Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Louisiana Derby Winners
Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $1 million, Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes and other major races that were part of 2019 Fall Stars Weekend at Keeneland Race Course:
MONEY TALKS: The connections of Bowies Hero found one million reasons to choose the Shadwell Turf Mile over the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park, the horse’s home base. When Josh Flores, assistant to trainer Phil D’Amato, was asked about the motivation to leave the comforts of home, he noted the disparity in purses in responding, “About a million dollars compared to $200,000.” Although Bowies Hero showed only one victory in his previous seven starts, Flores said they always believed the 5-year-old by Artie Schiller was better than his record suggested. “He’s had some rough trips,” the assistant trainer said. “Flavien (Prat) was able to put him in the right spot and he was able to fly home.” Bowies Hero earned an automatic, expense-paid berth in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2 with his victory by three-quarters of a length.
SWIFT TURNAROUND: Trainer Brendan Walsh was understandably hesitant about having Maxfield compete in the $500,000, Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity three weeks after his winning debut in a maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs. “To come back in three weeks for a horse that’s only run once is a big ask,” Walsh acknowledged. “But he answers every question.” If the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense comes out of the Futurity well, Walsh is eager to test him in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. “If you don’t bring him,” he said, “who do you bring?”
IN NO RUSH: Owner Bob Edwards had hoped Rushing Fall would use the $400,000, Grade 1 First Lady Stakes to snap a tie with Take Charge Lady and move into second place all-time with her fifth stakes victory at Keeneland. Wise Dan leads with seven. But Rushing Fall lacked her typical early speed and never found her best stride in finishing fourth, the worst performance of her career. She had won 8 of 10 previous starts with two second-place efforts. Edwards said he would confer with trainer Chad Brown but is leaning toward sending the 4-year-old to Stonestreet Farm with an eye toward a fresh start next year. When asked why he wanted to bring Rushing Fall back instead of turning her into a valuable broodmare, he replied simply, “Racing is fun.”
CHANGE OF PLANS: Trainer Brad Cox did not target Friday’s $400,000, Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes after British Idiom took her debut by 3 ½ lengths in mid-August at Saratoga Race Course. He instead set his sights lower, pointing her toward the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes a month later at Churchill Downs. Plans are made to be broken in racing, and Cox was forced to alter course when the 2-year-old filly came down with a minor illness a week before the Pocahontas. “(I) just wasn’t happy with her blood work, so we gave her a little time,” the trainer said. Now, after a 6 ½-length romp in the Alcibiades, Cox looks to have a prime contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
ONE TO WATCH: Whitmore made a strong impression even as he missed by half a length to longshot Engage in Friday’s $500,000 Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes. He was coming off a layoff of almost four months since his distant eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 True North Stakes at Belmont Park, he stumbled at the start of the Phoenix and he did not have a swift pace to rally into. No wonder trainer Ron Moquett was upbeat after his 6-year-old gelding placed second in the Phoenix. “There is something we learned from it,” he said. “We learned he’s happy and doing well.” Whitmore was runner-up to champion Roy H in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. If Moquett takes another crack at the Sprint and Whitmore moves forward off the Phoenix, he may be hard to beat.