Three-year-olds with chances in the Breeders’ Cup
McKinzie earned a 112 BRIS Speed rating when taking the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) on September 22 (c) Kathleen O'Leary/Horsephotos.com
by Scott Shapiro
When it comes to three-year-olds facing their elders at the Breeders’ Cup, my colleague James Scully pointed out last year that the younger generation is often not well represented at Thoroughbred racing’s World Championships.
This lack of quantity played a major role in seeing just three sophomores cross the wire first in 2015 and 2016, and is also greatly responsible for the dip to just two in 2017 when Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf) and Battle of Midway (Dirt Mile) were the only two three-year-olds to win at Del Mar.
They will be outnumbered again this year at Churchill Downs, but here is a look at the three-year-olds in with a significant chance after pre-entries were released on Wednesday morning (listed by race order):
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
Dream Tree put forth a huge effort in her first race off a seven-month layoff for trainer Bob Baffert. Her 4 1/4-length score in the Prioress (G2) stamped the daughter of Uncle Mo as one of the major dangers to likely favorite Marley’s Freedom. If she can replicate her 103 BRIS Speed rating from the Prioress on the first Saturday in November, she should be right there in the end.
Mia Mischief ran two taxing races at Saratoga this summer, finishing second in both the Prioress and Test Stakes (G1). Her success over the Churchill Downs main track (4-2-2-0) is encouraging, but she will need to put forth a career-best run to beat this group.
Dream Pauline (also-eligible) has done nothing wrong in two career starts, but she has been unable to stay healthy. Her lack of experience is a major concern in this spot.
World of Trouble is a perfect two-for-two since moving from dirt to turf. The son of Kantharos must be respected off the 107 BRIS Speed figure he earned in the Allied Forces Stakes at Belmont Park on September 8. He is the lone American three-year-old pre-entered.
This event has yet to be won by a European-based runner since its inception in 2008, but Havana Grey and Lost Treasure are pre-entered in hopes of becoming the first horse to do so.
Promises Fulfilled is cross-entered with a first preference to the Sprint, but if trainer Dale Romans opts for the Dirt Mile, the chestnut colt is one of the main threats to upset likely heavy favorite Catalina Cruiser. The son of Shackleford has tremendous early speed and has illustrated a desire to win, evidenced by three consecutive graded stakes victories dating back to July 28.
Firenze Fire comes off a neck win in the Gallant Bob (G3) at Parx Racing. His best races have come over a one-turn mile configuration, but an underneath finish is likely best-case scenario for the Jason Servis trainee.
FILLY & MARE TURF
Paved is the lone three-year-old from the States pre-entered and the daughter of Quality Road appears overmatched in this 1 3/8-mile event over the sod despite a strong runner-up finish to Vasilika in the Rodeo Drive (G1).
Athena, Magic Wand, Magical, Princess Yaiza and Wild Illusion give Europe several chances to beat the older fillies and mares though.
Imperial Hint and Roy H look to be a tier above the rest of the competition in the TwinSpires Sprint, but if the aforementioned Promises Fulfilled is entered in this six-furlong dash, a gate-to-wire win is well within the range of outcomes.
Analyze It was awesome at the age of two for trainer Chad Brown, but has failed to move forward in his three-year-old campaign. He will need to put forth a better effort than he has thus far in 2018 to best this field.
American-based turf milers have won this event the last three years, but European imports have had plenty of success in this race. They have several three-year-olds pre-entered for the 2018 rendition.
Monomoy Girl was a perfect five-for-five before being disqualified from the top spot in the Cotillion (G1) on September 22. The winner of this year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) has never finished worse than second in three starts at Churchill Downs and looks ready to fire her best shot in the Distaff.
Midnight Bisou appeared a cut below Monomoy Girl throughout the year, but she moved forward for a career best 104 BRIS Speed rating in the Cotillion. If she can avoid regression in Louisville, she is not without a chance.
Dual Canadian Classic winner Wonder Gadot tried the boys in the Travers (G1), where she did little running. The Ontario-bred put forth a career-best performance earning a 102 BRIS Speed rating in the Kentucky Oaks, but has yet to get back to that effort. I give her little chance.
Multiple Group 1 winner Roaring Lion is cross-listed with a first preference for the Classic, but if he is entered in the Turf he could challenge two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) queen Enable in this 1 1/2-mile voyage over the Churchill Downs grass. Otherwise it is unlikely that a three-year old will capture this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Accelerate has had a tremendous season in Southern California, but trainer John Sadler’s Breeders’ Cup record and this five-year-old’s lack of experience away from home make him a vulnerable favorite in the featured race.
Of the three-year-olds, McKinzie appears likeliest to spring the upset. The son of Street Sense posted a 112 BRIS Speed rating in his first start off the bench in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) on September 22. He has now rattled off triple-digit BRIS numbers in four of his five career races.
Catholic Boy had done his best racing over the turf before a four-length score in the Travers. The son of More Than Ready is not for me in this spot, but his six-for-nine career record is hard to overlook.
Axelrod has continued to improve throughout his three-year-old campaign for trainer Michael McCarthy. However, McKinzie was able to put him away in the lane despite coming into the Penn Derby off a layoff. He is up against it to earn his fifth lifetime win.