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. To kick off the 2019 Breeders’ Cup edition of Three Heating Up, Three Cooling Down, we take a look at the three weeks of races since the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (not including that weekend’s races).
1. Mr. Money
I think there is significant upside with Mr. Money, who has won back-to-back graded stakes by open lengths after struggling on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year. I loved his 5 ¼-length win in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile Presented by LG and E and KU on the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard. He then came back and won the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes by 6 ½ lengths on June 15 and looks like a serious contender for the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. As a 3-year-old, Mr. Money has room to improve and he probably will need to, coming off a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure for the Matt Winn. The average Equibase Speed Figure for the last 10 editions of the Dirt Mile is 119 with a median of 119.5, ranging from a 105 for Dakota Phone in 2010 to a 133 for Battle of Midway in 2017. Mr. Money definitely would be aided, as would the rest of the Dirt Mile contenders, if budding star Mitole targets the Sprint, but I think Mr. Money is a 3-year-old who has found a sweet spot at races at or near the mile distance. He’s getting better with each start for two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Bret Calhoun.
2. Dunbar Road
While the Equibase Speed Figures don’t yet match up with the eye test, I feel good about Dunbar Road’s chances to emerge as a rising star in the second half of 2019. The bay Quality Road filly narrowly missed out on the Longines Kentucky Oaks (she did not make it into the race off the also-eligible list) after running second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. Instead, she won a May 30 allowance race at Belmont Park by 5 ½ lengths and then followed with another dominant performance in the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes on June 29, pulling away in the stretch to a 2 ½-length score. A slow pace contributed to the 83 Equibase Speed Figure Dunbar Road earned for the Mother Goose, but she posted a 96 and a 92 in her previous two starts and won the Mother Goose very easily. I believe there is a very good chance she is the best 3-year-old filly in training by the fall and a contender for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Seeking the Soul has been grinding out one strong performance after another for four seasons and earned his third graded stakes win on June 15 when he edged Quip by a neck to win the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. The 6-year-old by Perfect Soul has finished in the top three in 20 of his 27 career starts. He ran second earlier this year in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup and finished second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. With multiple elite runners retired to the breeding shed at the start of the year and several top 3-year-olds sidelined, the Breeders’ Cup Classic division is pretty wide open if his connections opt to target that race. Seeking the Soul is unplaced in two tries at 1 ¼ miles or longer, but one of those was the 2016 Belmont Stakes in his fourth start and the other came in March when shipping across the globe for the Dubai World Cup, so I’m not sure they are indicative of his ability at the classic distance. He could again point to the Dirt Mile, but the competition for that race could be tougher this year. Regardless of the target, Seeking the Soul has proved capable of top performances against elite competition throughout his career.
Also-Eligibles: Gucci Factor was the toughest cut from the top three as he’s found a home on the grass, winning six of his last seven on turf, including the Grade 3 Poker Stakes on June 16 with an incredible late burst. According to Trakus data, he ran his final quarter-mile in the Poker in 22.11 seconds, which is absolutely blazing fast. I’ve added the bay gelding to my Equibase Virtual Stable. … Owendale has now won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby (on June 22) and the Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes and run third in the Preakness Stakes in his last three starts. He earned a 114 Equibase Speed Figure for the Ohio Derby. It’s time we start taking him very seriously for the key classic-distance dirt races in the second half of the year. … Wet Your Whistle extended his winning streak to four and earned his first graded stakes victory with a visually impressive 1 ½-length win in the Grade 1 Highlander Stakes June 29 at Woodbine. He’s found his calling as a turf sprinter and his career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 117 indicates he’s capable of competing with the best on Breeders’ Cup weekend – however, he is not currently Breeders’ Cup nominated. … Keep an eye on Simply Breathless, who improved to 2-for-2 in the U.S. with a win in the Grade 3 Wilshire Stakes on June 22 at Santa Anita. I’m not sure there is an ideal race for her on the Breeders’ Cup card, but I think she’s a talented filly. … After taking the Sir Barton Stakes on the May 18 Preakness undercard, King for a Day reeled in Grade 1 winner Maximum Security to win the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes June 16. King for a Day could be a dark-horse contender for the Dirt Mile.
Home track, six weeks of rest, five challengers – everything appeared to be set up perfectly for Maximum Security in his first race since finishing first (and then disqualified in a controversial decision) in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve in the June 16 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Until … it wasn’t. Maximum Security hopped out of the gate and then stumbled at the start. He recovered to set the pace but faced pressure throughout before giving way late to King for a Day in a shocking defeat as the 1-20 favorite. The loss should not take anything away from the performances Maximum Security turned in to win the Grade 1 Xpressbet Florida Derby and cross the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby, but I do think it’s a pretty clear indication that the New Year’s Day colt is not quite what some of his supporters had built him up to be. Maximum Security is a very good racehorse, but he got beat fair and square by an improving colt who has never won or placed in a graded stakes. Maximum Security needs to be much better to win the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 20.
Yoshida has always been sort of an “all-or-nothing” type capable of a dominant race or a clunker, but he’s now unplaced in four straight races, albeit against elite competition. Since winning the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes on Sept. 1, 2018, Yoshida has run fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, sixth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf, sixth in the Dubai World Cup, and then sixth most recently in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. I understand he’s been facing the best of the best, but he’s lost his last three races by five lengths or more and that’s a concern. The 95 Equibase Speed Figure he earned in the Stephen Foster was 10 points below the worst he’d had in his eight previous races. He’s always run very well at Saratoga Race Course, so it’s possible a spell in upstate New York will be the revitalizer Yoshida needs to regain his top form.
I placed Country House and Sir Winston in the third slot, but not for anything the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner did on the racetrack. Daily Racing Form reported that Country House would be turned out at Blackwood Stables in Versailles, Ky., for at least 60 days and probably will be sidelined for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Daily Racing Form reported Sir Winston has a minor ankle issue and will miss the major summer races. Sir Winston is recovering in Ocala, Fla. and his long-range target will be the 2020 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. Trainer Mark Casse told BloodHorse: “My hopes would be to bring him back in the fall. We’d always planned on running him as a 4-year-old; I think he’ll grow up and be a great 4-year-old. We’re going to aim for the Pegasus, but I don’t know how we get there yet. I would hope to maybe get a start in him before that.”