Tonalist, Artemis Agrotera tune up for second BC attempts
Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) contender Tonalist breezed six furlongs at Belmont Park on Saturday, putting the final touches on his return engagement in next Saturday's championship race.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the four-year-old Tapit colt earned an official time of 1:13.81 on the main track under his regular jockey, Hall of Famer John Velazquez, just after daybreak on Saturday morning. The move was the second for Tonalist, who covered the same distance in 1:14 last weekend, since his second consecutive win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on September 26. Fifth in last year's Classic, Tonalist has hit the board in all five of his starts in 2015, including a runner-up finish in the Metropolitan H. (G1) and third-place finish in the Whitney (G1).
"Some people had him 1:13 and change, I had him in 1:13 and four," Clement said. "It was a nice work. He worked in company, was in a good position and finished nicely. He went very willingly, not very aggressive, just nice. He came back in good shape. He looks very fit to me. Everything is good."
Clement added that he has largely ruled out re-adding blinkers to his star pupil, which Tonalist hasn't raced with since June.
"Johnny thinks he was very comfortable without blinkers," he said. "I don't think we want to change too much, he just won a Grade 1 without the blinkers. Unless Johnny or the owner comes to me with a great idea, I think we'll pass on them."
Later Saturday morning, Clement-trained Hard Not to Like turned in her ultimate breeze for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) with Velazquez in the irons. The six-year-old daughter of Hard Spun worked a dogs-up half-mile on the inner turf in :49.55 in company.
"The important thing was to settle her, because the Breeders' Cup is 1 3/16 miles," Clement said. "She looked well. Johnny said he had no problem keeping her settled. She was strong, but manageable. They finished very well. The last quarter was very nice. She came back well."
Rounding out Clement's Breeders' Cup contingent are Dirt Mile (G1) candidate Red Vine, who breezed Friday, and Turf Monster (G3) winner Pure Sensation for the Turf Sprint (G1), who completed his final preparations with a half-mile dirt work in :48.34 last Wednesday.
"Pure Sensation is doing very well. He worked on Wednesday and came out of it in good shape," Clement said. "With sprinters, I don't like to work them too close to the race."
Trainer Mike Hushion's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) contender Artemis Agrotera had an eventful tune-up Saturday morning during her final major preparations when the four-year-old New York-bred underwent an unexpected equipment adjustment in the stretch.
"There was a horse that broke seven lengths in front of her. Halfway through the work, the rider decided to let her run and go after that horse," Hushion explained. "He said she took off so hard, it made the saddle slip up on her withers. So he couldn't do much riding but that was OK."
Despite the excitement, Artemis Agrotera winner of the Ballerina (G1) and Gallant Bloom (G2) in 2014, still completed the five-furlong move in 1:01.91 over the dirt training track, the second-fastest of 10 at the distance.
Although the daughter of Roman Ruler has not raced since finishing seventh in last year's Filly & Mare Sprint, Hushion has been pleased with Artemis Agrotera's progress training steadily up to her Breeders' Cup assignment.
"She worked very well. Everybody was happy with her. I think she's fit enough," Hushion said.
(Tonalist photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)