BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- ARROGATE (B. Baffert)
- GUN RUNNER (S. Asmussen)
- COLLECTED (B. Baffert)
- WEST COAST (B. Baffert)
- MUBTAAHIJ (B. Baffert)
- PAVEL (D. O’Neill)
- CHURCHILL (A. O’Brien)
- WAR DECREE (A. O’Brien)
THE LATEST – Defending BC Classic winner Arrogate lost for the second straight time when upset by stable mate Collected in the $1 million Pacific Classic-G1 Aug. 19, but performed much closer to his old self when going down by a half-length in a race that was legitimately fast and highly-rated. The previous month, the world’s number one rated horse (at that time) was beaten more than 15 lengths in San Diego H.-G2. Though trainer Bob Baffert refuses to use it as an excuse, there are those – jockey Mike Smith among them – who believe that Arrogate simply doesn’t act over the deep Del Mar strip. However, in recent workouts Arrogate has looked very close to his winter/spring form.
Gun Runner was superb in a 5 ¼ romp in the Whitney S.-G1 at Saratoga Aug. 5, over Keen Ice and then turned in an even a better performance speed figure-wise when crushing an outclassed field in the Woodward S.-G1 over that same course and distance Sept. 2. He’s been beaten twice by Arrogate but clearly is much better now than he was when he faced him earlier in his career. .
Collected is undefeated in seven starts over a fast dirt track. The 4-year-old colt does his best running on the lead and parlayed a pristine trip to his Pacific Classic victory. Most likely he’ll face more pace pressure in the BC Classic.
Now a winner of five straight including the Travers S.-G1 and most recently the Pennsylvania Derby-G2, West Coast is yet another legitimate BC Classic contender from the Baffert barn. The son of Flatter has displayed the versatility to win from far back or as the pacesetter, has earned legitimate speed figures, and clearly stands atop the 3-year-old division. Despite having not participated in any of the Triple Crown races (neither did Arrogate last year), West Coast seems highly likely to be awarded the Eclipse Award in the 3-year-old male division. He will be ridden by Javier Castellano because regular pilot Mike Smith is committed to Arrogate.
BREEDERS’ CUP TURF (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- HIGHLAND REEL (A. O’Brien)
- ULYSSES (M. Stoute)
- BEACH PATROL (C. Brown)
- DECORATED KNIGHT (R. Charleton)
- OSCAR PERFORMANCE (B. Lynch)
- FANCIFUL ANGEL (C. Brown)
- TALISMANIC (A. Fabre)
- SADLER’S JOY (T. Albertrani)
THE LATEST – The 2016 BC Turf winner Highland Reel remains on course to defend his title after finishing a well-beaten third over unsuitable (soft) ground on British Champions Day Oct. 21. Earlier this year the son of Galileo won back-to-back Group 1s and his connections believe he’ll regain that form over Del Mar’s top-of-the-ground grass course.
Ulysses, a respectable fourth to Highland Reel in the BC Turf last year and an excellent third to the brilliant filly Enable in the 2017 Arc, provides the Europeans with the second of four powerful contenders (Decorated Knight, a Group-1 winner in Ireland in his most recent start, and Talismanic, a Group-2 winner at Saint-Cloud two runs back, are other European-based runner to make the list).
This year’s American contingent isn’t very impressive, though Beach Patrol clearly has moved to the head of the class following victories in the Arlington Million – G1 and then most recently the 12F Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park Sept. 30.
BREEDERS’ CUP MILE (TURF) (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- RIBCHESTER (R. Fahey)
- WORLD APPROVAL (M. Casse)
- ZELZAL (J-C Roguet)
- SUEDOIS (D. O’Meara)
- HEART TO HEART (B Lynch)
- BLACKJACKCAT (M. Glatt)
- HOME OF THE BRAVE (H. Palmer)
- KARAR (H. Graffard-Francis)
THE LATEST – This is another race in which the Europeans have the edge. Top-rated Ribchester has been beaten in two of his last three starts – most recently going down by a length to Persuasive in the Queen Elizabeth II S.-G1 on British Champions day Oct. 21 – but in both defeats was likely to have been severely inconvenienced by soft ground. In between he was exceptional in victory at Chantilly in the Prix Moulin-G1.
World Approval has won back-to-back Grade I races to earn the top spot among North American-based turf milers. A marathon performer earlier in his career, the Northern Afleet gelding clearly is most effective at the BC Mile’s distance.
Zelzal, a lightly-raced son of Sea the Stars, had what may prove to be an excellent Breeders’ Cup prep in the Prix de la Foret-G1 on Arc day Oct. 1 at Chantilly over ground that was softer than he prefers. The 4-year-old colt from the yard of J-C Roguet loomed a strong threat close home but couldn’t quite follow through, winding up sixth but beaten less than two lengths. He’s a top-of-the-ground specialist but hasn’t won since a course-record setting victory in the 2016 Prix Jean Prat-G1 at Chantilly.
Suedois earned his way in with a legitimate victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile-G1 at Keeneland Oct. 7. The veteran gelding had been a sprinter throughout much of his 32-race career in Europe but at age six has never been in better form, having won the 8F Boomerang S.-G2 at Leopardstown in his previous start.
BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- ACCELERATE (J. Sadler)
- SHARP AZTECA (J. Navarro)
- CUPID (B. Baffert)
- BATTLE OF MIDWAY (J. Hollendorfer)
- MOR SPIRIT (B. Baffert)
- PRACTICAL JOKE (C. Brown)
- GIANT EXPECTATIONS (P. Eurton)
- IRON FIST (S. Asmussen)
THE LATEST – Accelerate, freshened since finishing a highly respectable third in mid-August 10F Pacific Classic-G1 over a trip that proved to be out of his range, will enjoy a home court advantage at Del Mar. He’s much more effective at a middle distance and can adapt to any pace scenario.
Sharp Azteca outclassed his foes with a thoroughly convincing front-running victory in the 8F Kelso H.-G2 at Belmont Park Sept. 23. The Jorge Navarro-trained colt previously captured the Monmouth Cup-G3 July 30 by more than seven lengths and should be no worse than second choice and perhaps even favored on Breeders’ Cup day.
Cupid, a winner of 6 of 12 career starts, captured the listed Harry Brubaker Stakes over the BC Mile’s course and distance in August. Most recently he failed to capitalize on a perfect trip when fourth as the favorite in the Awesome Again S.-G1 over nine furlongs at Santa Anita Sept. 30. The turn back to a mile and a recent sharp six furlongs provides evidence that the son of Tapit is ready to bounce back.
Battle of Midway, third in this year’s Kentucky Derby, added blinkers, got the patient ride he prefers, and won the listed Shared Belief S. over the same track and distance of the BC Dirt Mile in late August with a career top speed figure. However, he was simply second best to Untrapped in the subsequent Oklahoma Derby-G3 at Remington Park Sept. 24 at a mile and one-eighth. Like Cupid, he will appreciate the turn back to a mile.
BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- DREFONG ( Baffert)
- ROY H (P. Miller)
- MIND YOUR BISCUITS (C. Summers)
- IMPERIAL HINT (L. Carvajal, Jr.)
- TAKAFUL (K. McLaughlin)
- RANSOM THE MOON(P. D’Amato)
- WHITMORE (R. Moquett)
- AMERICAN PASTIME (R. Hess, Jr.)
THE LATEST – Defending BC Sprint champion Drefong obliterated his competition in the Forego S. -G1 at Saratoga, earning a career top speed figure in the process to regain leadership in the sprint division. He’s being trained up to the BC Sprint, just as he was last year with a virtually identical gap in between starts after he had won the King’s Bishop S.-G1 at the Spa and has looked better than ever in recent drills.
Roy H returned to winning form in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in which the main contenders (Giant Expectations, Ransom the Moon) simply failed to fire. While the son of More Than Ready won with something in hand, it must be noted that the inaccurate official final time (1:08.68) was actually four to five lengths faster than it should have been. Previously, the 5-year-old gelding managed to finish third in the Bing Crosby despite being badly impeded by the rider-less Drefong in what has been his only defeat in five starts this year.
Mind Your Biscuits, after a string of superb performances both at home and in Dubai, ran considerably below his best form when unplaced in the Forego. The Chad Summers trained son of Posse has been breezing like his old self lately and is a major contender off his best performance.
Imperial Hint crushed three outclassed rivals by more than six lengths under wraps in the listed LeVine Memorial Stakes at Parx on Labor Day, missing the track record by four one-hundredths of a second. It’ll be interesting to see if he can performed similarly away his home base.
BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- LADY AURELIA (W. Ward)
- MARSHA (M. Prescott)
- DISCO PARTNER (C. Clement)
- PURE SENSATION (C. Clement)
- HOGY (M. Maker)
- MONGOLIAN SATURDAY (E. Ganbat)
- BUCCHERRO (T. Glyshaw)
- HOLDING GOLD(M. Casse)
THE LATEST – This year’s BC Turf Sprint will be run at five furlongs, and that – coupled with Del Mar’s short run in from the top of the lane to the wire – means deep closing turf sprinters may be at a disadvantage. At this shortened trip Lady Aurelia has a considerable edge; she’s quick enough to make the lead but is quite comfortable in a stalk-and-pounce role should the situation dictate. She lost little in defeat when nosed out by Marsha in the Nunthorpe S. -G1 at York in late August over ground that might have been a bit stickier than she prefers. Most recently the Wesley Ward-trained filly breezed five furlongs on turf at Keeneland Oct. 21 in 1:00 4/5.
Marsha, runner-up in the Prix de l’Abbaye -G1 at Chantilly on Arc day, will be sold in the December Sales, but is Breeders’ Cup-bound before that. A rematch between Lady Aurelia and Marsha will be truly exciting.
Disco Partner re-established his standing as the premiere turf sprinter in the East with an authoritative victory in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Oct. 7, his fourth win from five 2017 outings. His connections have since stated their intentions to supplement the son of Disco Rico to the BC Turf Sprint, thus providing trainer Christophe Clement will a powerful one-two punch. He breezed three furlongs in 39 flat at Belmont Park Oct. 21.
Pure Sensation, the other half the Clement team, returned to winning form with a sharp score in the Monster Turf S.-G3 at Parx on Labor Day. Third in last year’s BC Turf Sprint, the veteran six-year-old probably is most effective at this shorter five furlong trip. He breezed three furlongs in 36 4/5 at Belmont Park Oct. 23,
BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- ELATE (W. Mott))
- STELLAR WIND (J. Sadler)
- FOREVER UNBRIDLED (D. Stewart)
- ABEL TASMAN (B. Baffert)
- PARADISE WOODS (R. Mandella)
- CHAMPAGNE ROOM (P. Eurton)
- ROMANTIC VISION (G. Arnold III)
- MOPOTISM ( O’Neill)
THE LATEST –Since her narrow defeat in the Mother Goose, Elate has registered a dominant victory in the Alabama S.-G1 and then, in her first start vs. older fillies and mares, made a mockery of the Beldame S.-G1 at Belmont Park Sept. 30, winning by more than eight lengths despite traffic trouble to the head of the lane. She’s a legitimate contender for an Eclipse Award in the 3-year-old filly division and has looked sensational in subsequent workouts leading up to the Breeders' Cup.
Stellar Wind firmly occupies the top spot in older filly and mare division but must face an usually powerful group of 3-year-olds in the Distaff. She’s better at age five than she’s ever been and is 3-for-3 this year, all in Grade 1’s, in 2017.
Forever Unbridled was the winner of the Personal Ensign S.-G1 over Songbird at Saratoga in late August and will enter the Distaff following a series of impressive workouts at Churchill Downs. She's a winner of three of her last four starts in top class company and always is dangerous from off the pace.
Abel Tasman made a premature move in the Cotillion S.-G1 at Parx Sept. 23 and was understandably worn down late by It Tiz Well, losing little despite her second place finish. In her previous start, the Baffert-trained filly was a smart winner of the C.A.A. Oaks-G1 over Elate in a race that in retrospect looks even stronger than initially given credit for.
BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- UNIQUE BELLA (J. Hollendorfer)
- BY THE MOON (M. Nevin)
- PAULASSILVERLINING (C. Brown)
- SKYE DIAMONDS (W. Spawr)
- HIGHWAY STAR (R. Ubillo)
- AMI’S MESA (J. Carroll)
- FINEST CITY (I. Kruljac)
- CURLIN’S APPROVAL (H. Alter)
THE LATEST – Unique Bella broke in a scramble but then settled nicely just behind the leaders to the turn, accelerated wide when ready to take control into the lane and drew clear without much fuss to register a 3 ½ length victory in the L. A. Woman S. –G3 Oct. 8 at Santa Anita in her first outing since a hairline shin fracture sent her to the sidelines in March. Second in her debut in June of her two-year-old season but unbeaten in five starts since (four of which were in graded stakes), the daughter of Tapit had what most would consider to be a perfect (non-taxing) comeback win and seems certain to be the favorite in BC Filly & Mare Sprint.
By the Moon has quietly won three of her last four, including the Ballerina S.-G1 at Saratoga Aug. 26. She’s as genuine and consistent as they come but, like Skye Diamonds (see below), has never earned a triple-digit Beyer number despite having 19 career starts.
Paulassilverlining had won four straight stakes races including back-to-back Grade-1’s after finishing third in the ’16 Filly & Mare Sprint, but she was well below form when winding up fifth in the Ballerina S.-G1 in an effort that is best ignored. In that race she broke sharply but was strangely guzzled back off a crawling early pace, got behind horses, got mad, and failed to fire. The interior fractions of that race – remember, this was a Grade-1 sprint – were 24.05 and 47.81. Originally ticketed for the Gallant Bloom H.-G2 at Belmont Park Sept. 24, she bypassed that race and will enter the BC Filly & Mare Sprint fresh.
Skye Diamonds has matured into the best female sprinter in the West not named Unique Bella and is undefeated in two starts at Del Mar. After another thoroughly commendable victory in the Rancho Bernardo S.-G2 in August, it was disclosed that the former claimer would train up to the race.
BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE TURF (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- LADY ELI (C. Brown)
- RHODODENDREN (A. O’Brien)
- ROLY POLY (A. O’Brien)
- DACITA (C. Brown)
- GRANDE JETE (C. Brown)
- QUEEN’S TRUST (M. Stoute)
- AVENGE (R. Mandella)
- WAR FLAG ( McGaughey III)
THE LATEST – Lady Eli has the style to suit the tight turf course at Del Mar, where the short stretch requires handiness and instant acceleration. In her victory in the Ballston Spa-G2 at Saratoga Aug. 26, the remarkable daughter of Divine Park did just that. She has looked sensational in a series of breezing workouts leading up to the race.
Rhododendron and Roly Poly are a pair of-classsy European-based fillies from Aidan O’Brien’s yard, with the former winning the Prix de l’Opera S.-G1 on Arc day at Chantilly Oct. 1 while the latter, an American-bred daughter of War Front, returned to exceptional form with a superb victory in the 8F Sun Chariot S.-G1 at Newmarket Oct. 7.
Dacita earned her way in with a victory in the Beverly D. S.-G1 at Arlington Park Aug. 12 and then was a courageous second in the Flower Bowl S.-G1 at Belmont Park Oct. 8, finishing strongly but a tad too late.
BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- BOLT D’ORO (M. Ruis)
- SOLOMINI ( Baffert)
- FREE DROP BILLY (D. Romans)
- GOOD MAGIC (C. Brown)
- FIRENZE FIRE (J. Servis)
- THE TABULATOR (L. Rivelli)
- HOLLYWOOD STAR (D. Romans)
- MENDELSSOHN (A. O’Brien)
THE LATEST – Bolt d’Oro is unbeaten in three starts, breaking his maiden sprinting, winning the 7F Del Mar Futurity-G1 impressively, and then performing like a potential superstar in his first try around two turns in the FrontRunner S.-G1 at Santa Anita Sept. 30. In that 8.5 furlong event, the son of Medaglia d’Oro switched off nicely when stalking the pace, took control when ready heading for home and drew off in powerful fashion to register a nearly eight length victory. The arbitrarily lowered assigned Beyer speed figure (100, but in actuality 113) hardly does him justice. At this time nobody else in this division is even close.
Solomini, in just his second career start, finished a highly promising though distant second to Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner. He’s an excellent prospect by Curlin and should get nothing but better with experience and distance for trainer Bob Baffert.
Free Drop Billy stretched out to two-turns for the first time in the Breeders' Futurity-G1 at Keeneland and won convincingly. The son of Union Rags continues to impress in the morning and seems certain to have further upside.
Good Magic, though still a maiden after two starts, is a colt with extreme potential. Runner-up in the Champagne S.-G1 over a one-turn mile in his second career start, the son of Curlin should improve with experience and distance and is another that has been highly impressive in morning drills since his last start.
BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- MOONSHINE MEMORIES (S. Callaghan)
- SEPARATIONOFPOWERS (C. Brown)
- HEAVENLY LOVE (M. Casse)
- CALEDONIA ROAD (R. Nicks)
- PIEDI BIANCHI (D. O’Neill)
- WONDER GADOT (M. Casse)
- MAYA MALIBU (G. Motion)
- ALLURING STAR (B. Baffert)
THE LATEST – Moonshine Memories is unbeaten in three starts and has a nearly identical pattern as Bolt d’Oro, though certainly she’s not as fast or as dominant as he is. The daughter of Into Mischief returned off short rest following her impressive debut maiden win to take the Del Mar Debutante-G1 over seven furlongs in smart fashion and then, in her first try around two turns, dominated her rivals by nearly three lengths in the Chandelier S.-G1 at Santa Anita Sept. 30.
Separationofpowers captured the 8F Frizette S.-G1 at Belmont Park by 3 ½ lengths and did so with a legitimate 86 Beyer speed figure. In her previous start, the daughter of Candy Ride got stuck inside in a speed duel in the 7F Spinaway-G1 and paid the price, weakening to wind up a tired third. Clearly she wants to be held up and allowed to run on late and a successful stretch out to two-turns should be well within her capabilities.
Heavenly Love capitalized on a perfect pace-stalking trip to win the Alcibiades S.-G1 by more than five lengths with a decent speed figure. After finishing a troubled third in her debut over 5F at Gulfstream Park, she graduated at Kentucky Downs by more than five lengths sprinting on turf in September and clearly is progressing rapidly with experience and distance.
Caledonia Road was more than eight lengths clear of the others when runner-up to Separationofpowers in the Frizette in what was just her second career start. The daughter of Quality Road had won her debut sprinting over a sloppy track in September in fairly impressive fashion and clearly is a progressive type that deserves a chance in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- U S NAVY FLAG (A. O’Brien)
- NELSON (A. O’Brien)
- JAMES GARFIELD (G. Scott)
- MASAR (C. Appleby)
- TIP TWO WIN (R. Teal)
- SNAPPER SINCLAIR (S. Asmussen)
- UNTAMED DOMAIN (G. Motion)
- CATHOLIC BOY (J. Thomas)
THE LATEST – U S Navy Flag, a full-brother BC Filly & Mare Turf contender Roly Poly, is a dual Group-1 winner and the probable favorite for this race following his impressive victory in the 7F Dewhurst S.-G1 at Newmarket Oct. 1. A winner of four of 10 starts during a busy juvenile campaign, the son of War Front won the Middle Park S.-G1 in his previous start.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has another strong contender in Nelson, a progressive son of Frankel who finished a close second in the Royal Lodge S. –G1 at Newmarket in his most recent outing in late September.
James Garfield scored handsomely in the Mill Reef S.-G2 at Newbury Sept. 23, and while that race came over six furlongs the colt’s connections believe he’ll get a mile over the firm ground and tight course he’ll encounter at Del Mar. On pure form he’s a major player, for sure. So are two other European imports, Masar, winner of Solario S. –G2 and Tip Two Win, a listed stakes winner and group-stakes placed.
BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (updated Oct. 29, 2017)
- HAPPILY (A. O’Brien)
- RUSHING FALL (C. Brown)
- SIGNIFICANT FORM (T. Pletcher)
- BEST PERFORMANCE (C. Clement)
- ORBOLUTION (T. Pletcher)
- SEPTEMBER (A. O’Brien)
- CAPLA TEMPTRESS (W. Mott)
- JULIET CAPULET (J. Gosden)
THE LATEST – Happily defeated colts on Arc day at Chantilly when winning the Grand Criterium -G1, her fourth victory from six career starts, and may be headed to Del Mar, where she’d most likely face her own sex in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, according to trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has several other candidates and likely won’t make a final decision for at least another week.
Rushing Fall is unbeaten in two starts, an impressive maiden tally at Belmont Park and then the Jessamine S.-G3 at Keeneland. In both races the daughter of More Than Ready displayed an exceptional turn of foot, and at this stage appears the best of the North Americans and a worthy challenger to the powerful European contingent.
Significant Form, disqualified out of an impressive two-turn turf maiden win at Saratoga, had no issues in the Miss Grillo S.-G3 at Belmont Park Oct. 1 and won with authority. The daughter of Creative Cause should handle the firm ground and the tight turns at Del Mar just fine. She worked four furlongs on turf at Belmont Park in 50 1/5 Oct. 15 in company with Rymska (see workout).
Best Performance and Orbolution, two-three finishers in the Miss Grillo, both ran very well, have further improvement in them, and deserve a trip to California.