Last year trainer Paulo Lobo, jockey Joe Talamo, and owners Bonne Chance Farm and Stud R D I went to the Breeders' Cup with Ivar, who finished fourth in the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by PDJF at Keeneland.
Now they are Breeders' Cup-bound again with another South American import in Imperador —this time for the Nov. 6 Grade 1 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar. Their horse qualified for the $4 million race Sept. 11 by outlasting Arklow by a head Sept. 11 in the Grade 2 Calumet Turf Cup Stakes at Kentucky Downs, a race added this year to the Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
Though the Calumet Turf Cup had the potential to be worth $1 million Saturday, its official purse was $715,105, largely owing to the winner being bred in Argentina. A large chunk—$450,000—of the race's listed purse was available only to Kentucky-breds, leaving the winner to race for $550,000, about half the potential purse.
Many of his opponents, however, didn't run half as well as he did. Eighth early, Imperador swooped to the lead in midstretch with an eye-catching rally, and just managed to hold off Arklow after the latter found clear sailing after being shut off in midstretch.
Imperador raced 1 1/2 miles on a firm turf course in a course record 2:25.70 following splits of :48.60, 1:13.15 and 1:36.96, set first by Epic Bromance and later by Channel Cat. The 5-year-old by Treasure Beach returned $19.20 to win for a $2 wager, and $317,130 to his winning owners.
Talamo said he was proud of his mount, who showed him "a good turn of foot," withstanding a two-time winner of the race in 2-1 favorite Arklow.
"(Arklow) was coming pretty quick, but hats off to my horse, he did it all," the rider added.
Florent Geroux, aboard Arklow, was left to wonder what might have been with better luck. He felt great about his chances approaching the stretch, saving ground and picking off opponents in Arklow's advance from ninth.
"I thought I had the speed turning for home, and those horses came back at us quick. I had to take a hold and come around, and it was too late," he noted. "The winner went all the way around. If I split horses and get through, they'll tell me it's a great ride. I didn't. I got squeezed, and it's a bad ride."
The victory from Imperador followed a runner-up finish in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 United Nations Stakes this summer at Monmouth Park in which he came from farther off the pace than he did when weakening to sixth in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes a start before.
"I was expecting a huge effort, Lobo said. "He ran good at Churchill, the first time running a mile and a half here in America. He ran very good in New Jersey and he was doing very good for this race."
Lobo, who previously trained in California, said he is excited to send his horse out west for a crack at the Breeders' Cup Turf.
"In the Breeders' Cup we are going to be in deeper waters, but this horse I think is peaking at the right time," he said. "I think he is going to enjoy Del Mar. South American horses also like Del Mar.
Imperador was a multiple group 1 winner in Argentina before coming to the United States in 2020. He provided his connections with a second stakes victory at Kentucky Downs this week after In Love won the Sept. 8 TVG Stakes.
"We have a very good team behind us here with Paulo and all the crew at his barn who did an excellent job to bring those two horses in top condition," said Alberto Figueiredo, CEO of Bonne Chance Farm. "And also, all the people in South America deserve some credit as well to develop those horses into being champions. And they're proving it here.
"Imagine, we're bringing three horses and three are stakes winners: Ivar, grade 1 (2020 Shadwell Turf Mile), Imperador, grade 2, and In Love wins here. That's a huge accomplishment for a South American stable with just a couple handful of mares."
Bred by Haras Rio Dois Irmaos S.R.L., Imperador is one of five winners from as many foals out of the Danehill mare Duchess Royale. Imperador, who improved his record to 4-4-0 from 14 starts and earnings to $538,268, is the dam's lone stakes winner.
Treasure Beach, a son of Galileo who stands at Pleasant Acres Stallions in Florida, has shuttled to Argentina for numerous South American breeding seasons. -Byron King
Gear Jockey Rolls to Victory in FanDuel Turf Sprint
Ever since he moved Calumet Farm's Gear Jockey to turf in the colt's second start, trainer Rusty Arnold has seen great potential in homebred son of Twirling Candy. Trying him in the 2019 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America at Santa Anita Park and getting a third-place finish at 67-1 odds speaks volumes of that confidence.
"We always liked Gear Jockey," Arnold said. "But he looked like he was going to win a few races and he didn't. He wasn't finishing his races like the way he was training for them. So I had a talk with (Calumet Farm general manager) Eddie Kane after he was third (May 1) against allowance horses at Churchill Downs, and we decided to sprint him and let's see what happens."
What happened, in a nutshell, is that Gear Jockey is heading back to California for the Breeders' Cup.
Facing a stellar lineup of 11 rivals, Gear Jockey turned what loomed as a highly competitive race into a decisive 2 1/2-length victory over Diamond Oops in the $995,500 Grade 3 FanDuel Turf Sprint Stakes Sept. 11 at Kentucky Downs, setting a course record of 1:07.90. With the six-furlong turf stakes being part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, the "Win and You're In" qualifier netted Gear Jockey a paid, automatic berth in the Nov. 6 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar for his initial stakes win.
"Things went the right way for him today. It was a huge effort. I'm proud of the way he showed up and today was the right day to show up," Arnold said about the $902,875 earner. "Sometimes these things work out and sometimes they don't. This time it did."
Arnold's first try with sprinting Gear Jockey resulted in an allowance optional claimer win at Saratoga Race Course, and in his next and most recent start, the 4-year-old was third in the Aug. 6 Grade 3 Troy Stakes Presented by Horse Racing Ireland after a slow start and wide trip.
After running in those two races and the Turf Sprint since July 17, Arnold said his charge would not race again until the Breeders' Cup.
Bombard set the early pace with Gear Jockey chasing a half-length behind in second after a quarter-mile in :22.38 on the firm turf. Turning into the stretch, Jose Lezcano and Gear Jockey motored past Bombard and opened a two-length lead at the eighth pole. Though there was a line of horses behind the 5-1 fourth choice ($13.40), no one mounted a rally to endanger him.
Diamond Oops, a son of Lookin At Lucky trained by Patrick Biancone and owned by Diamond 100 Racing Club, Amy Dunne, DP Racing, and Patrick Biancone Racing, moved up from third at the half-mile pole to take second by a nose over the Richard Mandella-trained Bombard.
Bombard, a son of War Front owned by the Raydelz Stable of Waddell Hancock II, Ramona Bass, and Adele Dilschneider, was one of six horses separated by no more than a neck at the wire.
Casa Creed was fifth while Got Stormy, the $2.3 million-earning mare coming off a win against males in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap, was a neck behind him in sixth as the 7-2 favorite.
Gear Jockey is the fourth of seven foals from the Tapit mare Switching Gears and her first stakes winner. She also has three younger unraced colts, the 3-year-old Skipping Gears (Skipshot), 2-year-old Double Clutch (Optimizer), and yearling Keen to Go (Keen Ice).
"The depth of this field was unbelievable," Arnold said about a Breeders' Cup-caliber array of turf sprinters. "It's hard to believe he won the way he did, but he did. He has thrived at sprinting. You wish you had done it earlier, but it's never too late."
Better late than never? That certainly applies when talking about the turf-sprinting—and now Breeders' Cup-bound—Gear Jockey. -Bob Ehalt