Dispatches from Del Mar: Breeders' Cup Pre-Entries Arrive ...

Our coverage of the Breeders' Cup kicks into high-gear, as the Pre-Entries are out for the Friday and Saturday racing at Del Mar Racetrack! Here is who I am looking forward to seeing ...
Our coverage of the Breeders' Cup kicks into high-gear, as the Pre-Entries are out for the Friday and Saturday racing at Del Mar Racetrack! Here is who I am looking forward to seeing ...
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The countdown clocks are rolling towards the 2021 Edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships … and that should make the legions of horse enthusiasts who support this great sport full of ecstasy. As an accredited member of the Turfwriting Media, I will be attending this year’s “BC” for the 1st time. I am a rookie, but not without opinions and ideas about all of the equine stars headed to Southern California. That is precisely the subject of this 1st “Dispatch” … now, that the “Pre-Entries” for Del Mar are out as of Wednesday. The question is … across all 14 races, which Thoroughbred am I most interested to see arrive to compete at the Breeders' Cup?

Here we go …

Friday, November 5: Day One

Juvenile Fillies Turf … Customs clearance, French import

One of my favorite French racehorse trainers is Francis-Henri Graffard. His star has continued to rise over the past decade, and Americans need to be aware of his conditioning prowess. He has a filly that I hope makes the trip to Del Mar named Malavath (IRE). Well-bred by Mehmas (IRE), she has made some noise at Chantilly (FR), winning by a neck in her 1st Group 2.

Juvenile Turf … We have a theft in progress

Most bettors will naturally be looking forward to seeing Charlie Appleby’s gelding Albahr (GB), a colt by Dubawi (IRE), try and make it 5/5. The Summer S. (G1) at Woodbine looked like a workout when it was all said and done. I have no doubt that when Frankie Dettori climbs aboard, they will be the favorite. But I am infinitely more interested in Mike Maker’s Stolen Base. This is a classic Maker-type … a budding talent … owned partly by Three Diamonds … and loaded with a late turn-of-foot. The 2-yr-old gobbled up the Haggin at Keeneland last time in the Bourbon (G2), offering a furious charge down to the wire. What a price this one will be!

Juvenile Turf Sprint … Mr. Baird’s Bread

Trust me, I am pretty excited to see Larry Rivelli’s young gelding, One Timer, make an appearance at the Breeders’ Cup. This conditioner was the “King of Arlington,” before it closed back in September. Winning in the Speakeasy 100k at Santa Anita was a highlight as well for E.T. Baird … the veteran jock has quite a history. But I am even more interested in seeing Gavin Cromwell’s Quick Suzy (IRE) make the trip from Europe. The victor this past summer in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, she was brilliant in that contest. I think she will be overlooked after a poor showing at Deauville (FR) last out.

Juvenile Fillies … aces, Cox v. Asmussen

I am pretty excited to see Steve Asmussen’s Echo Zulu and Brad Cox’s Juju’s Map go hoof to hoof in this crap shoot. Nothing easy about a race like this one, but the pair of headliners will look to be at the top of the tote next Friday. The HOF trainer based in South Texas has a star in the making with his filly by Gun Runner. She smoked the field in both the Spinaway (G1) and the Frizette (G1) at NYRA’s Saratoga and Belmont. Likewise, Cox’s young female made a statement in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland. Will Cox want his charge to duel up front with Asmussen’s prize? Will see … what a race!

Juvenile … Baffert Watch

Trainer Bob Baffert’s arrival at Del Mar will take on a special significance this year, as Horse Watch and the Breeders’ Cup will have a special unit keeping tabs on his stable. That will bring increased scrutiny … as hot-button an issue as climate change it seems. I am interested in his son of Quality Road, Corniche, because she was absolutely dominate in both her starts. She broke her maiden at Del Mar’s short stretch, and then followed that with a command performance at Santa Anita, stretching out to 2-turns. Baffert may not be able to garner any KYD Points by winning the Juvenile, but that doesn’t mean he is not coming to play … something to prove to the sport, perhaps?

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Saturday, November 6: Day Two

Dirt Mile … Life is good for Pletcher

Todd Pletcher is a HOF trainer who continues to maintain an impressive stable, and winning percentage. Maybe his best chance for a score coming out to Southern California is in this spot—the Dirt Mile. With both Mind Control and Life Is Good, he has a pair that possess contrasting styles. One likes to roll late, while the other will be up on the engine. The former Baffert Derby Trail runner from back in the spring will garner the most attention. What will be Pletcher’s instructions to his jockeys … interesting stategy forthwith.

The Mile … Mo Homer

How good is Peter Miller’s hometown hero, Mo Forza? We know the 5-yr-old is well-heeled, and comes back to Del Mar with 8 wins out of his last 10. The son of Uncle Mo, he is 6/3-2-0 near the “Surf,” and that makes him more than just a contender. Some ‘cappers reject the notion of a “horse for the course” … maybe they do not like rhymes? Whatever the case, this one is going to be one to respect, watch in the Paddock, and possibly back if the odds are right. Miller might be sitting on his greatest runner … ever. This would be his 1st BC win in a race that is not a sprint.

Filly & Mare Sprint … Gamine’s dignified coronation

Can anyone out of the 6 that oppose Bob Baffert’s Gamine take her on? Most will not think that they have much of a chance. She is the best of the best in the Division, but will have to prove it once again at Del Mar. She has never raced on this oval, and that might be the only question mark concerning her ability in a race like this one. Her sire, Into Mischief, produced this 4-yr-old filly … she probably wins again as one of the shortest prices in any of the purple/white contests.

Turf Sprint … Ward v. the World

The “burn fest” is on … going 5F on the DMR grass. I am keen to see how the Euros and the non-Wesley Ward entries respond in a spot like this one. Ward is a formidable opponent, and he holds the ace in Golden Pal. The colt by Uncle Mo missed over in York (GB), but returned home to a hero’s welcome at Keeneland in the Woodford (G2). Ward may not have just her … others may enter too … Opposing this contingent might be the defending champ, Glass Slippers and rival from Longchamp, A Case of You; plus, Brendan Walsh’s Extravagant Kid, Joe Sharp’s Fast Boat, Steve Miyadi’s Lieutenant Dan, and Rusty Arnold’s Gear Jockey. My top pick, a week out, is Kevin Ryan’s Emaraaty Ana … she looks talented, fit for duty. Euros go back-to-back in successive years in the Turf Sprint? Possible …

Dirt Sprint … Holy Dr. Schivel, Batman!

All eyes will be on Steve Asmussen’s Jackie’s Warrior when this race queues up on Saturday. The equivalent to Gamine, this colt by Maclean’s Music made the transition from Derby Trailer to strong sprinter with ease. Still, I am not going to count out Mark Glatt’s colt by Violence. These types know how to go fast for a short period. Since coming over to this barn last year, the 3-yr-old has done absolutely nothing wrong over 3 attempts (2 wins @SA, 1 win @DMR). His flexible response can be a true tactical weapon against the more accomplished Asmussen star. I wouldn’t count out Dr. Schivel though …

Filly & Mare Turf … Japan loves only her

With the champion Tarnawa heading to the BC Turf (G1), that leaves the door open for Bill Mott’s War Like Goddess to claim this prize. It will not be a “cake walk” in my estimation because a strong contingent of runners will assemble outside the walls of this dessert. I am more than just a little interested in trainer Yahagi Yoshito’s mare by Deep Impact (JPN). Loves Only You appears loaded with class, and even though she missed in her last Group 2 race in Sapporo (the home of a legendary brew btw), I am not fazed one bit. She can handle shipping into SoCal, and is a player at what is sure to be a great price.

The Distaff … Letruska’s only blind spot

Of course, seeing Letruska cap what has been just an unbelievable year for her and Fausto Gutierrez, would be well-deserved. She is the best horse in all of North America, in my opinion, and I will continue to think so, until someone jumps up and defeats her. To beat this mare by Super Saver you are going to have to go take her on from the word “go.” There is only one runner that has successfully neutralized her abilities to get loose on the lead (Grade 2, Azeri @OP), and that is Brad Cox’s Shedaresthedevil. Cox was brilliant sending his filly by Daredevil out to try the Del Mar MT back in early August in the Hirsch (G1). He used that as a gauge, and it might payoff when next Saturday comes around. I am rooting for Letruska, but will be thinking of how I can use Shedaresthedevil.

The Turf … Brown’s deep bench

Horseplayers will be backing names like Tarnawa, Walton Street, Domestic Spending, Imperador, and Gufo in this year’s annual distance test on the grass. Rightly so … all of those runners have resumes that excite. We know trainer Chad Brown will come with a strong contingent, but I am hoping that he sends Rockemperor to Del Mar. Sure, Domestic Spending has uber-class built up over this past year, but I like the horse out of Holy Roman Emperor infinitely better. Madaket and Dubb own this router, and he is building up steam at the right time after a “key” victory last time out at Belmont in their Turf Classic (G1). I always take a look at the other Brown entries … they are just as good as any.

The Classic … Ready Player One

At first glance, the 2021 Classic has one intriguing story line … Cox v. Cox. The senior early goer (Knicks Go) and the young upstart (Essential Quality) are both from Brad Cox’s Barn. Either one of them can win this circled race on the Thoroughbred calendar. Their bout will a highlight on BC Saturday, but do not count out a “sleeper” like Steve Asmussen’s Max Player. The 4-yr-old by Honor Code was awfully good in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) against 5 others. Maybe the former Derby alum and Saudi Cup participant is peaking at just the right time? What is for sure is that he will be a square price before this one goes off. I like him quite a bit, especially as a foil against the Cox runners.

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