Welcome to another edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each week in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.
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This week’s story involves one of the year’s best horses who will be skipping the World Championships next month at Churchill Downs for logical reasons.
While most of the equine stars who race in October are prepping for the Breeders’ Cup, there are exceptions, such as the captivating 3-year-old filly who raced last Saturday at Keeneland.
Though Rushing Fall will not be competing in the Breeders’ Cup, there’s no denying the turf sensation was one of the more exciting performers in 2018.
Her victory last weekend in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup presented by Lane's End certainly illustrated her class and quality as she showed a new dimension by winning in gate-to-wire fashion. A heavy 2-5 favorite, she repelled a serious bid at the top of the stretch and edged away under jockey Javier Castellano to record a 1 ¼-length victory over French invader Mission Impassible for her sixth victory in seven career starts for trainer Chad Brown and owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds.
“Before the race Chad said there was no speed in the race and he was going to send her to the front. Javier said the same thing,” said owner Bob Edwards, who races under the e Five banner. “She responded great. Before (Mission Impassible) came to her, she was looking around for a target. It was uncharted territory for her being on the lead from the start. But when the other filly looked her in the eye, Javier didn’t ask for much. Nevertheless, she took off and she had that second kick. By the time we got to the winner’s circle, she wasn’t even blowing. It was remarkable.”
While the Queen Elizabeth II was Rushing Fall’s sixth career victory, and second triumph in a Grade 1 stakes, the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner is also just a neck loss in the Edgewood Stakes shy of sporting an undefeated record.
Normally numbers like that would be enough to book a ticket for a Breeders’ Cup turf stakes, but that’s not the case with Rushing Fall – at least this year it isn’t.
For starters, the mile-and-an-eighth Queen Elizabeth II was the longest race of Rushing Fall’s brief career, and Edwards said the mile-and-three-eighths distance of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf was “out of her wheelhouse.” There’s also the relatively short three-week turnaround for the World Championships.
An article posted Sunday in the Thoroughbred Daily News made a case for running Rushing Fall on Nov. 3 in the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males and older horses, but on Monday Edwards said he’s inclined to give the daughter of More Than Ready the rest of the year off to prepare her for a vigorous 2019 campaign.
“The goal is to keep her healthy and happy. I have to talk it over with Chad, but we’ll probably give her 45 days off at Stonestreet Farm and then point to the Jenny Wiley (in April at Keeneland) as the next major target,” Edwards said. “I don’t see any benefit to running her again this year. She owes us nothing. She’s won six out of seven races and I don’t know if she knows that she’s lost a race because the other filly was so far away from her. I know TDN would love to see us to run against the boys, and it sounds great, but if she’s as good as a 4-year-old as she is as a 3-year-old, I will have no problem running against boys. I don’t want to break her spirit now. The sky’s the limit for her but that’s a tough ask to tackle the boys at 3. It’s more of a level playing field when she’s a full-grown filly.
“That’s why I think we’ll be a little more conservative with her and prep her for a 4-year-old season. We all know what a phenomenal job Chad does with 4-year-old fillies.”
As successful as Rushing Fall has been in 2018, she had numerous obstacles to overcome.
She opened the year with a win in the Appalachian at Keeneland but then suffered her first defeat in the Edgewood Stakes on May 4 at Churchill Downs when she fended off a tough stretch bid by Daddy Is a Legend but settled for a runner-up finish when she could not hold off a late bid in the center of the track from Toinette.
Even after the loss, Edwards considered running Rushing Fall at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Cup but some minor setbacks kept her out of that race in England as well as the Belmont Oaks in New York. A fever delayed her comeback until Aug. 18 in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga, when she reverted to top form and won by 2 ¾ lengths.
The Queen Elizabeth II followed and served as an indication of just how good she can be if she takes another step forward at 4. Edwards didn’t mind missing the Coronation Cup after watching the now-retired Alpha Centauri romp by six lengths in the Group 1 stakes. Yet if everything goes according to plan in 2019, even though Edwards has been known to enjoy days at the races in a baseball cap, shorts and flip-flops, he wouldn’t mind donning a morning suit and top hat to watch his brilliant filly compete against top-level international competition at Europe’s premier meet.
“Running at Royal Ascot was the plan for last year,” he said. “Chad nominated her for the Coronation Cup, which isn’t his M.O. When the time comes next year, if she looks like she belongs, it’s hard to turn down a chance to run there. How can you say no? I’d love to take Chad to my tailor and get him suited up for Royal Ascot.”
Chad Brown in a morning suit and top hat? Add the thought of that photo to all of the exciting possibilities wrapped into a 2019 campaign for Rushing Fall and it’s easy to see why some horsemen, like baseball players, are saying “wait ‘til next year” in October.
The Also-Eligible List
Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry: