ARCADIA, Calif.—If everything holds together and all things being equal, one thing seems certain: The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic won’t be lacking for pace.
With committed front-runners Medina Spirit, Knicks Go and Art Collector all pointing to the mile and one-quarter Classic at Del Mar Nov. 6, Vegas books might ponder offering a prop bet on which one takes the lead, if they haven’t already.
Private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, with an opinion usually at the ready on any racing question, was tactfully terse when asked for an analysis of the Classic now less than two weeks hence.
“There’s speed in the race, but I don’t know if there’s Knicks Go-type of speed,” said Young, his vested interest aside since it was, he who recommended owner Amr Zedan purchase Medina Spirit for the bargain price of $35,000 at last year’s Ocala two-year-old in training sale.
“Obviously, Medina’s a fast horse, and Hot Rod Charlie’s not a slow horse, but Knicks Go is a very fast horse. You couldn’t ask for Medina Spirit to be in better hands than Johnny V’s (regular rider John Velazquez).
“Medina Spirit ran well in the Sham against Life Is Good (second all the way, beaten three-quarters of a length in the one-mile race on Jan. 2), so I don’t think he needs the lead to run well.
“There are some who point out he’s four for four when he makes the lead and gotten beat every time he doesn’t make the lead (in three races; he did lead after bobbling in the Preakness, eventually finishing third by 5 ½ lengths).
“But I find it hard to believe a horse with his desire to win has to have the lead to do it. Usually, he’s fast enough to be in front.”
Asked if speed would benefit a proven stretch runner like Elusive Quality, Young said, “It all depends on how the pace plays out. I suppose the pace could be fast, but let’s not forget this:
“The only other time they ran the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar (in 2017), Gun Runner, Collected and West Coast pretty much ran around there one, two, three (in the Classic). Medina Spirit seems to be doing very well, but we’ll see what happens.”
Addressing Horse of the Year, despite his affinity for Medina Spirit, Young feels that all but a vacuous effort by the brown or dark bay colt would warrant the prestigious award.
“If he wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic and they don’t give him Horse of the Year, they might as well throw the trophy away,” Young said. “That said, he could win the Breeders’ Cup Classic by five lengths and there are still going to be some haters who will not vote for him.
“But if he wins the race, I don’t know how you cannot vote him Horse of the Year, I really don’t.”
D’Amato Seeks Better Luck In Twilight Derby
Phil D’Amato expects another solid performance from Cathkin Peak in next Sunday’s closing-day feature, the Grade II Twilight Derby for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Another in the trainer’s imported “Irish Army,” Cathkin Peak is a gelded son of Alhebayeb that was an eventful fourth last out in the Grade II Del Mar Derby, closing resolutely despite lacking room in deep stretch, beaten just a length and a quarter by California-bred None Above the Law, who will be a favorite in the Twilight Derby trained by Peter Miller.
“He had traffic problems, nowhere to go (in the Del Mar Derby),” D’Amato said. “Hopefully, we’ll regroup. He’s ready for the test even though this will be an even tougher race.”
Jose Valdivia Jr., who was aboard in the Del Mar Derby, retains the mount.
Filly From D’Amato’s Irish Army In Autumn Miss
Burgoo Alley, a distaff member of Phil D’Amato’s “Irish Army,” will represent the trainer in this Saturday’s Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for three-year-old fillies at a mile on turf.
A chestnut daughter of the Giant’s Causeway stallion Footstepsinthesand, Burgoo Alley has been right there in each of her five U.S. starts, finishing a game third as the 8-5 favorite last out in the restricted Unzip Me Stakes Oct. 3 despite stumbling from the inside post position.
“She wants to go two turns, and she’ll get that chance on Saturday,” D’Amato said.
Two-time Italian riding champion Umberto Rispoli, who has ridden Burgoo Alley in each of her five races in California, will be back aboard.
FINISH LINES: Doug O’Neill won three more races Saturday to take a commanding 15-7 lead over runners-up Peter Miller and Bob Baffert in the race for training honors through 12 racing days . . . Flavien Prat has all but locked up the jockey title, leading second-place Juan Hernandez, 21-12, but more remarkable winning at 38 percent with an in-the-money percentage of 76 and purse earnings of $1,386,836, more than $500,000 ahead of second-place Hernandez, who has $793,798 . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday. The final weekend of live racing resumes 1 p.m. Friday with the 16-day campaign concluding on Sunday, Oct. 31…First post time each racing day is at 1 p.m.
For info on the Best Breeders’ Cup Seminar click HERE.
Stable Notes By Ed Golden
Photo: Photo: Left to right: Classic possibles Knicks Go (Coglianese), Medina Spirit (Benoit Photos) and Art Collector (Joe Labozzetta).