Breeders' Cup Roundup: June 28, 2021
Give or take a few days, the first half of 2021 is in the books, and barely more than four months remain until the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.
Let’s catch up on a busy weekend of Breeders’ Cup qualifiers, then look ahead to July’s opening agenda.
Maxfield earns Classic berth, Letruska reiterates Distaff credentials
Key steppingstones toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) took place Saturday at Churchill Downs, and while a lot can change between now and November, it’s not a stretch to think we may have seen the Classic and Distance winners in action.
The once-beaten Maxfield has long been viewed as a seriously talented runner, but the Godolphin homebred elevated his game to a new level in the Stephen Foster S. (G2). He was tons the best in the 1 1/8-mile fixture, as he settled in sixth and unleashed a brilliant burst of acceleration to seize command around the far turn. Down the homestretch, the son of Street Sense drew off under a hand ride to score by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:48.53.
The Stephen Foster effort stamped Maxfield as the second horse to earn a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic, following Japan’s February S. (G1) winner Cafe Pharoah. Some will question the caliber of competition Maxfield defeated in the Stephen Foster, considering he was the only Grade 1 winner in the field. But with his record and flashy turn-of-foot, Maxfield has to be viewed as a major (and improving) player on the Classic scene.
The same must be said of Letruska in regard to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The five-year-old mare has developed into a monster this season, with a runaway triumph in Churchill’s Fleur de Lis S. (G2) the latest example of her abundant ability.
Against a deep field of graded stakes winners, Letruska left no doubt about her superiority. After she sprinted to the front through controlled fractions of :24.53, :48.19, and 1:11.36, Letruska left her rivals behind without a second thought and pulled away under urging to dominate by 5 3/4 lengths. Her final time of 1:48.57 was just 0.04 seconds slower than Maxfield ran in the Stephen Foster.
Letruska is now a head away from being undefeated in five starts this season, and her campaign includes victories in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) and Ogden Phipps S. (G1). She’s a clear-cut early favorite to win the Distaff and has already earned two “Win and You’re In” berths to the race, via the Ogden Phipps and the Fleur de Lis. If Letruska keeps winning, a Horse of the Year title might be within reach.
Chrono Genesis, Reina de Mollendo shine on international stage
A pair of “Win and You’re In” berths to the Breeders’ Cup were awarded on the international scene last week. The most high-profile winner was Chrono Genesis, a Japanese classic winner who picked up the fourth Group 1 win of her decorated career when she surged to victory in the 2,200-meter Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin.
Favored at 9-5, the five-year-old mare settled in fourth early, then reeled in pacesetter Unicorn Lion to win by 2 1/2 lengths. The victory earned Chrono Genesis a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), though the daughter of Bago appears more likely to target the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) in France, a race her sire won in 2004.
The other major winner over the weekend was Reina de Mollendo, who showed remarkable tenacity and determination to claim the Gran Premio Pamplona (G1) at Hipódromo de Monterrico in Peru. The three-year-old filly led from the start and fought off challenges from both sides to score by a half-length to score a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Upcoming “Win and You’re In” qualifiers
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues in July, with seven qualifiers. Three will be contested over the Fourth of July weekend.
- July 3, Suburban S. (G2): This historic 1 1/4-mile prize at Belmont Park awards a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A deep field is expected to face the starter, including Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Mystic Guide, last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) victor Happy Saver, and the improving Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer.
- July 3, Princess Rooney S. (G2): Fillies and mares will dash seven furlongs in Gulfstream Park’s qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), with Bed o’ Roses S. (G3) winner Estilo Talentoso among the possible starters.
- July 4, John A. Nerud S. (G2): This seven-furlong sprint at Belmont Park serves as a steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Firenze Fire, who boasts half a dozen graded stakes wins at Belmont, looms as the favorite. But multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Control is a logical rival after placing in the Carter H. (G1) two starts back.
Enjoy the racing!