Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 7, 2021

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 7th, 2021

The summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga are officially in the books, which means we’re just two months away from the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.

Labor Day weekend was packed with top-class racing action, so let’s look back on a busy few days and recount the latest news and notes:

Max Player, War Like Goddess win qualifiers at Saratoga

A pair of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers took place on Saturday at Saratoga, and both produced eye-catching winners.

First on the agenda was the Flower Bowl S. (G1), a 1 3/8-mile turf test awarding a berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Heavy favorite War Like Goddess was much the best in the end, rallying boldly from half a dozen lengths off the pace to beat graded stakes winners Great Island and My Sister Nat by a confident 2 1/4 lengths. Now victorious in four consecutive graded stakes, War Like Goddess is shaping up as standout among North America’s long-distance female grass runners.

Speaking of division standouts, Max Player took a step toward that status when parlaying pace-tracking tactics into a four-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Previously victorious in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban S. (G2), Max Player is emerging as a 1 1/4-mile specialist with a serious chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over his preferred trip. The fact he’s already earned two “Win and You’re In” berths to the Classic is a testament to his maturing talent.

Juveniles take center stage as Del Mar, Saratoga wrap up

The first four Grade 1 races for juveniles of 2021 took place over Labor Day weekend at Del Mar and Saratoga. All were held over seven furlongs on dirt, and all produced blowout victories by exciting young runners with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) or Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) aspirations.

Here’s how the action unfolded:

  • The Hopeful S. (G1) at Saratoga saw Gunite duel for the lead through quick splits of :22.23 and :44.49 before staying on strongly down the lane to draw off and win by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:23.08. Runner-up Wit stumbled badly at the start before making a strong mid-race move into contention, but Gunite was drawing away through a solid :12.72 final furlong and looks like a talented Juvenile prospect for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
  • Asmussen also won Saratoga’s Spinaway S. (G1) with Echo Zulu, who carved out splits of :22.07 and :44.73 before finishing up nicely to win by four lengths in 1:22.51. Now undefeated in two starts, the daughter of Gun Runner looms as the early favorite for the Juvenile Fillies.
  • Echo Zulu’s stiffest competition at the Breeders’ Cup could potentially come from Grace Adler, an 11 1/4-length winner of the Del Mar Debutante (G1). Fast fractions of :21.78 and :44.37 aided the stretch-running Bob Baffert trainee, but Grace Adler was clearly best and has the pedigree to stretch out in distance. Her final time was 1:23.76.
  • Baffert emulated Asmussen’s Grade 1 double by saddling Pinehurst to spring a mild upset in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). After setting fractions of :22.09 and :44.77 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Pinehurst put away favored stablemate Murray and edged away to win by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:23.55.

Royal Ship exits the Classic scene

The Breeders’ Cup Classic landscape lost another talented player last week. Royal Ship, winner of the Californian S. (G2) and runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) during the spring, is being rested and will miss the Breeders’ Cup before returning for a 2022 campaign.

Royal Ship most recently finished seventh in the Aug. 21 Pacific Classic (G1).

Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers

The second weekend in September is absolutely loaded with Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races. No fewer than seven “Win and You’re In” qualifiers will take place across three tracks on two different continents.

Here’s how the agenda is shaping up:

  • 11: Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) Kentucky Downs: This six-furlong turf dash with a $1 million purse serves as a steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Entries have already been drawn, with 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) runner-up Got Stormy and Jaipur S. (G1) winner Casa Creed among the key contenders.
  • 11: Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs: Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) contenders will race 1 1/2 miles in this $1 million event. The full field includes Grade 1 winners Arklow, Channel Cat, and Zulu Alpha.
  • 11: Irish Champion S. (G1) at Leopardstown (Ireland): Reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Tarnawa will attempt to earn a fees-paid berth to her title defense while facing a deep field over 1 1/4 miles. But to visit the winner’s circle, she’ll have to reckon with four-time Group 1 winner St Mark’s Basilica and British classic winner Poetic Flare.
  • 11: Matron S. (G1) at Leopardstown (Ireland): Fillies and mares will travel one mile in this qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The field is still in flux, though European classic winners Mother Earth and Empress Josephine are among the expected starters.
  • 11: Champions Juvenile S. (G2) at Leopardstown (Ireland): This one-mile steppingstone toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) figures to feature at least one starter from the barn of Aidan O’Brien, who trains five of the 17 early entrants. The best of the lot is Point Lonsdale, a two-time group stakes winner unbeaten in four starts.
  • 12: Flying Five S. (G1) at the Curragh (Ireland): Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint candidates will dash five furlongs in the Flying Five, in which reigning Turf Sprint winner Glass Slippers looms as a high-profile entrant in his second run of the season.
  • 12: Moyglare Stud S. (G1) at the Curragh (Ireland): Agartha, fresh off back-to-back group stakes wins in Ireland, is among the pre-entries in this seven-furlong qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

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