This blog provides a capsule look at three horses who are heating up on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and three horses whose Breeders’ Cup chances are not quite as strong as they were a week or two ago. In the second edition of Three Heating Up, Three Cooling Down for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, we take a look at the previous three weeks of races.
I love how Centennial Farms and trainer Jimmy Jerkens have brought along Preservationist slowly and deliberately. He’s emerged as a player in the older male division and the Breeders’ Cup Classic looks as wide open as it has been in years with little true star power. Why not Preservationist? After running third in a sprint in his season debut following more than 10 months on the sidelines, Preservationist has won three straight races at one mile, 1 1/16 miles, and, most recently, at 1 ¼ miles in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes on July 6 at Belmont Park. Sporting Equibase Speed Figures of 106-111-110 earned during the three-win streak, he is competitive with other leading horses in this division. He’s shown that distance is not an issue, and the second of his three wins came on a sloppy track, so he can handle an off-track. Preservationist has not raced outside of New York, which is a bit of a concern, and he’s expected to make his next start in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes Aug. 3. Jerkens has had to stop and start multiple times with Preservationist, who made his career debut in June 2016 and has been sidelined twice for 10 months or more, but the patience appears to be paying off with the 6-year-old Arch horse. I’m definitely buying stock in Preservationist.
This bay, 3-year-old Ghostzapper filly improved to 3-for-3 lifetime with a clear win in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 at Saratoga. That came on the heels of an six-length runaway win in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on June 8 at Belmont Park, where she beat Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in her second career start. Guarana earned a 99 Equibase Speed Figure in the CCA Oaks, which was her first try around two turns. After an 11-point drop from a 110 in the Acorn, it’s reasonable to wonder if she might have some distance limitations, plus she was a little green in the stretch. Perhaps those concerns can be explained by simple inexperience as she should become more professional and build stamina with each race, and from a pedigree standpoint there is reason to dream big. Her grandam (maternal grandmother) is 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home and she comes from a family responsible for stars such as European Horse of the Year Dayjur, champion Sky Beauty, and Grade 1 winners Maplejinsky, Point of Entry, Pine Island, and Tale of Ekati. Trainer Chad Brown really seems to have a knack with elite fillies and mares, and this Three Chimneys Farm homebred could be just scratching the surface.
I considered both Maximum Security and Concrete Rose for the final spot, and they were quality finalists, but ultimately I wanted to dig a little deeper for a horse more under the radar. It took some time to find the ideal conditions for Listing, who made his first three starts on the main track but seems to have settled in as an elite turf sprinter. He’s posted three wins and a second by a nose in four turf sprints, including a stakes win on Jan. 26 on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita Park, which will host this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. More recently, Listing won the Desert Code Stakes at Santa Anita in June with a career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure and then shipped to New York and matched that figure when winning the Grade 3 Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga in his first try on yielding turf. He’s a 3-year-old who has yet to face older horses. That’s a significant concern, but probably not nearly as big of a concern for a turf sprinter. A homebred of Reddam Racing, Listing is a full brother to a pair of stakes-winning sprinters and appears to have found his niche using his speed on the grass.
Also-Eligibles: I mentioned above that Maximum Security and Concrete Rose were considered for the third spot. The former showed his tenacity in the stretch of the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes when he pulled away to win by 1 ¼ lengths July 20 for a 109 Equibase Speed Figure that was two ticks off his career best. He should be tested in the Runhappy Travers Stakes Aug. 24. Concrete Rose improved to 3-for-3 this year when she swamped a very good field in winning the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths July 6. There is some serious talent in the turf female division, but even as a 3-year-old I think Concrete Rose will be able to compete come fall with continued improvement. … Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen multiple division stars dominate as overwhelming favorites and solidify their credentials as elite Breeders’ Cup contenders. But in many cases the victories played out as expected. For example, Marley’s Freedom (Filly and Mare Sprint) winning the Grade 2 Great Lady M Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths on July 6; Elate (Longines Distaff) winning the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap July 13 by 4 ½ lengths as the 3-10 chalk; Catalina Cruiser (Breeders’ Cup Classic or Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile) leading from start to finish in a clear victory as the 1-10 favorite in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap July 20; and Midnight Bisou (Longines Distaff) prevailing at 1-20 odds in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes July 20. … We also saw that 2018 Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf winner Sistercharlie had not lost a step when she was an easy winner versus a quality field in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes July 13 in her first start since November. … Golden Award, a half-sister to 2012 dual classic winner I’ll Have Another, was impressive in winning the Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes July 21 at Saratoga, leading from start to finish for a 2 ¼-length win. The Longines Distaff looks like it could be tough this year, but Golden Award is an improving 4-year-old to keep an eye on. … Royal Charlotte improved to 4-for-4 and picked up her first graded stakes win July 5 in the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont. Chad Brown could have a top contender for the Filly and Mare Sprint. …Pure Sensation ran third in the Turf Sprint when it was at Santa Anita in 2016, so we know he likes the downhill turf course. He’s 3-for-3 to open his 8-year-old campaign and is always dangerous. … Two-year-olds By Your Side (TVG Juvenile) and Comical (Juvenile Fillies) won three-quarter-mile graded stakes at Saratoga and look promising, but it’s so early to analyze these juvenile races. I take a wait-and-see approach until the distances get longer, unless it’s abundantly clear the 2-year-old is a superstar in the making. … It was nice to see Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve runner-up Code of Honor return with a win in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. He’ll train up to the Runhappy Travers Stakes on Aug. 24. … Henley’s Joy deserved consideration for the top three after a true breakout performance in winning the Grade 2 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes over a quality field by three-quarters of a length at 20.80-1 odds July 6. He’s just a bit too up and down for my taste right now when considering a 3-year-old stepping up to face older males in the Longines Turf in the fall. … Mr Havercamp looked great winning the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple Stakes July 12 in his first start in seven months, earning a 115 Equibase Speed Figure, but he’s not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup and bypassed the World Championships in 2018. He’s a serious threat in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile if his connections opt to target the race.
After looking like a budding superstar as a 2-year-old, Newspaperofrecord has failed to win in three starts this year, the most recent a career-worst ninth-place finish in which she was beaten by 13 ¼ lengths in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes July 6. She set the pace and faded late in her first two starts of the year in Grade 3 races, so the Belmont Oaks was the first time she’d finished outside the top two. Newspaperofrecord looked like she absolutely resented being taken back off the pace in the Belmont Oaks and tossed her head around while showing her disdain for the firm hold placed on her by regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. While it’s pretty clear Newspaperofrecord does not want to be rated off the pace, she was still pretty keen early in her first two races of the year when she had the lead and then came up empty when challenged in the stretch. Perhaps this is simply a case of a filly who was way out ahead of her peers as a 2-year-old but has seen the rest of her class catch up at age 3. Or maybe trainer Chad Brown, winner of the last three Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer, will find the key to unlocking the Newspaperofrecord we saw win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never had two Chad Brown horses on cooling down list in the six-plus years I’ve been writing this blog, but like Newspaperofrecord above, Competitionofideas had underperformed in her three starts this year. Sure, they were all runner-up finishes, but she has not come within 17 points of the career-best 109 Equibase Speed Figure she earned last year while winning the Grade 1 American Oaks in December 2018. So far, she also seems to have found the older turf females to be more difficult than the 3-year-old fillies she faced a year ago. Her most recent race, in particular, was discouraging in that she only faced two challengers in the July 20 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes and came up short as the 2-5 favorite. The 78 Equibase Speed Figure matched the worst of her 10-race career. I have no doubt Brown will get her back to the winner’s circle, but I definitely think it’s time to adjust expectations for her, meaning her ceiling might not be quite as high as we thought.
3. Catholic Boy
Catholic Boy did not run poorly in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes on July 6, finishing second by 4 ½ lengths to Preservationist. But when news came out after that his connections planned to keep him on dirt and target the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Saratoga, I decided to slot him in this spot. Catholic Boy has won five of his six races on the grass, with his only defeat a close fourth-place finish by less than two lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2017. On dirt, Catholic Boy won the Runhappy Travers Stakes a year ago. But on the whole he has not been nearly as good or consistent on the main track with two wins in six starts, as well as the two worst starts of his career. It could be that he’ll thrive again on the main track at Saratoga for the Woodward, a dirt track he clearly liked last summer in the Travers. But long range, I think he’s a significantly better horse on the grass. I understand why Catholic Boy’s connections would opt for the dirt as many of these major summer-fall races look great on a stallion prospect’s résumé and neither the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile nor the 1 ½-mile Longines Breeders' Cup Turf is ideal from a distance perspective. He feels like a Breeders’ Cup horse without a Breeders’ Cup race.
Of note: From a speed-figure standpoint, Catapult has not been far off his best with Equibase Speed Figures ranging from 110 to 113 in his four starts this season. But he has yet to win this year, and among those four starts are a couple of races that the Catapult we watched run second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile would have won. Most recently, he was fifth, beaten by three lengths, on July 21 in the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes, a race he won last summer on a turf course on which he had won both of his previous starts. … She’s a Julie looked like a serious Longines Distaff contender when she won the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Inside Access from Chase by a half-length on May 3 for her second win in as many starts to begin her 4-year-old campaign. She has since run third twice and taken a step back from a speed-figure perspective. She’s finished behind some very nice racemares, so I’m giving her some slack and hoping to see She’s a Julie back to her best in her next race.