Valiance Earns Breeders’ Cup Berth with Spinster Win

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Valiance, with Luis Saez riding, won the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 3 to earn an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Valiance lived up to her name Oct. 4 when she ran down Longines Kentucky Oaks heroine Shedaresthedevil and held off Grade 1 winner Ollie's Candy to take the $400,000, Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Tapit filly earned an automatic berth to the Nov. 7 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic back at Keeneland via the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.

Shedaresthedevil broke well and set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Spinster under Florent Geroux, who was also aboard the filly for her Sept. 4 Oaks victory. The pair maintained an advantage into the far turn, but Valiance, who had rated in midpack through much of the race under Luis Saez, moved up to challenge the Oaks winner at the top of the lane.

Valiance took command in midstretch, but Ollie's Candy swung out from a ground-saving stalking position and made a late rally. Saez spurred his filly onward to the finish and the pair managed to turn back Ollie's Candy by three-quarters of a length.

"That was the plan to let those fillies go on the lead and see if we can catch them," said Saez, who won a total of four races on Sunday's card. "Everything came so perfect, the way we planned it. When we came to the straight, it was a battle but she did it pretty good, and she fired and won the race. The (fast pace) was the plan. I knew that was going to happen. It was good for us."

Final time for the race was 1:49.76 over a fast track. Ollie's Candy took second, 2 ½  lengths in front of Shedaresthedevil in third. Lady Kate finished fourth followed by Saracosa and Our Super Freak to complete the order.

Shedaresthedevil's trainer, Brad Cox, said the filly's loss in the Spinster could throw her chances at a start in the Breeders' Cup into question.

"I am disappointed; she went too fast, too early. She never got a breather," said Cox. "It was a lot to ask, bringing her back in four weeks (after winning the Kentucky Oaks). And she is a 3-year-old against older fillies and mares for the first time. Now the Breeders' Cup is a big, big question mark."

"(I'm) just blown away," said Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, who co-owns Valiance with Martin Schwartz and China Horse Club. "It's been such an emotional year dealing with the craziest times that the world has seen. We're just so honored to win a race like this with such a regally-bred filly."

Valiance broke her maiden on debut in April 2019. She followed that victory with two more trips to the winner's circle in allowance company and then at the stakes level, scoring in the Open Mind Stakes on the turf at Monmouth Park to close out her 3-year-old season.

Returning at 4, Valiance missed the board in her first two starts of 2020 but eventually returned to winning form at Colonial Downs where she won a July allowance optional claiming race. She returned to Monmouth where she earned another stakes win in an off-the-turf running of the Aug. 29 Eatontown Stakes

"Well it seemed like she had simply been training better on dirt that she ever did previously," said Pletcher, who was absent from Keeneland for Valiance's win on Sunday. "When she won her first three starts on the turf, it was logical to keep her on there. But when she didn't fire her 'A' race in the New York and kind of had a confidence builder (at Colonial Downs), when the Eatontown came off the turf at Monmouth and she ran … it was very impressive the way she did that that day. That's when we started thinking about taking a shot in a big one."

While Wellman said he knows the competition is bound to be stiff in the Distaff, he hopes Valiance may finally have found her niche.

"It's an incredible division this year," said Wellman. "They lost Midnight Bisou but you still have Monomoy Girl who is a Hall of Fame filly in her own right and the 3-year-old division is incredible. Look right now, we're just over the moon to have captured this Grade 1, a race with such prestige. It's just so enormous to win this race. We're so honored."–Meredith Daugherty


Mutasaabeq Rallies from Last to Win Bourbon

After winning his first start on dirt and placing third in the Runhappy Hopeful Stakes, Shadwell Stable's Mutasaabeq switched to the turf and won the $200,000, Grade 2 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland with a last-to-first rally.

With the victory in the Breeders' Cup Challenge event, Mutasaabeq secured a spot in the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf back at Keeneland.

"He's always been a very happy horse," said Amelia Green, an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "If you ask him, he thinks he's 17 hands and a big stud. We don't tell him otherwise – we let him think that. He showed it today."

The 2-year-old Into Mischief  colt was last of 11 through most of the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon. He hesitated at the start and trailed the field in the three path under Luis Saez. Up front, Into the Sunrise showed the way through six furlongs in 1:12.24, at which point Mutasaabeq was still last with seven lengths to make up.

Mutasaabeq circled the field eight wide when turning for home and accelerated down the lane to pick off his rivals. He propelled to the front and kept going for a 2 ¼-length victory in a final time of 1:43.13 on firm turf.

Pletcher said he was a little concerned with the race setup after Mutasaabeq's start.

"He didn't break well, and that has historically been him. He's a horse that has speed and he has a tremendous turn of foot as you saw today, but he's notoriously not been great the first jump or two away from the gate," Pletcher said. "So I wasn't surprised when he didn't get away well, and then he kind of got shuffled back and then a horse kind of came over and he had to steady a bit.

"The first 100 yards didn't go very well, but he was able to save a little bit of ground around the first turn and it looked like Luis was biding his time and trying to figure out whether he should find a seam to go through or ultimately he just decided to circle the field and kind of sling-shotted them," Pletcher added. "He delivered an explosive turn of foot. Great to see and great for the Shadwell team."

Abarta rallied from 10th to finish second, and Nathan Detroit also closed to get third. Into the Sunrise tired to fourth.

"We broke a little slow. Last time he did the same thing, but I knew I had a lot of horse. The distance was great for him," Saez said. "He was working so good on the turf. We knew what we had. When we came to the half-mile, I was trying to (decide) where we were going to go – inside or out – but inside we had so many horses. I felt like I had the horse to go out and let him roll. When he came to the straight, he just took off. He did it easy."–Christine Oser


Bodenheimer Goes Wire-to-Wire to Win Indian Summer

From the moment she put 2-year-old Bodenheimer in training, Valorie Lund knew the colt was something special.

When the colt shot out of the Keeneland gate and dove to the front of the field to win the $150,000 Indian Summer Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select by a length on Sunday, Lund knew immediately that her confidence had been well placed.

"I'm really cautious with my 2-year-olds, so not a lot of them even make it to the races," said Lund, who trains the Washington-bred son of Atta Boy Roy on behalf of her sister, Kristin Boice, and mother, Marylou Holden. "Early on I told my sister, 'This colt is good enough that if he stays sound, we could maybe go to the Breeders' Cup with him.'"

Now with the Indian Summer in his pocket, Bodenheimer has earned an automatic berth in the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and will return to Keeneland to contest the race Nov. 6.

"He has done everything right," Lund said. "He's been an iron horse, and he's smart and he's fast. He's fulfilled everything we thought about him early on, and now we're going and it's exciting."

Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. in the 5 ½-furlong race, Bodenheimer broke on top in the six-horse field and led at every point of call. He covered the distance in 1:02.70.

"When he broke on the lead – and he made the lead pretty easy – I turned to momma and said, 'They're not going to catch him,'" Lund said.

Bodenheimer broke his maiden on debut July 29 at Canterbury Park and won the Prairie Gold Juvenile Stakes at Prairie Meadows Aug. 22. He entered the Indian Summer off a fifth-place finish in the Sept. 12 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs.

With a Breeders' Cup to look forward to and hopefully more winners already in the pipeline, Lund said she will be hoping for many more victories to come as she moves her operation – and Bodenheimer – to Kentucky for good.

"I'm a Northwest girl, and I have been forever," Lund said. "But I'm moving lock, stock, and barrel to Kentucky."–Meredith Daugherty

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