Key Takeaways from Busy Final Weekend of Preparation Before Breeders’ Cup

Trainer Fausto Gutierrez and leading Breeders’ Cup Distaff contender Letruska enjoy the surroundings at Del Mar as they prepare for the World Championships. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways as the horses produced their last major workouts in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming Friday and Saturday at Del Mar:

Knicks Go preps at Churchill. (Coady Photography)

SITTING ON GO: Rain led trainer Brad Cox to postpone the works of his top three Breeders’ Cup contenders one day until Sunday at Churchill Downs. It was worth the wait. Essential Quality and Knicks Go, who loom as the top two choices in the $6 million Longines Classic, traveled five furlongs in 59.40 seconds and 1:01.20, respectively. Shedaresthedevil, who has much to do to overtake heavily favored Letruska in the $2 million Longines Distaff, signaled her preparedness for that massive challenge with a five-furlong move in 1:00.80. Cox said leading 3-year-old Essential Quality is “really developing at the right time.” The Eclipse Award winner as the leading trainer in North America in 2020 praised Knicks Go for his aggressiveness while saying that Shedaresthedevil “always gets into a good rhythm in her training and races.”

Art Collector breezes at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

USEFUL WORKS: Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was pleased with Art Collector (Classic), Casa Creed ($2 million FanDuel Mile presented by PDJF) and War Like Goddess ($2 million Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf) after each worked four furlongs on Sunday at Del Mar. Art Collector was timed in 48.40 seconds. Casa Creed flashed ample speed with a 47.60 clocking. War Like Goddess completed her half-mile in 48.20 seconds. “They were all useful works, nothing blazing fast,” Mott said. “I never have a problem working good grass horses on dirt and this track looks safe and very forgiving.” Exercise rider Neil Poznansky was aboard all three horses. Mott owns 10 Breeders’ Cup victories.

UNEXPECTED COMPANY: Trainer Fausto Gutierrez wanted Longines Distaff favorite Letruska to work five furlongs on her own on Saturday at Del Mar. In a vivid example of the best-laid plans often going astray, she picked up unexpected company to her outside. It was the last thing exercise rider Roger Horgan wanted, but she handled that development as well as she has everything else during an itinerant campaign. “I was not planning on company. It was not ideal,” Horgan said. “She did relax. I was a bit concerned, but she switched off and I let her do it on her own. I was very proud of the way she relaxed.” Letruska completed the five furlongs in 1:01.20. The commanding division leader has won five consecutive races at as many different tracks – Oaklawn Park, Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Keeneland.

THRIVING: Life Is Good shows every sign that he is primed for a huge performance in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. He drilled four furlongs in 48.65 seconds on Friday at Belmont Park. That came one week after he blazed the distance in 47.83 seconds to rank second among 65 runners. “He’s an exceptional workhorse and very talented,” trainer Todd Pletcher said after Friday’s move. “He did what we’ve become accustomed to seeing him do, which was put in an impressive move. He did it very easily.” The Dirt Mile will represent Life Is Good’s third start in his comeback from an injury. In his first race since March 6, he delivered a huge effort but missed by a neck to superb sprinter Jackie’s Warrior in the Aug. 28 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes. He rolled by 5 ½ lengths in the Sept. 25 Kelso Handicap at Belmont.

Christophe Clement (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

NO WORRIES: Gufo, in his final tune-up for the $4 million Longines Turf, strolled through half a mile in 53.44 seconds on Friday on the inner turf course at Belmont, adding to his reputation as a horse that does not work fast unless pressed to do so. “It was a lazy work, as usual, but he had a very strong work last week,” noted trainer Christophe Clement. “(Friday), he worked on his own. It was slow by design, but he looked well. He is very sound and he’s ready to go.” The 4-year-old son of Declaration of War can be forgiven “lazy” works. The two-time Grade 1 winner has never failed to hit the board in 13 career starts and earned a fees-paid berth in the Turf by winning the Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Invitational in August at Saratoga. He comes off a third-place effort in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont.

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