Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont Park, the Ricoh Woodbine Mile at Woodbine Racetrack, and other major developments this past weekend:
ALL APPLEBY: When Charlie Appleby ships a horse across the Atlantic to compete in a major event, take notice. His Godolphin-owned fillies Althiqa and Summer Romance snagged the top two positions in the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game in June at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Diana Stakes in July at Saratoga. Appleby struck again with Yibir in the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational Sept. 18 at Belmont as the Godolphin homebred secured a berth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf Nov. 6 at Del Mar. Yibir, by Dubawi, is a full-brother to Wild Illusion, runner-up in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. “We’ve been very lucky this season,” said Chris Connett, Appleby’s traveling assistant. “Charlie’s horses have been in great form and he has placed them really well.” So well, in fact, that the next day at Woodbine Appleby found the winner’s circle again … twice. Appleby won the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Godolphin homebred Wild Beauty to earn an expenses-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Albahr, another Godolphin homebred, followed with a 2 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the $1 million Juvenile Turf. Appleby’s run of success in the U.S. has given him a formidable hand for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
PERFECT TIMING: Six-year-old gelding Town Cruise chose the ideal time to register his first stakes victory, taking early command to capture the $1,120,800 Ricoh Woodbine Mile. The win secured a fees-paid berth in the $2 million FanDuel Mile Presented by PDJF on Nov. 6 at Del Mar. The Ontario-bred is trained by Woodbine-based Brandon Greer, who owns the horse and bred him with his father, Terrance. Town Cruise completed the distance in 1:35.14 for jockey Daisuke Fukumoto. Will the son of Town Prize advance to the Mile? “I’m going to have to ask someone very important first, the horse,” Greer said. “We’re going to take a couple of days and just take it slow, take it easy, see how everything is after the race. And then I’ll ask the horse and see what he wants to do.”
MAJOR VICTORY: Major General, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, became the first horse to earn points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby while securing his place in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance when he won the $300,000 Iroquois Stakes on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. Major General hung on by a neck against Tough to Tame and jockey Sophie Doyle. Castellano found much to like in Major General, a son of Constitution that has swept his first two starts. “He seemed to enjoy going two turns and when the other horses got to him in the stretch, he started to re-break,” Castellano noted. The Juvenile caps “Future Stars Friday” on Nov. 5 at Del Mar. Major General earned 10 qualifying points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
RECORD RUN: Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbred’s Hidden Connection completed the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas Stakes in 1:43.78, a stakes-record time, as part of a dominant 9 ½-length romp at Churchill Downs. Hidden Connection is trained by Bret Calhoun and was ridden by Reylu Gutierrez, whose timing for his first Churchill Downs victory could not have been better. Hidden Connection earned a fees-paid berth to the $2 million Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 5 at Del Mar while recording 10 qualifying points toward the 2022 Longines Kentucky Oaks. The daughter of Connect won her debut by 7 ½ lengths at Colonial Downs in her previous start. “She didn’t have as much experience as some of the horses in this race, but she backed up that win very well,” Calhoun said. “If she comes out of things OK, you’d have to think she’s on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
TRAILBLAZER: Barbara Banke became the first woman to chair Breeders’ Cup Limited when she was unanimously elected by the Board of Directors. Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm will serve as vice chairman. Banke owns Jackson Family Wines, the nation’s largest seller of premium wines, in addition to being a prominent owner and breeder. “I look forward to working closely with stakeholders across the industry to ensure a bright future for Breeders’ Cup Limited, the World Championships and the sport of Thoroughbred racing,” Banke said. Banke owns Stonestreet Farms, which has bred and raised horses that have won more than 120 graded and listed stakes races. Banke was elected as a Breeders’ Cup member in 2012, then was elected to the Board of Directors two years later.