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 ago.
1. Pure Silver
This week’s three heating-up spots were the hardest for me to pare down so far this season with so many horses stepping up in a big way last weekend, but the one that was easy was Pure Silver. She made the jump from a stakes win in a race restricted to New York-breds up to the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes on Aug. 12 and not only held her own but actually improved significantly. She won the Lynbrook Stakes by 1 ½ lengths on July 16 and earned a 90 Equibase Speed Figure before turning the Adirondack into a 9 ½-length runaway despite facing early pressure for the lead. Her 98 Equibase Speed Figure was the best this year for a 2-year-old filly in a graded race (albeit limited sample size). Pure Silver’s dam (mother), Jehan, was a stakes-winning sprinter, but she placed in stakes at one mile on both the main track and turf. From the second crop of 2010 Louisiana Derby winner Mission Impazible, I don’t think Pure Silver profiles as a Kentucky Oaks type. But I think she has a good shot to be able to stretch out to the 1 1/16 miles of the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar, where her speed and precocity will be valuable assets.
Entering the Beverly D., I loved Dona Bruja with her stellar record of 10 wins and two seconds in 12 starts, including two visually impressive wins in the U.S. Because of that, I have to be high on the 6-year-old mare who outfinished Dona Bruja in the stretch to win by a half-length. Dacita’s Beverly D. win on Aug. 12 signaled a return to top form for trainer Chad Brown as she won for the first time in three starts this season and earned a 115 Equibase Speed Figure. Last summer, Dacita earned a 118 for winning the Grade 1 Diana Stakes before a 122 for running second by a nose in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes to stablemate Rainha Da Bateria (fourth in the Beverly D.). When Dacita is on her game, she is very good. She’s also been streaky throughout her career, so don’t be surprised to see her string together a couple of wins leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
After finishing second in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes in June at Churchill Downs, Copper Bullet looked very professional in winning the Grade 2 Saratoga Special by four widening lengths. He looked eager to go farther for trainer Steve Asmussen and rated nicely off the pace after contesting the lead in his two previous races. The four-point jump to a 96 Equibase Speed Figure should be something he can build upon, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve with added distance. Both he and Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes winner Run Away impressed me, but ultimately I sided with the former because I think he’s got a better shot to stretch out to the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Copper Bullet is by versatile sire More Than Ready out of Allegory, by Pulpit, who was a winner at one mile.
Honorable Mentions: The aforementioned Run Away was a tough cut from the top three after he improved to 3-for-3 with a 3 ½-length score in the Best Pal. Stretching out an extra eighth of a mile, he dipped four points to a 97 Equibase Speed Figure, which lends credence to my concerns about his effectiveness as the races get longer. … World Approval also was tough to leave out as he looked very good cutting back to a mile to win the Grade 1 Fourstardave by 2 ¼ lengths. The 115 Equibase Speed Figure was solid and I think he’s a real contender in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. … I profiled Beach Patrol in this week’s Getting to Know blog, and I like his chances to run well at Del Mar. He’s fared well in previous races on the firm ground in Southern California and he’s always right there at the finish. He doesn’t have quite as much burst as I like to see in an elite turf horse. … Oscar Performance has now won three straight races, two Grade 1s, and has a legitimate claim as the best 3-year-old male in the U.S., but we knew he was elite entering the Secretariat Stakes. He lived up to expectations in a 2 ¼-length win. … I’m starting to really come around on Skye Diamonds as a strong Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint hopeful. She’s made big strides this year finishing second in her graded stakes debut before winning the Grade 2 Great Lady M Stakes in July and the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Stakes on Aug. 13. She’s 2-for-2 at Del Mar, and the 114-113 Equibase Speed Figures she’s earned in her last two are impressive.
1. Time Test
Three straight losses as the favorite triggers an alarm for me. I often get burned in situations like these, abandoning a talented horse at the wrong time, but it just feels like Time Test is either a cut below or doesn’t have that desire to win that the great ones do. There is no doubt this regally bred son of a European classic winner out of a French Group 1 winner has talent — he’s a multiple group stakes winner in England — but if I’m evaluating his chances for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, he’s very hard to endorse after he was beaten by 2 ¼ lengths as the favorite in the Grade 1 Fourstardave on Aug. 12 at Saratoga. From a speed-figure perspective, he actually ran well, recording a new career-best 112, but this was a field I thought he should handle and he was second best in a six-horse field in which I only thought one or maybe two horses had a shot to beat him.
2. Rain Goddess
The runner-up in the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks to rising star Enable, Rain Goddess looked like a major threat to win the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes for top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. She was prominent early but faded late and finished a well-beaten eighth in a 10-horse field. I expected better. There is no doubt this year’s field was deep and talented, especially the U.S.-based contingent led by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown’s trio of Dacita, Grand Jete and Rainha Da Bateria, who ran first, second and fourth, respectively, and Dona Bruja, who finished in a dead heat for second. But seeing Rain Goddess pack it in late in her first race on firm turf doesn’t give me much hope for her chances on the grass at Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November. O’Brien’s Arlington Million favorite Deauville led in the stretch and faded to third for the second straight year. I considered him for this list, too, but he finished beaten by less than a length and I think he’s more dangerous than his stablemate should he ship back to the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup.
I really don’t like putting 2-year-olds on this list, especially ones that made their stakes debut, but Serengeti showed little as the 1.30-1 favorite when sixth in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes. He weakened late and faded in the stretch while beaten by 10 lengths by winner Run Away. The 20-point drop from a 96 Equibase Speed Figure to a 76 indicates what a big difference we saw from his 11-length romp on June 25 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. I thought he might face some distance limitations as the races got longer, I just didn’t expect to see it at 6 ½ furlongs. I still think this is a talented horse who could learn from his first race where he didn’t get the lead right out of the starting gate, but it would have been nice to see him put up a little more fight.
Notable: I went into the Arlington expecting a big race from Kasaqui after a Grade 2 win and a close third in his two previous starts. He finished ninth, but I think it probably wasn’t as bad as it looked. I’m willing to give him another chance but as far as the Breeders’ Cup, I’m not sure where he fits as 1 ½ miles for the Longines Turf probably is too long and he seems to want a bit more than a mile. Plus, he’s not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup.