Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races Recap, Replays

Beholder won Saturday's Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita and will head to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.   (Photo credit: Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

Beholder won Saturday’s Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita and will head to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. (Photo credit: Breeders’ Cup Ltd.)

Seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In’ races were contested in the U.S. on Saturday. The brilliant mare Beholder was the star of the day, coming out of her win in the $300,000 Zenyatta (G1) looking as if she will be tough to handle when she takes on the boys in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) next month at Keeneland.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Keeneland for the first time on Oct. 30-31.

There are still 16 Breeders’ Cup Challenge races left to be decided in October. There are eight coming up at Keeneland, which opens for its fall meeting on Friday. Belmont Park will host four this weekend, with one other coming at Santa Anita.

There are three coming up at Longchamp on Sunday, with the final “Win and You’re In” race slated for Keeneland on Oct. 7, the J. P. Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G3).

Here is a look at last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge action:

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Turf

Winner: Big Blue Kitten

The Chad Brown trainee set a course record in the Joe Hirsch, stopping the timer in 2:23.39 for the 1 ½ miles. The previous mark was set by Fantastic Light in 2:24.36. The ridgling has now won three of five starts this year with a couple of seconds. He won the Ft. Marcy (G3) in May and the United Nations (G1) in July. He came into his last outing off a tough neck loss in the Arlington Million (G1).

He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, besting his previous career high of 105 which he earned in the United Nations. He sits atop the turf division stateside but is sure to run into several tough Euros next month at Keeneland.

Twilight Eclipse had a tough trip under jockey Joel Rosario, who elected to come up the rail despite the fact that pacesetter Shining Copper was sure to weaken. He got caught in traffic and it may have cost him the victory as my top pick


Vosburgh (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Winner: Rock Fall

Make it seven in a row for Rock Fall, who had to work hard to win by a neck in a three way photo with Salutos Amigos and Stallwalkin’ Dude. Quite a tussle considering he was sent off as the 2-5 chalk.

He earned a 104 Beyer, which was lower than he earned his last two wins, the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) at the Spa (106) and the True North (G2) at Belmont Park where he earned a 110.

“I didn’t quite overdo it with training coming into this race. I wanted to get this one and still have something for the Breeders’ Cup, so I was hoping I didn’t cut it too close and he pulled it out,” Pletcher said per Bloodhorse.

This guy just has the look of a contender that is going to be an underlay in the Sprint.


Rodeo Drive S (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Winner: Photo Call

The Graham Motion trainee got home as our top pick returning a nice $19.40. The filly came into the race off a victory in the Violet (G3) at Monmouth Park.

She earned a 96 Beyer for her win, but there is no doubt this division is weak this year and there is a good chance the European invaders could dominate.

Hard Not to Like came into the race off wins in the Diana (G1) and Gamely (G1) but she tossed in a clunker in an eighth place finish.


FrontRunner (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Winner: Nyquist

The Doug O’Neill trainee passed the test in his first start around two turns and his record remains perfect in four career starts. However, he won by just ¾ of a length and earned a Beyer of just 79, the lowest of his career.

The colt was dominant in his last two starts, winning the Best Pal (G2) and Del Mar Futurity (G1). He is by Uncle Mo out of a Forestry mare, her first foal to race.

It could turn out he is better going one turn, but there really is not a standout juvenile this year and he figures to be a major threat in the Juvenile but likely will not offer much betting value.


Zenyatta (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Winner: Beholder

The mare did exactly what she needed to do in her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic where she will take on the boys again. She figures to regress off her 114 Beyer she earned in her Pacific Classic (G1) romp and she did, dropping 15 points to a 99.

However, she won under wraps and the race serves as a perfect prep for next month’s race, where she figures to go off as the second choice behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“It really was pretty much what I had hoped for from her. I hate to say ‘easy,’ but it really did look easy,” said her trainer Richard Mandella. “She needed to run because she had nothing but rest since the Pacific Classic (Aug. 22). She had one good workout, the rest was just rest, so she needed the race or a really good work or several good works.”


Chandelier (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

Winner: Songbird

This filly stamped herself as the likely favorite for the Juvenile Fillies with a sharp score by 4 ½ lengths in her first trip around two turns. She has not been tested in three starts, breaking her maiden in her debut by 6 ½ lengths and then winning the Del Mar Debutante (G1) by 5 ¼ lengths.

“She acted up a little bit at the break,” said jockey Mike Smith. “I think breaking in front of the crowd the first time made her a little nervous. I was lucky to get away as well as I did but she’s so big and strong that when those horses came together on her it just made her go forward.”

She earned a Beyer of 90, a career top for the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro. She is out of the stakes winner Ivanavinalot, her first foal to race.


Awesome Again (G1)

Prep for Breeders’ Cup Classic

Winner: Smooth Roller

Defending champion Bayern was sent off as the 6-5 betting favorite, and even I thought he had the tactical advantage and would finally run back to his capabilities. It did not happen, as he set moderate fractions and faded to finish third, sending him into retirement instead of Lexington to defend his title.

The winner was the up and coming Smooth Roller, who was making just his fourth career start and first in a graded stake race. Trained by Victor Garcia and ridden by Tyler Baze, the gelding paid $13.00 to win and earned a Beyer of 111, 18 points higher than his previous high number.

Garcia was pleased with the gelding’s effort. “I expected him to run big. He had a lot of trouble in his last race. He was washed out, stumbled from the gate, was four or five wide both turns and only got beat a length and one-quarter. I worked the horse twice and he worked real good. Tyler was real happy with it. We’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup (Classic), absolutely. This will be my second Breeders’ Cup. I ran a filly named Approved to Fly in 1988 (fourth in the Juvenile Fillies).”


Michael Dempsey’s Breeders’ Cup Report

Michael’s Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the card from Keeneland on Oc. 30-31.

The Breeders’ Cup offers 12 championship races over two days, bringing together the best top horses, trainers, and jockeys from around the world, this year to compete at Keeneland.

In 2013 on Breeders’ Cup Saturday Mike nailed seven recommended exactas, paying $53.20, $19.00, $23.20, $58.00, $66.60, $107.80, and $33.60!

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