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One for the boys, five for the distaff in Day One Breeders’ Cup action Friday

November 3, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Story by Karen Svea Johnson; "Notes and quotes" by Breeders' Cup and TRJ staff

Day One Breeders’ Cup race action starts with a fast bunch o’ juvies trying to get their chunk of the $500,000 purse offered in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. The 6-furlong event attracted nine 2-year-old runners, with two-time winner Secret Circle installed as the 6-to-5 morning-line favorite. In this race, however, bettors will want to take a look at all the entrants: the most experienced horse has just six lifetime starts. And race fans know that anything can happen with an inexperienced group like this .  .  .

While your handicapping analysis is focused on juveniles, tackle the day’s second BC event: the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Twenty-two fillies were pre-entered for the event, yielding a full 14-horse field with two also-eligibles ready to step in if a gate becomes available. The morning-line favorite in this lightly-raced field is European import Elusive Kate, who will be making her first start in the U.S. in this race. Trained by BC veteran John Gosden, she will open at odds of 2-to-1. But remember the earlier tip: the most experienced runners in this group have only five lifetime starts, and anything can happen in a race filled with inexperienced runners.

The $1,000,000 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint drew a baker’s dozen of talented distaffers to the 7-furlong event. In a field devoid of European entrants, bicoastal winner Turbulent Descent has been installed as the 6-to-5 morning-line favorite. This looks legit: the 3-year-old has won all three of her races at the distance—at three different tracks—and has six wins and two second-place finishes from eight lifetime starts.

The purses grow as the day progresses. The Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles offers the day’s first $2 million purse, and 14 will go to post. The unbeaten My Miss Aurelia is the morning-line favorite at 5-to-2, but pedigree analysts might spend some time looking at the outside (14) horse, Awesome Belle. Although her six-race record sports only two wins, her sire, Awesome of Course, shows a 100% win record with 2-year-old progeny at Churchill Downs—and a 100% BC Juvenile record. Awesome Feather won this same race last year, establishing a spotless record for her sire at this venue.

The $2,000,000 Emerates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf 10-horse field includes a lot of runners with foreign racing experience. French-bred Stacelita, the 5-to-2 opening favorite, made all but one of her first 14 starts in France (the other was at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong), then debuted in the states with a third-place finish in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth. She followed that up with two wins, one in the Beverly D at Arlington and the most recent in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont, and now appears primed to make a good run at her BC rivals.

Friday closes with the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at 1 1/8 miles. This looks like a tough race, even with Plum Pretty at 2-to-1 morning-line odds. That 3-year-old has a win at the track and a win at the distance—but faces seven older fillies and mares in the 10-horse field. Among those older runners, Ultra Blend sports a jaw-dropping record of 22 in-the-money finishes in her 24-race career. None of those races is at the Classic’s distance, however, and the 5-year-old mare will also be making her first start at Churchill Downs.

Notes and quotes for Friday's Breeders' Cup races

Race #5: Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint

Seeker (#1): Run for the first time on Friday, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint offers a fresh opportunity for 2yo performers. “I’m very happy the Breeders’ Cup added this race,” Seeker’s trainer Steve Asmussen said. “This colt comes from a very good family of Winchell-bred sprinters. He’s a very tough little horse. I think he’ll be capable of stretching out eventually, but with this race now available, it was easy to target with him.”

Sum of the Parts (#2): “I make no bones about it, Secret Circle is the horse to beat,” said trainer Tom Amoss. “But if he doesn’t bring his ‘A’ game, that opens it up for a lot of other horses, and we’re one of them.”

Trinniberg (#4): When trainer Bisnath Parboo saddles Juvenile Sprint starter Trinniberg on Friday for owner and son Shivananda Parbhoo, there will be little talk of strategy in the paddock with jockey Cornelio Velasquez. “We won’t give Cornelio any instructions with this horse,” Shivananda Parbhoo said. “We won’t tell him what to do. He knows this horse well. He’s ridden him in races three times and has been on him in the morning before, so I have complete confidence in him.”

Race #6: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Up (#3): “Up is a filly we have always liked,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said. “She was a bit disappointing on her first run so we gave her a break and she came back and won well (in a maiden race) at Dundalk.”

Stopshoppingmaria (#4): is “doing exceptionally well since arriving here,” according to trainer Todd Pletcher. “She’s got a wonderful disposition. She loved it when she worked on the grass here the other day. She’s very kind, so I think she can rate very easily. I think she’ll run a big race.”

Elusive Kate (#10): The 2-to-1 morning-line favorite for the Juvenile Fillies Turf was scheduled to exercise on the turf course Thursday morning but the course was closed before turf works began when rain started to fall. “She’s the top French filly at the moment, the potential champion 2-year-old filly of France,” said trainer John Gosden. “Looking at the race, it’s probably the hottest edition of the Juvenile Fillies Turf I’ve ever seen. It’s a high-quality race.”

Ann of the Dance (#11): She’s called “Peanut” around the barn because she’s petite and very feminine, but Ann of the Dance is all race horse when it counts. “She’s so little, but she’s got a big, big heart,” said Heather Irion, the assistant to trainer Marty Wolfson. “If you look at her race replays, you’ll see that she got knocked into the rails and bumped into, and she’s only half the size of the others, but she kept fighting. When she ran against the boys (winning an optional claiming race at Arlington by 6 ½ lengths) they smashed into her but she pinned her ears back and went right on through. We’re very excited for this race.”

Race #7: Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

Great Hot (#2): “Oh, I wish they were running our race today on the wet,” said trainer A.C. Avila on Thursday. “You know, when she won her first start in Brazil last October, she was only a 2-year-old running against older horses and males. And she won the race easily on a wet track. She likes it that way.”

Turbulent Descent (#3): “She’s just doing great,” trainer Mike Puype said of his 3yo filly. “Things couldn’t be any better. She’s ready.”

Switch (#6): “That’s it; we’re done,” said trainer John Sadler after working Switch on Wednesday. “She’ll just walk tomorrow, then she runs Friday. We’re good to go. We’re just waiting now.” Asked how he sees the race unfolding, Sadler said, “I see her taking up a good stalking position, then she’s going to pounce and get them. At least I hope so.”

Her Smile (#11): “She seems to be doing well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Her breezes over the track were quite good. She’s sort of the filly version of Aikenite for us. She needs a really fast pace up front. Hopefully she’ll be closing late.”

Pomeroys Pistol (#12): “This is a very tough race,” said breeder/owner/trainer Amy Tarrant. “It should be because it’s the Breeders’ Cup and the field is the best. But she belongs here. She earned her spot.”

“I don’t mind my outside post,” added Tarrant. “I’d rather be on the outside than stuck down on the rail because there are so many horses in the race. I’m confident in my rider (Javier Castellano). He knows her, and he’ll know what to do.”

Race #8: Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

Questing (#1): “When we ran her the last time, I talked with John Ferguson and Sheik Mohammed, who was there,” trainer John Gosden said. “We said, ‘Look, she’s a filly who should go to America.’ She’s got small feet and she’s got Group form in Europe, so let’s run her in the Juvenile Fillies.”

Candrea (#2): “Candrea really surprised me; her work before the last race was horrendous,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “She’s not a flashy worker, especially when she’s by herself, but she ran so much better than she worked, I thought she deserved a chance.”

Grace Hall (#5): “She looked as good going over the Churchill Downs surface as she did going over any other track,” trainer Tony Dutrow said after watching Grace Hall work on Wednesday. “She’s happy.”

Self Preservation (#6): “We expect a much better run out of her this time,” said trainer Ben Cecil. “We’ll take her back this time and let her make one big run. She was not intended to go to the front last time (Oak Leaf at Santa Anita), so we’re hopeful that this time will be better. I’m very happy with her, with the way she’s training.”

Homecoming Queen (#8): “She has had a hard campaign but her last four efforts have been very progressive,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said. “She is tactically quick enough on the grass and she gets a mile well and she is tough at the end, but it is a finding our mission for us on the dirt.”

My Miss Aurelia (#9): Having trained champion Rachel Alexandra, among others, trainer Steve Asmussen has plenty of experience with top-class females. But when it comes to his likely Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies favorite, he’s not going to get ahead of himself. “The Juvenile Fillies presents a tremendous opportunity,” Asmussen said. “You have ideas on how the race is going to go, but in the end you just want it to go smoothly. She’s got plenty on her plate this week. What she can eventually become, only time will tell. She’s done a lot of things right. One turn versus two turns is another question she must answer. I do feel very comfortable that she’ll handle it. She spent a lot of time at Churchill in the spring, and trained quite forwardly here.”

Northern Passion (#10): When Northern Passion runs on Friday, jockey Luis Contreras will wear the silks of owner John Oxley, but for many north of the border, she’ll carry the lasting imprint of Mel Lawson, who was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2010 and passed away only three months ago at the age of 88. “Winning with her would be a very big deal because she was bred by Mel Lawson. He was a very well respected and well-liked man,” trainer Mark Casse said. “I don’t know of a better honor for him and for Canadian-breds than if she would pull off a win in the Breeders’ Cup.”

Weemissfrankie (#11): “She’s set to go,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “We don’t usually do anything too heavy when we’re ready to run.”

Frolic's Revenge (#12): “She galloped for a mile and a half and she was strong. Very strong. She was very keen. She was liking the track,” exercise rider Karyn Wiltek said. “This is a very smart filly,” added trainer Milt Wolfson. “She takes to new things like she’s been doing them all of her life. She’s never seen lights on the track or been in the cold before, but she’s fine with all of it. Everything is copacetic.”

Awesome Belle (#14): “She was always outworking our other filly (Redbud Road) who kept beating her in races,” said trainer Stanley Gold. “But she just couldn’t go (in a race) without getting impeded; nothing was going right for her. But she kept trying and she was always finishing her races well. And sometimes bad racing luck becomes good racing luck. In her last start, she didn’t get all tangled up in the beginning and made the lead early, so she really had no chance to find any trouble that day. And that day we finally saw the kind of performance we had expected from her all along.”

Race #9: Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Dubawi Heights (#1): “She was very strong again, maybe even stronger than before,” said exercise rider Peter Barry following her 1m jog and 10-furlong gallop at Churchill Downs. “Peter says she’s been doing really well, and she moved fantastic this morning,” added trainer Simon Callaghan. “She looks a picture of health and we’re very happy with her.”

Stacelita (#2): “She’s a very strong-willed horse,” said trainer Chad Brown. “She’s not difficult to train, but when you are around her she will challenge you and bite at you. She’s just a very competitive, brave horse. She’s not afraid of anything. She’s not afraid of anybody. She will be walking by on the shedrow and as she passes you she will give you a little warning and then, boom, you’ll see one of her hooves fly by your head. Or you’ll walk up to her stall and pet her and the next thing you know she’s trying to rough house with you and will come at you with her teeth. She’s just playing. She’s not trying to hurt anybody. She’s not a mean horse. She’s just so competitive and energetic that she’s always looking to do something. I think that’s a good quality of hers.”

Harmonious (#3): Trainer John Shirreffs has chosen to train her strictly on the Churchill main track. “I don’t want her finding out in advance that she does or does not like the grass course here,” he said. “Let’s just send her over there on Friday when the adrenaline is pumping. That way she won’t think about it; she’ll just do it.”

Cambina (#4): “She’s feeling really good and she’s eating well,” said Mersad Metanovic, stable manager for trainer Jeff Bonde. “I think we’re right on track for Friday.”

“She has shown a terrific turn of foot in her victories,” said Bonde. “That’s her strong point.”

Nahrain (#5): “I am really happy with her and she seems to be very well,” trainer Roger Varian said. “She appears to be very settled in her new surroundings.”

Announce (#6): “It’s just about her correct distance,” said Juddmonte racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe. “She started off the year well. She was a little bit slow in the summer, but she’s come back well in the autumn. She’s been in good form and training straightforwardly. Hopefully, this is a good spot for her.”

Aruna (#7): “She worked very impressively. The day she won at Saratoga, it was the last weekend of the meet and nothing was closing. She was dead last (turning for home) and she got out and won comfortably, and I said, ‘Wow, that’s impressive.’”

Shared Account (#9): “I don’t feel any pressure,” said trainer Graham Motion of the defending champion’s 30-to-1 morning-line odds. “I hope she legitimizes my decision (to run), but do I feel pressured that she has to win? No. She’s already won the Breeders’ Cup and I don’t think anyone can take it away from her.

“Last year, I didn’t know I was going to win it, but I didn’t think she was going to be 40-1 off what she had accomplished,” Motion said. “Now this year it’s a different story. People are going to look at her (past performances) and be skeptical that she’s regained that form. I think by the numbers, it shows she’s probably as good as she was last year. It’s just that she’s had a mixed-up campaign. I feel just as comfortable running her this year as I did last year.”

Race #10: Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic

Miss Match (#1): “She had a gallop, or a canter, or whatever you want to call it,” said trainer Neil Drysdale. “She seems to like the track, so that’s good. It all appears to be going well.”

Pachattack (#2): “The first morning she was a bit full of herself as she got acclimated to the Churchill track,” trainer Gerard Butler said. “(Wednesday) morning it was a job well done. She went very good, even paced the whole way. I have no complaints. She’s coming up to the race spot on.”

It's Tricky (#3): “We like her. We feel like she fits very well. We have respect for the other fillies, obviously,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We hope that Plum Pretty will get hooked up with (Ask the Moon), who has a lot of speed. If they both go and show speed, we’ll settle back fourth or fifth with Ramon Dominguez and hope for the best.”

Ask the Moon (#5): “She’s just fine now,” said assistant trainer Heather Irion of Ask the Moon’s viral infection that led to her poor race in the Lady’s Secret on October 1 at Santa Anita. “It wasn’t too serious but it really knocked her out for a while. She bounced back quick. She’s good now and ready to go.”

Royal Delta (#6): “We think she’s a very good filly, but we’ve got to step up and try to get it done,” said trainer Bill Mott. “All we can ask is that she runs her race and gives us a good effort. She’s worked well for us and we’re happy with the way she’s training. I think everybody who’s seen her doing her gallops and breezes here think she’s going well.”

Ultra Blend (#7): “Of course there are some questions for her,” said trainer Art Sherman. “First time running against this caliber of competition, first time at a mile and an eighth, and the first time at night.”

Plum Pretty (#8): “She looked good out there, she loves the track,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “She gets along over it really well. Her last race in the Cotillion (at Parx) was pretty impressive and she’s going to have to run that race back to win this race. The Kentucky Oaks was a long time ago, but if she can repeat the race she ran last time, she’ll have a very good chance.” When asked about his strategy for the race, Baffert said, “She needs to get out there and roll. I know there are some speed horses in there, but we’re going to have to send her away from there, put her on the lead, just go for it, and see how far she can take them.”

Super Espresso (#10): “She likes Churchill,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She seems to be coming along well. It looks like the real strength of this race is the 3-year-olds. We’re shooting for the moon, but she’s got a chance if she shows up and gives us her best race. She likes this track and surface as well as any she’s run on.”

Medaglia d'Amour was scratched on Thursday.