Breeders' Cup Roundup: Sept. 6, 2022
Labor Day weekend is always packed with action on the U.S. horse racing front, and this year was no exception. A bevy of contenders for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup took center stage, including the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Let’s catch up on the key results, then look ahead to another busy week:
Flightline, Olympiad impress in Breeders’ Cup Classic qualifiers
No one has ever questioned the speed and brilliance of Flightline. Blowout victories in the seven-furlong Malibu S. (G1) and one-mile Metropolitan H. (G1) showed the son of Tapit to be a special talent.
But Flightline elevated his game to another level entirely when flaunting his stamina in the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
By now you’ve probably heard how Flightline pressed and set increasingly stiff fractions of :23.42, :46.06, and 1:09.97 on his way to winning by a seemingly effortless 19 1/4 lengths. His final time of 1:59.28 for 1 1/4 miles missed the track record by just 0.17, and his reward was a powerful 117 Brisnet Speed rating.
There’s really no way to measure the abilities of Flightline, because no one can get within shouting range of challenging him. Flightline’s Pacific Classic rivals included Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Country Grammer and Santa Anita H. (G1) hero Express Train, yet Flightline prevailed in a manner reminiscent of Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
Thanks in no small part to his blowout Pacific Classic success, Flightline closed as the overwhelming 4-5 favorite in Breeders’ Cup Classic Future Wager Pool 2, which ran from Sept. 2-5. But bettors who supported Olympiad at 8-1 have to be feeling good about their tickets.
Olympiad isn’t as flashy as Flightline, but he’s quietly picked up five graded stakes wins this season, culminating with a triumph in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga. Stretching out over 1 1/4 miles for the first time, Olympiad casually tracked a slow pace before taking over to beat last year’s Cigar Mile H. (G1) winner Americanrevolution by two lengths.
Olympiad and Americanrevolution had previously run 1-2 in the Stephen Foster S. (G2) earlier this summer. Both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Stephen Foster award “Win and You’re In” berths to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so Olympiad’s success at Saratoga—while an encouraging rebound from his fourth-place finish in the Whitney S. (G1) last month—was redundant from a qualifying perspective.
Olympiad isn’t attracting the same attention as Flightline, but we’re still two months away from the Breeders’ Cup, and Olympiad’s accomplished resume and improving profile can’t be underestimated.
Virginia Joy, Lieutenant Dan, Golden Phoenix secure Breeders’ Cup berths
The biggest surprise of the weekend came in the Flower Bowl S. (G2) at Saratoga, a 1 3/8-mile qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). War Like Goddess was favored at 1-5 to take top honors against a small field, but after getting buried in traffic behind incredibly slow fractions of :26.47, :53.29, 1:19.59, and 1:45.29, War Like Goddess failed by a neck to rally and catch pacesetting winner Virginia Joy.
Now Virginia Joy is no slouch; she won the Sheepshead Bay S. (G2) and The Very One S. (G3) earlier this year and is formidable when allowed to escape with an easy lead. But given the challenging pace scenario, War Like Goddess ran a remarkable race to finish second by such a small margin.
At Del Mar, Lieutenant Dan won the Green Flash H. (G3) for the second straight year, rallying up the rail to nab the five-furlong turf dash by 1 1/4 lengths. Lieutenant Dan was running for the first time since finishing second in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) but showed no signs of rust and secured a berth to this year's Turf Sprint.
Del Mar also hosted the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar H. (G3), a steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). The race was supposed to go the way of Eddie Read S. (G2) winner Master Piece, but for the second straight year, Master Piece settled for runner-up honors as Gold Phoenix rallied gamely to win by a nose.
The Del Mar H. marked Gold Phoenix’s first win at the stakes level. The improving five-year-old appreciated stretching out in distance and might have more upside over the 1 1/2-mile journey of the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Forte, Leave No Trace win first Grade 1 juvenile tests of 2022
The final two days of the Saratoga meet brought the first two U.S. Grade 1 juvenile races of 2022.
First up was the seven-furlong Spinaway S. (G1) for fillies, in which Leave No Trace sprung a 14-1 surprise. Fresh off a decisive debut victory at Saratoga, Leave No Trace tracked Adirondack S. (G2) winner Naughty Gal through fractions of :22.84 and:46.66 before taking over to defeat the wide-running favorite Wonder Wheel by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:24.03.
Leave No Trace is now undefeated in two starts for trainer Phil Serpe, stamping the daughter of Outwork as a logical contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Even more impressive was Forte, who splashed his way over a sloppy track to upset the seven-furlong Hopeful S. (G1), Half a dozen colts faced the starter, with Bashford Manor S. winner Gulfport the even-money favorite. But Gulfport weakened to second place after setting fractions of :22.74 and :45.57, allowing Forte to charge from fifth place and win by three decisive lengths in 1:22.58.
A powerful debut winner at Belmont Park during the spring, Forte entered the Hopeful off a surprising fourth-place finish in the Sanford S. (G3). Whatever went wrong in the Sanford clearly didn’t affect Forte in the Hopeful, and the Todd Pletcher trainee now ranks as an early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Upcoming Win and You’re In qualifiers
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series takes on a global feel this week with seven qualifiers scheduled at three tracks in the United States and Ireland. Here’s how the schedule is shaping up:
- Saturday: Turf Sprint S. (G2) at Kentucky Downs: Arrest Me Red has won five stakes sprinting on turf, including the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) earlier this year, and he looks ready to secure a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. But don’t forget about Totally Boss, who won this race in 2019, or Front Run the Fed, the runner-up in 2020.
- Saturday: Kentucky Turf Cup (G2) at Kentucky Downs: Arklow has contested this 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf qualifier on four occasions, winning in 2018 and 2020 and finishing second in 2019 and 2021. He’s slated to make a fifth appearance on Saturday, with recent Sword Dancer S. (G1) winner Gufo another key entrant.
- Saturday: KPMG Champion Juvenile S. (G2) at Leopardstown: The field is slowly crystallizing for this one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) qualifier. Hans Andersen, runner-up in the Futurity S. (G2) at the Curragh last month, is among the best of the early entrants.
- Saturday: Matron S. (G1) at Leopardstown: Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1) winner Homeless Songs is the early favorites to win this one-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf qualifier. But don’t dismiss the Breeders’ Cup-bound Saffron Beach, fresh off a victory in the Prix Rothschild (G1) in France.
- Saturday: Irish Champion S. (G1) at Leopardstown: With the unbeaten Baaeed skipping this 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf steppingstone, favoritism may fall to Vadeni, who defeated Mishriff by a neck to win the 1 1/4-mile Coral-Eclipse S. (G1) earlier this summer. But Mishriff is back to try again after finishing second behind Baaeed in the Juddmonte International (G1).
- Sunday: Moyglare Stud S. (G1) at the Curragh: The field is still in flux for this Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) qualifier, although Meditate—undefeated in four races (three of them graded) for trainer Aidan O’Brien—is likely the filly to beat.
- Sunday: Flying Five S. (G1) at the Curragh: Multiple Group 1 winners A Case Of You and Highfield Princess are among the expected starters in this five-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint qualifier. Highfield Princess enters off back-to-back triumphs in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) and Nunthorpe S. (G1) and is reportedly on track for the Breeders’ Cup, while A Case Of You won the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) earlier this year and finished fifth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Stay tuned to TwinSpires Edge for more coverage and analysis as the road to the Breeders’ Cup continues.