Breeders’ Cup Berth, Derby Points At Stake In Saturday’s Contentious Champagne

by | 10.04.2018 | 8:09am
Saratoga Special winner Call Paul is the lone graded stakes winner in the Champagne line-up

Trainer Chad Brown will look to earn his second win in three years in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne for juveniles on Saturday at Belmont Park when he sends out Aurelius Maximus and Complexity as part of talented 10-horse field for the one-mile race on the main track.

One of four Grade 1 races as part of the October Festival of Racing from October 6-7, the 147th running of the Champagne is a “Win and You're In” qualifier for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 2 at Churchill Downs, the richest 2-year-old race in North America. Carded as Race 10 with a post time of 5:35 p.m., the Champagne, along with the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince, will air as part of NBC's national coverage from 4:30-6 p.m.

The Champagne counts a litany of all-time greats among its victors, including Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Count Fleet, as well as Hall of Famers Alydar, Spectacular Bid, Easy Goer, Riva Ridge and Buckpasser among others. A part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, the Champagne awards the top-four finishers with a points distribution of 10-4-2-1 towards the 2019 Run for the Roses.

Klaravich Stables' Complexity will look to improve to 2-for-2 after an impressive 4 ½-length victory in his debut on September 3 at Saratoga Race Course on the undercard for the Grade 1 Hopeful. Brown said expectations are high for the Maclean's Music colt, who was purchased for $375,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Complexity has worked twice over Belmont's Big Sandy, including a four-furlong breeze in 47.89 seconds Sunday in company with Aurelius Maximus, who is also entering his graded stakes debut off a victory following a 7 ¾-length score on September 9 at Belmont at the Champagne distance.

“They both trained well together and they are ready for the Champagne,” said Brown, who won the 2016 Champagne with Practical Joke. “They both seem to be training well on the main track. They both seem like they are top-quality, so I'm confident in both them.”

Complexity will have jockey Jose Ortiz ride from post 4.

Aurelius Maximus, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, broke his maiden at second asking following a third-place finish on July 28 at Saratoga in his first start. Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Gregory Bolton and Peter Leidel, the Kentucky-bred is the only horse in the field to have already registered a win at Belmont.

Joel Rosario, aboard for his win last out, will have the return call from post 9.

L R E Racing's Casa Creed will stretch out in distance after winning at seven furlongs on August 4 at Saratoga in a race moved off the turf. Following a sixth-place finish in his debut July 28 on the same track in which he was caught wide on the backstretch before improving his position in the stretch.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Casa Creed, a son of Jimmy Creed, looked comfortable in his first work at Belmont Sunday, when he breezed four furlongs in 48.55 seconds.

“His disposition seems like it'll allow him to get a mile. He's just very kind and manageable,” Mott said. “It doesn't mean he'll do it, but it gives me the indication that it will certainly be doable.”

Jockey David Cohen will pick up the mount from post 10.

Call Paul is the field's lone graded stakes winner, wiring the field as the favorite to win the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 12 for trainer Jason Servis. Owned by Michael Dubb, David Simon, Bruce Irom and Bethlehem Stables, Call Paul will look to go 3-for-3 and will again have Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted the Friesan Fire colt to the stakes win, in the irons in breaking from post 5.

Code of Honor won his debut on August 18 at Saratoga, posting a gate-to-wire 1 1/2-length win on a fast main track at six furlongs. Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey said his recent work at Belmont has given him confidence he can handle the step up in distance and class.

“He came out of his race great and has been training really well since then,” McGaughey said. “I think getting him stretched out will help him even more.”

Eric Cancel will ride from post 8.

Successful Zip finished second by 1 ½ lengths to Unionizer in the Sapling at one mile on September 1 at Monmouth Park and will make his first graded stakes appearance in his Belmont debut for trainer Miguel Vera. Manny Franco will have the assignment from post 7.

Reddam Racing's Listing wasted no time making a splash, winning a stakes in his first start, rallying for a 1 ¼-length win in the I'm Smokin on August 31 at Del Mar. The Ben Cecil trainee will ship from his base in Santa Anita, drawing post 6 with regular jockey Mario Gutierrez also making the trek east.

Rounding out the field are three contenders making their respective stakes debut in Endorsed, Trophy Chaser, and Achilles Warrior, who drew posts 1-through-3.

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