After Monday’s pair of turf stakes are run at Belmont Park there will be only five Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races left to be run, and of the eleven contested this past weekend, Wise Dan stole the show.
We are less than one month away from this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which will be held this year at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.
The fields are starting to come into focus, and we got a good look at some of the major players this past weekend.
Here are a few thoughts of what we saw as some of the major contenders made their final prep race for the two day championship event over the weekend:
Shadwell Turf Mile
Wise Dan ($3.20) was a much the best winner of the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland, and the gelding will head to Santa Anita with a legitimate shot of taking down Horse of the Year honors.
The five-year-old Charles Lopresti trainee took command in the stretch and safely held off longshots Willcox Inn (48-1) and Slip and Drive (100-1).
The gelding has now won four of his five starts in 2012 with the lone loss coming to Ron the Greek by a head in the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs on dirt.
A graded stakes winner on turf, dirt, and poly, he figures to be the best hope of the U.S. in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), although Lopresti has not ruled out a run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The Mile has a total purse of $2 million while the Classic will offer up $5 million, so it may not be an easy decision for the connections.
There does not seem to be any European superstars coming over for the Mile, and of course no Goldikova. The brilliant mare won the Mile three years in a row, and then placed third in last year’s running.
I would not want to be the one making the decision as to what race to go into, but after three straight impressive victories on turf, the Mile seems like the most logical spot for the gelding.
2012 Shadwell Turf Mile won by Wise Dan
The Thoroughbred Club of America
Groupie Doll ($2.80) showed she is going to be a serious threat in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) with a devastating win in the $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G1) over the polytrack at Keeneland.
The Buff Bradley trainee drew off in the stretch to win by 6 ¼ lengths and the margin could have been much larger.
The filly has now won three of her four starts on synthetics, but she has shown she can be just as effective on conventional dirt, winning the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs back in May with a career top Beyer Speed Figure of 112.
She showed in the Humana Distaff she can be placed close to the lead or like in her last outing can come from off the pace.
The Filly & Mare Sprint is at seven furlongs while the males go six, and that seems to be her best distance.
2012 Thoroughbred Club of America won by Groupie Doll
2012 Juddmonte Spinster
The three year old filly division is very deep, and it looks all the better after this weekend, with In Lingerie ($6.80) facing older for the first time in the $500,000 Spinster (G1) and she got the job done, drawing clear late to win by two lengths over Mystical Star.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Empire Maker bounced back off back to back losses at Saratoga where she checked in third in the Coaching Club of America Oaks (G1) and the Alabama (G1), both of those races won by Questing.
2012 Juddmonte Spinster won by In Lingerie
2012 Indiana Oaks
Grace Hall ($3.80) bounced back from a fifth place finish in the Alabama (G1) to win the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G2) on Saturday at Hoosier Park.
The race was not a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, but we could see Grace Hall headed to Santa Anita after her performance on Saturday.
The Tony Dutrow trainee has now won three of six starts in 2012, her other wins coming in the Gulfstream Oaks Stakes (G2) in March and the Delaware Oaks (G2) in July.
Although she did not beat a real strong field, she earned a 103 Beyer for her win, which stacks up nicely in the division and she looks like she can be a player if Dutrow elects to send her to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.
Along with Questing, My Miss Aurelia, and In Lingerie, the three-year-olds are going to be very competitive versus their elders in the Ladies’ Classic.
Shanghai Bobby ($5.30) kept his perfect record intact by winning his fourth consecutive race with a good looking score in the $400,000 Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park on Saturday.
The Pletcher trainee drifted out slightly while drawing clear to win by five lengths going a mile, which was the farthest he has gone in his four starts.
He won the Track Barron going 5 ½ furlongs and the Hopeful (G1) going seven furlongs, and if he goes to the Breeders’’ Cup Juvenile (G1) he would be going two turns for the first time.
Pletcher has not committed sending Shanghai Bobby to Southern California, and it is possible the colt could be put on the shelf and saved for a run at the Triple Crown races next spring.
2012 Champagne won by Shanghai Bobby
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