Breeders' Cup roundup: Sept. 13, 2021

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September 13th, 2021

Eight weeks out from the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, a bevy of important qualifiers took place around the world last weekend.

From Kentucky Downs to the Curragh and Leopardstown, let’s get caught up on all the latest results.

Imperador, Gear Jockey qualify at Kentucky Downs

The lucrative Kentucky Downs meet wrapped up with a pair of “Win and You’re In” qualifiers for the Breeders’ Cup. Competitive fields turned out for both events, and the results weren’t quite as bettors anticipated.

Up first was Saturday’s $1 million Turf Cup (G2), the 1 1/2-mile steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Two-time Turf Cup winner Arklow was favored to prevail, but after he ran into traffic down the homestretch, he failed by a neck to rally and catch 8-1 Imperador. The latter, who entered off a runner-up effort in the United Nations S. (G1), produced a perfectly timed rally from eighth place to reach the finish line in the course-record time of 2:25.10.

The finish of the Turf Cup may have been close, but there was no doubt about the outcome of Sunday’s $1 million Turf Sprint (G3).

Gear Jockey, off at 5-1, pressed splits of :22.38 and :45.14, and he was full of run when called upon to accelerate down the homestretch. He dashed the final quarter-mile in :22.76 to draw clear and score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:07.90 — a course record for six furlongs.

Behind Gear Jockey, six runners finished less than a length apart in a battle for the minor awards. Diamond Oops ultimately gained the runner-up spot by a nose. Well-bet Grade 1 winners Casa Creed and Got Stormy unfurled their rallies too late and finished fifth and sixth, in a race dominated by speed horses.

St Mark’s Basilica shines on the European front

It was a busy weekend in Ireland, where five "Win and You’re In" qualifiers took place, at two racecourses. Here is how the action unfolded.

  • The 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion S. (G1) at Leopardstown, a steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf, produced a thrilling showdown. Three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica picked up his fifth straight Group 1 win when he edged reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Tarnawa by three-quarters of a length, while British classic winner Poetic Flare finished a nose behind Tarnawa, in third.
  • The five-furlong Flying Five S. (G1) at the Curragh, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, saw the improving five-year-old mare Romantic Proposal secure her first group stakes win. Against a dozen rivals, Romantic Proposal battled to victory by a half-length, over A Case of You, with reigning Turf Sprint winner Glass Slippers another neck behind, in third.
  • The one-mile Moyglare Stud S. (G1) at the Curragh saw Discoveries step up her game significantly to defeat Agartha by three-quarters of a length. Discoveries previously finished third, behind Agartha, in the Debutante S. (G2). The Moyglare Stud secured Discoveries a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
  • The one-mile Matron S. (G1) at Leopardstown awarded a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) berth to 33-1 longshot No Speak Alexander, who employed pace-tracking tactics to snatch a neck victory from Pearls Galore. Heavy favorite Mother Earth ran into traffic and finished third.
  • The KPMG Champions Juvenile S. (G2) at Leopardstown, a one-mile qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), saw 10-1 shot Atomic Jones record his second victory from as many starts. He rallied gamely to defeat Stone Age by a head.

Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers

As the Breeders’ Cup marches steadily closer, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series remains red-hot, with six more qualifiers at tracks across North America this weekend.

Here’s how the schedule is shaping up.

  • Sept. 18, Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs: The 2021-2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby will get underway with the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois, which also serves as a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
  • Sept. 18, Pocahontas S. (G3) at Churchill Downs: Likewise, the 2021-22 Road to the Kentucky Oaks will get started with the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas, which will award a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
  • Sept. 18, Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park: The second running of this $1 million, 1 1/2-mile turf test for sophomores will award a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. COVID-19 prompted the cancellation of the 2020 renewal, but the inaugural 2019 edition was won by long-distance turf star Spanish Mission. 
  • Sept. 18, Woodbine Mile (G1) at Woodbine: Did you know four horses in the last decade have used the Woodbine Mile as a steppingstone toward Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) glory? The Woodbine Mile is a key qualifier, and the 2021 renewal is expected to draw a strong field, as usual.
  • Sept. 19, Summer S. (G1) at Woodbine: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contenders will take center stage in the Summer, a one-mile turf test won in recent years by such classy runners as Decorated Invader and Good Samaritan.
  • Sept. 19, Natalma S. (G1) at Woodbine: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf candidates will get a chance to shine in this one-mile event that boasts a roster of winners highlighted by 2015 Juvenile Fillies Turf victress Catch a Glimpse.

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