Trainer Ignacio Correas IV didn't start out pursuing the American Dream. Neither did Grade 1 Spinster winner and Breeders' Cup Distaff contender Blue Prize. They both earned their stripes in Argentina before making the move to the United States, where each would have to carve out a new beginning.
“I really never thought I would end up in the United States,” said Correas, 58. “Now I have good horses and good owners, and I'm living where I want to live… Life takes you where it takes you.”
His family members have been involved with Thoroughbred horses since 1872 and became major players in the breeding and ownership circles of their native Argentina. As a young man Correas dreamed of being a jockey but quickly outgrew those aspirations and began working on the family farm.
Correas took out his trainer's license in Argentina in 1984. His stable grew quickly and was quite successful, but the state of the economy had the trainer reconsidering his options. In 2001, with the support of long-time family friend and Thoroughbred enthusiast Diane
Perkins, Correas made the move to the United States.
“Training horses is a life of learning,” Correas explained. “I always watch other trainers to see what they do and try to pick their brains when I can. You never know when you might see things you might use for later… We are all trying to get to the winner's circle, and there are so many ways to take you there, all of them respectable.”
In February of 2015, at age 56, Correas launched his North American training career with a single horse. Mrs. Perkins heard about her old friend's decision and popped over to Keeneland one afternoon looking to claim a horse for him to train. It was a $25,000 filly, and for the life of him Correas couldn't figure out why Perkins would want her.
“Diane is one of those persons that when you are in need, she shows up out of nowhere,” Correas said fondly. “I've been blessed to have her support me in good times and bad… when you least expect, she comes.”
It was Perkins who gave Correas his first “big horse” in America, an Argentinian-bred horse named Kasaqui. The son of Lasting Approval hadn't been particularly successful in Argentina, but in the summer of 2016, after coming to the U.S., he ran a very close second in the prestigious Arlington Million.
“I was very lucky to get two or three good horses right away,” said Correas, deferring his reputation as a top conditioner of Southern American imports. “The horses make the trainer.”
That reputation, however, has built Correas' shed row into a group of promising runners, Blue Prize among them. The 5-year-old mare by Pure Prize was a Group 1-winning sophomore in Argentina, but her extremely late-running style did not suit American dirt racing.
“She started getting better when we added blinkers and placed her closer to the pace,” explained the trainer. “It took her a couple of races to figure it out… you just don't make up 15 lengths in America on the dirt. It's not that I figure it out, it's just watching
“In Argentina, races aren't based on speed. The stretch is three-eighths of a mile long, so you can smoke two cigarettes and then
send out your horse and get to the winner's circle.”
Blue Prize has a proven affinity for the surface at Churchill, and the speed-laden distaff division could set up for a stalking-type runner in November's Championships.
“The thing that makes special a trainer is their horses… At the end of the day, I never knew a good trainer with bad horses.”
The Breeders' Cup Classic — By The Numbers
By Natalie Voss
Each year ahead of the Kentucky Derby, we break down the field by the numbers and compare their resumes to those of past winners: where did they come from? How did they prepare for the race? Does history give any of them an edge?
This year, we decided to look at the Classic field the same way. Here are a few bits of trivia I found:
- Unlike this year's Kentucky Derby, which was full of expensive sale horses, the Classic pre-entries only have a handful of pricey contenders. Mendelssohn leads the way as a $3 million yearling at Keeneland September, followed by City of Light, who cost $710,000 the year before. The biggest bargain in the field (at public auction) was Gunnevara, who went for $16,000 as a yearling.
- Several breeders got great bargains on stud fees for their future Breeders' Cup hopefuls. Discreet Lover (Repent), Gunnevera (Dialed In), and Toast of New York (Thewayyouare) are all by stallions who were standing for $10,000 or less the year they were conceived. The most expensive stud fee in the pre-entry group: Roaring Lion, by Kitten's Joy at $100,000.
- Ashford Stud employees will have a lot of cheering to do in this year's race. Four hopefuls are by stallions who stood at Ashford in the year they were conceived: Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky), Lone Sailor (Majestic Warrior), Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), Toast of New York (Thewayyouare). Lane's End also has two on the pre-entries list with City of Light (Quality Road) and Collected (City Zip).
- Roaring Lion could come into the Classic hoping to be the first horse since Raven's Pass in 2008 to prep for the race abroad. Arcangues did the same in 1993, coming to the race from the G2 Prix Dollar at Longchamp. Thunder Snow (IRE) raced in the UAE and in England this year, winning the G1 Dubai World Cup and G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round, but completed his prep with a second in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
- Collected, McKinzie, and West Coast are running out of the right barn, as Bob Baffert has the most Classics of anyone in the race's history with three (and they came in a row between 2014-2016).
- Early forecasts have suggested there could be rain in the area on Saturday. If that holds true, it could be good news for some. Pre-entrants Accelerate, Lone Sailor, Mind Your Biscuits, Thunder Snow, and Yoshida have all won on dirt tracks listed as less than fast.
- Toast of New York will be the oldest contestant in this year's field, at the age of seven. The pre-entries skew toward older horses, with seven 3-year-olds facing 12 horses aged four and up.
- Jockey Mike Smith has four Classic wins, which is the most of any currently-active jockey (Arrogate, 2016, Drosselmeyer, 2011, Zenyatta, 2009, and Skip Away, 1997). Bodes well for McKinzie, the Pennsylvania Derby winner who will be ridden by Smith in the Classic. John Velazquez will be aboard Baffert stablemate West Coast.
- The most popular prep race for past Breeders' Cup Classic winners: the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which puts Discreet Lover in a good spot. However, not all Classic winners won their final preps before entering the gates, which could be good news for Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn.
- Charts are only available as far back as 1991, but they suggest closers do best in the Classic, with 12 winners coming from well back early. Axelrod, Discreet Lover, Gunnevera, Lone Sailor, Mind Your Biscuits, Pavel, Roaring Lion, Thunder Snow, and Yoshida have all won at least one race in a closing effort.
Churchill Downs Breeders' Cup History: Lukas Sparkled In '88
By Chelsea Hackbarth
The first time the Breeders' Cup was held at Churchill Downs was in 1988, and it may best be remembered for both Alysheba's win in the “Midnight Classic” and the incredible performance of Personal Ensign in her against-all-odds triumph in the Distaff over Derby-winning filly Winning Colors.
Something you may not remember is that D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Winning Colors, came just a head and several lengths shy of winning five Breeders' Cup races on a single card that year.
Seven championship races were held in 1988: the Classic, Distaff, Turf, Mile, Sprint, Juvenile, and Juvenile Fillies. Lukas saddled
future sires Gulch and Is It True to win the Sprint and the Juvenile, respectively; it was also his third consecutive winner in the
Juvenile, following Capote in 1986 and Success Express in 1987.
Lukas' most impressive achievement of 1988 was in the Juvenile Fillies. With just a furlong to run, eight 2-year-old fillies were lined up across the muddy Churchill Downs track in an all-out brawl toward the wire. At the finish, the first three across the line were all trained by Lukas: Open Mind, Darby Shuffle, and Lea Lucinda.
Besting Lukas' trainees in 1988 were Personal Ensign by a head over Winning Colors in the Distaff, and Miesque by several lengths over Steinlen in the Mile.
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