Stormy and Raging Bull, who coincidentally finished 1-2 in the 2019 Fourstardave.

Then on Sunday, Deauville in France will host the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1). The field for the competitive one-mile event is still coming into focus, though one name of note in the early entries is the three-year-old filly Mother Earth. Trained by Aidan O’Brien (whose charges ran 1-2-3 in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile), Mother Earth won the historic 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket during the spring and recently returned to the winner’s circle with a tenacious victory in the Prix Rothschild (G1) at Deauville.

Mother Earth has already made one trip to the Breeders’ Cup, finishing second in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and O’Brien has indicated a return journey could be in the offing this fall.

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