Even with champion Monomoy Girl sidelined — she will miss a defense of her title in the Nov. 2 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff — trainer Brad Cox and many of Monomoy Girl’s owners might be headed to California with a filly that ranks as an exciting Breeders’ Cup contender: British Idiom.
With a 6 1/2-length victory over Perfect Alibi in the $400,000, Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes Oct. 4 at Keeneland, the Cox-trained British Idiom earned a “Win and You’re In” berth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. And, she’ll go there with title hopes on the line.
Her limited record stands up next to just about anyone in the division. A first-out winner of her debut at Saratoga Race Course by 3 1/2 lengths Aug. 15, she improved to 2-for-2 in taking the Alcibiades in her first route, this race coming even more easily than the first and providing her sire, Flashback , with his first black-type stakes winner.
Before a crowd of 16,427 on opening day at Keeneland, jockey Javier Castellano kept British Idiom perched just off the pace in third as longshot Spitefulness sped to the lead through quarter-mile fractions of :23.73, :47.27, and 1:13.11 in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race. Then, as the field left the second turn, it was time to move.
Castellano moved his mount alongside Spitefulness and pace-chasing Sequin before they left them behind. British Idiom drew away at the eighth pole and expanded her advantage through the final furlong to finish in 1:45.80 on a fast track. She paid $9.20 to win.
Castellano said British Idiom was a bit eager passing the stands for the first time before relaxing along the backstretch. “She kept track of the horses, and I liked the way she finished. She’s a good filly,” he said.
Runner-up Perfect Alibi, winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes and Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga this summer, rallied from fifth to finish clear of the rest, though without an excuse that prevented her from catching the winner, jockey Jose Ortiz said.
Alandra, the narrow favorite at 2-1 odds over Perfect Alibi after winning her debut in front-running fashion at Saratoga Sept. 1, managed third, three lengths behind the runner-up, after falling back to 10th early following a troubled start.
British Idiom is out of the stakes-winning Mr. Sekiguchi mare Rose and Shine.
Purchased last year for $40,000 by X-Go Ranch from the consignment of Warrendale Sales at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky fall yearling sale, British Idiom races for owners Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables.
Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables are owners in Monomoy Girl along with Monomoy Stables, another Kumin partnership.
Now British Idiom’s connections are eyeing the Juvenile Fillies, a race Monomoy Girl didn’t make as a 2-year-old in 2017 when a little slower to develop into stakes class that fall.
“She’s obviously capable of getting around two turns, and as long as she comes out of this in good shape, we’ll look at California,” Cox said.
There she could again face Perfect Alibi, whose trainer, Mark Casse, is inclined to run her back in the Juvenile Fillies with the approval of her owner, Tracy Farmer.
“She’s a Grade 1 winner. She’s pretty good,” he said. “We’re not going to let one little defeat deter us.”
Engage Hold Off Whitmore to Win Phoenix
The 4-year-old son of Into Mischief closed from seventh in the six-furlong sprint, put in a long drive five wide, and inched clear in the final stages under Jose Ortiz. Whitmore, who bobbled at the start and trailed the field early, made a bold six-wide move off the turn for home but did not have enough at the end and finished a half-length back.
“He’s a very game horse,” said Ortiz, who has been in the irons for 10 of Engage’s 12 starts. “I know him very well, and I appreciate the opportunity they gave me to ride him back.”
The early pace was set by 9-5 favorite Promises Fulfilled, who led the field of nine through an opening quarter-mile in :22.22, then lost the advantage to Zipp On By through a half in :45.43. Lexitonian briefly took the lead through five-eighths in :57.69 as both front-runners faded, but he yielded at the end.
“I was expecting an honest pace, but they weren’t going that fast, so I was able to be close,” Ortiz said. “And when I asked him to go, he punched home, and the last sixteenth he felt some horses coming to the outside and he pinched his ears back and kept going.”
The final time was 1:10.21 on a fast main track. Lexitonian was third, a nose behind Whitmore.
Returned to graded company by Woodford Racing and trainer Steve Asmussen off a Sept 2 score in the Bensalem Stakes at Parx Racing, Engage broke through at the Grade 2 level for the first time. He won the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes in 2017 at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old, straight off a maiden win, when trained by Chad Brown.
“He’s always been a quality horse, the Belmont Futurity winner as a 2-year-old,” said Asmussen, who began training Engage after his 10th start. “Fresh horse, very sound horse. I loved the opportunity for him. I felt very good about our chances when I saw him over the racetrack here at Keeneland.”
Bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm, Engage is the third foal out of Nefertiti, by Speightstown. Engage improved to five wins and four seconds from 12 starts, with earnings of $649,080.
While the Phoenix score guarantees Engage a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint via the Challenge Series, Asmussen did not rush to commit.
“This is a big win, a big win,” he said. “Obviously, we’ll see how he comes out of the race and speak with the happy ownership group on what to do next.”—Claire Crosby