Trainer Chad Brown watched from the frontside of Keeneland Tuesday morning as all 12 of his Breeders' Cup runners galloped on the main track.
Todd Pletcher's 17 starters in 2006 is the Breeders' Cup record. If all of his entered horses run, it could be the third consecutive year that Brown, 36, has the most starters. He led the way with 11 in 2014 and 10 in 2013.
Last year at Santa Anita, Brown had a brilliant Breeders' Cup, winning three races. He acknowledged Tuesday morning that it would be difficult to match or better the 2014 results.
“When you win one Breeders' Cup race you have to be very thankful. They are so hard to win,” he said. “To win three in a year last year was just remarkable. A lot of luck involved. Great horses at the right time, the right trips and it all came together.
“We have a good group here. It's going to be tough. Most of my races are on the turf and it seems like the Europeans brought some of their best horses this year. So it's going to be a tall order, but my horses are really doing well. It's a good group, a good solid group. I don't know that I have a real standout in the race that I think is unbeatable, like a Lady Eli, but I see horses in here that can win if they get the trip, they take to the Keeneland turf and you get that much-needed racing luck.”
Brown has three horses entered in the $3 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, Big Blue Kitten, Slumber, and the speedy Shining Copper, who has served as a pacesetter this season. Big Blue Kitten won the United Nations and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Slumber won the Manhattan and was second in the United Nations and the Turf Classic, and Shining Copper finished third in the Arlington Million, while Slumber ran into traffic trouble. In the Turf they will face Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn. Even though the European stars have impressive credentials, Brown isn't ready to concede defeat.
“I'm confident that they will hold their own, if they get a trip,” he said. “They're a real tough group, the two standouts in the Turf race and the Filly and Mare Turf. Those are two of their best horses from Europe, so I don't take it lightly. I'm not going to buy into that they can run their 'B' races and beat our horses, though. If my horses run their 'A' races and they don't run their 'A' race or have trouble, I can see my horses winning.”
However, Brown said Golden Horn and Legatissimo pose monumental challenges.
“They are standout horses,” he said. “They are the horses to beat and if they run their 'A' races and get clean trips, they're going to be nearly impossible to beat.”
Trainer Phil D'Amato reported that his Breeders' Cup Turf contender, Big John B is en route to Lexington Bluegrass Airport via Tex Sutton flight from Los Angeles International Airport and should arrive in Lexington at approximately 3:20pm Tuesday afternoon. He is on the same flight as Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah.
Trainer Todd Pletcher certainly isn't taking Red Rifle's competition in Saturday's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf lightly.
“It's arguably as tough a race as there is on the card,” Pletcher said. “I think it's going to depend on who can handle the Keeneland turf course. With the rain this week, it figures they'll be some cut in it, so I think that will have some effect on the complexion of it.”
Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Red Rifle is rated at 10-1 in the morning line in a field that includes Epsom Derby and Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn, the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
“Red Rifle has always been a solid horse. The horse has just found a new dimension this year, specializing in longer turf races,” Pletcher said. “He seems to have matured a little bit and has been successful coming off the pace. Most of his prior success was when he was able to control things on the front end.”
Midwest Thoroughbreds' The Pizza Man, winner of the Arlington Million two starts back and runner-up last out in the Shadwell Turf Mile, enters the Breeders' Cup Turf as a major player for trainer Roger Brueggemann. Based at Churchill Downs, the son of 2007 Turf champ English Channel will ship to Keeneland on Wednesday morning, according to Midwest principal Richard Papiese. The 10-time stakes-winning homebred finished his preparation with a 5f turf work in 1:04 flat on Friday at Churchill Downs.
“He worked good,” Brueggemann said. “The grass was a little soft, but he got a lot out of it. (Churchill Downs) called and asked if we wanted to work on the grass and I said 'Well, I guess we can do that'. As soft as it was, I would have probably preferred to work on the dirt.
“He's training awfully well,” he continued. “Hopefully he runs as well as he's training. We're awfully proud of him. It's really nice and good to have a horse who is mentioned with the kinds of horses he's running with; just to be mentioned on the same page.”
Papiese was impressed after seeing Friday's work in person.
“He's ready,” he said.
After the Turf, The Pizza Man is scheduled to compete in the Japan Cup on Nov. 29 at Tokyo Race Course.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Twilight Eclipse is contesting the Breeders' Cup Turf for the third straight year, and his connections think the old pro is still at the top of his game even though the six year old gelding has one win in seven 2015 starts.
“This horse has been closing in all of his starts again this year,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, who will arrive on the grounds Wednesday. “He's been a little bit unlucky in a couple of his races. In the United Nations (at Monmouth Park) he got trapped inside pretty much the entire race and still only got beat a short margin, and then again he got stopped on the fence in the (Joe Hirsch) Turf Classic at Belmont in his last start. It's just racing luck and there is nothing we can do about it. With a little better racing luck, I think he'll be right there on Saturday.”
As far as luck goes, Twilight Eclipse has a strong preference for firm footing so the wet weather on Tuesday and forecast for Wednesday was hardly ideal as his conditions look ahead to the race.
“The good news is that he's used to it. It seems like every time he's running, we look at the forecast and there is rain in it. This is nothing new for him. Hopefully, we'll get a couple of dry, breezy days and the course will dry out a little bit. But there will be a little give to it, no matter what,” said Dan Stupp, who has served as Albertrani's assistant for the past two years.
After arriving by chartered jet on Monday with stablemate and Turf Sprint contender Ready for Rye without incident, Twilight Eclipse jogged twice around the track Tuesday morning.
“Twilight is an old pro, so he handles everything well,” said Stupp. “They will school this week, but the plans are dependent upon the weather. We might just take them through the paddock to walk around. They did some schooling at Belmont and don't need to do too much here.”
Stupp is also confident that there is plenty left in the tank.
“He's had tough trips and a little bit of bad luck along the way, but the great thing about him is that he always shows. Win or lose, we always get a good run out of him and he always tries his hardest. He's doing very well and I expect nothing different this time.”
Millionaire Twilight Eclipse finished third in last year's Turf and sixth in the race's 2013 edition.
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