The path to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup is a road with plenty of ups and downs as talented racehorses vie for a spot in one of 13 championship races. This blog provides a capsule look at three horses who are heating up on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and three horses whose Breeders’ Cup chances are not quite as strong as they were a week or two ago. With the cancellation of a couple of key races at Saratoga on Saturday, the pickings were slim, especially for the cooling down section.
Mondialiste struggled mightily after winning the Ricoh Woodbine Mile and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last fall. He was unplaced in three straight races, beaten by more than 8 lengths each time, from December through June before a promising runner-up finish in July in the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes. In the Arlington Million on Aug. 13, Mondialiste regained his elite form, charging from off the pace to prevail by a neck and earn his second Grade 1 win. He clearly appreciates racing in the U.S. – the way races set up from a pace perspective, the oval racetracks and the firmer turf. Trainer David O’Meara indicated he’d be looking for another target in North America and said the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf is a long-range option. He earned an automatic starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf via the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series and already proved effective at a mile, so Mondialiste has options and he’s back on his game. “He seems to love it over here and he thrives over here,” winning jockey Daniel Tudhope said after the Million.
Klimt entered his graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13 off a dominant 5 ¼-length romp on July 10 at Santa Anita Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He proved much the best as the even-money favorite in the Best Pal and looks like a formidable contender for the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and also, down the road, the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. After pairing 98 Equibase Speed Figures, he could be poised to take another step forward in his next race. Klimt is out of multiple stakes-placed winner Inventive, by Dixie Union, and was a $435,000 purchase at the 2016 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training. It will be interesting to see how Klimt handles stretching out in distance, but he’s not a need-the-lead type and has shown professionalism in his two wins.
Sea Calisi closed powerfully to win the $700,000 Beverly D. Stakes on Aug. 13, a career-defining victory that earned her a career-best 111 Equibase Speed Figure and a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Owner Martin Schwartz purchased Sea Calisi during her 3-year-old season in France. Last year in Europe she won a Group 2 race and twice finished third in Group 1 races before an unplaced finish in her final start of the season. Transferred to Chad Brown in the U.S. for her 4-year-old campaign, Sea Calisi won the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes in her stateside debut before a close runner-up finish to highly regarded Dacita in the Grade 2 New York Stakes. With two wins and a second in the U.S. in three starts, including a victory against elite competition in the Beverly D., Sea Calisi looks like a legitimate early favorite for the Filly and Mare Turf. She’s be higher here, but she did go off as the 11-10 favorite in the Beverly D., so that performance was not exactly a surprise.
For a filly who was a Group 1 winner in France at two and finished second in the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas – a classic race for 3-year-old fillies in England – few could have predicted how far off form she would fall in the next three months. Ballydoyle was sixth in the French Oaks, but it wasn’t a poor performance. She was beaten by only 3 ¼ lengths in her first start beyond a mile and it came on soft ground. She then came up completely empty in the Belmont Invitational Oaks when last of 13, beaten by more than 21 lengths, as the 2-1 favorite. Sometimes, you just draw a line through a race and predict it is not indicative of true ability. But it’s not possible in Ballydoyle’s case to draw a line through two straight races after she came up empty again in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes on Aug. 13. The regally bred Galileo filly faded badly to finish 12th in the 14-horse field and does not look like the filly we saw in May.
World Approval didn’t turn in a dud in the Arlington Million, he just didn’t live up to expectations as the race favorite. He was in solid stalking position early behind an easy pace and just couldn’t keep up with the best of the best in the stretch at Arlington Park, fading to finish seventh. Coming off a victory in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes, World Approval had finished in the top three in five straight races, three of which came in Grade 1 races. He looked poised to take the next step in the Arlington Million but came up a bit empty. I expect him to rebound and compete in key stakes in the fall, but I don’t think he’s a legitimate threat to win the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
He actually ran OK in the Arlington Million when sixth, beaten by 1 ½ lengths. I view his race a bit more optimistically than World Approval’s race because at least he was passing horses at the finish. His 118 Equibase Speed Figure was closer to his top form, but he never really threatened in the race or showed the great finishing kick he flashed in 2015. It’s just disappointing that The Pizza Man, who capped a three-stakes winning streak with a victory in the 2015 Arlington Million and then finished a close second in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes, doesn’t look like the same horse in 2016. Let’s hope this race was a step in the right direction and the best is yet to come this year for this fan favorite.