New York 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.

New York:

Yellow Agate and Libby’s Tail finished one-two in the Frizette S. (G1) for two-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and each looks to have a bright future ahead of them. The former is unbeaten from a pair of starts for Christophe Clement, winning both in late-running fashion. The daughter of good young sire Gemologist toppled what I thought was a field full of talented runners and Yellow Agate could move up even more at Santa Anita when trying two turns for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies (G1). A $210,000 yearling purchase, the Kentucky-bred is out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare and seemingly will appreciate more ground both from a running style and pedigree standpoint. I view her as a top Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) contender.

The latter ran her best race while stretching out for the first time, leading at every call but the final one for Rudy Rodriguez. The $375,000 two-year-old purchase was a debut winner at 5 1/2 furlongs, offering a nice rally from off the pace, and the daughter of Tiz Wonderful is obviously versatile. Libby’s Tail was more than nine lengths ahead of the third-place runner under the wire while clearing some swift ones early on, so I can't ignore that she ran a winning race in defeat. The juvenile filly division is fairly wide-open in my view and the dark bay looks to be on par with most of her divisional foes.

Lady Eli is among the best stories in racing spanning the past few years and the Chad Brown trainee will be a sentimental Filly and Mare Turf (G1) pick for many. The once-beaten daughter of Divine Park has battled back from a near-fatal illness, remarkably returning to the highest level in a short time, and even with sentiment tossed aside, she’s one serious turf distaffer!

The Kentucky-bred has a potent turn of foot but has been more interested earlier in a pair of races this campaign and Lady Eli could be set for a peak performance making her third start off the layoff in the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. She’s already proved an affinity for the Santa Anita lawn, easily bagging the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) in 2014, and Lady Eli would surely be the most heartwarming story of the 'Cup if the classy lass was to win her next assignment.

Practical Joke and Syndergaard ran first and second with more than six lengths back to their nearest foe in the Champagne (G1), so I will take a look at each of those talented two-year-old runners. The former broke slowest from the rail and had work to do turning for home, but the Chad Brown trainee overcame the beginning to gamely get up by a nose late with Joel Rosario in the irons. The son of Into Mischief had a dream trip en route to the wire and I do have slight concerns about his ability to run a big race going two turns while shipping out west for the first time. There is no denying the talent of the unbeaten juvenile, but Practical Joke is not at the top of my list in a division with some real nice prospects.

Syndergaard took the lead soon after the break, was headed in midstretch, and battled back gamely in a tough defeat for trainer Todd Pletcher. With that said, the New York-bred, who had dominated his first two races, proved that he is up for a fight and I liked his race a lot more than that of the eventual winner. The $450,000 son of Majesticperfection has a world of early speed and I could surely envision a scenario where the colt clears the field early at Santa Anita and proves to be a tough one to get by in the lane. Chestnut colt is bred to be more of a one-turn type, but I like him a lot and in my view he is the top threat of the East Coast shippers for the Juvenile (G1) at a potential price!

Hoppertunity got it done in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) with the hard-trying and consistent Effinex checking in second, but both of those talented and accomplished five-year-old runners have some work to do to make up lengths on the mighty California Chrome over his home oval. This pair showed separation from their foes in this storied race and do have form and credentials. I have respect for each of the duo who both deserve to run in a race of the magnitude of the Classic (G1). As they say, on Any Given Saturday...

Yellow Agate (red silks) photo courtesy of Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography