HORSE OF THE YEAR RACE HEATS UP AS BREEDERS' CUP NEARS With the 28th Breeders' Cup less than seven weeks away, the Horse of the Year title is as wide open as when the year started. With several important preps looming over the next month, including a pair of "Win and You're In" races for the Breeders' Cup Classic, a list of accomplished runners will be plotting their paths towards Churchill Downs November 4 and 5.
Though debatable and hardly set in stone, the Horse of the Year pecking order likely starts with William Clifton Jr.'s TIZWAY, who has assumed command of a muddled male handicap division with wins in his last two starts. The 6-year-old son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow has been at his best when it has mattered most, winning a pair of grade I "Win and You're In" races in the Met Mile at Belmont Park in May and the Whitney at Saratoga Race Track in August, which gave him an automatic berth into the Classic. He is also the first horse to win Breeders' Cup Challenge races in two different divisions in the same year.
Tizway, who also owns a pair of third place finishes in the grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap in March and grade III Charles Town Classic in April, is 7-for-20 lifetime and has shown versatility to win grade I's at both one-turn and two. Tizway secured a berth into the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with his Met Mile win but has had Bond thinking Classic all along.
"He's a fast horse, he's a miler, and now he's shown us he can make two turns and carry it on," Bond said after the Whitney win. "There's one more big hurdle, and that's 1 1/4 miles."
Tizway will make his final start before the Classic in Belmont's "Win and You're In" Jockey Club Gold Cup
October 1 (Breeders' Cup Challenge- Presented by Emirates Airline on ESPN Classic 4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. ET) and got down to serious business with a five-furlong drill in 1:01.34 at Belmont September 15.
Bond has been impressed with Tizway since the Whitney Handicap.
"(He came out of the Whitney) as good as he could ever have come out of a race," Bond said. "He worked fantastic. I feel like the luckiest man in the world to train this horse."
Breeders' Cup betting from Churchill Downs at Off-Track Betting
While Tizway leads the male division, HAVRE DE GRACE and BLIND LUCK, a pair of exciting and qualified 4-year-old fillies, headline the female division and bring an added flair of excitement to both the Classic and Horse of the Year race.
Fox Hill Farm's Havre De Grace padded her resume September 3 at Saratoga when she beat males in the grade I Woodward Stakes to announce her Horse of the Year candidacy for trainer Larry Jones. The daughter of 2005 Classic winner Saint Liam is 4-for-5 this year, with her lone loss coming to Blind Luck by a nose in the "Win and You're In" Delaware Handicap in July. Havre De Grace won the grade III Azeri at Oaklawn Park in March to start her year, took the grade I Apple Blossom there a month later and also won Delaware Park's grade III Obeah Stakes in June. While Havre De Grace ran third in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, a run at males in the this year's Classic has been on Fox Hill owner Rick Porter's mind for quite some time. The Beldame Stakes, a Breeders' Cup Challenge race for fillies and mares at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, is under consideration for Havre de Grace.
"I've looked at all of the numbers, and I think my horse would match up well with just about anyone that would show up there (in the Classic)," Porter said. "What I'd really like to see is Havre de Grace and Blind Luck taking on the boys in the Classic. I'm not sure what (Blind Luck's connections) are thinking, but I think if both stay healthy it could happen."
Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, Peter Abruzzo and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's Jerry Blind Luck has won three straight after beginning her year with a trio of second-place finishes. The daughter of Pollard's Vision won the grade II La Troienne at Churchill in May and grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park in June before besting Havre De Grace in the Del Cap to earn a berth into the Ladies' Classic . Blind Luck is 12-for-21 in a distinguished career and will likely run next in Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita's grade I Lady's Secret October 2 a "Win and You're In" race for the Ladies' Classic that could be a bridge for a try at males in the Classic.
California runners ACCLAMATION, TWIRLING CANDY and GAME ON DUDE have all taken turns beating each other and the competition this year and form a talented trio that will likely make their final Classic preps in Oak Tree at Santa Anita's October 1 grade I Goodwood Stakes, which is a "Win and You're In" for the Classic. The Goodwood and will also be televised live on ESPN Classic.
Mary and Peter Hilvers and E.W. and Judy Johnston's Acclamation was thought to be a turf specialist until he wired the grade I "Win and You're In" Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 28 for trainer Don Warren. The 5-year-old son of Unusual Heat was California's top turf horse this year based on wins in the grade II Murray and grade I Whittingham at Hollywood and grade I Eddie Read at Del Mar in July but showed in the Pacific Classic that he can compete on a synthetic surface as well.
Acclamation has now won 8-of-27 lifetime starts and will likely have to deal with the Craig Family Trust, Will Farish and Marty Wygod's Twirling Candy once again in the Goodwood. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride is 7-for-11 lifetime for trainer John Sadler and owns grade II wins in the Strub at Santa Anita in February and Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park in June.
Diamond Pride, the Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernard Schiappa's Game On Dude tired late in the Pacific Classic and finished fourth but the 4-year-old son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again showed in his grade I Santa Anita Handicap win in March that he can compete with the best handicap horses in the country. The Bob Baffert trainee is 4-for-12 lifetime and has proven to be a formidable foe at the Classic's 1 1/4-mile distance.
Three-Year-Olds in the Picture The 3-year-olds have taken turns beating each other all year but the "now" horse is Repole Stable's STAY THIRSTY, who won Saratoga's grade II Jim Dandy and grade I Travers Stakes this summer. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Bernardini also finished second in the Belmont and will prep there in the Gold Cup, where he'll meet older horses for the first time.
Repole's reigning 2-year-old champion and Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner UNCLE MO will also be pointed to the Classic. The son of Indian Charlie returned from a liver infection to run second in Saratoga's grade I King's Bishop Stakes on the Travers undercard and will prep for the Classic in the grade II Kelso at Belmont October 1. The "Win and You're In" Kelso offers a guaranteed berth into the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile but Repole is thinking much bigger with the 4-for-6 Uncle Mo, along with Stay Thirsty.
"I want to run both of those horses in the Classic then watch it come to down to a Blame-Zenyatta duel down the stretch only it's Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty coming down the stretch," Repole said. "I'll be rooting for a dead heat.''
Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge's SHACKLEFORD and George and Lori Hall's RULER ON ICE won the Preakness and Belmont, respectively, but start the fall with questions to answer. Shackleford finished second by a neck to COIL in the "Win and You're In" Haskell at Monmouth Park but was eighth in the Travers while Ruler On Ice was third in the Haskell and fourth in the Travers for trainer Kelly Breen. Paul Weitman, Karl Watson and Mike Pegram's Coil won the Haskell and the automatic berth into the Classic that went with it, but was last of 10 in the Travers for Baffert. Ruler on lce is slated to run in this Saturday' $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, where he is likely to face Travers runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge and last year's Remsen Stakes winner To Honor and Serve.
Goldikova on Target for Fourth Breeders' Cup Mile While it's unlikely to win the North American Horse of the Year award off just one U.S. start, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer's sensational GOLDIKOVA (IRE) has her sights set on an unprecedented fourth straight TVG Breeders' Cup Mile for trainer Freddy Head and will prep in the group I Prix de la Foret at Longchamp October 2. The 6-year-old daughter of Anabaa has won a record 14 group/grade I wins in her illustrious career, including the Mile at Santa Anita in 2008 and 2009 and Churchill Downs in 2010.
This year Goldikova is 2-for-4, with group I wins in the Prix D'Ispahan at Longchamp in May and Prix Rothschild at Deauville in July. At 17-for-25 lifetime Head still thinks his mare is going strong and ready for another run at the Breeders' Cup Mile.
"Everything is being geared for her to win a fourth Breeders' Cup Mile," Head said. "Goldikova is in very good shape."
Newmarket Offers Juvenile Fillies Turf Bid The group I, $312,000 Shadwell Fillies' Mile will offer a guaranteed spot into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Friday at Newmarket and figures to attract Europe's leading 2-year-old filly in Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier's MAYBE (IRE). The daughter of Galileo (IRE) is undefeated in five starts for trainer Aidan O'Brien, including the group I, "Win and You're In" Moyglare Stud at the Curragh in her last start August 28. Maybe also won the group III Silver Flash at Leopardstown in July and group II Keeneland Debutante at the Curragh in August.
Godolphin's LYRIC OF LIGHT (GB) could challenge for trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni. The daughter of Street Cry (IRE) is perfect in two starts, including a group II win in Doncaster's May Hill September 9 and should only get better as the furlongs add up.
Normandie Stud's FALLEN FOR YOU (GB) was second to Lyric Of Light at Doncaster and should improve off that run, which came on the heels of her debut win at Newmarket in July. The daughter of Dansili (GB) has the look of an exciting newcomer to the division and will be well supported at Newmarket.
Nick and Olga Dhandsa and John and Zoe Webster's SAMITAR (GB) was third in the May Hill and is also attracting support for trainer Mick Channon. The daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE) broke her maiden in Royal Ascot's group III Albany in June for her lone win from four starts.
"Everything is being geared for her to win a fourth Breeders' Cup Mile," Head said. "Goldikova is in very good shape."
Mill Reef Winner Target Breeders' Cup Charles Wentworth's CASPAR NETSCHER (GB), who won Newbury's group II Mill Reef September 17 is being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf later this fall. The son of Dutch Art (GB) improved to 3-for-8 in the Mill Reef and also won the group II Gimcrack at York in August for trainer Alan McCabe, who said an ambitious juvenile campaign has been by design.
"Caspar Netscher thrives on his racing and that was just like an exercise gallop. He's not blowing that hard and he is a very good horse," McCabe said. "We'll keep an eye on the (group I) Middle Park (at Newmarket October 8), but the long-term plan is the Breeders' Cup."
BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC September 24 - $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. Run at 1 1/8 miles for 3yos. September 24 - $200,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. Run at 1 1/8 miles for 3yos & up.
BREEDERS' CUP LADIES' CLASSIC September 24 - $100,000 Kentucky Cup Distaff at Turfway Park. Run at 1 1/16 miles for fillies & mares. September 25 - $250,000 Selene at Woodbine. Run at 1 1/8 miles for 3yo fillies.
EMIRATES AIRLINE BREEDERS' CUP TURF September 24 - $250,000 Kent at Delaware Park. Run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3yos. September 25 - $207,235 Preis von Europa at Koln. Run at about 1 1/2 miles on the turf for 3yos & up.
EMIRATES AIRLINE BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE TURF September 24 - $280,800 Sun Chariot at Newmarket. Run at 1-mile on the turf for fillies & mares.
SENTIENT JET BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT September 24 - $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park. Run at six furlongs for 3yos.
SENTIENT JET BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT September 24 - $150,000 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park. Run at six and a half furlongs for fillies & mares.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF September 23 - $312,000 Shadwell Fillies' Mile at Newmarket. Run at 1-mile on the turf for 2yo fillies. September 24 - $218,400 Cheveley Park at Newmarket. Run at six furlongs on the turf for 2yo fillies.