McGaughey Saddles Pleasant Passage, Battle of Normandy in Breeders’ Cup

November 3, 2022

Pleasant Passage trains at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will have two strong contenders Friday at Keeneland when he sends out Pleasant Passage in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf and Battle of Normandy in the Grade 1 Juvenile Turf as he looks to secure his 10th career Breeders’ Cup score.

Emory A. Hamilton’s homebred Pleasant Passage is perfect through two starts at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, including a rallying maiden win over firm footing in August at Saratoga ahead of a frontrunning score under returning rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo over yielding going here.

“In her first start, she finished up good down on the inside,” McGaughey said. “I think the race really helped her and she trained really well up to the Miss Grillo. When she broke, it seemed like nobody else wanted the lead so Irad took it in his hands. She was good enough to hold off all challengers. She came out of that race good and has trained aggressively since then.”

Pleasant Passage has since worked a pair of bullet half-miles over the Belmont inner turf, including a 48.20 solo effort Saturday before shipping to Kentucky.

“She’s worked very well. She’s a good workhorse,” McGaughey said. “I brought her down here Saturday after she worked. She’s trained every day and schooled in the paddock. All systems are go.”

The More Than Ready bay is out of the War Front mare Peaceful Passage, who is a half-sibling to multiple graded-stakes winner Hungry Island and graded-stakes winner Soaring Empire.

Ortiz, Jr. will have the call from Post 5 aboard Pleasant Passage, who is listed at 12-1 on the morning line.

Battle of Normandy trains at Keeneland Oct. 31 (Coady Photography)

West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing’s Battle of Normandy was a last-out seventh in the Grade 2 Pilgrim on October 2 here in a 1 1/16-mile test contested over yielding going.

The City of Light bay, a $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase, made his first two starts traveling 1 1/16 miles on the Spa turf. He graduated by 2 1/4 lengths in his August 6 debut ahead of a narrow neck defeat to Boppy O on August 31 in the Grade 3 With Anticipation. The third-place finisher of that event, Juvenile Turf-bound Andthewinneris, came back to win the Grade 2 Bourbon at Keeneland.

McGaughey said he drew a line through the Pilgrim effort.

“I think he didn’t like the real soft turf. He’s a big, heavy horse and I don’t think he handled it,” McGaughey said. “It looks like it will be really firm here, so we’re taking a chance. We think he’s that kind. The horse that won the Bourbon here finished behind him in the With Anticipation at Saratoga and I think if it stays good and firm, they’ll know he’s in there.”

Battle of Normandy breezed a half-mile in company with Dripping Gold in 48.70 Saturday over the Belmont inner turf. He is out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Adorable Miss, who is a full-sister to graded-stakes winner Noble Beauty.

Jose Lezcano will guide Battle of Normandy from post 5 at a morning-line assessment of 20-1.

First to Act breaks her maiden April 15 at Aqueduct (NYRA/Coglianese)

McGaughey will be represented locally on Friday by Andrew Rosen’s First to Act in the Grade 3, $150,000 Turnback the Alarm, a nine-furlong route for fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

The 4-year-old Curlin bay enters from a distant runner-up effort to Nest in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Beldame here on October 9 where she pressed the pace of Travel Column and stayed on strong to complete the exacta by 5 1/2 lengths over Hybrid Eclipse.

First to Act has breezed back twice, including a bullet half-mile in 48.10 on October 22 over Big Sandy.

“I understand what we were up against last time with Nest, but I thought she’d run a bit better than she did,” McGaughey said. “She came out of it good and had good works.”

First to Act, out of the graded-stakes winning Giant’s Causeway mare First Passage, is a half-sibling to graded-stakes winner Berned. She graduated at second asking in April traveling a one-turn mile at the Big A and notched a 1 1/16-mile allowance score two starts later in July at Belmont Park ahead of a runner-up effort in her stakes debut in the nine-furlong Summer Colony.

McGaughey said First to Act is likely to have another prominent trip when she exits post 3 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who was aboard for the maiden score.

“Going a distance of ground, she’ll be laying closer,” McGaughey said. “We’ll see how the race develops and take it from there.”

@jonathanstettin #2 Ettalusive ran big to finish 2nd in Gulf Stream 3rd 16-1

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