Epicenter breezing Wednesday morning. Coady Photography
Epicenter, Hot Rod Charlie, Olympiad, Rich Strike
Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited
LEXINGTON, KY.—Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter continued to impress in his gallops as he went out shortly after 8 a.m. and went 1 1/2m under regular exercise rider Roberto Howell.
“He’s just a fabulous horse,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who is seeking a third Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. “I really love how he’s physically matured throughout the year. It’s a tough running of the race. It’s easily the best race he’s ever been in, but his confidence level is where you would want it. He’s training beautifully.”
It was a routine 1 1/8 m gallop for Longines Classic contender Hot Rod Charlie on Wednesday morning under exercise rider Connor Murray as the colt prepares for his third Breeders’ Cup start on Saturday. Owned by Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Gainesway Stable and Strauss Bros Racing, Hot Rod Charlie’s only other start at Keeneland was a second-place finish in the 2020 TVG Juvenile at odds of 94-1 for trainer Doug O’Neill.
“I think you’re seeing a taller, more filled out version now,” O’Neill said. “He just continues to be so competitive, and he brings it every time. I think the biggest change from what we saw a couple of years back (when he ran in the 2020 Juvenile) is just a taller, bigger version of himself who continues to try just as hard every time we run him.”
Tyler Gaffalione, who has the mount Saturday, also rode the colt in the Breeders’ Cup in 2020.
“He’s grown up a lot (since the 2020 Juvenile),” Gaffalione said. “He’s much bigger, much more powerful and much more mature. Right now, it seems like he’s the complete package.”
O’Neill will be looking to capture his first Longines Classic win and add to his five previous Breeders’ Cup wins this weekend.
Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables and LNJ Foxwoods’ Olympiad had an easy gallop Wednesday morning with veteran rider Neil Poznansky aboard. The $700,000 Keeneland September 2019 purchase has been patiently managed by trainer Bill Mott, including a 364-day layoff between his 2yo and 3yo campaigns. He has earned $2,007,560 from 12 starts, including victories in five of his past six efforts.
“If you’ve got a nice horse and want to give them a career, you’ve got to be patient,” Mott said. “You have to watch and observe and if you think they have issues that need to be taken care of early on. Fortunately, with him, we had some baby issues and gave him the time and he’s repaid us for it.
“Everybody wants a (Kentucky) Derby winner and I have got one in the barn right now that we can start prepping in the spring for it, but the reality is that there’s only 20 horses going into that gate out of 20,000 foals born, so not everybody can do it,” Mott concluded. “A lot can’t make it for one reason or another, some aren’t good enough and some aren’t ready for it, but if you get one that’s good enough and ready, let’s go.”
RED TR Racing’s Rich Strike galloped 1 1/2m with Gabriel Lagunes aboard before 6:30 Wednesday morning.
“He was wicked strong this morning,” trainer Eric Reed said. “The difference between before the (Kentucky) Derby and now is that he can control that wicked strong. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Lagunes came back to Lexington after riding six horses Tuesday night at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in New Cumberland, West Virginia.
“That’s dedication right there,” Reed said. “I was going to get him a helicopter, but I couldn’t get one.”
Lagunes, who won one race Tuesday and was to make the 6 ½-hour drive back tonight for six more mounts, said he got back to Lexington at 3 a.m. this morning.
“I drove part of the way and my girlfriend drove the rest and I slept,” Lagunes said. “We win Saturday, I’m going to get a plane.”