California Invaders Raid Breeders' Cup Prep Races

The connections of Bowies Hero celebrate their upset Shadwell Turf Mile win at Keeneland.
The connections of Bowies Hero celebrate their upset Shadwell Turf Mile win at Keeneland. (Eclipse Sportswire)

I suspect you are like me and loved all of the Breeders’ Cup prep races the past two weekends. It does not matter whether it was a “Win and You’re In” stakes or just your typical Grade 1 or Grade 2 variety.

You knew going in that the horses that performed well are moving on to the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 and 2 at Santa Anita Park.

There were two angles in particular that tickled my fancy.

The first centered on John Shirreffs who won the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park with Paradise Woods. Zenyatta was a horse of a lifetime for trainer Shirreffs. She took him to the heights of horse racing legend.

In return Shirreffs managed her career so perfectly that she won her first 19 races including the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Her lone loss was by a head to Blame in her final start in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. So when Shirreffs won the Zenyatta it had to mean 100 times more for him personally.

The other angle would be enough for the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield to adjust his necktie a few times.

A lot of folks have been down on Southern California racing lately. I won’t get into the particulars at this time.

But quite a few horses shipped from Southern California for stakes races at Belmont Park and Keeneland. For the most part the betting public ignored these animals. Gave them little respect. And that was a big mistake.

One of the biggest upsets was Bowies Hero, trained by Phil D’Amato, who won the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. D’Amato had even brought his own jockey in Flavien Prat. The locals had to remember Prat, who this spring won his first Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on Country House.

Regardless of that, Bowies Hero paid $18.40 to win.

Earlier on the same card trainer Peter Miller sent out Spiced Perfection to win the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. All things considered her $10.20 win mutuel was generous too.

A third Southern California winner on the Keeneland card was Stubbins for trainer Doug O’Neill. O’Neill is no slouch as locals should recall he has won the Kentucky Derby twice with I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016).

Stubbins upset the Woodford Stakes presented by Keeneland Select under Joel Rosario and paid a juicy $17.20 to win.

The fourth horse in this Southern California parade was Neptune’s Storm. He upset in the Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park and paid $22.40 for trainer Richard Baltas.

I doubt these four horses will be overlooked at Santa Anita. However, the competition in the Breeders’ Cup will be the best they have ever faced. I would expect nothing less.

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies," an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on

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