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Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series features Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont and Awesome Again Stakes from Santa Anita on NBCSN

September 25, 2014     E-mail this page to a friend!

Led by Moreno in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont Park, and by latest 3-year-old sensation Shared Belief in $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders on both coasts are in the spotlight during a live telecast of “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In” on Saturday, September 27, at e:30 p.m. MT (Mountain Time) on NBCSN.

The Belmont/Santa Anita telecast is the ninth of 11 shows in the Challenge Series leading to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on NBC and NBCSN, October 31-November 1 from Santa Anita Park. Saturday’s show will be hosted by Laffit Pincay III, joined by analysts Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss and reporters Carolyn Manno, Nick Luck, and Jay Privman.

Saturday’s telecast includes two additional Santa Anita stakes races: the $300,000 FrontRunner, a “Win and You’re In” to the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes, a ”Win and You’re In” to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

The 1¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, which will award an automatic starting position into the Classic, figures to be led by Southern Equine Stable’s Moreno, a front-running speedster who already earned a Classic berth with his wire-to-wire win in Saratoga’s “Win and You’re In” Whitney in August. The 4-year-old son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper has added consistency to his package over the past several starts for trainer Eric Guillot, as he enters the Gold Cup off three strong performances; a second-place finish in Belmont’s Suburban in July, his win in the Whitney, and a second-place finish in his last start at Saratoga’s Woodward on August 30. Moreno, who is 3-for-21 lifetime, figures the one to catch and beat in the Gold Cup, as he’s 4-2-1-0 at Belmont.

The 3-year-olds may be light on experience in the Classic division but they are certainly long on talent and will undoubtedly make their presence felt. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens holds a strong hand with Maggie Bryant’s V.E. Day and Centennial Farm’s Wicked Strong, the 1-2 finishers in Saratoga’s Travers in their last start on August 23. Robert Evans’ Tonalist dashed California Chrome’s Triple Crown hopes when he won the Belmont for trainer Christophe Clement but is winless in two starts since against Jerkens’ duo, running second in the Jim Dandy and third in the Travers. The son of Tapit also won Belmont’s Peter Pan in May, and a win over older horses would go a long way as he looks to reassert himself atop the division. Tonalist is 3-for-7 lifetime and obviously shows an affinity for the Belmont Park main track.

The seventh and final automatic berth into the Classic will be on the line in the 1-1/8 mile Awesome Again at Santa Anita. Shared Belief, owned in a partnership led by radio personality Jim Rome and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, will enter the Awesome Again undefeated and untested in six lifetime starts, including a dominant win over older horses in his last start when he earned a Classic berth in Del Mar’s “Win and You’re In” TVG Pacific Classic on August 24. The 3-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) was perfect in three starts as a 2-year-old and secured his championship with a 5¾-length win in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December. Lingering foot issues caused Shared Belief to miss the Triple Crown season but he returned with a bang, beating older allowance horses at Golden Gate Fields in May and winning the Los Alamitos Derby in July before his swift Pacific Classic score.

Gallant Stable’s Majestic Harbor rates the biggest upset chance for trainer Sean McCarthy. The 6-year-old son of Rockport Harbor was sixth in the Pacific Classic but clearly didn’t handle the Polytrack that day. Majestic Harbor, who is 6-for-24 lifetime, has shown an affinity for Santa Anita’s main track as he earned an automatic starting berth into the Classic with his win in the “Win and You’re In” Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June and also won the Tokyo City at the track in March.

KM Racing Enterprise’s Imperative came in third in the Pacific Classic, beaten by five lengths, and will take another crack at Shared Belief for trainer George Papaprodromou. The 4-year-old son of Bernardini upset Game On Dude in the Charles Town Classic in May and was third to Majestic Harbor in the Gold Cup. Imperative is 3-for-18 lifetime but is winless in seven starts at Santa Anita, though most of those runs were over the synthetic surface when trained by Eoin Harty.

The $300,000 FrontRunner (GI), run at 1-1/16 miles, will offer an automatic starting berth into the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and features Zayat Stable’s American Pharaoh, who won his first race on September 3, capturing the Del Mar Futurity (GI) by a widening 4¾ lengths for trainer Bob Baffert. The 2-year-old son of Pioneer of The Nile was disappointing in his debut, when he finished at Del Mar maiden at odds of 7-to-5 in August, but clearly ran to his potential while winning Del Mar’s signature event for juveniles.

The win did little to dissuade American Pharaoh’s competition, however, as a deep group is lining up to face him. Richard Pell’s Calculator closed to be second in the Del Mar Futurity for trainer Peter Miller and, though the son of In Summation is still a maiden after three starts, he’s progressed in each one.

Peachtree Stable’s Lord Nelson is unraced since winning his debut at Del Mar July 19 for Baffert but the son of Pulpit is bred to relish two turns and has been training lights out in the morning. Lord Nelson stalked and passed horses in his five-furlong maiden win, suggesting he will be a major player in the FrontRunner should someone pressure American Pharaoh early.

The $300,000 Rodeo Drive will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The 1¼-mile race takes on added importance as it is run over the same course and distance as Filly & Mare Turf. A deep and competitive field is led by a pair of East Coast invaders from turf barns in Juddmonte Farm’s Emollient for trainer Bill Mott and Robert Evans’ Irish Mission for trainer Christophe Clement. Emollient, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker who is 5-for-16 lifetime, was ninth in her last two starts, Saratoga’s Diana in July and Arlington Park’s “Win and You’re In” Beverly D. on August 16. In addition, she’s shown a liking for the Santa Anita turf, as she was fourth in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf and second, beaten a nose, in the Gamely in May. Irish Mission, a 5-year-old daughter of Giant’s Causeway, enters the race off a win in Saratoga’s Glens Falls in her last start August 31, and is 5-for-28 in a career that shows over $1.1 million in earnings.

The locals will be led by Matias Cavalieri’s Miss Serendipity (ARG), who won the Gamely in May for Mandella and enters the race off a win in Del Mar’s Yellow Ribbon on September 1. The 4-year-old daughter of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin is 4-for-13 lifetime, with three of those wins coming over the local turf course.