Kentucky stakes wrap and the Breeders’ Cup

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

October 12th, 2016

Many of the best horses in the U. S., and a few from abroad, raced last weekend, with many hoping to sharpen their tools in advance of the upcoming Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in four weeks. With a bevy of stakes races spanning the nation, I will break down each by region with some of my observations and thoughts of what transpired over the weekend, and what to expect going forward.


Friday's Phoenix S. (G2) will likely produce a pair of very good one-turn contenders who could make a lot of noise in the Breeders’ Cup TwinSpires Sprint (G1). Winner A.P. Indian is the best sprinter outside of California, and maybe the best in the whole country, for conditioner Arnaud Delacour. The six-year-old son of Indian Charlie has been on quite a roll winning five straight, with the last four graded. The two-time Grade 1 winner had to work hard for this score, but A.P. Indian is all heart and this looks to be a fine prep race in advance of his trek to Santa Anita. I have nothing but good things to say about the gelding, who won while not at his best in this spot.

I have long liked Limousine Liberal and took a shot (not a successful one) with him in the Sprint (G1) at Keeneland in 2015. The Ben Colebrook trainee has not won since April but the four-year-old is long on talent and if he trains well at Santa Anita, the son of Successful Appeal will be one of my price plays for the exotics in November. Kentucky-bred has a good running style for a race like the Sprint and isn't far from the leaders in the division.

The Alcibiades (G1) left me with little-to-no clarification as to the quality of the group. Daddy’s Lil Darling surely has to get some props for breaking from the 14 post and still making a big late run to be second for conditioner Ken McPeek, but I can't figure out whether it’s a compliment to her or a knock against the competition because the final time was on the slow side just like her Pocahontas (G2) victory. My gut feeling says I will not be giving much hope to any from this field in the Juvenile Fillies (G1).

Irish Jasper overcame a tardy break to roll home a sharp winner of the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) and she has paired up nice wins in succession for trainer Chad Brown. I am not in love with the four-year-old, but she does appear to be reaching her peak form and will likely appreciate an extra furlong with which to work with in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The four-year-old daughter of First Defence does like to win, recording eight tallies in 15 career races, and Irish Jasper races in a division with no standout.

I was left confused by the performance of Stonetastic, who despite having things her own way up front barely held on for second in a race that looked like hers on paper. The Kelly Breen trainee is very fast and can run some monster races on her best days, but two of her last three outings have left me scratching my head and I can't endorse her in this current form cycle when she will face a much more daunting task at Santa Anita.

Tepin remains the queen of the turf in my eyes and while she now shows a little chink in her armor, the daughter of Bernstein is still the one to beat in the Mile (G1). Mark Casse trainee had what might have been close to an ideal prep in rallying to be a clear second behind a loose-on-the-lad winner and the five-year-old remains one of the brightest stars we have in racing. It will take a lot for this handicapper to side with anyone else next month at Santa Anita.

I am not sure what to make of Photo Call, who opened up a huge lead through pretty realistic fractions and cruised home a facile heroine for Todd Pletcher. The mare didn't run especially fast during any portion of this affair, so the daughter of Galileo will have to back this race up with another like it before I start drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid.

Classic Empire got into the race early from a wide post and was easily best in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) for Casse. The talented son of Pionnerof the Nile aced his first route test and looks like a serious horse both this season and going forward. The once-beaten colt has never been defeated when his pilot stays on his back, wheeling and dropping the rider in the lone setback, the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga. And from a visual standpoint, Classic Empire couldn't have a better appearance in my view. The Kentucky-bred has the pedigree to run all day and I have a hunch we will be hearing his name a lot going into 2017.

Third-place finisher Wild Shot remains a horse I have a lot of interest in. The Rusty Arnold trainee went to the front in the Futurity which I did not expect and while he had no answer for the sharp winner on this day, the juvenile colt stayed on well to be third as he lost the place spot late. In making a two-turn debut off of a pair of solid sprint runs, the Calumet homebred proved he is not solely a one-turn type and I expect him to get better with more experience and seasoning. I tabbed this colt for the win at 42-1 and while he would have to make a big leap forward if he were to try the Juvenile (G1), Wild Shot remains one I will always be in the corner of.

In the Shadwell Mile (G1), winner Miss Temple City and runner-up Ironicus recorded commendable performances. The winner is a gem of class and will be a factor in whichever race she appears in on Breeders' Cup Weekend. The Graham Motion trainee takes her show on the road with her and has the tactical speed and turn of foot to carve out nearly any trip and still have success.

Ironicus, trained by Hall of Famer and two-time Mile winner Shug McGaughey, is consistently very good and will be an exotics contender for sure in the Mile. The son of Distorted Humor rallied into a slow pace and nearly got through while fighting with a superb mare, marking the 13th time in succession that Ironicus has finished in the top three. Multiple Grade 2 hero always passes horse in the lane and if the pace backs up in the Mile, we can expect to see him moving as well as any in the lane, likely at a price.

Three-time Grade 1 heroine I’m a Chatterbox dominated the Spinster S. (G1) by seven lengths, rolling home with ease late for conditioner Larry Jones. The four-year-old daughter of Munnings appears slightly improved upon a fine sophomore season and she is one of my favorites from a fan standpoint. Unfortunately, the Kentucky-bred is in a division with Stellar Wind, Beholder and even Cavorting, so her chances of winning a Breeders' Cup affair while shipping to the West Coast are low. The consistently good I’m a Chatterbox remains a top-three contender, though.

A.P. Indian (red silks) photo courtesy of Coady Photography