The Breeders' Cup Mile has brought forth some spectacular performances and left so many lasting memories since the year-end championships were first held in 1984. We've witnessed the saddle mastery of Yves Saint-Martin aboard Last Tycoon in 1986, the dominance of the great Miesque in her back-to-back wins in 1987-88, the power and sheer speed of Lure in his consecutive victories in 1992-93, the wild celebration of the Irish when Ridgewood Pearl won at Belmont Park in 1995, the unlikely and triumphant return of two-time winner Da Hoss in 1998, the closing resolve of War Chant in 2000, and the professional determination of Goldikova in 2008-09.
If Saturday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot is any indication, we are in for more thrills and great memories in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. Frankie Dettori rode the hair off Poet's Voice to get the 3-year-old Dubawi colt to the line a nostril in front of Rip Van Winkle, a 4-year-old son of Galileo who last month won the Group 1 Juddmonte International in impressive fashion. This stretch run was a real slugfest, with Rip running strong along the inside rails and Poet's Voice closing to the outside. Neither gave an inch, and it took a photo to separate them after a head-bobbing finish.
No one supports the Breeders' Cup more than the connections of these two colts—Poet's Voice races for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin and Rip Van Winkle is owned by the Magnier-Tabor-Smith partnership affiliated with Coolmore, so if these two come to Churchill Downs, the Wertheimer brothers' Goldikova will need to have her running shoes on if she wants to make it a Mile threepeat. This year's renewal is not to be missed.
But while the Queen Elizabeth II was the marquee event of the Ascot card (and one of three Breeders' Cup Challenge races offering automatic berths in the world championships), all the talk was about the 2-year-old colt Frankel, another son of Galileo, who demolished his rivals by 10 lengths in the Royal Lodge Stakes, a Group 2 event sponsored and won by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Judmonte Farms.
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Frankel, of course, is the namesake of the late Hall of Fame trainer Robert Frankel, who trained for Juddmonte for many years, and the Juddmonte family seems to have found a good one to pin that name on. Produced from the Danehill mare Kind, Frankel is unbeaten in three starts and is the early favorite for next year's first English Classic, the 2000 Guineas. Were he to travel to Kentucky for the Breeders' Cup Frankel would be a short-priced favorite in the Juvenile Turf, but it appears trainer Henry Cecil will keep him home for a run at either the Dewhurst or Racing Post Trophy to end his season.
Two-year-fillies also took to the Ascot stage on Saturday, when Godolphin's White Moonstone (by Dynaformer) edged clear late to take the Group 1 Fillies' Mile. Described as a light-framed filly, trainer Saeed bin-Suroor indicated White Moonstone is finished for this year, meaning she will opt out of her guaranteed slot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Read more about Ascot's Saturday races
DERBIES IN PENNSYLVANIA, LOUISIANA
Jim Dandy winner A Little Warm looked to be in perfect position to take Saturday's Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby while tracking the front-running Morning Line in third position. He rallied around pace-presser First Dude, then took dead aim at Morning Line, gaining a narrow advantage in midstretch, but was outgamed to the wire by the Nick Zito-trained Tiznow colt Morning Line, who narrowly won the $1-million event.
It was the first stakes appearance for Morning Line, who was coming off a powerful allowance victory at Saratoga, and his gutty performance portends well for the future—though it sounded as though Breeders' Cup is not in the plans. “He is going to be a nice horse next year,” Zito said immediately after the race. Patience is a virtue, and Zito thanked the management team of Thoroughbred Legends Racing that owns Morning Line for being patient with him as he gave the colt the time he felt was needed. (The Daily Racing Form reported that Nick Zito may be pointing Morning Line to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Click here for more on that story update.)
First Dude, who fell back on the turn for home in the Pennsylvania Derby, re-rallied to be a fast-finishing second for trainer Dale Romans, and this colt probably carries the mantle of the “best 3-year-old not to win a stakes race.” It's only a matter of time before the son of Stephen Got Even puts it all together and wins a big one. Though he won the Jim Dandy at the same nine-furlong distance as the Pennsylvania Derby, I'm not convinced A Little Warm (by Stormin Fever) wants to go this far. He is a talented and consistent colt and could be a factor in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile if his connection go in that direction.
At Louisiana Downs, Adela Dilschneider's Apart won the Grade 2 Super Derby after making his stakes debut last month in the Prelude Stakes, and he gives Dilschneider and trainer Al Stall a talented, year-younger understudy to Blame, the Arch colt owned in partnership by Claiborne who will be the favorite in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup and is the leading older male dirt horse in training in the U.S. after his defeat of Quality Road in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.
Apart, by Flatter, is a lightly raced colt who was a maiden until May of this year and has been handled patiently by Stall. Like Morning Line, there could be bigger days ahead for him in 2011.
BLOOMING AT THE RIGHT TIME
My Jen, a 3-year-old by Fusaichi Pegasus, benefited from the collapse of the speed in Saturday's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park, getting up to win that prep race for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint as a longshot over Moontune Missy. Trainer Eddie Kenneally seemed a bit reluctant to commit to the Breeders' Cup. Rapport the front-runner who faded in the stretch, set uncharacteristically slow fractions on the track known as “big sandy” that can get deep, cuppy and tiring when it doesn't get any rain. Those are the conditions Rapport found on Saturday. If she comes out of the race in good order, don't be surprised to see her make a snappy comeback at the Breeders' Cup.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Oak Tree opens its first-ever fall meeting at Hollywood Park this week and offers a huge weekend of Breeders' Cup prep races, including the Lady's Secret, where two-time champion Zenyatta bids for her 19th consecutive victory without a defeat. Blame will try to continue his march to the Breeders' Cup Classic by going postward as the favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, one of several important races on the card at Belmont Park on Saturday. At Longchamp in Paris, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will help sort out the European challengers for the Breeders' Cup Turf. It's a huge racing weekend.
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