Freshman Fillies Faceoff on Future Stars Friday

November 3, 2022

Pletcher-trainee Atomically out for a breeze at Keeneland Wednesday morning. Coady Photography

Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Fillies Turf Contenders put in final preps as Todd Pletcher seeks his allusive Juvenile Fillies win

Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Trainer Todd Pletcher’s 12 Breeders’ Cup victories have come from nine races, but one race missing from that resume is the NetJets Juvenile Fillies (G1).

He will have two chances to alter that statistic Friday when he sends out morning line favorite Chocolate Gelato, owned by Repole Stable, and the newly acquired Atomically, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Bernard and Harry Colburn.

Chocolate Gelato, listed at 7-2, will break from post 10 under regular partner Irad Ortiz Jr. and Atomically, listed at 12-1, will break from post eight and be ridden for the first time by Luis Saez.

“They both have tactical speed and need to get a good position,” Pletcher said regarding the key to success Friday.

Comanche Country on the turf at Keeneland. Coady Photography

Little Red Feather Racing, Sterling Stables and Marsha Naify’s Comanche Country (IRE) galloped 1 1/4m through the fog Thursday morning at Keeneland with exercise rider Romain Techer aboard one day before her anticipated start in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). The Highland Reel filly was purchased privately by the current connections after her first start at Naas Racecourse in Ireland where she lost by a nose. She remained in Ireland for one more start in the Naas Fillies Sprint Stakes before switching trainers and making the move to Phil D’Amato’s barn in California. 

“She just looked like a typical European filly, maybe a bit on the smaller side,” D’Amato said of his first impressions of the filly. “She had good bone and good body to her. She was just one of those typical two-year-old European fillies that I usually get.”

Comanche Country is undefeated in three starts since making the switch to D’Amato’s training program. Her most recent start was a victory in the Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita Oct. 9. All her stateside wins have been on the turf going a mile, the same conditions for tomorrow’s Juvenile Fillies Turf.  

“I think she’s very versatile and it’ll be up to (jockey) Umberto (Rispoli) to decide where he wants to be,” D’Amato said. “Whether he wants to be stalking or further back, I think she can do it all.”

Comanche Country will break from post one under Rispoli who has ridden her in her past three starts. She has morning line odds of 15-1.

Free Look was second to Pleasant Passage by 3/4 length in the Miss Grillo at Belmont at the Big A October 1.

Klaravich Stables’ Chad Brown-trained Free Look has the look of a top contender in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, a race her conditioner has won a record five times A blue-blooded daughter of Tapit, the $300,000 Keeneland September 2021 purchase will break from post four under Flavien Prat and was assigned a second-choice morning line of 5-1.

“She has a nice, cozy draw and getting back on firm turf is going to be key,” Brown said. “She is maybe not as brilliant as some of the other ones we’ve brought in – we’ve had some heavy favorites before in this race – but she compares favorably and certainly has a similar pattern coming out of the Miss Grillo and then coming into this race. She has a world-class jockey on her and she gives us some hope in a race that looks like it has several win candidates that she could spring an upset.”

Free Look was third on debut as the 5-2 favorite at Saratoga, but quickly made amends five weeks later on Sept. 4, easily winning in identical company by 2½ lengths and stamping herself as one to watch on the road to the Breeders’ Cup. She returned four weeks later to finish a game second by three-quarters of a length in the Miss Grillo over a yielding Aqueduct turf course. She has been stabled at Keeneland through a trio of breezes in October leading into Friday’s race. 

G Laurie out for a work Wednesday morning at Keeneland. Coady Photography

Madaket Stables’ G Laurie galloped 1m Wednesday morning at Keeneland with exercise rider Jordan Thompson aboard after the filly shipped in early Tuesday morning to trainer Graham Motion’s Rice Road barn. G Laurie is entered in the Juvenile Fillies Turf on Friday following a third-place finish in the Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes at Woodbine where she ran into traffic coming down the stretch. 

“She’s going to need a clean trip because these races are so competitive, and you have to get a clean trip to overcome the competition,” Motion said. “I think if she can run back to that race (her last start) and improve, there’s every reason she should be competitive. It’s just a little hard to gauge because that day (when she ran in the Natalma) she didn’t get to run her race.”

G Laurie will break from post 11 in the 14-horse field. She is a daughter of Oscar Performance and is among his first group of runners. 

“I have two Oscar Performances and they don’t seem to be overly flashy in the morning,” Motion said. “They’re kind of workman-like and just keep improving. I think we’re probably going to see more and more of her as we go along.”

William Buick will have the mount Friday. It will be his first time aboard the filly.

Oxymore breezing Thursday morning. Coady Photography

Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Morris Bailey and William J. Rucker’s Oxymore will be trainer Chad Brown’s 116th Breeders’ Cup starter, but the 15-time winner’s first in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. The gelded son of Australian star sprinter Astern will cut back from a loss last out in the 1m Nownownow Stakes at Monmouth Park and hopes to return to the form that saw him win his debut over 6f at Belmont and then Saratoga’s 51/2f Skidmore Stakes.

“He’s 2-for-2 around one turn, so I thought I would drop him back,” Brown said. “In his last race, he got a little late going two turns and was probably back a little quick. He had a tough race at Saratoga, and it took a lot out of him. I don’t think he was up to running back, but it was such a big purse ($510,000), he was doing well, and he was favored in the race. I tried and it didn’t work out.”

On Wednesday morning, Oxymore – 8-1 on the morning line – had an easy gallop with exercise rider Peter Leiva Roman in the irons. He then schooled in the paddock. Jose Ortiz rides on Friday from post seven of 12. 

Pleasant Passage working on Wednesday morning. Coady Photography

Emory Hamilton’s homebred Pleasant Passage brings a perfect two-for-two mark into Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) for trainer Shug McGaughey.

She will mark only the second starter in the race for McGaughey, who has started 65 horses in the World Championships and had runners in 27 of the first 38 events.

“She got through on the inside in her debut at Saratoga and the logical progression was to go to the Miss Grillo,” McGaughey said of the daughter of Peaceful Passage, a filly he trained for Hamilton.

“In the Miss Grillo, she had the inside and no one went with her and Irad (Ortiz Jr.) took advantage,” McGaughey said. 

Xigera out in the morning mist for a breeze. Coady Photography

Rigney Racing’s Xigera shipped in from Churchill Downs Monday afternoon for an anticipated start in the Juvenile Fillies Turf Friday. The daughter of Nyquist galloped 1 1/2m Wednesday morning over a fast track at Keeneland with exercise rider Santos Rivera up for trainer Phil Bauer.

“All the work is done,” Bauer said. “We’re just trying to keep her happy and go into it the right way.”

This will be Bauer’s first Breeders’ Cup starter and Xigera’s second start here at Keeneland. 

“We’re excited to be here, but we feel like we belong,” Bauer said. “We’re excited to run her. There are times, like the undercard race that we’re entered in, where we know that we’re swinging at it and hoping for the best, but we have a different feeling for her that she could be one of the horses to beat. Hopefully she runs to our beliefs and gets the job done. I’m excited for the owners and the whole team to finally reach the top. Hopefully we stick around.”

Xigera will break from post 13 on Friday under Julien Leparoux who has ridden the filly in all three of her starts. She has morning line odds of 8-1.

“With her running style I’m OK with it (the post position),” Bauer said. “Maybe if I had to choose one, I wouldn’t have chosen that. To be on the outside with tactical speed the biggest worry is getting hung out, but I think we should be able to work a trip from there.”

Xigera broke her maiden on the turf at Saratoga in August on her second attempt by 5 3/4 lengths. Her most recent start was a third-place finish in the Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland. 

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