Breeders' Cup Week at Churchill Downs got off to a good start on a brisk, but clear Monday morning with dirt works from Yoshida (JPN) ($6 million Breeders' Cup Classic) and Midnight Bisou ($2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff) headlining the work tab and the initial on-track appearance of European standouts Enable (GB) ($4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf) and Roaring Lion (Classic) after they cleared quarantine.
Working shortly after the track opened, Midnight Bisou worked 4 furlongs in 49. Following the first track maintenance break, Yoshida covered 4 furlongs in 49 3/5.
Breeders' Cup Classic Notes:
Accelerate – Trainer John Sadler is expecting his No. 1-rated older horse in the country to carry his “Mister Consistency” mark at least one more time before retirement as he takes his place in the starting gate Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the climax to the 14-race World Championships at Churchill Downs.
“Accelerate has had a really good season,” Sadler said. “He's run in all the big races in California and won most of them. He went out of state once – to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and had a tough trip that day and still ran a very good second; just got a beat a neck.
“He's had a remarkably consistent year and winning the Big Triple in California [Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup and Pacific Classic] is not easy. Only two other horses have done that – Lava Man and California Chrome.”
Though not interested in belaboring the fact he's without a victory in the Breeders' Cup, Sadler did say this morning following the morning exercises for his horses, “We're bringing our best chances in here this year. The horses are looking really good and we're hoping for some good weather and I think we'll do well.”
Axelrod – Even though never off the board in his six races this year, the 3yo son of Warrior's Reward is likely to be among the longshots in the Classic, but trainer Michael McCarthy is hopeful that he can gain some extra juice from his owner's stable name, Slam Dunk Racing.
“He had a really good work the other day [4f in 48 2/5 on Saturday] at Churchill Downs. There was a little bit of moisture in the track and he seemed like he enjoyed it. The nice thing about him is he doesn't need to take his racetrack with him. He's won at Indiana Grand, he's won at Parx Racing and we'll try to do the same thing here.”
Axelrod tuned up Monday morning with a 1m gallop. “That's pretty much all we'll do for the rest of the week,” McCarthy said. “All the heavy lifting for all my runners is done.”
Catholic Boy – The 3yo son of More Than Ready returned to the Churchill Downs racetrack Monday, a morning after breezing 5f in 1:01 under jockey Javier Castellano in preparation for a start in Saturday's Classic.
“He jogged this morning. We liked what we saw Sunday – I thought he was moving great – all the important details out of a breeze we like to see as trainers,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said.
Catholic Boy, who jogged under exercise rider Tracey Brown, has worked twice at Churchill Downs, where the Travers winner especially impressed his trainer.
“It was kind of hard getting a feel for things because of the weather. We've had a multitude of different tracks the past two weeks because of the weather with the cold and with the rain. Yesterday was the first day when for me it was a make-sense moment, where it all came together,” Thomas said. “From what I saw yesterday, there were no excuses. The way he moved, the way he handled it the way he wanted to gallop out, just his whole body language showed he's in good form.”
Thomas sported a Boston Red Sox cap on the morning after the American League champions won the World Series.
“Roger Clemens made me a Red Sox fan. Growing up, I always wanted to be a pitcher. I just liked the way he pitched,” said Thomas, who grew up in Virginia. “Not only did he throw hard, I liked the way he stared the hitter down.”
Pavel – Sabas Rivera, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, sent out Pavel to jog the Churchill Downs strip Monday morning for his first exercise at the Louisville track after his arrival Sunday from his Southern California base.
Regular exercise rider and former jockey Amir Cedeno was in the irons.
O'Neill is due to join his horses at the Churchill Downs barn Tuesday morning.
Yoshida – In his last serious work before contesting the Breeders' Cup Classic, WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club and SF Racing's Yoshida breezed at 7:30 a.m. for trainer Bill Mott.
“It was very good,” Mott said. “The clocker said 49 and three.”
The time was officially recorded as 49.60 seconds and was 19th of 37 at the 4f distance this morning. It was the Japanese-bred son of Heart's Cry's second since arriving from Saratoga this month, following a more serious 1:00.80 move Oct. 22.
Mott has a 14-2-0-3 record in the Classic, including a victory by WinStar's Drosselmeyer at Churchill Downs in 2011. Japanese-breds are 9-1-0-0 at the Breeders' Cup, with their lone victory courtesy of Karakontie in the 2014 Mile.
Breeders' Cup Distaff Notes:
Midnight Bisou – Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables' Midnight Bisou logged her final serious piece of work ahead of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Distaff on Monday at 5:45 a.m. The Steve Asmussen trainee finished up a routine 4f in 49 flat, good for 12th quickest of 37 half-mile drills this morning.
The move follows a best-of-37 bullet breeze last week at Churchill Downs in 1:00 flat. Bloom Racing principal Jeff Bloom was on hand.
“It was picture-perfect,” Bloom said. “Angel (Garcia), her regular exercise rider, was aboard. She backtracked by walking around and stood there a little bit and then she just absolutely cruised through an easy half and had pretty strong gallop in about 1:02. It was as perfect as you could hope for. She pretty much cooled out by the time she got back to the barn and dropped her head, alert and happy. It went well.
“She's battle-tested and had some tough races along the way,” he continued. “It's late in the year and she's a very mature horse, physically and mentally, and I think she's ready for that challenge. I think we'll see that on Saturday.”
Monomoy Girl – Trainer Brad Cox reported the Kentucky Oaks winner came out of her Sunday half-mile work in good order and all systems were a go for entering the race later in the morning.
“She's doing great,” Cox said. “They all came out of their works great and we're ready to enter. All four of them will return to the track (Tuesday) and jog.”
In addition to Monomoy Girl, one of the likely favorites for the Distaff, Cox will saddle Arklow in the Longines Turf, Golden Mischief in the Filly & Mare Sprint and Will Call in the Turf Sprint.
Vale Dori – Six of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's contingent of Breeders' Cup horses are scheduled to ship from Southern California on Tuesday to join Vale Dori and Much Better at Churchill Downs.
The shippers for Baffert, who is second to D. Wayne Lukas on the Breeders' Cup trainers' wins list with 14, and has a record three victories in the Classic, are Classic prospects McKinzie, West Coast, and Collected; Abel Tasman, Distaff; Game Winner, Juvenile; Marley's Freedom, Filly & Mare Sprint.
Much Better, bred and owned by Three Chimneys Farm, was pre-entered in the Juvenile Turf and Vale Dori, winner of the Zenyatta at Santa Anita, is headed to the Longines Distaff.
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