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 new edition of Three Heating Up, Three Cooling Down for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, we take a look at the previous week of races.
In his stakes debut Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs, Dennis’ Moment stamped himself the early favorite for the 2019 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a 1 ¾-length victory as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes. While he was heavily favored, the Tiznow colt lived up to lofty expectations in the Iroquois after a 19 ¼-lnegth runaway maiden win July 27 at Ellis Park that earned him a 101 Equibase Speed Figure and a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. But that race was against non-winners and around one turn at seven-eighths of a mile, so the Iroquois at 1 1/16 miles around two turns was a much more significant test. Dennis’ Moment rated off the pace comfortably in the Iroquois (after setting the pace in his maiden win) and showed push-button acceleration to take charge entering the stretch. He opened up a commanding advantage in deep stretch and was geared down by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. through the final sixteenth of a mile. Trainer Dale Romans and owner Albaugh Family Stables teamed to win the Iroquois in 2016 with Not This Time, who would go on to run second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before an injury in that race derailed his career. Dennis’ Moment earned a 98 Equibase Speed Figure and a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the Iroquois. He very likely will need to improve as the median winning Equibase Speed Figure over the last 10 editions of the Juvenile has been 106.5 with an average of 105.7 with the winning figures ranging from an 86 to a 123. Romans said the colt will train up to the Breeders’ Cup, so he should have plenty of rest to take a step forward.
Decorated Invader completed his final quarter-mile in 22.91 seconds, according to Trakus data, to win the Grade 1 Summer Stakes Sept. 15 at Woodbine by 1 ¾ lengths on yielding turf. The Declaration of War colt punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and should be viewed as one of the leading contenders off a win that was impressive both visually and on paper. He earned a 103 Equibase Speed Figure, a 22-point improvement from his previous career top for trainer Christophe Clement. Decorated Invader came up three-quarters of a length short in his career debut when second July 13 at Saratoga despite covering the final quarter-mile in 23.31 seconds, fastest in the nine-horse field. Four weeks later, he won by 3 ¼ lengths with another strong late bid after racing closer to the pace. European invaders have won three of the last four editions of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and seven of the last 10. The average winning Equibase Speed Figure for the Juvenile Turf over the last 10 years has been 104.2 with a median of 105.5, so Decorated Invader is well within striking distance and eligible to improve with plenty of rest before his fourth career start. He was a little green in the Woodbine stretch, so there is room for improvement both physically and mentally, which he probably will need to be the best on Nov. 1 against a field of top U.S. turf horses plus what is a typically a tough group shipping in from overseas.
3. El Tormenta
Before last weekend, El Tormenta and the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile were not words found written together very often by horse racing analysts. It’s not that El Tormenta had not shown ability in five previous starts this season, but he looked like he profiled more as a sprinter than a miler and entered the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile coming off three straight losses. El Tormenta’s races in 2019 had come at distances between 5 ½ furlongs and seven furlongs with his first career graded stakes win in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes in June, and his top Equibase Speed Figure was 108. But even in his four defeats this year, the 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding had consistently been competitive as he’d never been more than three lengths behind the winner. El Tormenta put it all together in the Woodbine Mile, surging past Grade 1 winner Got Stormy in the stretch to win by a half-length at 44.70-1 odds. He recorded a 120 Equibase Speed Figure and earned an expenses-paid berth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The Woodbine Mile has been a key race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in recent years – three times in the last seven years the Woodbine Mile winner won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, twice the winner ran second at the Breeders’ Cup, and once the Woodbine Mile winner ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile – so it would be wise not to discount El Tormenta’s chances. His final eighth of a mile in 12.02 was solid given the very fast pace (half-mile in :44.43, three-quarters of a mile in 1:08.33) and if he can duplicate his Woodbine Mile effort at the Breeders’ Cup he’ll be dangerous. The average winning Equibase Speed Figure for the Breeders’ Cup Mile over the last 10 editions has been 121.6 with a median of 122. El Tormenta comes from a terrific Sam-Son Farm family that has produced multiple Canadian champions and classic winners. He is a closer who pretty much always runs his race and makes his presence felt late, and El Tormenta showed in the Woodbine Mile that he can be especially dangerous with a clean trip and a swift pace.
Also-Eligibles: Scabbard closed powerfully late to finish second in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes Sept. 14 despite having his progress almost completely halted by traffic trouble on the far turn. His race generated a lot of buzz after the Iroquois and Scabbard no doubt turned in a monster effort in defeat. But I still think he’s clearly behind Dennis’ Moment because while Scabbard was reeling the winner in late, Dennis’ Moment had already locked up the win and was geared down while coasting to the finish line. … Now is the time of year when we start identifying the European runners targeting the Breeders’ Cup, but there were few concrete commitments from the international qualifying races last weekend. Magical won the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes Sept. 14, and the connections of last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up have the World Championships on the radar. However, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and a rematch with Enable comes first for the 4-year-old Galileo filly, who has four wins and three seconds (two to Enable) in seven starts in 2019. … Iridessa picked up her second Group 1 win of the year in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes Sept. 14 at Leopardstown and would be a nice addition to the field for the Makers Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf for trainer Joseph O’Brien, who saddled runners in the 2016 and 2017 World Championships. … Trainer Simon Crisford said the plan is to send A’Ali to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup after the Society Rock colt’s one-length win in the Wainwright Flying Childers Stakes Sept. 13. The three-time Group 2 winner would be formidable in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. … Wow, Old Persian looked powerful and professional in winning the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes by 2 ½ lengths Sept. 14 at Woodbine. He looked like the winner from start to finish. The 4-year-old Godolphin homebred would be a serious player for the Longines Turf if he returns for the Breeders’ Cup, however, I saw no mention of that race being the target in any post-race comments.
1. Monomoy Girl
Late last week, Daily Racing Form reported that 2018 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Monomoy Girl would miss the 2019 World Championships after she pulled a muscle in a workout Sept. 7. That was her fourth timed workout on the comeback trail in an attempt to repeat in the Distaff. While the injury is a minor setback, the muscle pull combined with a tight window to make the Breeders’ Cup cost Monomoy Girl a shot at a repeat win. On the bright side, her connections hope to bring her back for a 5-year-old campaign in 2020. Monomoy Girl has amassed nine wins, including five Grade 1s, and two seconds (one via disqualification) from 11 lifetime starts. Monomoy Girl was one of many elite runners in recent weeks whose Breeders’ Cup chances were either dashed or appear to be fading …
2. Roy H
The two-time defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner has not raced since winning the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes in January. He missed a planned start in the Dubai Golden Shaheen with a foot injury and has no timed workouts listed on Equibase. That would seem to indicate the likelihood of the 7-year-old More Than Ready gelding making it back for the Breeders’ Cup is remote at best at this point as there is virtually no chance he’d be fit enough to squeeze in a prep race. Even if he were to begin serious workouts and train up to the Sprint, Roy H would most likely not be in peak condition for a three-peat attempt. He’s one of my favorite horses in training, but for now I would not expect to see him at the Breeders’ Cup.
A foot injury forced World of Trouble to miss a planned start in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Stakes Sept. 2 at Parx Racing. At the time, trainer Jason Servis told Daily Racing Form the injury also put World of Trouble’s status for the Breeders’ Cup in jeopardy. World of Trouble has not had a timed workout in the 3 ½ weeks since then, so clearly time is running out for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up, who had put together a terrific first half of the year with four wins in as many starts and a Grade 1 victory on both turf and dirt. This 4-year-old son of Kantharos is an elite talent with a terrific record of nine wins from 13 starts and outstanding speed figures to match.
Of Note: The news Sept. 17 that Maximum Security had a bout of colic and would miss a planned start in the Pennsylvania Derby this weekend does not completely eliminate his chances to be ready for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but it definitely puts the Classic in serious jeopardy. Trainer Jason Servis has been conservative with Maximum Security after his disqualification in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and, while the attending veterinarian said he should be fine in a few weeks, I don’t expect Servis will take any risks trying to rush him back for the Breeders’ Cup. He could train up to the Breeders’ Cup, but it would be a tall order to ask Maximum Security to ship across the country to take on older horses for the first time off a 4 ½-month layoff. … Trainer Bob Baffert told Daily Racing Form Monday that both champion Game Winner and Grade 1 winner Marley’s Freedom will miss the Breeders’ Cup. The tentative plan is to race Game Winner as a 4-year-old after he lost weight following an illness, while Marley’s Freedom will be given a break from training for the remainder of the year and is currently at a farm in Kentucky. Game Winner won the 2018 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and had one win and two seconds in four starts in 2019; Marley’s Freedom ran fourth in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint as the race favorite and had won two of four races in 2019.