Graded Winners Set Piece, Field Pass in BWI Turf Cup (G3) Clash

September 8, 2022

French Group 2 Winner Pao Alto to Make U.S. Debut in One-Mile Event
Headlines Four Stakes Worth $475,000 in Purses on Opening Saturday

BALTIMORE, Md.— Set Piece and defending champion Field Pass, both graded-stakes winners in their only previous trips to historic Pimlico Race Course, and Pao Alto, a European Group 2 winner yet to run in the U.S., are among a solid field of seven entered for Saturday’s $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3).

The 14th running of the one-mile BWI Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up headlines a 10-race program that features four stakes worth $475,000 in purses including the $100,000 All Along for fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/8 miles, also scheduled for the grass.

Also on tap are a pair of six-furlong dirt sprints, the $100,000 Lite the Fuse for 3-year-olds and up featuring Grade 3 winner Jaxon Traveler, 3-for-4 lifetime at Pimlico, and $75,000 Shine Again for non-winners of an open sweepstakes which drew a wide-open field of nine fillies and mares 3 and older.

Set Piece fights to victory in the 2022 Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. Photo by Maryland Jockey Club

Juddmonte’s British homebred Set Piece (GB) was a popular winner of the 1 1/16-mile Dinner Party (G2) on the undercard of the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21, employing his usual come-from-behind style to win by a comfortable 1 ¼ lengths. It was the sixth career stakes win and second in graded company for the 6-year-old Dansili gelding, a 10-time winner of $753,323 in purses.

“He kind of needs a setup, but he’s honest enough and always seems to show up and put in a good effort,” two-time defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox said. “Having won the Dinner Party, we know he likes the course. It definitely adds to our confidence level.”

Winner of the Wise Dan (G2) and runner-up in the Fourstardave (G1) last summer, Set Piece followed up his Dinner Party triumph running fifth in the one-mile Forbidden Apple (G3) July 15 at Saratoga, a race where he was blocked behind horses into deep stretch and wound up beaten 3 ¼ lengths for it all. Last out he got off a bit slowly and raced last before getting up to be fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Arlington Million (G1), contested Aug. 13 in Kentucky.

“He came out of it great. He had his first work back the other day on the dirt at Churchill and he looked great,” Cox said. “The Arlington Million race, he ran on well. They only ran two races [on the turf] and it looked like speed was good and horses weren’t really kicking on. Overall, it was a very respectable performance.

“He’s always kept good company, and he’s beat some good horses. He’s another one that’s been Grade 1 placed a time or two,” he added. “He’s a gelding but it would be nice to win a Grade 1 with him. It’s always nice to win a graded stakes. He’s been able to accomplish that and maybe at some point we take another swing at a Grade 1 with him.”

Sheldon Russell gets the riding assignment on Set Piece from Post 6 in a field of seven as co-topweight of 124 pounds.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Field Pass was forwardly placed in last year’s BWI Turf Cup and got patient handling from jockey Victor Carrasco to find room along the inside late and get up to win by a neck over Ramsey Solution with Talk Or Listen third, both horses coming back to win stakes in their next starts.

The 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has won two of eight subsequent starts, taking the 1 1/16-mile Seabiscuit (G2) last fall at Del Mar and being placed first following the disqualification of Megacity in the Texas Turf Classic June 16 at Lone Star. He also exits the Arlington Million, where he wound up eighth after chasing the pace.

“The last race over at Churchill, it was really more of a dirt track than a turf track and he didn’t handle it very well, so it was disappointing,” Three Diamonds’ Kirk Wycoff said. “He always tries. In Texas, we kind of tracked a loose-on-the-lead horse. We got a break when they put us up.”

Purchased for $37,000 as a yearling during Fasig-Tipton’s Eastern Fall Sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium in 2018, Field Pass has gone on to win nine races, eight stakes including the 2020 Jeff Ruby (G3), Transylvania (G3) and Ontario Derby (G3), and more than $1.15 million in purse earnings. He was named Maryland’s champion 3-year-old male in 2020 and champion turf male in 2021.

Field Pass winning the 2021 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar. Photo by Benoit

“We’ve had three million-dollar earners in our history over the last 16 years, so he’s meant a lot to us,” Wycoff said. “He’s always there from a mile to a mile and an eighth, and the ground doesn’t matter. He’s kind of a lighter-framed horse. There’s not many Lemon Drop Kids left and there’s none that have won a million dollars that I know of still racing. So, we’re very proud of him.”

Dylan Davis, up for a runner-up finish in the 2021 Knickerbocker (G3) at Belmont Park, is named to ride Field Pass from Post 4. Field Pass is cross-entered in Saturday’s Mint Million at Kentucky Downs.

Wertheimer & Frere’s Pao Alto will be making his North American debut in the BWI Turf Cup. The French-bred gelding won the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup (G2) Feb. 18 at Doha Racecourse in Qatar and most recently finished fifth, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the Prix du Muguet (G2) May 8 at Saint Cloud in France.

“He came to us about a month or two ago,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He’s obviously a pretty useful horse. He’s been very straightforward in the morning. I feel like every time we’ve worked him, he’s improved. He’s kind of getting the hang of the different training over here.”

“I think he’s fit in pretty well. I always think it’s a little tough for these guys when they come over in the middle of the summer because they’re not quite used to our heat and humidity, but hopefully we’re kind of getting through that a little bit now,” he added. “He has actually handed it all pretty well.”

Pao Alto is 4-for-7 lifetime at the one-mile distance and has breezed four times over the all-weather surface at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. since mid-August. Jevian Toledo will be aboard from Post 2.

“Often when these European horses come over they tend to break a step slow. I did pop him out of the gate [Tuesday] morning just to kind of get him familiar with it and he seemed to handle it well,” I just kind of thought this was a good starting place for him, and the fact that it’s local is appealing to me.”

Bizzee Channel winning the Arlington Stakes July 17, 2021. Photo by Coady Photography

Bizzee Channel, determined winner of the 1 3/16-mile Arlington (G3) last summer, will be racing for the first time since being claimed for $50,000 out of a runner-up finish Aug. 15 at Colonial Downs by owner-trainer Lacey Gaudet.

The 6-year-old son of turf champion English Channel was beaten a neck in that 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance. He has finished in the top three eight times in 10 tries going one mile with a pair of wins, including a May 28 optional claiming allowance at Hawthorne for previous trainer Larry Rivelli.

“He ran very well. We’ve gone over a lot of his old replays, and it looked like it was little bit of an odd race for him,” Gaudet said. “He usually tries to go to the front, so I don’t know if they just tried to switch something up with him, but he ran great. We just felt like he could be a horse that might benefit from a change of scenery.”

“We really haven’t changed much with him so we’re just going to kind of let him do his thing,” she added. “It’s probably not the easiest spot that we could pick, but it’s at home and I think he’ll like that turf course. He is doing well, so I think it’s worth a shot. If he gets back to half of his back class, I think he definitely fits in there.”

Johan Rosado gets the call from Post 3.

Sifting Sands winning the Better Talk Now at Saratoga August 29, 2021. Photo by Chelsea Durand

Trainer Chad Brown, who won the BWI Turf Cup with Projected in 2017, entered the pair of Sifting Sands and Public Sector. Peter Brant’s Sifting Sands (GB), 4, won the Better Talk Now last summer and exits a head loss in the Aug. 6 Lure, both restricted stakes at Saratoga, and is 3-0 lifetime at one mile. Klaravich Stables, Inc.’s Public Sector (GB) is winless in four starts this year after taking the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), Saranac (G3) and Hill Prince (G3) in succession last summer and fall.

Feargal Lynch gets the call on Sifting Sands from Post 5, while Junior Alvarado is named on Public Sector from the rail.

Completing the field is English Tavern, based at Laurel Park with trainer Hamilton Smith, who co-owns the 5-year-old English Channel gelding with older brother Goree Smith and Jerry Romans Jr. Third last out in the Aug. 16 Buckland at Colonial Downs, English Tavern crossed the wire first and edged Eons by a nose in the July 16 Prince George’s County at Laurel but was disqualified and placed second for interference.

English Tavern will break from outermost Post 7 with Maryland’s four-time leading rider Trevor McCarthy aboard.

The BWI Turf Cup began as the Colonial Turf Cup in 2005 at Colonial Downs. It was cut back to one mile and renamed the Commonwealth Cup after being moved to Laurel Park in 2015, contested as the Commonwealth Turf Cup in 2016 and under its current name since 2017. The race was not run in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic altered the stakes schedule.

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Main Photo: Field Pass winning the 2021 edition of the BWI Turf Cup. Photo by Maryland Jockey Club

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