Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships

September 4, 2021

Saratoga Welcomes Jockey Club Gold Cup, Flower Bowl, with Classic and Filly & Mare Turf Bids on the Line

The prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Flower Bowl (G1) may have moved some 190 miles north from Belmont up Interstate 87 to Saratoga, but a win will still get you a cross-country trip to Del Mar outside of San Diego in California for the 38th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Saratoga hosts Belmont’s traditional fall “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup races for the first time and the stakes are as high as ever, with The Jockey Club Gold Cup awarding an automatic starting berth into the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), while the Flower Bowl will offer an automatic starting berth into the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Both the Gold Cup and Flower Bowl will be shown live on NBCSN from 6-7 p.m. ET as a part of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In – presented by America’s Best Racing.”

The $1 million Gold Cup, run at 1 ¼ miles, is led by the Wertheimer and Frere homebred HAPPY SAVER, who is 5-for-6 lifetime but will look to make amends from his lone defeat when third over a sloppy track in Belmont’s Suburban Stakes (G2) in his last start July 3. The 4-year-old son of Super Saver concluded a 4-for-4 first season of racing when he won The Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont last year for trainer Todd Pletcher, who opted to bypass the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland and point to a 2021 campaign. Happy Saver won his seasonal debut in an optional-claimer at Belmont in May. and figures to be a short-priced favorite in the six-horse Gold Cup field.

George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred Corp.’s MAX PLAYER upset Happy Saver, along with Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Mystic Guide, in the Suburban for trainer Steve Asmussen but will need to prove he can be just as formidable over a fast track. The 4-year-old son of Honor Code snapped a six-race losing streak in the Suburban and is 3-for-10 lifetime.

Don Alberto Stable’s homebred FORZA DI ORO easily won his lone start of the year in a local optional-claimer July 21 for trainer Bill Mott and should attract plenty of support. The son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown won Aqueduct’s Discovery (G3) in November before going on an extended layoff and is 4-for-6 lifetime. CHESS CHIEF, FOREWARNED and NIGHT OPS complete lineup.

War Like Goddess an Imposing Flower Bowl Favorite

The $600,000 Flower Bowl, run at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf distance of 1 3/8 miles, will not only give George Krikorian’s WAR LIKE GODDESS a chance to win a Grade 1, but also to show she’s top class going this shorter trip. The 4-year-old daughter of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel has won two straight graded stakes at 1 ½ miles for trainer Bill Mott, and did win the Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park in March at 1 3/8 miles, but will need to show she can do it at racing’s top level in the Flower Bowl. War Like Goddess is 5-for-6 lifetime and enters off an easy win in the local Aug. 7 Glens Falls (G2), in which she unleashed a devastating turn of foot that saw her go from last-to-first while looping the field through the far turn.

Trainer Chad Brown has won the Flower Bowl six times and will look to add to that mark with Peter Brant’s MY SISTER NAT (FR), who was second, beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the Glens Falls. The 6-year-old daughter of Acclimation (GB) was second, beaten a head, in the Flower Bowl last year before running ninth in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland. My Sister Nat, who is a half-sister to Sistercharlie (IRE), who won the Filly & Mare Turf in 2018 at Churchill Downs for these connections, is 3-for-18 lifetime. Brown is also starting Alpha Delta Stable’s GREAT ISLAND, who is two for three this year, winning the Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park in her most recent start on July 17.

Brant’s AMERICAN BRIDGE (GB) comes from Europe for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. The  4-year-old daughter of Kodiac (GB) enters off a win in the Premio del Giubileo (G3) at Milan June 27. COASTANA, LA SIGNARE (FR) and LOVELY LUCKY complete the Flower Bowl field.

COUNTDOWN TO THE BREEDERS’ CUP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

A listing of the upcoming major stakes races this weekend:

$6 MILLION LONGINES BREEDERS’ CLASSIC

September 4 – $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga. Run at 1 ¼ miles for 3yos & up.

$4 MILLION LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

September 4 – $250,000 Del Mar Derby (G2) at Del Mar. Run at 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3yos.

September 5 – $183,482 Grosser Preis Von Baden (G1) at Baden Baden. Run at 1 ½ miles on turf for 3yos & up.

$2 MILLION MAKER’S MARK BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE TURF

September 4 – $600,000 Flower Bowl (G1) at Saratoga. Run at 1 3/8 miles on turf for fillies & mares.

September 4 – $200,000 John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar. Run at 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies & mares.

$2 MILLION FANDUEL BREEDERS’ CUP MILE PRESENTED BY PDJF

September 4 – $200,000 Saranac (G3) at Saratoga. Run at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 3yos.

September 5 – $550,446 Prix du Moulin (G1) at Longchamp. Run at 1 mile on turf for 3yos & up.

September 6 – $1 million WinStar Mint Million (G3) at Kentucky Downs. Run at 1 mile on turf for 3yos & up.

September 6 – $200,000 Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga. Run at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 3yos & up.

$1 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT

September 4 – $250,000 Prioress (G2) at Saratoga. Run at 6 furlongs for 3yo fillies.

$2 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE PRESENTED BY THOROUGHBRED AFTERCARE ALLIANCE

September 6 – $300,000 Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga. Run at 7 furlongs for 2yos.

September 6 – $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) at Del Mar. Run at 7 furlongs for 2yos.

$2 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES

September 5 – $300,000 Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga. Run at 7 furlongs for 2yo fillies.

September 5 – $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (G1) at Del Mar. Run at 7 furlongs for 2yo fillies.

$1 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

September 4 – $308,250 Betfair Sprint Cup (G1) at Haydock. Run at 6 furlongs on turf for 3yos & up.

$1 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF

September 1 – $150,000 With Anticipation (G3) at Saratoga. Run at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 2yos.

MAJOR STAKES RECAP                      Aug. 28-29

A review of the major global races in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup divisions from last week. Winning jockeys’ names are in parenthesis in each recap.

Race:$1.25 million Runhappy Travers (G1), 3yos, 1 ¼ miles
Track:Travers
Finishing Order:1 – ESSENTIAL QUALITY, 2 – MIDNIGHT BOURBON, 3 – MILES D
Margins:Neck, 5, neck
Also ran:KEEPMEINMIND, KING FURY, MASQUEPARADE, DYNAMIC ONE
WinningConnections:Owner: Godolphin; Trainer: Brad Cox; Jockey: Luis Saez.
Time:2:01.96 (fast)

Countdown to the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic – Godolphin’s homebred, reigning 2-year-old champion, and TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) winner ESSENTIAL QUALITY (Luis Saez) went a long way in claiming the 3-year-old championship with a hard-fought neck win over MIDNIGHT BOURBON in Saratoga’s $1.25 million Runhappy Travers (G1). Brad Cox trained the winner, a son of Tapit who has been at the top of his class in both seasons of racing and moved his lifetime record to 8-for-9. Essential Quality secured his championship last year with his TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win at Keeneland in November to complete a 3-for-3 season and hasn’t missed a beat this year, in a campaign that was highlighted by a win in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in June. His lone blemish was a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May. He prepped for the Travers with a win Saratoga’s July 31 Jim Dandy (G2). Cox was non-committal about Essential Quality’s next start, but a trip to Del Mar for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic is the end goal. “Hopefully, we can keep marching forward and on to the Breeders’ Cup,” Cox said. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon lost nothing in defeat for trainer Steve Asmussen and the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow is another who could be a major Del Mar contender.

Race:$800,000 Charles Town Classic (G2), 3yo & up, 1 1/8 miles
Track:Charles Town
Finishing Order:1 – ART COLLECTOR, 2 – SLEEPY EYES TODD, 3 – RUSHIE
Margins:1 ½, 4, 2
Also ran:RESTRAINEDVENGENCE, NOBLE DRAMA, NY TRAFFIC, INFORMATIVE, BOURBON CALLING, WARRIOR’S CHARGE, AIR TOKEN
WinningConnections:Owner: Bruce Lunsford; Trainer: Bill Mott; Jockey: Luis Saez.
Time:1:49.39 (fast)

Countdown to the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic – Bruce Lunsford’s homebred ART COLLECTOR (Luis Saez) made it 2-for-2 for trainer Bill Mott with a 1 ½-length win over SLEEPY EYES TODD in the $800,000 Charles Town Classic (G2). The 4-year-old son of Bernardini won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland at 3 for trainer Tommy Drury but finished his season running eighth there in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in November before embarking on a long layoff. Art Collector returned in June to run sixth in Churchill Downs’ Kelly’s Landing and was transferred to Mott shortly after, where he made his first start for his new barn a winning one in Saratoga’s Alydar on Aug. 6. Art Collector is 7-for-14 lifetime and figures a contender for both the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Race:$735,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer (G1), 4yos & up, 1 ½ miles (turf)BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE RACE
Track:Saratoga
Finishing Order:1 – GUFO, 2 – JAPAN (GB), 3 – CROSS BORDER
Margins:Neck, 3 ½, ½
Also ran:ROCKEMPEROR (IRE), TRIBHUVAN (FR), CHANNEL MAKER, MORETTI
WinningConnections:Owner: Otter Bend Stables; Trainer: Christophe Clement; Jockey: Joel Rosario.
Time:2:28.30 (firm)

Countdown to the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf – Otter Bend Stables’ GUFO (Joel Rosario) earned an automatic starting berth into the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) when he held off a hard-charging JAPAN (GB) by a neck in Saratoga’s $735,00 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer (G1). Christophe Clement trains the winner, a 4-year-old son of Declaration of War who was one of the better 3-year-old turf runners on the East Coast last year. He won the Belmont Derby (G1) in October but has turned the corner and morphed into an elite long-distance turf horse this year. Gufo made his seasonal debut finishing second beaten a nose in Belmont’s Man o’ War (G1) in May and entered off a win in the Grand Couturier on July 5. He’s 7-for-12 lifetime and Clement indicated Belmont’s Oct. 9 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) will be up next.

Race:$600,000 Personal Ensign (G1), fillies & mares, 1 1/8 mileBREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE RACE
Track:Saratoga
Finishing Order:1 – LETRUSKA, 2 – BONNY SOUTH, 3 – ROYAL FLAG
Margins:½, head, head
Also ran:SWISS SKYDIVER, AS TIME GOES BY, HARVEY’S LIL GOIL, MISS MARISSA, GRACEFUL PRINCESS
WinningConnections:Owner: St. George Stable; Trainer: Fausto Gutierrez; Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Time:1:49.15 (fast)

Countdown to the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff – St. George Stable’s LETRUSKA (Irad Ortiz Jr.) left little doubt who the best filly or mare in the country is with a gutty half-length win over Bonny South in Saratoga’s $600,000 Personal Ensign (G1). Fausto Gutierrez trains the winner, a 5-year-old daughter of Super Saver, who had already won two “Win and You’re In” races for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff when she took Belmont Park’s Ogden Phipps (G1) in June and Churchill Downs’ Fleur de Lis (G2) on June 26. Letruska is 16-for-21 lifetime and will prep for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in Keeneland’s Oct. 10 Juddmonte Spinster (G1). “We are planning to go to Keeneland and then travel to the Breeders’ Cup,” Gutierrez said. Juddmonte’s homebred Bonny South ran big in defeat for trainer Brad Cox and is another who could target the Spinster and Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The 4-year-old daughter of Munnings won the Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland in April and was second in the Phipps and has Cox looking forward to Del Mar. “I think we belong in the Breeders’ Cup talk,” Cox said. “Maybe we’ll have one race between now and then, we’ll go from there.”

***

Race:$600,000 Forego (G1), 3yos & up, 7 furlongs
Track:Saratoga
Finishing Order:1 – YAUPON, 2 – FIRENZE FIRE, 3 – CHANCE IT
Margins:Head, 2 ½, nose
Also ran:MIND CONTROL, WHITMORE, MISCHIEVIOUS ALEX, DOUBLY BLESSSED, LEXITONIAN
WinningConnections:Owner: William & Corinne Heiligbrodt; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Time:1:21.74 (fast)

Countdown to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint – William & Corinne Heiligbrodt’s YAUPON (Ricardo Santana Jr.) survived a stretch-long battle with FIRENZE FIRE — one that included the latter’s extended attempt at savaging his rival — to prevail by a head in Saratoga’s $600,000 Forego (G1). The 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo was a strong 6-5 favorite in last year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland for trainer Steve Asmussen but disappointed when eighth and was given the rest of the year off. Yaupon returned in March and was an equally disappointing eighth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at Meydan but rebounded with a win in Pimlico’s July 4 Lite the Fuse. He’s 6-for-8 lifetime and figures a leading contender for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar, which Asmussen indicated would be next for Yaupon. Mr. Amore Stable’s homebred Firenze Fire was a likely winner before losing his cool in deep stretch while rebounding from a fifth-place finish in the local July 31 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1). Trainer Kelly Breen indicated the 6-year-old son of Poseidon’s Warrior, who is 14-for-36 lifetime, would run next in Belmont Park’s Oct. 9 Vosburgh (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Sprint, and would “absolutely” target Del Mar. The Forego marked the end of a remarkable career for Robert LaPenta, Head of Plains Partner and trainer Ron Moquett’s WHITMORE, who won the Sprint last year, in what was his fourth appearance in the race. The 8-year-old son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect sustained a non-life-threatening injury en route to a fifth-place finish in the Forego, a race he won in 2018. Whitmore retires with a career record of 43-15-13-5 and earnings of $4.5 million.

Race:$490,000 H. Allen Jerkens (G1), 3yos, 7 furlongs
Track:Saratoga
Finishing Order:1 – JACKIE’S WARRIOR, 2 – LIFE IS GOOD, 3 – FOLLOWING SEA
Margins:Neck, 8 ¾, 2 ¼
Also ran:DRAIN THE CLOCK, NEWBOMB, JUDGE N JURY
WinningConnections:Owner: Kirk & Judy Robison; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Joel Rosario.
Time:1:21.39 (fast)

Countdown to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint – Kirk and Judy Robison’s JACKIE’S WARRIOR (Joel Rosario) bested the previously undefeated LIFE IS GOOD by a neck in a sterling renewal of Saratoga’s $490,000 H. Allen Jerkens (G1). Steve Asmussen trained the winner, a 3-year-old son of Maclean’s Music who has been a one-turn dynamo in his two seasons of racing and moved his lifetime record to 7-for-10. Jackie’s Warrior blitzed his way to four dominant one-turn wins to start his career in 2020, including the local Hopeful (G1) and Belmont Park’s Champagne (G1) but suffered his first career defeat when he finished fourth at odds-on to champion Essential Quality when trying two turns in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland to end his season in November. After finishing a well-beaten third to Essential Quality in Oaklawn Park’s two-turn Southwest Stakes (G3) in February he’s again starred at one turn and entered the Jerkens off a 7 ¼-length win in the local Aug. 1 Amsterdam (G2). CHC and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good ran too good to lose in his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, and first since March 6. The son of Into Mischief won his first three career starts by a combined 18 ¼ lengths, and was considered the winter book Kentucky Derby favorite off easy wins in the Sham (G3) and San Felipe (G2) this winter at Santa Anita before suffering a minor injury and being forced to miss the Triple Crown. Pletcher mentioned a slew of potential next starts, including the Sept. 25 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing.

***

Race:$202,000 Pat O’Brien (G2), 3yos & up, 7 furlongsBREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE RACE
Track:Del Mar
Finishing Order:1 – GINOBILI, 2 – C Z ROCKET, 3 – FLAGSTAFF
Margins:1 ¾, head, 1 ½
Also ran:EIGHT RINGS, CLASSIER, HOWBEIT, MO MOSA, SURFING STAR, BRICKYARD RIDE
WinningConnections:Owner: Slam Dunk Racing, Jerry McClanahan, Michael Nentwig & Richard Baltas; Trainer: Baltas; Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke.
Time:1:22.36 (fast)

Countdown to the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – Slam Dunk Racing, Jerry McClanahan, Michael Nentwig and trainer Richard Baltas’ GINOBILI (Drayden Van Dyke) kicked clear in the lane and earned an automatic starting berth into the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) with a 1 ¾-length win over C Z ROCKET in Del Mar’s $202,000 Pat O’Brien (G2). The 4-year-old son of Munnings won his first career stakes and doubled up after a 9 ¾-length win in a local optional-claimer July 17. Ginobili is 3-for-13 lifetime but all three wins have come at Del Mar, which makes him a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint is the more likely Breeders’ Cup race for Altamira Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, Gary Barber and Tom Kagele’s C Z Rocket, as he finished second in the race last year at Keeneland for trainer Peter Miller. The 7-year-old son of City Zip put in his customary late run but fell a bit short and will try to defend his title in the Oct. 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), which is a “Win and You’re In” for the Sprint. Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing’s FLAGSTAFF ran well to be third for trainer John Sadler, who said the 7-year-old son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown may follow the C Z Rocket schedule. “(Flagstaff) might run again at Santa Anita and then come back for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” Sadler said.

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