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Executiveprivilege cemented her status as the probable favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) with a dominant win Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Anyone wondering what might happen at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships was served up quite a few clues this past weekend.

Both Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park offered a smorgasbord of stakes on Saturday and Sunday that showcased a collection of the top candidates for the 15 Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 2 and 3.

The conditions could not have been more different, with Santa Anita a sauna due to a heat wave and Belmont drying out from a fall rain storm the day before. Yet with last weekend’s races serving as the final Breeders’ Cup prep for each hopeful, it was the last chance to evaluate each horse’s potential for landing in the winner’s circle at the world championships.  

Belmont, in New York, had the richer and more renowned stakes, yet it was Santa Anita’s offerings which should be monitored more closely simply because of homecourt advantage.

With Santa Anita set to host the Breeders’ Cup once again, it makes the most sense to believe that horses who won or turned in strong showings in renamed, non-Oak Tree stakes like the Awesome Again, FrontRunner and Chandelier (what next, Santa Anita, the Ceiling Fan Stakes?) are the best candidates to duplicate their efforts in next month’s world championships.

So let’s take a few minutes out to recap the results and determine who’s hot and who’s not for the Breeders’ Cup.

Santa Anita, of course, is the place to start, and the 2-year-old races, in particular, probably gave us at least one Breeder’s Cup C favorite and possibly two, both of them trained by Bob Baffert.

Executiveprivilege made it 5-for-5 as the brightest light of all in the Chandelier Stakes (G1), winning by 6 ¼ lengths in gate-to-wire fashion as an overwhelming 3-10 favorite and cementing her role as the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup C Juvenile Fillies (G1). After winning her first four starts on synthetic surfaces, Baffert’s filly showed she’s equally capable on dirt, which was bad news for anyone thinking of tackling her in the Breeders’ Cup.

Making her victory even more impressive, the second choice in 1 1/16-mile Chandelier was Salamera, who shipped west after finishing second to the unbeaten Kauai Katie in the Adirondack Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course. Salamera was second by 2 ¾ lengths in that race at the Spa, but was fifth Saturday, 14 ¾ lengths behind the West Coast phenom.

For cynics, Santa Anita’s main track favored speed in the intense heat this weekend, and that could have compromised the chances of Salamera and others.

The pace battle in the Juvenile Fillies could also be interesting. As much speed as Executiveprivilege showed, her past form indicates she does not need the lead to run her best race. Yet if Stonestreet elects to double-team Executiveprivilege, sending both the speedy Kauai Katie to run with her early and Dreaming of Julia, who could stalk them, it could make things interesting in the final furlong.

Kauai Katie ran her record to 3-for-3 by winning the six-furlong Matron Stakes (G2) at Belmont by 7 ½ lengths on Sunday.

KAUAI KATIE ROLLS IN MATRON

MatronHero

The FrontRunner Stakes (G1) went to Power Broker, a maiden entering the race who also won by daylight. Trying dirt for the first time, the Baffert-trained son of Pulpit took command in the stretch and pulled away to win by 6 ½ lengths over the favored Know More in a dazzling main track debut.

After an effort like that in a Grade 1 stakes at the same track and distance, he will be awfully hard to ignore when the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) rolls around.

Know More also made his first start on dirt and tired after pressing the pace. If he can revert to his past tactics and take back a bit in the early stages, he might be closer at the finish next time.

Back East, Overanalyze won Sunday’s six-furlong Futurity Stakes (G2) at Belmont but was fourth in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) behind Shanghai Bobby, who will race Saturday in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont, and seems a second-tier possibility.

The Ladies’ Classic (G1) is shaping up as a gem. A winner over Royal Delta and It’s Tricky in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1), Love and Pride showed her heels to the West’s leading ladies by 3 ¼ lengths in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) (now that’s a good name, Santa Anita).

The favorite in this year’s Ladies’ Classic, though, will probably be 2011 Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta, who was awesome – again – in taking the Beldame at Belmont by 9 ½ lengths. Showing more speed than usual, Royal Delta pressed the pacesetting It’s Tricky, then put her away with a quarter-mile remaining  and won easily.

DOMINANT ROYAL DELTA CRUISES IN BELDAME

BeldameInside

With Royal Delta, Awesome Feather, Love and Pride, My Miss Aurelia and Questing in the same starting gate, the Ladies’ Classic could easily turn out to be the best race of the two-day series.

Marketing Mix atoned for a head loss in the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park by taking Santa Anita’s Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on the turf. The highly consistent daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has been no worse than second in eight of her last nine starts and deserves a long look in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), even with the inevitable presence of a top-notch European or two.

Being a turf race, though, trips are crucial, giving horses like Nereid and Stormy Lucy, who were a respectable second and third in the Rodeo Drive, a chance to rebound at a nice price in the Filly and Mare Turf.

In New York, there’s no shortage of Filly and Mare Turf contenders coming out of the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (G1), where the top four finishers – Nahrain, Zagora, Dream Peace and I’m A Dreamer – were separated by a mere length at the finish line. Dream Peace probably will not head west but Nahrain and Zagora should be headed in that direction.

On Sunday at sweltering Santa Anita, the main event was the John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (G2) at a mile and a quarter and it went to Slim Shadey, who displayed much more early gusto than usual.

Back in early July, Slim Shadey was a non-threatening fifth behind the speedy Turbo Compressor, who led from start to finish in taking the United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth. But on Sunday, it was Slim Shadey who scampered off to a five-length lead after the opening half-mile while Turbo Compressor tracked in third.

The change in tactics worked to perfection as Slim Shadey held on for a 2 1/4-length win over the favored East Coast shipper, Turbo Compressor.

If they both return in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), Turbo Compressor might turn the tables on Slim Shadey as he adjusts to his new digs in California. Turbo Compressor might also opt for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

What’s more certain is that the top American hopeful in the Turf will be Point of Entry, who captured the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Belmont for his fifth straight win, the last three in Grade 1 stakes.  As much as shipping out west is a concern, Point of Entry seemed ill at ease on yielding turf at Belmont and still beat a field that included Arlington Million Stakes (G1) winner Little Mike. Give him firm turf in California and he looks like the U.S. hopeful most capable of upending the Europeans.

POINT OF ENTRY

Point of Entry HirschHorse

Speaking of Little Mike, he just might rebound on firm turf, especially if he runs in the shorter Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Elsewhere at Belmont on Saturday, Shackleford was second in the Kelso, a one-turn mile over a moist racetrack labeled as “good,” and should move forward around two turns on a dry track in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). The 2011 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner was second in that race a year ago.

Jersey Town won the Kelso, but two turns does not appear to be his cup of tea. The big disappointment in the Kelso was To Honor and Serve, who was fourth. On his best day, To Honor and Serve can beat some of the nation’s best horses. Yet on other days, like Saturday, he can be MIA and that frustrating penchant for not showing up dims his appeal in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) unless his odds skyrocket.

The Lumber Guy was quite impressive in taking the six-furlong Vosburgh Stakes (G1) and seems a natural for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), but may wind up in the Dirt Mile, which could be a mistake.

Poseidon’s Warrior was third in the Vosburgh, but may have bounced off a big effort in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and could be more formidable next month.

And now for the main event.

In the aftermath of Game On Dude’s 3 1/4–length win in the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again, he’ll most likely be the favorite in the Classic.

But can he handle 1 ¼ miles against a large assembling of quality opponents? That’s certainly open for debate and this weekend might have uncovered a couple of key rivals.

Nonios, an improving 3-year-old, was second best in the Awesome Again and might appreciate the extra furlong in the Classic.

At Belmont, Flat Out and Stay Thirsty put on a great show in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1), with Flat Out prevailing by a head for back-to-back JCGC wins.

FLAT OUT EDGES STAY THIRSTY

Flat Out (HP)

Both of them seem to love Belmont, though, and handicappers should be skeptical of them if they head west.

Meanwhile, one of the more intriguing horses to arise out of the weekend is Ron the Greek. He was no factor in the Gold Cup, finishing sixth, more than 11 lengths behind stablemate Flat Out.

It was a perplexing effort, but after eight straight races in which he was no worse than second, it simply might have been a glitch. Just one bad day, which is quite excusable. Yet in the middle of that eight-race stretch is a 3 ½-length win in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1). I don’t have to tell you where that race took place, do I?

While some horses may displayed their affinity for Santa Anita this past weekend, knowing what Ron the Greek did in Arcadia in early March for Mott and the likelihood he’ll go off at a much better price than the 3-1 he was on Saturday, he’s looking more and more like my key horse in the Classic.

Remember, this weekend provided the clues. Sometime you just have to dig a little harder to find the answer.

And what are your thoughts? Who were the stars of the weekend? And who looks best for the Breeders’ Cup.

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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