GRADE 1 CHASE: Gunnevera has put forth some big efforts in Grade 1 races and he did so again in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, charging home a diminishing length behind Accelerate in second. Antonio Sano, Gunnevera’s trainer, was proud in defeat. “I’m so happy for this horse,” he said. “He ran second and had lost a couple of lengths at the start. They sandwiched my horse. Every time, we are closer and closer to winning a Grade 1.” Sano intends to campaign the hard-hitting Gunnevera as a 5-year-old, beginning with the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park, his home base.
PEGASUS BOUND FILLY?: Sol Kumin, part of the group that owns Longines Distaff winner Monomoy Girl, began building a case for her to open next year by taking on males in the Pegasus almost as soon as the Distaff was over. “I think it’s a good distance for her. She gets a little bit of a break before the race,” he said of the 1 1/8-mile contest. “Speed-favoring track at Gulfstream. She’ll get, obviously, a little bit of a weight break.” Suffice it to say that racing fans would like nothing more.
HARD ROAD: As impressive as undefeated Game Winner was in rallying from off the pace on a track that had been favoring speed on Friday to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his win in the Sentient Jet Juvenile, history points to a treacherous road ahead. Two of Baffert’s previous winners, Vindication (2002) and New Year’s Day (2013), never raced again due to serious injuries. Although Midshipman (2008) finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile the following year, he was unable to compete in any of the Triple Crown races before that.
SUPERSTAR POTENTIAL: Unbeaten and still untested Newspaperofrecord could not have been more impressive in demolishing the Juvenile Fillies Turf field by 6 ¾ lengths. Her three victories have come by a combined 20 lengths. Trainer Chad Brown is reluctant to call her a superstar just yet. But he said, “This is a horse that’s done everything we asked and she’s done it really easy. I don’t think I’ve ever trained a horse that, after their first three starts, we never let her run. I don’t believe the horse has been let to run yet.”
UNMISTAKABLE POTENTIAL: There is much to like about Knicks Go and Signalman, second and third in the Sentient Jet Juvenile. Knicks Go, 40.50-1 in the Juvenile, showed there was nothing fluky about his victory in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, when he shocked the world at 70-1. Trainer Ben Colebrook intends to use the prep races at Tampa Bay Downs as a hoped-for path to the Derby. Signalman, conditioned by Ken McPeek, was extremely impressive in making a strong showing despite starting from farthest outside, in post 13. “We’re real pleased. He galloped out in front,” McPeek noted. “Maybe there’s a race in the spring going a mile and a quarter we were thinking about.” Clearly, McPeek is showing all the signs of Derby Fever.
INEXPENSIVE MILLIONAIRE: How does Stormy Liberal, claimed for $40,000 in October, 2016, transform into a two-time winner of the Turf Sprint? Even Peter Miller, the West Coast-based trainer who had the keen eye to pluck him out of the claiming ranks, is not quite sure. “I don’t know what happened,” he said. “He liked our program, he liked being at San Luis Rey (Downs) and I think those things have just really helped him to blossom and mature in the last couple of years.”
REPEAT, REPEAT: Kudos to Miller. It was quite a training feat when Stormy Liberal successfully defended his crown in the Turf Sprint and then Roy H went back-to-back in the TwinSpires Sprint. Miller credited both horses, a pair of 6-year-old geldings. “Both these horses are very sound and they’re easy on themselves,” he said. “As long as they enjoy their job like they obviously do right now, we’ll just keep going. And when they tell us they are no longer willing or able to do it, we’ll give them a good retirement.”
WELCOME BACK: Peter Brant, who rose to prominence only to leave racing in 1994, reminded everyone that he has returned to the game as a major player when he watched Sistercharlie close resolutely to win the Filly and Mare Turf. What prompted Brant to enter the sport again? He said he could not resist going to Belmont Park to watch American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid in 2015. “I just had a feeling he was going to win that day,” Brant said, adding, “That kind of inspired me to get back in.”
ENCOURAGING RETURNS: Based on wagering handle and attendance, the Future Stars Friday concept appears to have a bright future. The focus on rising 2-year-old stars in five Breeders’ Cup races on Friday contributed to an all-sources handle of $52,216,685, fourth-highest since the two-day format began in 2007. The attendance of 42,249 represented an increase on the 40,677 fans who attended opening day the last time the Cup came to Churchill Downs, in 2011.
MUCH IN A NAME: Scintillating Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Newspaperofrecord takes her name from her dam, Sunday Times. Owner Seth Klarman also sought to make a statement. “It’s an important time for journalism that the world is struggling with ‘What is the truth?’ “ Klarman said, adding, “We believe in searching out facts and that society needs to get back to facts and truth.”