Wesley Ward (Undrafted, The Great War and Green Mask, Turf Sprint) – Wesley Ward’s trio of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint contenders all had light excercise on Thursday morning, each jogging a lap on the main course. Last year, Ward finished second and third in the Turf Sprint with No Nay Never and Undrafted. Like in 2014, he enters multiple horses in with complementary styles.
“I wish I had No Nay Never,” Ward quipped. “He was a turf monster, but these three are all doing well. I think they’ll be tiered off. Green Mask will be mid-pack, The Great War will be more forwardly placed and Undrafted will be flying from behind.”
Abdullah S. Almaddah’s Green Mask, third in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night two races back on March 28, enters off a fourth – beaten a mere half-length – in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash on Sept. 14. A stalking type, the son of Mizzen Mast won the Paradise Creek Stakes at Belmont last year.
Wes Welker’s Undrafted, winner of the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot against many of the top global turf sprinters, cuts back in distance after a runner-up effort in the More than Ready Mile at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 5. Last year, the late-closing son of Purim was third in a photo finish for the victory in the Turf Sprint.
“(Undrafted) has proven a lot more than I ever thought he would from the onset,” Ward said. “He’s been a scrappy fighter and he knows a race is about to happen right now. The distance is a worry, but he’ll be running at the end.”
The Great War, a swift 3yo son of War Front owned by Coolmore principals Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, returns to the Breeders’ Cup one year after finishing a credible fourth in the Juvenile while under the tutelage of Aidan O’Brien.
Since turned over to Ward, he has a quartet of efforts, including a runaway 9¾-length victory in the 96 Rock Stakes on Turfway’s Polytrack surface. On Oct. 18, in the Nearctic going six furlongs on Woodbine’s turf, he was a game third, beaten a head.
“He’s a million-dollar yearling who has looked good since he was born,” Ward continued. “He’s trained great and is coming back on short rest, which is something I never do, but he came out of the race outstanding. He’s had some bleeding issues in the past that he’s overcome and he didn’t bleed a drop coming out of the race in Canada. He came out sound and has never had any soundness issues whatsoever. He can stalk and should be in a good spot. I’m happy with everything with all three horses.”
Jimmy Bouncer – Turf Sprint longshot Jimmy Bouncer jogged three-quarters of a mile and galloped 1 1/4m on the training track in preparing himself to join 13 other sprinters in Saturday’s $1-million race.
Trainer Doug O’Neill has expressed confidence that the Reddam Racing 5yo son of J. Paul Reddam’s stallion Square Eddie will show the same grit his sire showed while finishing second to Midshipman in the 2008 Juvenile.
Jimmy Bouncer will be one of two offspring in Saturday’s championships, the other being Reddam Racing’s Ralis in the Juvenile.
Lea - Dirt Mile hopeful Lea headed to the wet main track this morning but was rerouted to the all-weather Polytrack because of a miscommunication. The main track was closed for renovation at that time (halfway through training hours) after several days without the maintenance break.
Liam’s Map – Teresa Viola Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Liam’s Map galloped over the Keeneland training track Thursday morning for Friday’s Dirt Mile, which is scheduled to be his final start before retiring to stud at Lanes End Farm.
The 4yo son of Unbridled’s Song will be cutting back an eighth of a mile after scoring a 4 ¾-length victory in the Woodward at Saratoga Sept. 5.
“I don’t think it entails a whole lot. We were able to prepare him a little bit differently than we would have if he were running a mile and a quarter. We just have to make sure we have him tight and ready to run at a mile,” Pletcher said. “He hasn’t run since the Woodward. We want to make sure we have him tightened, which I think we’ve accomplished on the strength of his breezes and gallop-outs.”
Mongolian Saturday - Mongolian Saturday will be the first Breeders’ Cup starter for his trainer Enebish Ganbat, who is feeling good heading into the Turf Sprint. “He went two miles and he’s feeling energetic, very energetic,” he said. “I think everything is good.”
The trainer, who moved to the U.S. five years ago, will be the first native of Mongolia to saddle a Breeders’ Cup contender. Mongolian Saturday heads into the race with two seconds and a win his last three outs – all three from either the rail or the two hole. He’s on the opposite end of the starting gate for the Sprint – drawing the outside post 14 with Florent Geroux to ride.
Tapiture – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ 2014 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture schooled at the gate on Thursday morning. The Steve Asmussen-trained chestnut son of Tapit left Barn 60 and made an impressive appearance.
“He’s full of himself right now,” Asmussen said.
Wicked Strong – Centennial Farms’ Wicked Strong jogged, schooled at the starting gate and galloped Thursday morning in a quest to win his first start of 2015 in Friday’s Dirt Mile.
The son of Hard Spun ranked among the top 3yos last year when he captured the Wood Memorial, finished a solid fourth in the Kentucky Derby, won the Jim Dandy and was nosed out by stablemate V E Day in the Travers. His sophomore season ended on a sour note in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, in which he was impeded and fell. Trainer James Jerkens stops short of attributing Wicked Strong’s disappointing season to side effects from the fall.
“The way he started running at the beginning of the year, you might feel that. The way he was acting, there wasn’t any difference, but he didn’t have the ‘oomph’ that he had,” Jerkens said. “I think he got it back from Saratoga on. He’s certainly a better horse than he was in the spring.”
Wicked Strong is coming off a second-place finish behind Tonalist in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.